Caps of Forestry OfficialsOver the history of the USSR, responsibility for protection of forests and their economic development (primarily as lumber) rested alternatively with individual republics and the Union State (USSR). Economic ministries also competed with these Forestry departments for resources, often with significant negative impact on Soviet forests. Throughout the Soviet era, Foresters and Gamekeepers were authorized unique uniforms and insignia, signifying the importance of their role in protecting watersheds and providing lumber to industry. While less important, the USSR also recognized the importance of protecting wildlife on these wooded tracts - resulting in Government "gamekeepers" similar (at least in theory) to those found in Europe.
Unfortunately, as is the case of many non-military Soviet ministries, actual uniform regulations for Forestry officials are not available - even in original Russian. There is not even a consensus among collectors as to the timeframe of general uniform colors. Caps in dark blue/black, a brighter dark blue, dark green and gray have been authenticated to Forestry officials from the 1950s to 1991. While gray uniforms and caps were intended for summertime wear throughout the entire period, their wear was largely, if not entirely, confined to senior officials. It also appears that dark blue/black and bright dark blue caps and uniforms were in service from the 1950s, but the break-out by rank is harder to confirm. From observations of a dozen or so caps, it appears that most middle to senior staff wore dark blue while most junior staff and rank and file wore the darker blue/black caps (which also matched their uniform jackets or coats). However, I have seen a couple examples of junior staff caps (no velvet bands) made in the blue cloth - with late 1980s dated buttons. So the jury is "still out" on exactly who was supposed to wear what over the decades. I also have a couple of dark green caps with light green piping and Forestry buttons in my collection - which have small, padded crown style common to the 1950s and 60s. However, their emblems are more modern than that. I have displayed them below in a special box for your information, in hopes that additional information will come to light on their use. Since they are "locally-made," it is possible they were produced for movies and were intended to represent pre-war Forestry caps.
Gamekeepers, although part of Forestry, typically wore elements of khaki/green uniforms similar to (and sometimes identical to) Soviet Army field uniforms. However, it is clear
from period photographs that such personnel very often wore civilian garb while on duty, but often with a uniform cap - at least in the summer.
Although impossible to precisely date, this cap was worn by a senior staff officer "probably" in the 1950s or early 1960s. The smaller brass (vice later aluminum) oakleaf emblem pinned to the band and the brass and green enamel rosette on the crown reflect this early date. Only senior or the highest staff would have worn both this rosette and the gilt cords shown here (middle grade staff would "probably" have worn the rosette but with a black strap). The older two-piece brass and steel buttons are stamped with the crossed oakleaves and hammer/sickle of Forestry. Buttons with the Great Seal of the USSR would probably been worn by the highest staff (general-equivalent).
The crown is small, both in height and circumference - reflecting its early production. It is in dark blue/black fabric (when referring to Railroad uniforms, this color was sometimes called "midnight" or "invisible" blue), while the band is dark green velvet (indicative of Forestry command staff) and piping is bright green. The visor is black lacquered fiberboard.
This is a modernized counterpart to the Senior Staff cap listed first above. It mounts the new emblem introduced for command personnel in 1965 - which eliminated the need for the crown rosette to identify higher rank. This is a later cockade - stamped from anodized aluminum; initial versions appear to have been made of stamped brass or tombac (red brass). Although I cannot confirm, the gold filigree cords probably continue to help identify Senior Staff, although Middle Staff may also have worn them during this period. The 1988 marked buttons are one-piece plastic, molded with the Forestry emblem.
As was standard in later caps, the crown is larger in height and circumference and the visor is plastic. The crown is now dark blue (notice the brighter shade as compared to the Senior Staff caps above),
while the band remains a very similar shade of dark green velvet and piping remains bright green.
In common with virtually all other Forestry caps, this one is not stamped inside with its year of manufacture. However, it fortunately still retains its cardboard sales label, giving us a very rare date of manufacture - in this case 1984. The large aluminum emblem depicting crossed oakleaves and a hammer and sickle, along with a black plastic chinstrap, identify the owner as either member of the junior command staff (NCO equivalent) or a private-equivalent worker. There is simply no extant regulations that allow us to differentiate between the two (if there was any!). The crown is the later, larger style, with both crown and band in dark blue/black fabric. The piping remains bright green. The visor is plastic, as are the gilded buttons. Available
While my initial study of these later caps indicated that Forestry uniforms had diverged in the 1970s/80s, with junior personnel wearing black caps while "officers" wore dark blue ones, a Russian collector has posted a picture of a dark blue cap for junior personnel (as evidenced by
the band emblem, chinstrap and, most importantly, lack of a velvet band) which may indicate color did NOT directly translate to official grade after all. So full confirmation of the meaning of the different uniform color schemes will have to wait for future discoveries.
Soviet Gamekeepers wore different uniforms than other Forestry officials - typically articles of Army khaki field clothing. A poster published in a 1960-dated Soviet magazine did portray special gamekeeper uniforms not utilizing Army stocks, but these almost certainly did not enter into large-scale service (if at all!). From period photographs is also appears that Gamekeepers seldom wore complete uniforms of any type, with usually just caps and/or jackets in Army khaki, while civilian clothing comprised the rest of their normal outfit. The most commonly worn headgear in the summer was a standard Soviet Army officers field cap with the Gamekeeper emblem attached to the band. The 1983-dated cap shown here is a model 1969, with a larger crown. Model 1958 field caps were somewhat smaller. All parts of this cap were khaki - including the fiberboard visor, the chinstrap and the buttons. Although Gamekeepers "almost universally" wore khaki caps, some apparently instead wore the black and green caps of Forestry officials but with the Gamekeeper emblem. In any case, the badge was unique to Gamekeepers - consisting of an "elk" (or in American usage - Moose) head surmounting crossed rifles within a wreath of oak leaves. This emblem is a later one - made of anodized aluminum; early versions were almost certainly in brass. Available