Kirza (Russian: Кирза) is a type of artificial leather based on the multi-layer textile fabric, modified by membrane-like substances, produced mainly in the Soviet Union and Russia. The surface of kirza imitates the pig leather.
The material is mainly used in production of military boots, where it is a cheap and effective replacement for natural leather. It is also used in production of the belts for machinery and automobiles.
The name kirza is an acronym from Kirovskiy Zavod (Kirov plant), a factory producing artificial leather, located in the city of Kirov in Russia, which was the first place of the mass production of kirza. Sometimes English dictionaries translate кирза as kersey into English language, which is a mistake, since kersey is quite a different material known from the Middle Ages.
The technology was invented in 1935 by Ivan Plotnikov and his fellow engineer Khomutov. The mass production began during the Winter War of the Soviet Union against Finland. Initially the material proved to be unfit to the winter conditions, and the production was halted. However, very soon the technology was improved and the mass production was resumed in the autumn and winter of 1941 during the German invasion of Soviet Union, since the large numbers of footwear were badly needed for the Red Army.
Since that time kirza has been continuously produced in the Soviet Union and then Russia, as well as in some other countries. Basically the technology didn't change much from 1941. About 85% of kirza produced in Russia goes for military boots (including the modern combat boots). Most of the modern kirza boots are produced from a combination of 85% kirza and 15% of specially prepared natural leather (the so-called yuft or Russia leather). About 150 million pairs of kirza footwear has been produced up to this time.