The recent story, and subsequent photographs, of the mysterious alleged Russian copy of the Finnish M/05 camo pattern has also renewed interest in another unusual Russian pattern. In the photograph of Russian Interior Ministry(?) special forces that I posted here, you can see the pattern I’m referring to, being worn by the soldier in the forground at the far right. Its the so-called “Partizan” pattern reversible suit. For further info, here’s an article I wrote last year about it…
Russia is by far the largest country on earth, covering 17,075,400 square kilometres (6,592,800 sq mi) – more than an eighth of the Earth’s total land area. It extends across the whole of northern Asia and 40% of Europe, spans 11 time zones and incorporates a great range of environments and terrain – from deserts to tundra, and swamps to mountains. With a territory that vast and diverse, there’s no way that one camouflage pattern is going to work well across all of them.
Furthermore, the special operations units of the Russian armed and internal security forces also reflect the vastness and diversity of her terrain. Two of the most famous of the modern counter-terrorist units of the Russian security forces are the Vityaz (Knight) unit of the Osnaz (“special purpose detachment”) forces of the MVD (Ministry of Internal Affairs of the Russian Federation), and the Alpha unit of the FSB (Federal Security Service of the Russian Federation – successor to the KGB).
Initially, both of these units were equipped with standard Army-issue uniforms and equipment, with or without special unit insignia. However, since the collapse of Communism and the rise of major internal security problems like organised violent crime and terrorism, these units have had to acquire more specialised and more modern equipment.
Much of this modern and specialised equipment was seen in use during the tragic Beslan school hostage crisis in September 2004. One of the more interesting things seen in use during this operation – and since – is the reversible, baggy over-suit in “Partizan” camouflage, produced and available commercially from the company Sposn.
Anyone who is familiar with WWII camouflage will immediately notice that the Partizan pattern bears a striking resemblance to the “oakleaf” patterns used by the German Waffen-SS during the war – in fact, the company even appears to call the camouflage pattern “SS Pattern”; “Partizan” being the name of the two-piece reversible garment. This perhaps goes to prove the old adage, “All old things become new again.”
The second thing that you might notice is that the suit’s design/cut is clearly a combination of the Waffen-SS pull-over camouflage smocks and the WWII Soviet camouflage over-suits. Once again showing that old isn’t necessarily obsolete.
The camouflage pattern comprises four colours – dark brown, dark earth and yellow-ochre blotches on a medium green background – is reversible, although the colours are not actually completely different between the two sides. Instead, what you get is a “full-colour” side and a “subdued” side. The subdued side – shown in use in the accompanying photographs, is achieved by the colours bleeding through the yellow-ochre coloured cloth during the printing process – and is either intended for use during the autumn and winter months of the year in woodland environments, or in drier, scrubland environments. Whereas the full-colour side is quite clearly intended for use in temperate woodland and forest environments during the spring and summer months.
The Pull-over Smock
A simple and baggy garment, with a large built-in hood, the smock features two slightly slanted, reversible chest pockets, a button-up front flap, a drawstring waist and elasticated wrists. Just like the Waffen-SS smocks of WWII, there is excess material beyond the elasticated wrists that extends over the back and palm of the hands for additional concealment. There are also flat-sewn loops of material at the shoulders, upper arms and on the hood for attaching local foliage or scrim netting.
Speaking of the hood – this is one of the more impressive parts of the uniform. The hood is large enough to fit over different types of headgear, including regular infantry helmets. But in case you’re not wearing a large helmet, there is also a drawstring around the middle of the helmet that allows the wearer to cinch it in to fit more tightly around the head. Another very clever thing about the hood are the mesh inserts in the ear area – thus eliminating one of the biggest tactical disadvantages of using a hood; that is, that they restrict your hearing. The mesh allows you to achieve the camouflage benefits of a hood, without sacrificing your ability to listen to your surroundings. Very important when you’re on a surveillance mission!
The Pull-over Trousers
Even simpler in design than the smock, the trousers feature a broad elasticated waist (with a drawstring as well), a button-through fly, two reversible rear pockets, reinforcing patches that extend from mid-thigh to mid-shin and elasticated cuffs. They also feature two, flapped, side openings that allow you to access the pockets of your normal trousers underneath – don’t forget, this is a lightweight suit designed to be worn over your normal clothes / uniform.
And speaking of being light – the suit is made of a lightweight twill fabric that appears to have a very high percentage of synthetic material (if not in fact close to 100%) that feels very close to rayon. Because of its thinness and lightweight the suit packs down to a small bundle, and even comes in its own small stuff sack!
For all these reasons, it’s clear that the suit has been designed for use by sniper and surveillance teams, as well as anti-terrorist and other special forces who need to be able to quickly don, doff, and change, their camouflage apparel as and when the situation requires.
The following photographs show the “Partizan” suit, its features, pattern and colours in more detail (click to enlarge):
This “SS Pattern” has also been used for other uniforms – in both summer and autumn colourations. The next photographs show the heavier-weight “Gorka-E” (mountain troops) suit, also manufactured by Sposn.
Finally, a slight variation of the “SS Pattern” used for a reversible, insulated winter parka and trousers set called Rasveshik.