The Gorka (Gore• Kuh, ˈɡɔrkə) Is a military garment that has become the stuff of legends — A one and done combat suit built for mountain warfare.
A Soviet design that far outlasted the Soviet Union.
So what is a Gorka? where does it get it's reputation?
Born In The Mountains
Gorkas as we know them had their beginnings as civilian-market gear.
In the 70s & 80s, Soviet mountaineers wore canvas over-suits during their expeditions. Their tent-like fabric provided full coverage, and the suits were a generous cut for mobility, too.
It had a lot of potential for mountain warfare.
The formula was there, and so was the theater of war. As the Soviet-Afghan war begun so did the need for mountain warfare capable equipment.
The first Gorka was issued in 1981, (although earlier models dated back to the mid 70s) made with a heavy canvas construction and proved to be an excellent windstopper for the harsh conditions of the Hindu-Kush mountain range.
It was an instant hit with the mountain warfare troops throughout the rest of the war.
The Gorka-2, 3 and 4
While the Gorka-1 saw continued use after the war in Afghanistan, the 1st and 2nd chechen war brought a wave of design changes that would make the suit much like the ones we know today.
The most major design change was the introduction of nylon fabric in high-abrasion areas. It added extra durability, and allowed for different color and camo combinations that previously didn't exist.
From there, countless spinoffs made by dozens of companies introduced an anorak-style gorka jacket, zippers here & there, and a few other minor changes.
But overall, none went beyond the core mantra of the suit — It's simple. It's mobile. it's cheap to make. And it just keeps working.
The staying power of the suit is undeniable.
Much like the Kalashnikov, nearly everyone who's worn a Gorka, or fought against Gorka-clad troops, still uses it.
The popularity of suits stretched all the way from the military to insurgent forces and finally civilians — Ironically, right back where it all started.
The further we get from the cold war, the more the western world appears to be captivated by the exoticism of Soviet Bloc gear. It harkens back to a time of rugged simplicity in warfare.
The Gorka in particular continues to be one of the must-have pieces of kit among many.
Both surplus & newly made examples seeped their way into the USA, becoming massively popular with fans of bloc-punk video games like Escape From Tarkov, DayZ, and of course, S.T.A.L.K.E.R.
KommandoStore was 5 years into business when we caught on to the very same trend, and begun to get gorkas for ourselves...
Where our problems began, and how we fixed them.
At long last, we got our hands on the Modox suit in 2018. We love gorkas on paper, but once we started to wear them, we noticed a few problems right away.
The hood was practically unusable. The fit was roomy and mobile, but awkward. The pants fit like a potato sack with suspenders sewn on.
40 years of practically zero design changes left us wanting more. But we didn't want to tarnish what makes the suit so good in concept.
So we asked the fateful, yet seemingly obvious question: "What if we just asked for a few changes to be made?"
The Gorka 'K'
Painstakingly working on every little detail, our patient saint of a supplier took all of our tweaks and made them a reality.
The small yet significant design changes had an enormous positive impact on the Gorka's overall utility. It felt like a whole new suit, and it looked much better too.
It was there we started to see the true potential of our Gorkas. We wanted to improve them more. But that got quickly out of hand.
Improving the gorka further from the 'K' depended on your definition of "Improvement" — There were so many directions we could take the suit to make it our own, or go down more traditional paths.
Gorka Splits In Two
Gorka traditionalists wanted to improve the fit and function of the suit, but not disrupt it's Russian heritage. Another camp wanted a more western approach to camo, ergonomics, and functionality.
Sometimes, the best solution is simple: Why not Both?
A genetic split of sorts occured.
The 'K' Series Gorka could continue down the path towards a logical conclusion of the suit, while keeping it's bloodline and style intact.
Then, the 'M' Series Gorka is where we got radical. Much more major changes to the suit occured, many of which made it compatible with common western equipment, like plate carriers and two-piece combat belts.
Pictured: the K2 (right) and M1 (left) Gorkas
The Elephant In The Room.
The September 2023 run of gorkas is going to go down as one of the most special.
They're likely the last of their kind. (But definitely not the last Gorkas).
For the foreseeable future, the ability for us to make Gorkas in Russia (and get them out of Russia) is practically impossible. In probably the most unpredictable and unfortunate chain of events we could have never seen coming, Gorkas faced major roadblocks on their long journey to the USA.
The COVID-19 Pandemic
The lockdowns and mandates in the USA were one thing, but Russia was in perpetual lockdowns for far longer.
Manufacturing the suits understandably came to a grinding halt in 2020, and throughout 2021 the situation barely improved enough to get production going again.
But things hadn't gotten bad enough, apparently.
War In Ukraine
Heavily imposed sanctions on Russain international commerce following their invasion of Ukraine made the situation much more dire.
War or not, KommandoStore had a promise to keep. Get Gorkas Stateside. We were definitely caught flat-footed, but we rolled up our sleeves and got to work.
For most of 2022, we abused every loophole, every sneaky tactic, and phoned every Eastern European contact we had to get the suits snuck out of Russia and on their way to the USA.
We knew the geopolitical situation in Russia wouldn't improve, but we weren't ones to give up.
Sanctions can be worked around if you're creative. But we found out forced military service cannot — With conscription escalating in Russia as the situation in Ukraine escalated, our supplier needed a way out.
So naturally, we helped him escape to the USA.
So after a lot of extra turbulence, he's working with us on Gorkas and plenty of other projects, ten feet away from Ivan's desk. You can't make this up.
Getting the last few Gorkas over here was one thing. But if there's anything that is going to safeguard the future of them, it's the guy who's been helping us make them.
Arrival In The USA
At long last, after hopping around a country in Europe or two, and a whole mess of paperwork, the Gorkas finally made it their way stateside.
It'd been a long haul for us, and an even longer haul for the customers that had stuck with us since the beginning of the project. We're endlessly thankful for their patience.
In the end, everyone got their Gorkas. But the ending is bittersweet. The suits will live on in some form, that's for sure. But they won't be truly Russian-made.
But bringing the Gorka-maestro himself to the USA will certainly keep that Russian Gorka DNA alive and well.