A pirate skull with crossed bones is unexpectedly found on the badge of one of the hussar regiments formed in 1773 and fought until 1918. Why did the brave hussars of the imperial army choose such an ambiguous symbol, and what was the meaning behind it?
For the first time, a skull with bones was placed on the black myrliton caps of the Prussian hussars of Frederick the Great in the middle of the 18th century. The symbol was also worn by the lancers of the British army, as well as Hungarian, German, Austrian and Italian cavalrymen, pilots, attack aircraft and tankers throughout the 19th and 20th centuries. In the Russian army, the skull was first fixed on their hats by the Petersburg cavalry militiamen of the Immortal Cavalry Regiment, who fought during the Patriotic War of the 12th year.
A silver and white skull with crossbones adorned the black Maltese cross badge and headdresses of black hussars most of the time that the regiment existed, but unofficially. At the same time, the symbol was so popular that the hussars admired it in everyday life, ordering furniture, cutlery and furnishings with the Jolly Roger. A huge metal skull with shining eyes-lanterns was even installed on the balcony of one of the buildings of Polish Kalisz, where officers gathered at the beginning of the last century. Only in 1913 did Emperor Nicholas II officially formalize the use of this symbol. The hussars of the first and second squadrons were distinguished by the fact that the former wore a black badge with a silver skull in a frame made of silver hussar braid, while the latter did not have a silver braid.
Since the 50s. In the 18th century, the concepts of death and immortality were extremely popular in Western European culture, and the fashion for romanticism prompted hussars to use the "head of death" to maintain a romantic image. But if in the Western armies the skull with bones symbolized, in general, a humble readiness to give his life on the battlefield, then in the Russian - fearlessness in the face of death, the readiness to sacrifice oneself for the sake of a higher goal (victory in battle and the salvation of the fatherland).
The semantics of the emblem of the Russian hussars had nothing to do with the fearsome symbolism of the pirate Jolly Roger. Its meaning goes back to the Christian tradition of depicting Adam's head - the remains of the progenitor of all people, Adam, washed in the blood of the crucified Christ. This washing, according to the Holy Scriptures, was the beginning of the miraculous deliverance of all mankind from sins: after death, the Savior descended into Hell to help all the righteous, including Adam, to reach Paradise. Therefore, in Christianity, the skull with bones has become the designation of sacrificial death, which grants Salvation and Resurrection in Eternal Life. It is no coincidence that the head of Adam can be seen both on numerous icons and on the clothes of monks-schema monks who, after being tonsured, “lay down alive in a coffin” in order to be reborn in Eternal Life.
Even in the time of Dmitry Donskoy, the vestments of the chernetsov were adorned with Adam's head and the Golgotha crucifix. It was this schema that was presented to the monk of the Holy Trinity Monastery, Alexander Peresvet, by the Monk Sergius of Radonezh, and then the monk, at the cost of his own life, defeated the Horde hero Chelubey, which inspired the squad of the Moscow prince Dmitry Ivanovich. It is interesting that the monks did not put on armor - they put on black schemas decorated with the Dead Head, took up a black banner with the same symbol, and, demonstrating contempt for death, went into battle with prayer, believing in the salvation of the soul in the Kingdom of God.
It is not surprising that it was Christian symbols that turned out to be so close to the fearless Russian soldiers who distinguished themselves in many military campaigns: the Russian-Turkish, Patriotic 1812, foreign campaigns of 1813-14, the First World War. Most likely, it was during the liberation campaigns against Napoleon, fighting side by side with the Prussians, that the Russian hussars drew attention to the original symbol on the Prussian uniform. Its Christian meaning fits perfectly into the hussar worldview and enhances the romantic halo that the hussars have cultivated for centuries.
Alexandra Feodorovna, who took over the regiment at the beginning of the 20th century, preferred to call the fearless warriors "immortal" in official documents, despite the fact that the regiment was called the Fifth of Alexandria. Hussars were also called "black": they wore black dolman, decorated with silver. The uniforms were introduced by Pavel the First, who took the form of the Fifth Regiment of Prussian Hussars as a model in the development of hussar uniforms. However, another analogy can be traced in the chosen color - with the black schemas of warrior monks.
The "hussars of death" owe their third name to a curious incident that occurred during the overseas campaign against Napoleon. The Prussian field marshal von Blucher, after one of the battles, confused his hussars and the Russians, which was not surprising. The hussars standing in the gunpowder smoke, covered with mud from "shako to toe," fought fearlessly and valiantly, so the field marshal decided that they were his soldiers and greeted the Russian Alexandrians as Prussian hussars of death.