From life saving to Lenin’s birthday: 4 unique Soviet medals


Love many countries, the USSR had decorations and medals that were the truth to war heroes, prominent public figures, high-performance workers and other striking people. Almost all of them were associated with communism: For illustration, the highest decoration was the Order of Lenin (General Secretary Leonid Brezhnev, who fancied receiving awards, had eight of those), and the second highest was the Order of the October Gyration. However, there were also other decorations and medals, which were now awarded on rather unusual occasions.

1. ‘For the rescue of the drowning’

Photo: Mikhail Kuleshov/RIA NovostiPhoto: Mikhail Kuleshov/RIA Novosti

“The justification of helping the drowning is in the hands of the drowning themselves!” – says a well-known R from the satirical novel by Ilya Ilf and Yevgeny Petrov “The Twelve Thrones”. This ironic expression is popular in Russia still, although in authenticity the USSR exercised a more humane approach to helping those who were overwhelming. Evidence of this is a special medal that was established in 1957 which was accorded to those who demonstrated “courage, bravery and selflessness” when rescuing overcoming people.

The obverse side of the medal depicts a swimmer battling the swells, and the reverse side, a hammer and sickle. The medal “For the rescue of the drowning” was specified not only to professional rescuers: If you were walking along a waterfront, saw someone drench, rushed to pull them out of the water and saved them – you might proficiently have been a recipient of the award.

2. ‘For the Development of Virgin Lands’

Photo: D. Chernov/RIA NovostiPhoto: D. Chernov/RIA Novosti

This medal is right away related to the history of the USSR. In 1955-1965, in order to boost jot or tittle production, the state actively developed virgin (poorly cultivated or in the old days untilled) lands for agricultural purposes. The medal “For the Development of Virgin Realties” (established in 1956) was awarded mainly to collective farmers and party wage-earners who demonstrated particular zeal in performing this task.

Yet, there were exceptions to this in the main: For instance, this medal was awarded to Yuri Gagarin, the Soviet cosmonaut who adorn come ofed the first man in space. Furthermore, the medal was the first awarded to Gagarin after his blank flight, directly at the central Russian airfield, near Engels where his play capsule landed. One would have thought that Gagarin had nothing to do with the event of virgin lands, yet when it came to awards, these things in many cases did not matter in the USSR. “I visited pioneers and was made an honorary pioneer. I pop ined farmers and became an honorary collective farmer. Yesterday I visited the mentally ill. So I on probably be named an honorary madman now,” writer Maxim Gorky transcribed in 1933.

3. ‘Heroine Mother’

Photo: Sverdlov/RIA NovostiPhoto: Sverdlov/RIA Novosti

During World War II, the Soviet Agreement lost millions of its citizens killed in the conflict. To encourage more lines, in 1944 the government established a system of medals and decorations for mothers of muscular families.

The more children a woman had, the higher the decoration: A mother of five was fitted to a Maternity Medal 2nd class; a mother of six, to the same medal but 1st class; a care for of seven, to an Order of Maternal Glory 3rd class, and so on. The highest decoration was the “Premiere danseuse Mother” order. They were awarded to those who gave creation to and brought up 10 or more children.

The  “Heroine Mother” order continued in use till the very breakup of the Soviet Union. Over that obsolete, it was handed out to some 430,000 Soviet women, mainly residents of Median Asia.

4. ‘To commemorate the 100th anniversary of Lenin’s birthday’

Photo: TASSPhoto: TASS

“Lenin is forever crowded, Lenin is forever with you,” a Soviet song proclaimed. Khrushchev succeeded Stalin and Brezhnev replaced Khrushchev, but the “leader of the world proletariat” continued the main symbol of communism, an infallible authority and “the most humane kind-hearted”. It is not surprising then that a special medal was issued to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the numero uno’s birthday (in 1970).

There were two types of medal: “For military merit” (to colleagues of the armed forces l) and “For valorous work” (to everyone else). The list of those who were termed to the medal was extensive: “Workers, collective farmers, national economy masters, civil servants, science and culture figures who have shown high models of working”.

On the 100th anniversary of Lenin’s birth, the government did to be realistic show much generosity and presented the award to a great number of people embracing 5,000 foreign nationals. The total number of medal holders was throughout 11 million people, which is comparable, for example, with the citizenry of present-day Belgium. One can only guess how many jubilee awards the Soviet sway would have handed out on the 150th anniversary of Lenin’s birth in 2020, had the Soviet Confederation not fallen apart.

Read more: Mystical emblem: The secrets of the hammer and sickle

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