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25th Rifle Division of the Red Army. Uniforms. Author:  .

Author and illustrator: Michael Medin, "Siberia Miniatures".
Plates and texts are copyrighted.

Uniforms of the Red Army 1917 - 1921.
Plate 1.


25th Rifle Division

One of the most famous units of the Red Army during the Civil War was the 25th Rifle Division. In many ways it has become known through one of its founders and commanders, whose name it later wore - Vasily Ivanovich Chapaev.

History of the 25th Rifle Division.

On 22.03.1918 in Nikolaevsk, V.I. Chapaev formed a partisan detachment.

In April 1918, the detachments of Chapaev, Bauhin, Bubenets, Plyasunkov were reorganized into the "Nikolaev Regiments".

In May 1918, the Nikolaev Regiments and red partisans of the Samara and Saratov provinces, which were not part of these units, were formed into a Division, consisting of 2 brigades:

1st Brigade (1st and 2nd Regiment and the Domashkinsk Detachment), commanded by V.I. Chapaev,

2nd Brigade (3rd and 4th Regiments) commanded by Gavrilov, later S.V. Sokol, and in 1920 by - Ivan Plyasunkov.

The forming of the Division was approved by Order 1 of 30.07.1918 from the 4th Army Eastern Front. The Division was named the "Division of Nikolaev Regiments".

8.08.1918. the Division's brigades received a new numbering: 73rd (former 1st Brigade) and 74th (former 2nd Brigade).

22.09.1918 the Division was renamed as the "1st Nikolaev Soviet Infantry Division" (Division Order 44), but 25.09.1918 it got a new name "1st Samara Infantry Division" (Order 38 of 25 September 1918 from the 4th Army). The name was approved at a general meeting of delegates representing the units in the Division, which was held 28.09.1918 with the presence of a representative from the RVS (The Revolutionary Military Council of the Republic).

19.11.1918 the Division again changed its name, now to the "25th Rifle Division" (Order 104 to the troops on the Eastern Front), and 4.10.1919 by Order 150 from the Revolutionary Military Council on the Turkestan Front - to the "25th Rifle Division, named after V.I. Chapaev".

After the death of V.I. Chapaev, from 6.09.1919 to October 1920, the Division Commander was Ivan Semenovich Kutyakov.

In January 1920, the Division became part of the 2nd Labour Army and took part in building the railroad Aleksandrov Gai – Emba (Algemba). For more details:

In May 1920, after the outbreak of war with Poland, the Division was transferred to the South-Western Front and participated in the Kiev Operation.

On 20th August, it took Kovel, followed by fighting on the Western Bug River. In September 1920 until October the 73rd Infantry Brigade was transferred to the 7th Infantry Division, the rest of the 25th Division in this period was stationed in the area of Gostomlya. In November 1920, the Division was located in the town of Berdichev, guarding the factories and railroad lines.

At the end of the Civil War, the 25th Chapaev Division was reduced to a brigade with headquarters in Bila Tserkva, Ukraine. From that point (Orders from the Kiev Military District 1009/243 and 111/267 from 23.4.1921) the "old" 25th Division was renamed as the 73rd Chapaev Rifle Brigade (Order from the RVSR - Revolutionary Military Council of the Republic - ?2141/369 dated 28.04.1921) consisting of: 

217th Rifle Regiment (formerly 73rd Rifle Brigade),

218th Rifle Regiment (formerly 74th Rifle Brigade),

219th Rifle Regiment (formerly 75th Rifle Brigade).

But soon the 73rd Chapaev Rifle Brigade, as the 25th Division was resized to a brigade, was incorporated in the 58th Infantry Division, and the 58th was renamed as the 25th "Chapaev" Division, into which also were amalgated the one day earlier disbanded 52th and 1st Latvian Rifle Divisions.

On 30.11.1921, the Division was renamed as the "25th Poltava", and from 1.04.1922, after the new relocation - "Kremenchug." (Kremenchuk, is an important industrial city in central Ukraine, located on the banks of the Dnieper River.).

From October to April 1921, under the command of V.I. Pavlovsky, it was stationed in the Kiev Military District (KVO), in Kazatin, Zhitomir and Berdichev, fighting local  against bandits and anti-Bolshevik partisans. In the years 1921-1922, before becoming a brigade, the 25th Infantry Division was moved around in the central Ukraine, along with the 44th, 45th, 58th and 60th Divisions, hunting insurgent groups and continuing the fight against banditry. In August 1921 - July 1922 - around Kiev, and since July 1922 - in the Kremenchug Governorate.

In 1922, the unit was sent hastely to combat gang violence in the Kanev County, located about 100 km south-east of Kiev. Here the Division liquidated a large gang led by Yaryy and several smaller groups. During this period, the in Ukraine was not only a large number of anti-Bolshevik partisans, but also ordinary bandits, who robbed everybody and everything from the people, institutions, warehouses and stores, not caring about - red, white or nationalists. This could be a very big gangs - of up to several hundred people, sometimes they controlled the small towns and whole areas of the countryside.

In 1922 the Division was stationed with headquarters - in Kremenchug, the rest in Kremenchug, Alexandria, Elisavetgrad, Cherkassy and Smela (Order from UVO (Ukrainian Military District) ?463/106 of 12.04.1923). In 1922 it was commanded by Gaspar Karapetovich Voskanov.

The Division was part of the armies on the Eastern Front: 4th (July 1918 - January 1919, March - April 1919, July 1919 - May 1920) , 1st (January - March 1919), 5th (April - May 1919), Turkestan army (May - June 1919). Part of the 12th Army (May - December 1920), in the Kiev Military District (KVO) (December 1920), the Ukrainian Military District (UVO), KVO (since 1922).


Composition Division:

-         73rd Rifle Brigade (1st, commanded from 18th October by I.S. Kutyakov) had a total 217th Pugachevsky Regiment, 218th Regiment named Stepan Razin, a Domashka detachment (partisan detachment of the village Domashka), which later became the 219th Regiment, and the 1st LAD (Light Artillery Battalion (Diwizion)) with four 76.2 - mm guns;

-         74th Rifle Brigade (2nd) consisted of: 220th Ivanovo-Voznesenski Infantry Regiment, 221th Syzran Regiment called "Red Star", 222th Samara International Regiment and the 2nd LAD.

-         75th Rifle Brigade (3rd, brigade commander - Fyodor Potapov, in 1919 - 1920 - Ephraim Ilyich Aksenov ) - was composed of: 223rd Regiment named Vinerman, 224th Krasnokutsk Regiment and 225th Balakovo Regiments and 3rd LAD.

Regimental Commanders:

217th Regiment - Alex Karpovich Ryazancev in 1919,

218th Regiment - Daniel Pavlovich Gribakov in 1920,

219th Regiment - Sergei Vasilievich Sokol in 1919,

220th Regiment - Semen Afanasevich Zhilyakov in 1920,

221st Regiment - Andrey Moshkov in 1920,

223rd Regiment - Anatoly Filimonovich Petrovsky in 1920,

225th Regiment - Fedor Tsibizov was assistant to the regimental commander in 1923.

Into the 25th Division were for a period included the Balashov and Saratov Infantry Regiments. At various times the Division also included: 1st and 3rd Don-Kuban Cavalry Diwizions ( - Diwizion) - combat unit. In the Russian army a diwizion was organized with 2 - 3 artillery batteries or in the cavalry with 2 squadrons), 25th Cavalry Diwizion, 1st and 2nd Cavalry Regiments, which were part of the Cavalry Brigade. (Brigade Commander in 1922 - Ivan Konstantinovich Bubenets), the 17th Armoured Car Detachment and of the 25th Heavy Artillery Battalion, a school for red military instructors (School preparing instructors for recruit training - in fact a NCO-school) and a separate horse battery with 6 guns. In total the Division had: 54 artillery guns, mostly 76.2 mm, and about 25,000 men.

The Division participated:

- in the battles against the Czechoslovak Legion and Whites in the Volga area (July - August 1918),

- in August it attacked on the Eastern Front (3 - 25 August) (fighting at Nikolayev and taking the town),

- in the Sizran-Samara operation (14.09. - 8.10.1918) (assault on Lipovka, access to the railway Sizran-Samara, breakthrough to the station Ivaschenkovo, Syzran, attack on the Kryazh Station, capture of the Samara),

- taking part in the capture of city of Uralsk (January 1919),

- capture Lbischensk (March 1919),

In operations on the Eastern Front in 1919 against the forces of Kolchak:

- Buguruslan operation (28 April -13 May), (attacking to bypass the city Buguruslan from the South, capture of Zaglyadino, continued attacking in Belebey, accessing the River Ik),

- Belebey operation (15 - 19.05.1919) (circuitous maneuver from the north to defeat the enemy corps in the town of Belebey, encounter battle on the River Ik, attacks on Belebey),

- Ufa operation (25.05.1919 -19.06.1919), (attacking north of Ufa, the crossing of Belaya River, capture of a bridgehead northwest of Ufa, breaking the defense of the enemy and entry into the city of Ufa),

- participation in lifting the blockade of Uralsk (July),

- in the Urals-Guriev operations (2.11.1919 -10.01.1920) (attacking Lbischensk and capturing the city, pursuit of the retreating enemy, reaching the line Nova Kazanka - Kalmykov, capturing the village Gorskaya at the city Guriev),

Participated in the operations on the South-Western Front during the Soviet-Polish War 1920:

- Kiev operations (26.05.1920-17.06.1920) (crossing the Dnieper River near the mouth of the River Teterev, severed the railway line Kiev-Korosten in the area Borodjanka - Irsha),

- taking part in the liberation of Kovel (August),

- the battles on the Western Bug River,

- taking part in the liquidation of Bulak Balakhovich's formations and liquidating banditry in Ukraine (October 1920 - December 1922).




Uniforms of the 25th Infantry Division named after V.I. Chapaev
Nikolaev regiments in the Division
1st Nikolaev Division,
Samara Division,
25th Division,
25 Poltava Infantry Division

Top row - uniforms personally worn by V.I. Chapayev.

Middle row:

1. Cavalry Regiment Garibaldi and personal escort to Chapaev 1918 
(The regiment was called "Garibaldi's" as a sign of respect to the merits of the Italian national hero. In this way the Soviet State honored many famous fighters against monarchism and for national liberation, both of Russian and foreign origin. In this regiment was no foreigners. But in the 25th Division was the 222nd International Regiment consisting mostly of Chinese.)

2. 1st Soviet Nikolaev Regiment, 1918 (A mixture of items of military and civilian clothing)

3. 2nd Soviet Nikolaev Regiment, 1918 (A mixture of items of military and civilian clothing)

4. 3rd Soviet Nikolaev Regiment, 1918 (A mixture of items of military and civilian clothing)

5. 4th Soviet Nikolaev Regiment, 1918 (A mixture of items of military and civilian clothing)

Bottom row:

1. 221 Syzran Workers Volunteer Regiment "Red Star", 1919

2. 220 Ivano-Voznesenski Rifle Regiment, "Red Weavers", 1919

3. 224 Krasnokut Rifle Regiment, 1920

The above illustrations show the soldiers as described by eyewitnesses and as can be seen in the contemporary photos posted on the Siberia Forum and in my own collection. Attention has been paid only to characteristic, recognizable features, common in parts of the 25th Infantry Division and also it should be understood that most uniforms in this unit were a colorful mixture of military and civilian uniform items, characteristic for all the armies during the Civil War.

Uniforms V.I. Chapaev:

N.M. Khlebnikov in his book "Under the Roar of Hundreds of Batteries" recalls, how he in a detachment of the Ivanovo Weavers arrived to the 25th Division and the first time he saw the famous commander: "A Commander (The word "officer" did not exist until the 1940ies in the Red Army, as the bulk of the Soviet enemies came from the officers class. In the Red Army the term was replaced with "Commander." In practice the words are  are synonymous. In the Red Army were no officer ranks - they were replaced by the name on the post: platoon commander - komvzvoda, brigade commander - kombrig, corps commander - komkor and so on ...), dressed in "gusarka" trimmed with astrakhan fur, with a black astrakhan fur hat with a red top and high elegant boots with spurs, reined in his horse and with a quick, tenacious glance inspected the battery. He was thin, of medium height. Slim, beautiful facial features, black mustache, solid chin. This was Vasily Chapaev".

Former Colonel-General of the Imperial Army and the future Lieutenant-General of the Soviet Army, F.F. Novitskiy recalls, how he first saw the famous Division Commander: "One day, at the end of February 1919, the duty officer reported to the Army Commander the arrival of Chapaev. Mikhail Vasilyevich (Frunze) expected to see a partisan with rollicking manners. However, into the office, slowly and reverently entered a man of thirty, of medium height, thin, clean-shaven, with a rounded thin black moustache and a neat haircut. Chapaev was not only neatly dressed, but exquisitely: perfectly stitched greatcoat of good material, gray lambskin hat with gold braid on top, foppish reindeer boots with the fur on the outside; carrying a Caucasian model saber, richly decorated with silver, and a carefully fastened Mauser pistol ... and Chapaev sat down very delicately, his voice was very quiet, his answers were very respectful..."

"Chapaev himself, his escort and the Garibaldi Regiment wore black astrakhan sheepskin hats and had red velvet collars - like Pugachev. The rest - the usual uniform".

Eugenia Chapayeva "My unknown Chapaev", Moscow, "Korvet", 2005


"Ordinary man, lean, medium height, probably not of great strenght, with thin, almost feminine hands, sparse dark blond hair plastered to his forehead in tufts, short nervous delicate nose, thin eyebrows in chain, thin lips, shiny clean teeth, clean-shaven chin, lush feldwebel mustache. Eyes ... light blue, almost green - fast, smart, unblinking. Matt face, fresh, clean, no pimples, no wrinkles. He wore a khaki military jacket, blue pants, on the legs reindeer boots. A sheepskin hat with a red top in his hand, shoulder belts, on the side revolver. A silver Caucasian saber and a green peasant coat were thrown on the chest."

D.A. Fourmanov (Former Commissar of the 25th Division). The novel "Chapaev ".

"Chapaev took cared of himself, was always neat: dressed in a military uniform - field blouse or khaki service jacket, dark blue riding breeches and boots with spurs. Wore a peaked cap or a black lambskin papakha with a red top. Shashka, "Nagant" revolver, binoculars, map bag and well-fitting leather equipment completed his appearance. Carelessness in the clothing he did not admit. By the way, the tall black papakha with a red top is a distinctive sign of Chapayev's escort squadron and our cavalrymen. They were made on his order and were an initiative to imitating Yemelyan Pugachev, about whom Chapayev had read and knew a lot".

S.F. Danil'chenko. "Chapaev and Chapayevites."Cheboksary. 1971. P.83

"At that time, the Chapaev fighters introduces a new headdress - a black papakha with a red top, very similar to the cossack papakha."

R.B. Borisova. "In the fire of civil war". Saratov, 1966. P.77

224th Infantry Regiment: "When it seemed that the battle is over, the Red Army soldiers crept out of the trenches and began to bask in the sun and appearing on the streets in the village, then the regiment began to suffer losses from Polish sniper fire. The most significant damage does snipers entrenched in undergrowth of a small hamlet. There probably only were a few - they shot without a miss and solely at the commanders. Our own commanders could be easily recognized by the red uniform. In Gur'ev, which capture basically ended the existence of the Ural front, was given to all officers, starting with platoon commanders, a few meters of red cloth. From this they sewed cloth pants, mostly of the jodhpur type, breeches and military jackets and also the fashionable "French" jackets. The craving for red color cloth in our regiment was so great, as even the most junior commanders had sewn red collars and cuffs on their green military jackets, having obtained a bit of cloth from middle and senior commanders. Such an uniform sported a commander in the rear and in it he also left for to the front. And although it was obvious to everyone that this uniform in combat was a deadly threat, commanders considered it unworthy to fight in field uniforms. And paid dearly for it."

Y. Kuberskiy. About the People and the War. // Zvezda. 10., 2011. p.122 -123

Order 29 of 7.09.1918 from the Division the Nikolaev regiments: "It is necessary to establish order in battle to distinguish the regiments from each other, when possibly disordered units will occur, demanding every regiment in the Division to establish the distinctive signs in the form of tassels, ribbons or rosettes, thus in the 1st Regiment these distinction must be of red color, in the 2nd Regiment - crimson, in the 3rd blue and in the 4th Regiment - mixed red and blue."

The order was signed by the temporary commander of the Chapaev Division, Chief of Staff Galaktionov and by the assistant to the Military-Political Commissar Tochilkin.

This is a quote from the book by the already mentioned Eugenia Chapayev. Memoirs of an Eyewitness. 220th Ivanovo-Voznesenski Regiment near Ufa: "Do not need to explain anything to our Weavers, as they have already gained some military experience. Some are coming right from home in calico blouses (The regiment was formed from volunteers among the weavers. They had not been military trained - they immediately went to the front. Of clothes they were given only a Budyonnovka cap and greatcoat, so they mostly wore the clothes, in which had gone from home. Gradually changed they changed into  military uniforms sent from the supply services and by using, what could be captured), others were in captured officers' breeches with red stripes. Sweaty faces, unbuttoned collar, heavy breathing."

Others reconstruction uniforms troops during the Civil War in Russia can be seen here:

This article was published on Tuesday 24 February, 2015.
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