Russian M15

THE RUSSIAN ARMY ON THE EASTERN FRONT, 1914-1917 (Q 86944) Russian prisoners in German or Austro-Hungarian captivity. Note their use of steel helmets, supplied to the Russian Army by the French. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205071865

General Information: The French shipped 1,977,000 Model 1915 helmets to Russians for use in the First World War.[1] The helmets were painted khaki brown and had an Imperial Russian badge affixed to the front. This headgear was subsequently used extensively by both sides during the Russian Civil War. The Red Army used modified, reissued versions of the M15s up until the start of the Second World War. The modification involved replacing the Imperial badge with large red star and repainting the helmets green. These are called “big star” helmets by collectors. The Poles, Finns and Baltic states all used Russian M15s left over from the war. When in service in these foreign armies, the badges were removed.

The badge is the old imperial coat of arms of the Russian empire. The symbolism of the double-headed eagle is explained in this excerpt from Wikipedia: “Ivan [III] adopted the golden Byzantine double-headed eagle in his seal, first documented in 1472, marking his direct claim to the Roman imperial heritage and posing as a sovereign equal and rival to the Holy Roman Empire.”[2] In its center is Saint George the dragon slayer, the patron saint of both Russia and England. The Imperial Russian coat of arms was revived in 2000 by Vladimir Putin, who would have been keenly aware of its symbolism and the national ambition it implies.

Displayed Example: In 1972 I tagged along with my father on a business trip to Europe. While in Munich we stopped at the shop of Jan Kube, a well-known German auctioneer of antique militaria. My father bought the helmet photographed here on that visit. Later, back in the States, Dad let me keep the helmet on my desk while I was writing a paper for school on the Battle of Tannenberg. Naturally, as a good helmet collector should, he explained that steel helmets were not in use at the time of that battle, but it was still a cool thing to have on my desk for a while. Later, as an adult and having reentered the collecting field, I was clearly coveting this and a few other steel helmets that my father had been holding on to. After a while he relented and transferred this helmet to my collection where is has been for the last couple of decades.

Collector Notes: Because of the extensive use, reuse, and modification of these helmets, a Russian M15 in its original wartime configuration is difficult thing to find and they are expensive additions to a collection. There are a goodly number of fakes circulating and these are often good enough to fool collectors.


[1] Karabanov. 2016. pp53

[2] Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coat_of_arms_of_Russia. Accessed 4/19/22

Published by maplecreekmilitaria

I am a collector of military headgear from 1915-1945

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