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Military ranks in Soviet Army

Updated: Apr 5

The overall system of military rank insignia, which was first introduced in 1943, remained unchanged until the USSR's collapse. There were only minor adjustments.

If you are not interested in soviet epaulettes and rank slides, here is a table of all ranks in the postwar Soviet Army:

Army and Airforce

Naval forces

NATO equivalent





Senior mariner


Mladshiy Sergeant

Petty officer, 2nd class



Petty officer, 1st class


Starshiy Sergeant

Head Petty officer

Senior Sergeant


Chief ship sergeant major

Sergeant Major



Warrant Officer

Mladshiy lieutenant

Mladshiy lieutenant

Junior Lieutenant




Starshiy lieutenant

Starshiy lieutenant

Senior Lieutenant





Captain, 3rd class



Captain, 2nd class

Lieutenant Colonel


Captain, 1st class


The Order 225 - military ranks in Soviet Army in 1955

In 1955, there was the first significant modification. The Order No. 225, issued by the Ministry of Defense in December 1955, canceled the colored piping on the field epaulettes of soldiers and sergeants. Instead, green emblems were introduced for them, which were positioned below the button rather than in the middle of the epaulette. The rank stripes on epaulettes have moved a little lower in this regard. A single red patch has taken the place of the previous burgundy and brown patches. People started referring to these shoulder straps as "everyday-field use".

Since December 1955, the command staff's golden (yellow) stripes and everyone else's silver (grayish-white) stripes have both lost their colored piping, the emblem has moved close to the button, and the colored piping on the everyday colored epaulettes of soldiers and sergeants has also disappeared. The stripes' color matched the emblems of the military branches, which underwent a slight redesign in 1955. The only items that still had these epaulettes were dress shirts and overcoats. Blue epaulettes were discontinued in connection with the dissolution of the cavalry as a branch of the armed forces.

Military ranks in Soviet Army

Since December 1956, officers' field epaulettes no longer have colored piping, and the gaps are now the same color for all categories of officers rather than being burgundy (command staff) or brown (all others), but in a color that corresponds to the type of troops (raspberry for motorized rifles and combined arms, red for artillery and tankers, black for all technical troops, blue for aviation). The introduction of blue gaps was unrelated to the elimination of cavalry as a branch of the military.

The stars of the generals, the military branch emblems, and the stars of the marshals of the military branches were made golden in March 1956 by order of the USSR Ministry of Defense No. 25.

By 1958, green shoulder straps with a pattern resembling the pattern on gold shoulder straps had replaced the previous uniform of officers, thanks to USSR Ministry of Defense Order No. 70. On regular uniforms, asterisks are preserved in gold and silver.

Military ranks in Soviet Army

Change in Foreman's insignia

The insignia for the title "Foreman" was modified in 1963. A broad stripe running along the shoulder strap has taken the place of the previous "foreman's hammer," as it was referred to in the soldier's slang. The dress shoulder strap of the foreman of the motorized rifle troops from 1955–1962 is shown in the image on the left. The parade epaulette of the foreman of the motorized rifle troops from 1963 is displayed in the center. The epaulette of a student from a military combined arms school who has held the rank of foreman since 1963 is shown on the right; it has narrower galloons on the sides in place of the typical cadet lace on the sides and upper sides of the shoulder straps of a foreman cadet. This epaulette is worn by the cadet foremen with all attire. On their standard khaki field shoulder straps, the foremen wear red patches.

Big change to uniform in 1969

With the introduction of a new uniform for soldiers, sergeants, and cadets in 1970 (Decree of the Council of Ministers of the USSR No. 417 of May 30, 1969), only three colors of shoulder straps remained: scarlet for motorized riflemen and as a combined arms, blue for aviation and airborne forces, and black for all other military branches. There were only two colors left for the openings of officer epaulettes: scarlet for all other branches of the military and blue for aviation and the airborne forces.

Additionally, only the colors of blue and scarlet were retained in the edging of the generals' shoulder straps and clothing. Since January 1973, two letters "SA" have been used on the shoulder straps of soldiers and sergeants to differentiate them from sailors, sergeants, and foremen of the fleet (letter "F" or for the fleets "SF", "TF", "BF," and "Black Sea Fleet"), as well as military personnel of internal troops, border troops, and KGB units. Metal on dress uniforms and plastic on overcoats and everyday uniforms ("VV", "PV ", "GB").

Military ranks in Soviet Army

Later, the letter "K" was added to the cadets' shoulder straps at military academies (Order of the USSR Ministry of Defense No. 81-73g.). Soldiers' and sergeants' full dress and regular uniforms developed yellow (golden) stripes on the shoulder straps and buttonholes. The only uniforms still wearing red-striped khaki shoulder straps were those worn by field soldiers and sergeants. All uniforms worn by the cadets have the same shoulder straps. The junior sergeant of motorized rifle troops' shoulder straps are depicted in the figure.

By order of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR dated 11/18/1971, a new rank between sergeants and officers, known as "ensigns and midshipmen," has been added to the scale of ranks of the USSR Armed Forces since 1972. In this category, the army has only one established rank: ensign.

Ensigns' ceremonial epaulets are decorated with a chess-like pattern in red for motorized rifle units and combined arms, blue for aviation and airborne units, and black for all other branches of the armed forces. Ensigns' field and daily epaulettes share the same pattern and shade of green. On dress and everyday shoulder straps, asterisks (two) and emblems (where applicable) are golden in color, while field shoulder straps are green.

In the category "Warrant Officers and Warrant Officers," the new designation "Senior Warrant Officer" was introduced in 1980. Three stars were worn on his clothing in a row.

On November 1, 1974, the Supreme Soviet of the USSR issued a decree that modifies the "Army General" rank's insignia. For them, like the military marshals, a single large star is introduced in place of four general stars arranged in a vertical row. A sewn combined arms emblem is positioned in place of the generals of the army's emblems for the various military branches.

Military ranks in Soviet Army

The general of the army's new parade epaulette is shown in the figure on the left, and the field epaulette is shown on the right. The epaulette on the overcoat is a pale gray color. The generals of the army received a marshal's star for a tie in addition to new shoulder straps, which previously belonged only to the marshals of the Soviet Union, marshals, and chief marshals of the military branches.

Silver epaulettes for officers of technical services are revoked by order of the USSR Ministry of Defense No. 85 dated March 15, 1980. All officers' dress uniform epaulettes are made of gold and feature golden stars.

Changes associated with the new field uniform - Afghanka

A new field uniform with the common name "Afghanka" was introduced in 1985. (Order of the USSR Ministry of Defense No. 145-84g.). Shoulder straps were an integral part of the jacket itself on the new uniform, which was the same for all categories of military personnel (the so-called shoulder straps). Such shoulder straps were the same color as the uniform (gray, khaki, camouflage, sand, etc.). Non-commissioned officers now wear green stripes, and ensigns and officers now wear green stars.

Removable green shoulder straps with the typical general pattern were only made available to generals. Green silk was used to embroider the stars. Officers' shoulder straps had no gaps, and the only way to tell which rank someone was in was by the size and number of stars. 1 Lieutenant General is shown in the figure from top to bottom and left to right. Colonel 2nd lieutenant. 3-Lieutenant. 4-ensign. Sergeant major five. 6-Private.

By Order of the USSR Ministry of Defense No. 250 dated March 4, 1988, dress uniforms were made mandatory for soldiers, sergeants, and cadets without tunics. As a result, new shoulder strap samples are presented. In addition, a white shirt without a tunic is made available for officers and generals to wear (uniform). This shirt has white shoulder straps with blue gaps for aviation and airborne forces and scarlet gaps for everyone else.

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