Monday, April 5, 2010
A telnyashka (Тельняшка) was the Soviet, and now Russian, version of the Breton shirt; a dark blue and white striped, long sleeved shirt or singlet worn by sailors of the Navy, the Airborne Forces (cornflower-blue and white), the Border Guards (green and white), the OMON and Spetsnaz Groups of the MVD (red and white) and the Russian Naval Infantry (black and white).
For the soldiers and seamen the telnyashka is a symbol of great pride, best exemplified by the famed Soviet sniper Vassili Zaitsev. Zaitsev was a sailor in the Soviet Pacific Fleet who volunteered for army duty in the Battle of Stalingrad, but despite transfer to the army refused to give up his Navy telnyashka because of the pride it engendered.
A popular saying presents telnyashkas as an attribute of 'real men': "Нас мало, но мы в тельняшках!" (Nas malo, no my v telnyashkakh — We are few in number, but we wear telnyashkas!).
Single thread knitting is the standard military-issue variant, but double and quadruple knittings for increased warmth
are also produced. The quadruple telnyashka was originally developed for military divers to be worn under their dry suit.
The tradition of Russian/Soviet ground troops wearing a naval uniform comes from Soviet Navy sailors who fought on the ground while under siege during World War II.