Tsar Nicholas II Wouldn’t Approve the Russian Army’s New Uniform Until He Tested It Out Himself

Photo Credit: Laski Diffusion / Getty Images

Tsar Nicholas II saw himself as not only a member of the royal family, but as a soldier as well. He received a military education growing up and, as such, was deeply connected to the interests and concerns of young Russian soldiers. When the time came to issue new uniforms, Nicholas made sure they met his stringent standards – by testing them himself!

Vladimir Sukhomlinov’s request for reform

In 1909, Minister of War Vladimir Sukhomlinov was in the process of developing a new standard issue uniform and equipment for the Russian Empire’s servicemen. The uniforms, in particular, needed to be reformed and required the approval of Tsar Nicholas II before they could be introduced to the Imperial Russian Army.

Tsar Nicholas II in military uniform
Tsar Nicholas II of Russia, 1890. (Photo Credit: Henry Guttmann Collection / Hulton Archive / Getty Images)

Nicholas considered himself the first professional soldier of the Russian Empire. He was not about to approve a uniform for the entire infantry based on the word of a minister. Instead, he tested the new uniforms himself. He told no one of his plans, except Minister of the Court and Commander of the Palace Alexander Mosolov.

A military camp near Livadia Palace was conducting their own tests of the proposed uniforms and Nicholas had one delivered. It was not fitted for him, nor was the equipment. This was a standard-issue uniform that would give him the most authentic experience possible.

Tsar Nicholas II puts the uniform to the test

The proposed military uniform included a pouch, rifle and cartridges. Wearing it, Tsar Nicholas II made his way out of the palace to put it to the test. Making sure he was packed for a full day’s trip, he brought with him a regulation one-day supply of bread and water, similar to what Russian soldiers would be issued.

Tsar Nicholas II in military uniform
Tsar Nicholas II in the uniform of a Russian soldier. (Photo Credit: PA Images / Getty Images)

Nicholas began his journey by marching approximately 20 kilometers, before turning around and heading back to the palace. The 40-kilometer journey roundtrip was pretty consistent with what would be expected of his soldiers on any given day. It took him eight-to-nine hours to complete, including breaks for eating and drinking.

Tsar Nicholas II was pleased with the results

When Tsar Nicholas II returned, he was thoroughly examined to see how the uniform held up in the field. To everyone’s surprise, he came back with no cuts, scrapes, blisters or bruises. He even found the boots to be comfortable, and he didn’t complain of sore feet after a long day of marching. The uniform had done its job.

Tsar Nicholas II sitting on a tree stump
Tsar Nicholas II, March 1917. (Photo Credit: Laski Diffusion / Getty Images)

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Given how successful the experiment had been, it’s no surprise Nicholas signed off on the uniform the following day.