You might have seen this distinctive hat among numerous Russian souvenirs, but do you know what it is called? It is the budyonovka (будёновка), an essential part of the Communist uniform of the Russian Civil War. It is a soft, woolen hat that covers the ears and neck. The cap has a peak and folded ear flaps that can be buttoned under the chin.
Viktor Vasnetsov, a famous Russian painter, who was inspired by the Kiev Rus helmet, created the hat as part of a new uniform for the Russian army. The original name was bogatyrka (богаты́рка) – the hat of a bogatyr, a stock character in medieval East Slavic legends. It was intended to inspire Russian troops by connecting them with the legendary heroes of Russian folklore.
During the Russian civil war (1917-1920), communist troops had no obligation to comply with the uniform standards of the Imperial Russian Army and used abundant and distinctive bogatyrkas. Bogatyrkas were commonly decorated with red star pins as a distinguishing mark. Such decorations were often makeshift, but later were standardized. A bigger star badge of broadcloth was sewn to the front of the hat, typically red but in some cases blue (for cavalry) or black (for artillery). At this time the hat was renamed the budyonovka after Semyon Budyonny, the commander of the First Cavalry Army.
The hat was not part of the Red Army uniform for long, for both political and practical reasons. Although it was relatively easy to produce, it required expensive wool, did not provide good cold-weather protection, and could not be worn under a helmet. It was abandoned during the army reforms of the mid-1930s, and phasing-out started in 1935. Budenovkas were still in use during the Winter War of 1939, but mostly replaced by the start of the Great Patriotic War in 1941.
Nowadays, the budyonovka remains a part of the iconic image of Red Army cavalrymen from the Russian Civil War.