Caps of Soviet Diplomats

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs was responsible for the administration of Soviet foreign policy, represented the country abroad and participated in talks with foreign delegations on behalf of the Soviet government. Once the Council of Ministers had approved diplomatic recognition of a state, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs would establish embassies and consulates, provide the core staffs serving abroad, and serve as a conduit for formal communications between the Soviet political leadership and the host state. A Soviet ambassador serving abroad was regarded under international law as the personal representative of the chairman of the Supreme Soviet to the head of government of the host state.

After the Russian Revolution, Soviet diplomats wore dark suits similar to those worn by diplomats of other countries. In 1943, however, uniforms were introduced for People's Commissariat for Foreign Affairs staff, consisting of three-piece suits with gold-plated buttons and shoulder straps. The everyday uniform was grey and the dress uniform, which even included a dagger, was black. Visor caps were part of both these gray and black uniforms. In 1954, uniforms for the diplomatic staff of the Foreign Ministry (the successor of the Commissariat for Foreign Affairs) were canceled except for the top three ambassadorial staff (Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary and Envoys of the first and second classes). Some evidence exists that some other senior Foreign Ministry personnel also continued to wear uniforms while attending high diplomatic events in Moscow. The gray uniform was also phased out. A white uniform was subsequently introduced for ambassadorial wear in hot climates. Since only senior grade personnel in certain embassy posts were authorized uniforms, it should come as no surprise that they are uniformly rare. After 1954 it also appears that all such uniforms and caps were privately commissioned - custom made by tailors or uniform shops to a general officer grade of finish.

Unfortunately, I have been unable to acquire a collection of these diplomatic caps - despite significant efforts. As you will see below, I have only one such cap in my collection - a white cap dating from the late 80s or early 90s. Consequently, I am forced to use photographs provided by other collectors and ones I've located on the web. I believe that will be sufficient to illustrate the evolution of these caps. Some other excellent pictures of these caps and their respective uniforms can be seen on the Russian website:

Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Diplomat Dress

This and the next listing illustrate the original two diplomatic uniform caps introduced as part of the 1943 uniform regulations. The crown is relatively small - as was normal for this time period, and sewn from black napped wool. The band was black velvet for all officials. Piping was metallic gold (gilt) - not yellow. Visors on these very early caps (made in the 40s) could have either the squared off "spade" shape shown here or be semi-circular (rounded). After the mid-50s, they were always rounded. This cap has gilt filigree cords, indicating a general-officer equivalent during this period. Black oilcloth chinstraps were worn by more junior officials - Secretary 1st Class and below. The cords/strap were held on by two gilt buttons embossed with the Great Seal of the USSR. Cap emblems of the diplomatic corps were crossed feather-quill pens (gilded stamped metal) on the crown and the Great Seal of the USSR as a cockade pinned through the band. The exact phase-out date for this uniform is not available, but photographic evidence and the evolution of the cap dimensions suggests it was in 1968 or 1969 - reflecting changes made to military caps at the same time. Very Rare

Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Diplomat Service

This is the everyday service version of the above cap. Both crown and band are in a diagonal weave wool blend and piping is in the same gilt cord as used on the dress cap. Once again, visors could be either spade shaped or semi-circular - at least in the 1940s. This cap has the gilt filigree cords of an Ambassador or envoy. Buttons and emblems remain the same as discussed for the black dress visor cap. The gray diplomatic uniform was abolished in 1954 coincident with the changes in the wear of the dress uniform already discussed. Very Rare

Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Diplomat Dress

These photographs illustrate the second and last model of diplomatic dress uniform cap. It has the larger crown (in both height and circumference) of those made after 1968, as well as simplified ornamentation. The crown is still black - although no longer napped wool. The band is black velvet and piping was now yellow wool - vice the earlier gilt metallic cord. As discussed above, by this time only very senior officials were authorized uniforms so all caps were general-officer equivalent. Consequently, only gilt cords were worn and the interior had silk lining and kid leather sweatbands with intertwined ribbons. The black fiberboard visor on this cap indicates it was made in the 1970s. Later caps had patent leather visors with black wool underlining. Buttons were gilt, embossed with the Great Seal of the USSR. The earlier crossed quills emblem was removed from the crown and redesigned, including the addition of a gilt star - as you can see pinned to the band. Rare

Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Diplomat Dress (Hot Climate)

These photographs show the cap belonging to the "hot weather" uniform worn by senior diplomats in desert or tropical climes. The exact wear dates of this cap are rather uncertain. Some publications mention a hot weather uniform in "bright light" color being introduced by 1955, but no photographic or regulatory evidence exists to support this claim. However, samples of this later-style cap do exist - as does photographic evidence from the 1980s - suggesting white uniforms only came into service in the 1980s. This cap reflects very late production characteristics.

While designed for hot weather - with white fabric and a linen lining - the crown is permanent, not a removable cover. The band is covered in the same white fabric as the crown and the piping is the same yellow wool used in the black dress cap. Gilt filigree cords are secured by gilt plastic buttons portraying the Great Seal of the USSR. The visor is black patent leather with black wool underlining and the interior is general-grade. The cockade is the same later crossed quills and star used on the cap above. Rare