- By Joshua Keating
Joshua Keating was an associate editor at Foreign Policy
New Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu has announced an upgrade for the country’s military equipment: socks. Shoigu says that by the end of this year, the armed forces must phase out the traditional "portyanki," or footwraps, that Russian soldiers have worn for centuries.
Claire Bigg explains the tradition:
They were introduced into the Russian Army by Tsar Peter the Great, who first saw Dutch soldiers bandage their feet during a visit to the Netherlands.
Advocates say footwraps are more resistant than socks and offer better protection from the cold.
For many war veterans, the art of bandaging one’s feet is an important hallmark of a real soldier.
But critics say footwraps are unpractical and cause blisters. Since foot cloths are designed to tightly hug the foot, sweating can also be an issue.
Ukraine, Georgia, and the Baltic countries have all done away with the footwraps since the fall of the Soviet Union, but they’ve stubbornly hung on in Russia despite the efforts of several defense ministers to move to socks. We’ll see if Shoigu has more success.