On June 10, 2011 it became known that the Federal protective service, the FSO has launched a tender to purchase 60 leather trenchcoats on the official site for government purchases.
Long leather trenchcoats are infamously associated with uniforms of Soviet NKVD secret police, worn by its low-ranking officers at the height of Stalin’s pre-war purges in the late 1930s.
The coats ordered by the FSO appear to be nearly identical to the NKVD coats, according to the tender documentation and images uploaded on the website zakupki.gov.ru. The jet-black “light leather overcoat” as the item is described is meant for “high-ranking FSO officers” and features a belt and various insignia, including the image of the Russian two-headed eagle on every button.
The 60 overcoats are ordered by the service along with 60 black leather jackets for a total sum of 2.9 million roubles ($104,600).
The decision to order overcoats seems to be odd, given the fact that modern security personnel hardly ever wear uniforms. Most likely it signifies that FSO generals wanted to highlight its “elite status” and distance themselves from the rest of the army, which most of them despise.
First time the Russia’s secret services made clear their ambitions in 2006. That August a Presidential decree changed the color of the uniform of the FSB, Federal Protective Service FSO, the Service of Special Facilities (subordinate to the GUSP) and SVR from army green to black.
The color of night has never been popular with the Russian special services; black uniforms were only worn in the prison department of the Russian Empire and very briefly by policemen in the 1920s. Obviously this was not about returning to traditions; the color choice was of some symbolic importance.
Some critics hastened to compare this new fashion with the Nazi SS troops’ obsession with the color black. In fact there is a Russian history of using black for defenders of the Motherland. During the Civil War, when they were suffering defeat after defeat, the White Guard formed officers’ regiments named after generals Markov, Drozdov, and Kornilov. The regiment of General-Lieutenant Sergey Markov called itself a “brotherhood of monastic knights who sacrificed their liberty, their blood, and their lives for Russia.” They wore black tunics as a symbol of their scorn for earthly goods and were strictly religious.