Is this true that the Soviet Army was so poorly equipped by the WW2 that soldiers had no helmets?

  • I looked up some photos of dead Russian soldiers from the Barbarossa campaign and they usually had helmets on the ground next to them. I would not sweat it though, helmets are overrated, just makes you a better target. Commented Apr 22, 2015 at 21:18

4 Answers 4


Don't know about helmets specifically, but in a nutshell, no. The Red Army was very well equipped; it had more airplanes and tanks (and some of them of better make) than the Germans. Same goes for many other categories of materiel.

Wikipedia gives this table for June 22, 1941:

               Germany and allies     Soviet Union    

Divisions                           166                            190

Personnel                    4,306,800                  3,289,851

Guns and mortars           42,601                      59,787

Tanks                              4,171                       15,687

Aircraft                            4,389                        11,537


I am surprised that nobody linked to suitable wikipedia page:

Soviet helmets during World War II

Quote from article:

The SSh (stalnoy shlem, or steel helmet) 39 was of simple, more modern design, and was much easier to manufacture than the M36. The SSh-39 would be the standard design for Soviet helmets for the next 29 years, with only minor changes occurring during that time. It is also the design for the helmet on the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Moscow. The helmet was produced primarily in three factories, the Stalingrad Tractor Factory (designated CT in the ink stamp), the Red October Factory (3K0) also in Stalingrad, and the Lysva Metallurgical Factory (LMZ).[2] The first liner was an eight-finger leather liner, similar to the German M35-M42. Next came a short production of an eight-finger liner made of Gralex. The final version of the SSh-39 liner was cloth, similar to the M-36 liner. All three variations of the liner were suspended from the helmet by three metal tabs, which were riveted to the shell near the top. This helmet, like the M-36, saw action in numerous campaigns before it was phased out in 1942 in favor of the SSh-40.

Article also mentions other 2 types of helmets used in World War II (M-36 and SSh-40) and Adrian helmet that was used in early years of Soviet Union. Also there's a poster with classic red star helmet:

enter image description here

So, the answer is no. It's a myth.

  • 2
    Nice answer!!!! Commented Mar 5, 2013 at 11:13
  • 2
    except it doesn't take into consideration things like scarcity and production numbers. Since 2 of the factories were in Stalingrad, I'd expect scarcity due to loss of those factories from 1942 on to the point new factories could be opened and start mass production elsewhere. And without sufficient stockpiles, early during mobilisation there might indeed have been troops without access to helmets.
    – jwenting
    Commented Mar 5, 2013 at 11:28
  • 6
    @jwenting I hope you understand that Enemy at the Gates is not really historically accurate movie? I think that you need really strong evidence to support claims like that. Commented Mar 5, 2013 at 13:15
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    @jwenting movie is based on fact great assumption, I can't wait to see answers on stackoverflow and programmers.SE based on Swordfish. the personal recollection of survivors Again if you can link to any kind of such memoirs (soviet soldier fighting against Germans with bare hands) feel free to post it. This discussion went too far without any factual evidence. Commented Mar 5, 2013 at 14:42
  • 5
    Possibly you could improve the answer by pointing that the helmet on the picture is not the typical for WWII SSh-40 but the Adrian helmet which was mostly obsolete by the time.
    – Anixx
    Commented Apr 1, 2013 at 21:11

The myth of Russian helmets is quite popular speaking not only about the beginning of the war. The truth is that even if Soviet Army had enough helmets, there were some other reasons why soldiers didn't want to use them.

First of all, they were highly uncomfortable and reduced the sight, so soldiers preferred caps. Also they were made of very poor material (don't ask me for details) and too weak to provide good cover from anything (not speaking of bullets, as there were no helmets at those times which could protect from a shot). This way especially at the end of the war, when Germans didn't have as much artillery, helmets weren't so important for Russian soldiers. Another reason I've heard about was the shiny material, which helped Germans shooters to localize Soviet soldiers from a distance.

In the queue to blame there's also Russian propaganda machine. It's said that when Soviet Army were coming to Poland, soldiers heard from everywhere that Germans are in panic and they just run away from Poland leaving everything, including helmets. This way some Russian soldiers diaries contain scenes of leaving heavy and uncomfortable helmets on the road, in order to get a new one, left by Germans. They didn't even expect to fight until they reach the German border and in many cases they were right about it. Sounds a bit like Catch 22, don't you think?

  • 2
    I wish you would've provided some sources.
    – brilliant
    Commented Mar 3, 2013 at 22:52
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    Of course, taking a German helmlet instead of Soviet one would be punishable. A soldier has to keep his equipment and has to wear standard uniform. Not to say that in German helmlet he could be accidentally taken for an enemy. It is possible that they collected German (or other foreign) helmlets and re-furbished, re-painted them, but I never heared about such enterprise. At the same time Germans wearing Soviet refurbished helmlets were not uncommon.
    – Anixx
    Commented Mar 4, 2013 at 7:04
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    Unfortunately with sources they're mainly "I've asked my grandpa" kind of stories. It's just a common knowledge of the old generation who were still young at those times, but I can try to find some valuable sources in Polish language. Commented Mar 4, 2013 at 12:21
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    @DarekWędrychowski- I am sorry to say that, but it seems that you being Polish naturally are giving some biased answers here. I need sources, valid and credible ones.
    – brilliant
    Commented Mar 5, 2013 at 7:45
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    @DarekWędrychowski and the Russian is more likely to have the same dilemma and shoot at the German too, giving you valuable time to switch targets :)
    – jwenting
    Commented Jun 12, 2013 at 10:39

I think you are mistaken with the wars. This is true for the Great War. Russian forces were poorly equipped and helmets were the last thing Russian industry would have thought of.

Here is a picture of charging Russian infantry in 1916 (I do not put it here due to copyright).

  • 2
    Steel Helmets where not in use at all for infantry at the start of WWI for any army. Even those helmets with the spike for Germans were leather. They were adopted later in the war by all armies.
    – Oldcat
    Commented Feb 3, 2016 at 1:10

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