Papakha

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Papakha (Armenian: փափախ; Azerbaijani: papaq; Georgian: ფაფახი [pʰapʰaxi]; Russian: папа́ха; IPA: [pɐˈpaxə]), also known as astrakhan hat in English, is a male wool hat worn throughout the Caucasus. The word derives from Turkic "papakh" (hat).[1]

The two Russian papakhas, one called a papaha, is a high fur hat, usually made of karakul sheep skin. The hat has the general appearance of a cylinder with one open side, and is set upon the head in such a way as to have the brim touch the temples, some of them comes with ear flaps which can fold up when not using them and unfold them down when using. The other called a kubanka, which is the same as the papaha, except shorter, and with no ear flaps.

In Georgia, papakhi are mostly worn in mountainous regions of Pshavi, Khevi, Mtiuleti, and Tusheti. Papakhi are also donned by the Chechens, Dagestanians, and other Caucasian tribes and were introduced to the Russian army following the campaigns in the Caucasus mountains, becoming an official part of the uniform in 1855 for the Cossacks, and, later, for the rest of the cavalry.

Russian and Soviet army uniforms[edit]

Shortly after the Russian revolution of 1917, papakhas were removed from the new Red Army uniform because of their association with the old Tsarist regime and the fact that many Cossack regiments of the Tsarist army fought against the Bolsheviks. During the Russian Civil War, many Bolshevik cavalrymen and officers (like Vasily Chapayev) wore papakhas or kubankas because many of them were cossacks and the hat had become a customary part of a cavalryman's costume.

Papakhas became part of the uniform again in 1935, but in 1941, were reserved exclusively for full colonels, generals and marshals, thus becoming a symbol of status and high rank. In 1994, they were once again removed from military use, allegedly upon the request of the wearers, who found the hat inefficient since the papakha is a relatively short hat that does not protect the ears well—this might have been acceptable in the mild climate of the Caucasus, but not in lower temperatures—and is not very wind-proof.

The act of removing the papakhas was seen in some quarters as an attempt of the Boris Yeltsin regime to abandon earlier Soviet traditions and symbolically demonstrate the country's commitment to a new political course. In 2005, papakhas were reinstalled.[citation needed]

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