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Telnyashka with stripes coloured in black. Designated Soviet and then Russian naval infantry.

A telnyashka (ru. Тельняшка) is a dark blue and white striped, sleeveless or not, undershirt worn by sailors of the Russian Navy, the Soviet and Russian Airborne Forces (the VDV) and the Russian Naval Infantry (Marines). It is a symbol of great pride for its bearers, perhaps best exemplified by the famed Soviet sniper Vassili Zaitsev. Zaitsev was a sailor in the Soviet Pacific Fleet who volunteered for army duty in the Battle of Stalingrad, but despite transfer to the army he refused to give up his Navy telnyashka because of the pride it engendered. General Margelov who was later to modernise the Soviet airborne forces had served with a Naval Infantry unit in the Great Patriotic War and procured telnyashkas for the airborne forces as a mark of their elite status. There is a popular saying that ironically presents telnyashkas as an attribute of "real men": "Нас мало, но мы в тельняшках!" (Nas malo, no my v telnyashkakh — We are few in number, but we wear telnyashkas!).

Telnyashkas are also available to civilian customers and may come in a variety of knittings. Single thread knitting is the standard military-issue variant, but double and quadruple knittings for increased warmth can be produced. A quadruple telnyashka is enough to keep a person warm with nothing else on even at 5°C, as it was originally developed for military divers to be worn under a dry suit.

Telnyashkas come from a practice that originated in the merchants and fishermen of Brittany, who adopted the style to distinguish them from other nationalities at a distance, later adopted and popularized by the French Navy and other navies of the pre-Dreadnought era. These continued in use for some time. The tradition of Russian/Soviet ground troops wearing a naval uniform comes from Soviet Navy sailors who fought on the ground while under siege during World War II.

Telnyashkas with stripes of different colors than navy blue are usually a mark of a special detachment, for example:




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