From Istoriya Russkoi Material'noi Kul'tury, by L. B. Belovinskii. Moscow, 1996.

Part II
4. Civil Service Uniforms


In the 18th century the clothing worn by government officials was of freely chosen colors cut in the pattern of military uniforms, but the skirts of the coat were not turned back. Civil service clothing was only slowly regulated. There is information on coats for the Mines Department from 1755 and for the Academy of Artists from 1766. In 1784 provincial government uniforms were established, and in 1794 there were uniforms for some departments, but all of these varied greatly in color.

In the beginning of the 19th century uniforms were established for the Moscow, Dorpat, and other universities. The Senate and eventually all government departments received their own uniforms. The coat of the first half of the 19th century was cut as a tailcoat [frak], single-breasted, with nine buttons, a high open collar (closed since 1812), and round or slit cuffs, as in the army. This correspondence to military styles was also maintained in later years. As a rule, coats were dark green, but dark blue in the ministries of Transport and Communications and Education, the Public Library, the Academy of Sciences, and the Academy of Artists. For the Senate they were red. Collars, cuffs, and piping were in various colors according to province and department. For example, they were red for officials of the Court, Government Council, Government Chancellery, Senate Chancellery, governor-generals, governors, vice-governors, the Foreign Affairs Ministry, and the Academy of Sciences; dark green for senators, the chancellery of the Committee of Ministers, the Ministry of Justice, and orthodox schools; black for the charitable institutions of Empress Maria, the Holy Synod, Ministry of Internal Affairs, Ministry of Transport and Communications, and the Post and Telegraph Department; light green in the Ministry of Government Properties; and dark blue in the Ministry of Education. Students at government educational institutions at first wore coats of the same colors as for Moscow University, but later as for the Ministry of Education and similar departments, while the colors for the Tsarskoe Selo Lyceum were as for the Court. Civilian officials of the War and Navy ministries had military-pattern coats in the colors prescribed for these ministries. Teachers of military educational institutions had dark-blue coats with red collars and cuffs, while other officials belonging to these instructional institutions had dark-green collars and cuffs (but in 1849 the dark green was replaced by dark green with red piping). In 1834, when a final regulation was made of coat colors and embroidery, the colors for the embroidered dresses of ladies in court were also laid down. Ladies-in-waiting of grand duchesses had light-blue dresses, ladies-in-waiting of the empress had crimson, ladies-in-waiting of the bedchamber and state ladies had green, and mistresses of the court had raspberry. For officials of the highest three ranks undress coats with embroidered edges were double-breasted with six buttons, worn open with collars and lapels folded back, in the same colors as full-dress coats, but dark green for senators. Other ranks wore a uniform tailcoat in the same colors as the full-dress coat but without edging. The vest was white, single-breasted; and the shirt was white with a standing collar. The cravat worn with the uniform was a kind of tall black neckcloth, and with the tailcoat it was white and tied like a butterfly. The frock coat [syurtuk] was single-breasted with nine buttons, a colored standing collar, and slit cuffs of the same cloth as the coat. Parade pants for the higher ranks were white, either to the knees with white stockings, or long and worn over boots. Pants worn with the undress coat and frock were long and the same color as the coat. In winter other ranks wore long trousers the same color as the coat, but white in summer. The greatcoat was dark green and cut like an officer’s with a short cape. The full-dress uniform was worn with a tricorn hat, cocked with twisted button ribbon for ranks I through V, but with flat ribbon for other ranks. With the undress coat and tailcoat a round cylindrical tophat was worn, and with the frock¾ a forage cap with the crown the same color as the coat and the band the same color as the collar. Chancellery clerks wore only a single-breasted frock coat with four buttons, colored collar and cuffs, and a forage cap.

The Mines, Forestry, Survey, and Post departments that were militarized in the 1830’s wore military-pattern coats with helmets, shakos, and high boots. The police also wore dark-green military-pattern coats with red collars and cuffs, tricorn hats, shakos without cords, helmets, and forage caps.

In 1856 tunics [polukaftany] were introduced with a full skirt, being single-breasted with nine buttons and having high standing collars with rounded front corners, and slit cuffs. The colors and patterns of embroidery remained the same as before. An undress coat of the same pattern had no embroidery. As an undress coat there was also worn a uniform tailcoat of the previous pattern. The frock coat was double-breasted with six buttons and the collar folded back; it could be worn buttoned up to the top or open to the chest. The vest was single-breasted, either black or the same color as the coat. The shirt was white with a standing collar that folded back. The cravat was high and black or white; it could also be a butterfly-shaped bow tie, also in black or white. Parade pants were white with galloon down the seams, or the same color as the coat and without galloon. Officials also received a dark-green officer’s cloak [plashch-pal’to], but without an opening in the back (except for the Ministry of Internal Affairs, which did have an opening). The tricorn hat for officials of classes I and II had embroidery on the brim, a twisted button ribbon, and galloon across the corners; for classes III and IV instead of galloon there was black ribbon mixed with galloon around the edges; for class V there was only twisted button ribbon, while other ranks had flat galloon ribbon. A cylindrical hat was worn with the tailcoat, as before, and with the frock coat¾ a forage cap.

Persons who belonged to ministries wore only the uniform tailcoat with a collar in the departmental color. Chancellery clerks who belonged to the nobility had coats with embroidery on the edges and hats; clerks who were not noble had coats without edging and forage caps.

Some civilian officials wore double-breasted military-pattern coats with six buttons, which from 1874 were single-breasted with nine buttons and piping along the front opening, and with rounded corners on the collar for officials lower than class V. These were civilian officials of the War and Navy departments, as well as the higher provincial administration and engineers of the Mines, Forestry, Telegraph, and Transport and Communications departments, which were demilitirized in 1867. Military officials had cuff flaps on their coats, red trim (raspberry for legal officials [auditory]); the headdress was a helmet, then a kepi from 1862, and forage caps since 1874. The black collars on the coats in the Forestry Department had light-green piping, which was light blue in the Mines Department, green in Transport and Communications, light green in the survey section of the Ministry of Justice (*), raspberry in the Ministry of Government Properties as well as for engineers of the Ministry of Internal Affairs, and yellow in the Telegraph Department. From 1869 officials of classes I through V began to wear overcoats with lining, lapels, and piping along all seams in the same color as the collar piping. In 1876 officials who had military-pattern uniforms received frock coats open in front, which fulfilled the role of the undress coat (uniform tailcoat). In summer military and civil officials could wear white tailcoats, pants, and forage caps with white tops, and from 1876¾ white smocks [kiteli].

The uniform for the lowest ranking department employees had some differences from military uniforms. Thus, railroad conductors wore wide gray-blue trousers [sharovary] inside boots, helmets, and double-breasted coats of black facing cloth (**).From 1876 they had round fleece hats, and black trousers and coats with raspberry piping, characteristic of all employees in moving transport since piping was dark blue for the part of the Ministry of Transport and Communications in charge of transportation, green for the part in charge of buildings and structures, and yellow for the telegraph section. Postmen since 1856 wore single-breasted coats and frocks, gray riding trousers, and gray greatcoats. With the uniform coat they wore a helmet, and with the frock coat¾ a forage cap. For police officers coats had red collars with silver buttonhole bars, and wide dark-green trousers piped red. Town policemen wore a gray uniform with red trim and white metal appointments. In 1866 kepis without plumes were introduced for them, as well as a single-breasted coat with six buttons and a standing collar with sloping corners and orange piping. A shashka sword was worn on a black swordbelt over the shoulder. In 1867 police officers were issued black plumes for their kepis, black and orange buttonhole bars, and wide gray-blue trousers, while lower ranking policemen received dark-green double-breasted coats patterned after sailors’ jackets [bushlaty]. This uniform was also worn by rural policemen beginning in 1876.

In 1885 a shortened double-breasted overcoat [pal’to-tuzhurka, c.f. French toujour] was introduced for civilian employees working in the field, and later for all departments. This was a type of sailor’s jacket with a fold-down collar; it was black or dark green with cloth or velvet tabs on the collar framed in metallic thread. The collar tabs were the same color as the collar of the full-dress coat. With this was worn a round fleece hat with a top the same color as the coat. From 1881 police received long coats reaching almost to the knees, with a sloping front opening fastened by hooks, and round fleece hats, which for mounted policemen had a fur brim which narrowed upwards slightly with a wedge-shaped cutout in front and a black upright plume on the left. The coat cloth was dark green, or gray for town policemen. Watchmen had a gray overcoat with a black sash. The wide trousers were gray-blue. White smocks were also introduced, of the same pattern as the coat, and forage caps with white tops. For rainy weather black or gray sailcloth cloaks with hoods were also introduced. In the Prisons administration military-pattern coats had dark-blue piping, sashes, and wide trousers. In the Post and Telegraph Department there were worn, besides the tuzhurka, double-breasted cloaks held by hooks.

From 1904 coats with embroidery, white breeches, tricorn hats, and uniform tailcoats were kept only for the highest official positions and no lower than class VI. For other officials there remained the frock with tricorn or forage cap (fleece cap in winter) and the tuzhurka with forage cap or fleece cap.

There were specifications for personnel holding positions at the Imperial Court. For Court officials the coat was embroidered and worn with white pants. The hat with an embroidered brim had white plumage. The undress coat was embroidered from top to bottom with double rows of galloon, and with it the hat had black plumage. The coat and hat for cadets of the bedchamber [kamer-yunkery] were the same as the undress coat and undress hat of Court officials, but with the full-dress coat white pants were worn, and with the undress coat¾ dark-green pants.


* For the survey section of the Ministry of Justice, the original Russian text is so strange that I suspect there may be a typographical error [v mezhevom Ministerstve yustitsii svetlo-zelenye] – M.C.

** Another strange statement [dvubortnye mundiry iz chernogo pribornogo sukna] – M.C.


Embroidery: 1 – On coats for officer-teachers in cadet corps; 2 – Teachers at military educational institutions in the second half of the 19th century; 3 – Finance Ministry; 4 – Survey Department; 5 – Ministry of Internal Affairs; 6 – Ministry of Transport and Communications; 7 – Ministry of Education; 8 –Imperial Court administration; 9 – Telegraph administration; 10 – Gentlemen of the Bedchamber and Senior Gentlemen of the Bedchamber; 11 – Members of the Government Council; 12 – Officials of the stables and hunting offices of the Court. 

1 – Undress coat without embroidery. Embroidered: 2 – grade I; 3 – grade II; 4 – grade III; 5 – grade IV; 6 – grade V; 7 – grade VI; 8 – grade VII; 9 – grade VIII; 10 – grade IX; 11 – grade X. 12 – Galloon on undress coats of court officials and gentlemen of the bedchamber, and coats of cadets of the bedchamber. 

99 – Official of the second half of the 19th century in frock coat [syurtuk]; 100 – Ibid., second half of the 19th century in uniform tailcoat [mundirnyi frak]; 101 – Ibid., second half of the 19th century in overcoat [pal’to]; 102 – Ibid., second half of the 19th century in tuzhurka; 103 – Senior Stable Master and Senior Hunt Master; 104 – Secondary Court officials; 105 – Primary Court officials; 106 – Cadet of the Bedchamber; 107 – Official of class IV; 108 – Primary officials of the Court in the first half of the 19th century; 109 – Undress coat for Court officials in the first half of the 19th century; 110 – Senior Stable Master or Senior Hunt Master in the first half of the 19th century; 111 – Member of the Court in ball uniform [bal’naya forma]; 112 – Official of classes IV-III in the second half of the 19th century; 113 – Primary officials of the Court in the second half of the 19th century in full-dress coat [mundir]; 114 – Senior Stable Master or Senior Hunt Master in the second half of the 19th century; 115 – Member of the Court in the second half of the 19th century in undress coat [vitsmundir]; 116 – Cadet of the Bedchamber in the second half of the 19th century.


Translated by Mark Conrad, 1997.