What is the Tsar wearing over his shoulder? I believe this has been worn by armies since the 18th century up to around WW2. I scanned through this article but to no end: https://www.rbth.com/arts/2015/03/24/soviet_uniform_during_world_war_ii_42151

But, I presume it’s a blanket. If anyone desires to answer, please describe the definite term by which one should call it. (II) Describe its functionalities and how it would be utilized and why the soldiers would wear it.

tsar Nicholas II in uniform Germans in uniform

  • 2
    According to these answers on Reddit, it's either a cloak-tent or a greatcoat roll "since Russian/Soviet soldiers weren't usually issued blankets - the greatcoat would double as such." Apr 11, 2023 at 3:25
  • 1
    Yeah, I’m trying to grapple with the confounding notion of it being a great coat rolled/ blanket roll/ bed roll. May be my ineptitude but there’s a lot of ambiguity with the terms since there can be many ways to describe it…
    – Warren
    Apr 11, 2023 at 3:53

2 Answers 2


This is a greatcoat. "шинель" in Russian. This way of carrying a greatcoat is called in Russian "скатка", which approximately means "a roll". It was standard in Russian and Soviet army, and I wore my greatcoat myself in this way in the 1970s. There was no such thing as a blanket in the standard Russian military equipment: the greatcoat also served as a blanket.

Remarks. The Tsar wears it in somewhat unusual way. The standard way is shown in the second figure. You roll it into a cylindrical "sausage", as tightly as possible, and then tie the ends to make a ring, with the special little belt which is called ""тренчик". Officers would control the tightness of the roll. We were explained that we can hit an enemy with this roll, as with a club, if nothing else remains:-)

  • Thanks for your answer. After further research, before WW1 it seemed to be used as a means to protect one against a saber slash or bayonet thrust when worn diagonally as shown with the Tsar.
    – Warren
    Apr 12, 2023 at 2:45

That's a blanket roll. I doubt very much if the czar ever opened or folded one himself. In some armies the blanket roll was worn over the shoulder, as the czar does here.

Other armies and in later periods the blanket roll was worn over the backpack. The photo shows a WW1 German backpack with blanket roll.

The roll contains a tarpaulin cover with a blanket inside. It can also be single piece, as Lars Borsteen suggested. A greatcoat folded takes up less space than a tarpaulin with a blanket.

German Army WO1 backpack with blanket roll

source: I've worn it myself, in British/US style, while serving in the Dutch army. We called it a 'berenlul' or bear's dick. Our tarpaulin was a cape (or shelter half) that could be used as one half of a pup tent.

  • 1
    The notion of it being used as “one half of a pup tent” is quite interesting and I wonder if they may have used it to that effect. Do you have more links, books, videos or images to help me understand better.
    – Warren
    Apr 11, 2023 at 4:00
  • 4
    The cape was a poncho with buttons. Everyone had one. You use the buttons to tie two together to create a tent that can hold you and your buddy. Or more people, by tying more ponchos together.
    – Jos
    Apr 11, 2023 at 4:31
  • 1
    Also called a "shelter half"
    – R Leonard
    Apr 11, 2023 at 5:01
  • Re "I doubt very much if the czar ever opened or folded one himself." Clearly you disdain monarchs and monarchies - but one thing they always take seriously is the military requirement of defending the land they rule - and thus own. Monarchs who disdain this, have a tendency to be replaced by siblings who don't. So perhaps think twice before making such comments based solely on an emotional dislike of the individual pictured. This site is supposed to be about sourced claims. Apr 11, 2023 at 16:35

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.