The Vojničke čizme (literally; Military boots), were combat boots of Yugoslavian origin, designed for and issued to the YPA (Yugoslavian People's Army) firstly in 1955, as part of Army modernisation program, together with the then new, M-55 wool combat uniform which was introduced in the same year, as it sole designation clearly points. They were actually their first actual combat boots, since the YPA was, until their appearance and adoption, using (even in that time slowly obsolete) World War II German (Wehrmacht) influenced classic hobnailed leather shoes paired along with ordinary canvas gaiters, based on the Wehrmacht's Schnürschuhe and Gamschen (which were back in the second half of WWII period worn extensively by Heer, Gebirgsjäger and Waffen SS , as the alternative to usual leather jackboots, the Schaftstiefel) or eventually leather jackboots (only by YPA officers, however). Although being the newly-formed Cold War army, the YPA was generally copying weaponry and equipment from the dissolved Wehrmacht, (which the Yugoslavian partisans were encountering in many occasions during the war on their front) as far as 1960s, when they finally started taking influence from the Eastern bloc, that is, from the newly formed Warsaw pact armies instead. However, these boots were still an exception of that, since they were actually neither a copy of, nor based on any then already existing. It can be eventually said that they were influenced by well known German jackboots, the previously mentioned Schaftstiefel, (worn firstly by the entire Wehrmacht and later mostly by officers in second half of the war) with eyelets and buckles added and sole modified to then modern standards (hobnailed one replaced by rubber and wooden layers, featuring screw reinforcement).
Due to pure differentiation from their succeeding model (which was officially known as Cipele sa povišenim sarom, translated as Shoes with heightened bootleg), which slowly began to replace them starting from early 1970s, these boots are nowadays colloquially often known as Čizme M55 (Boots Model 1955), although officially, they never featured any kind of such designation - even after the introduction of the above mentioned succeeding model (as there were some exceptions in YPA, when older and discontinued equipment which was still in service received such designation only in order to be properly differed from the new and recently introduced one, as it was case in YPA uniforms or backpacks, which received their Model-year designation exactly due to that). That was actually not necessary in this context, since these boots were officially known as the actual boots (Vojničke čizme), while the succeeding model was officially known only as the heigthened shoes (Cipele sa povišenim sarom, as mentioned), so they did not need such designaton to be properly differed in the official documents (logistic's list of equipment, as an example) from each other. However, the previously mentioned official designation of the succeeding model is very little known (especially today) due to being very slightly used in practice and exactly due to that this older model of YPA boots received their relatively popular and unofficial designation, the M55 - only in order to be differed from their succeeding model, which are today unofficially and incorrectly popularly designated as the M77 (although they actually appeared back in 1971). Same as for that succeeding model, these boots are nowadays commonly known simply as JNA čizme (literally; YPA boots).
Overview & history
As same as in case of their much more known and popular (above mentioned) successor, the Vojničke čizme were always made exclusively from highly durable, double layer of genuine box leather (calfskin) in combination with four layers of glued, stitched and screw reinforced sole (twin wooden at the upper part with a double rubber one below) featuring two aluminium buckles (one at the top side and the other one lower, across the laces) and twelve eyelets. They featured a thin cotton lining between two layers of leather as well as partially inside. The soles were directly glued to each other and internally, between the layers, also stitched for additional reliability, the leather is also glued to them and the eyelets were made out of aluminium, just like the buckles (but not chrome plated, however). Even the insoles were also made out of genuine leather and are easily removable. The buckles were chrome plated in order to protect them from rust (which explains their silver appearance) and the wooden parts of the sole were painted with black protective coating, not just in order to accomodate to rest of the boot's color (black) but also with reason to prevent them from rotting. The inside leather layer could vary in colors; from orange (which was the most common), to brown, yellow or even white (which was the rarest), depending of year and place of manufacturing. Due to using four reinforced layers of hard sole (with double wooden layers) they are relatively heavy for a piece of footwear - every boot weighting almost three kilos, depending on size and manufacturing, however. The soles were fully and very reliably reinforced, featuring no more or less than even twenty screws underneath, which most probably makes them one of, if not the fullest sole-reinforced combat boots ever made. However, this was practiced due to the fact that Yugoslavian footwear industry was generally obsolete when compared to most of Europe, since everything was exclusively handcrafted (except sewing, which was being done using ordinary sewing machines), which means that, among other things, the soles were glued and pressed to each other simply by hand rather than being linked to each other on high pressures using automatized process, that is, machines. This meant that they necessarily depended on complete screw reinforcement throught the entire sole in order to be reliable and durable.
They were manufactured in two larger factories ih the former SFRY, most notably Borac (literally; Fighter) from town of Travnik in SRBIH (Socialist Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina) which carried the most production (around half altogether) and Borovo from the town of Vukovar in SRH (Socalist Republic of Croatia). Like all other pieces of YPA equipment, every single pair had markings sewn inside which, among the size (length and width, in centimeters) also had year of production and one of the mentioned places of manufacturing inscribed. The soles, however, were made by other factories, (since the mentioned ones were not producing rubber and wood materials - except Borovo, which was the only one who featured the entire production in-house) and they also had size, width and length engraved underneath and sometimes also places of manufacturing (most commonly the PIS Zagreb, BVB, Zlatar and the above explained Borovo Vukovar).
They were produced and formally used from 1955 until 1971 when they were replaced in both production and usage by more modern and much more known model, the mentioned Cipele sa povišenim sarom, which was used until the very end of SFRY and dissolution of YPA along with it. Although being the all out new design at first glance, that newly introduced, double-buckle model was actually heavily based on this one, firstly by using literally the same sole (together with layers as well as reinforcement screws - not throught all of its models, however), number of eyelets and buckles (first models only) as well as generally materials (calfskin, aluminium, hard boiled rubber and so on). However, due to previously mentioned Yugoslavian footwear industry in which almost everything was literally handcrafted (they was almost no automatization, that is, machines - for propper serial production as well as reliable and accurate manufacturing) due to which it was generally slow and sloppy, these boots were still in usage as far as 1976 (due to lack of new models in stocks), when the newer model completely supplanted them in the entire YPA. Despite that however, they could still be seen (very rarely, however) in the beginning of the Yugoslavian wars in 1991, by few members of Croatian forces as well as some members of SVK and VRS, which was most probably contributed to the fact that they was a lack of newer models in local stock.
Although, another reason for that could also be in case that some military personnel of YPA and even the ones after its dissovelment actually preferred those more than the newer model in some cases, because of the fact that this older model had few good advantages over its successor. Firstly, these boots were higher which means that they could take somewhat greater water barrier and had less chance of trousers to drag or even fall out from boot, even if the boot was not tighten maximally (in contrast to the succeeding model, which featured its, among personnel somewhat unpopular upper overlapping part, which had to be maximally tighten to ensure reliable waterproof and ankle support). Also, they also did not feature any kind of openings above the ankle which was present in the succeeding model, which meant they featured superior waterproof in first place and were much easier to wear and take off (laces in their case served more for a decorative than actual purpose). Exactly due to those issues, some personnel of YPA were even disappointed and had objections to introduction of the new model due to it being somewhat inferior rather than superior to the preceding (this) one. However, this was generally ignored and the new model was still chosen as their replacement. This was, as in most other armies of the world, probably mostly contributed to the pure modernisation reasons rather than actual advantages. Other reason can also lie in the fact that YPA, due to purely political reasons (as being another typical communist/socialist country of the period) generally tried to copy and follow almost all practices from the Eastern bloc and Warsaw pact (and their weaponry, style and appearance are undoubtely the greates evidences of that), most of which exactly made recent introduction of these then new, double buckle boots - for example, Czechoslovakia for their Kanady vz. 60, 62 and 72, Poland for their Opinacz wz. 58 and Opinacz and so on (although somewhat ironic, those double buckle boots were originally invented in West back during WWII, by the sole United States as their M43 combat boots).
The Vojničke čizme were often popularly nicknamed Pešadinke (loosely translated as Infantryman's boots) or eventually Prašinarke (~Duster's boots - due to being intended for Dusters; Prašinari, a nickname for infantry) among YPA personell. Also, they are exactly the reason why their succeeding model (Cipele sa povišenim sarom) was being nicknamed and is still today most popularly known as Oficirke (~Officer's boots) - since they were, for the first few years (until 1976, as mentioned before), worn exclusively by YPA officers, until enough pairs were made to properly replace these and be distributed to the rest of (regular) soldiers.
Due to being discontinued in both production and service more than fourty years ago, the Vojničke čizme are very rare item today (even of ex-SFRY territory) and are a real challenge to find, especially in preserved condition (which is almost impossible nowadays).
The Vojničke čizme were made in two variants. The first one was being made relatively briefly - from the very the start of their production in 1955 until somewhere around early 1960s when they were replaced by slightly modified model, which was continued to be manufactured until the very end of the production, in early 1970s. The only difference between the two models were in their sole - the first (earlier) and today almost non existing model still featured the outdated hobnailed sole of smooth wooden design, which was reinforced with ten nails - five in line at the lower end of the wooden sole and the other five below the toes (except the heel part, which was always the same rubber made and ribbed sole, featuring then modern, screw reinforcement). The second and later model then featured a completely modern, full rubber and ribbed sole with screw reinforcement (twenty pieces) instead, which would be later incomporated into the succeeding model (with only one screw less) and produced even until first decade of 21st century, that is, until the very end of production of that model.
The earlier model was also few centimeters taller than the later one, which was approximately equal in height to their succeeding generation.