One cannot simply get the red beret, he must fight for the right to wear it.

The commandos of the Russian Special Forces (spetsnaz) who gain this right become living legends.

It could be assumed that currently there are no more than 1000 owners of the red berets in Russia.

The origin of the red beret

Initially the red beret was a mere part of the Airborne Forces uniform. As a result of the blue beret introduction the red beret had been neglected for several years.

It is widely believed that it was the general Alexander Sidorov who gave back the red beret its status on the eve of the Olympic Games in Moscow (1980) in order to distinguish specially trained elite forces.

Gradually this military unit transformed into the elite Vityaz Special Forces.

Its commander Sergei Lysyuk introduced the idea that the red beret should be obtained through severe tests. The red color symbolizes the blood split by the Russian commandos on battlefields, their courage and the highest professional competence. Since 1993 these tests have become official.

The test permission

External candidates are not allowed to pass the test. A prospective Red Beret must be a member of Special Forces.

Moreover, such a commando has to have achieved at least good results during his training. His long-term marks in key subjects must be excellent. Otherwise he will not be permitted to try his hand at the test.

red beret

Passing the test for the right to wear the red beret. Фотобанк Лори

Alongside a ten-kilometer (6 miles) cross-country race and other exercises, a candidate is obliged to storm a building.

One of the toughest tests


Three candidates and one Red Beret take part in a hand-to-hand fighting. A combat lasts 4 minutes. Each candidate must endure three combats in a row, two of them being against other candidates and the last one being against a red beret. All in all, it is 12 minutes of non-stop hand-to-hand fighting!

This test is really hard to pass. Just try to stand against your equal rival for at least 30 seconds! Now imagine that beforehand you have passed an endurance test and then you have to fight a Red Beret!

A successful candidate must not only stand these endless 12 minutes but also play an active and offensive role.

The test for the right to wear the red beret in Vytyaz Special Forces (2004). A building storm, special exercises, a hand-to-hand combat, awarding

Through the combat a Red Beret proves his further right to wear his cap. Sometimes the red beret can be called off after the loss.

Committing offences is another way to lose the red beret. In fact, the red beret is hardly a privilege and more like an honorable duty where “duty” is the key word.

The number of candidates

If 30% of candidates get the red beret, it is considered to be a good result. Many failed soldiers try to repass the test a year later.

The test for the right to wear the red beret is also used in some ex-Soviet republics, including Belarus, Ukraine, Kazakhstan and others.

Is it possible to get the red beret without passing the test?

Yes, it is possible.

Every major Special Forces squad has its own red beret counsel. The red beret can be granted to a commando who showed unparalleled courage in flashpoints or was severely injured during military operations and therefore cannot pass the test. They get the red beret for their distinguished service.

In the span of flashpoint operations not a single Red Beret was captured alive by militias.


We used some ideas  from the magazine “Bratishka”.

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