Order of Friendship of Peoples a diplomatic award of the USSR

Order of Friendship of Peoples with certificate
Order of Friendship of Peoples with certificate

The Order of Friendship of Peoples is one of the most representative and expensive orders established in the post-war period. From the very beginning, the regalia was intended to reward not only individuals, but also collectives enterprises, institutions and public organizations. The Order of Friendship of Peoples became a kind of diplomatic award, which was presented to prominent figures of foreign states.

Author: Artist Alexander Borisovich Zhuk (1922-2002).
Country: USSR.
Date of establishment: December 17, 1972.
Number of degrees: 1.
Size: 47 mm.
Order weight: 42.0 1.8 g.
Order material: Silver, gilding, enamel.

Reasons and history of the establishment of the Order

Friendship of Peoples in the USSR The Order of Friendship of Peoples appeared in the heyday of the Soviet award system and became one of the so-called “jubilee” awards, which was massively presented on holidays and memorable dates. The party elite did not value him too much and considered him “popular”.

By an unspoken rule, most often the lists of candidates for the award included representatives of fraternal peoples inhabiting a multinational country, and, without fail, foreigners.

Many historians consider the Order of Friendship of Peoples to be an unremarkable part of the state rewarding policy of stagnant times, when new insignia poured out as if from a cornucopia. However, the preconditions for the establishment of an “international” regalia have been brewing since the late 1950s.

Handshake ring
Handshake ring

During this period, the Soviet Union was actively establishing relations with third world countries, and “award diplomacy” was one of the ways to demonstrate to the whole world success in this direction. The awarding of foreign leaders served as a kind of signal for the capitalist powers that the person awarded the distinction was under the special patronage of the USSR.

On the initiative of Nikita Khrushchev, foreigners were even awarded military commanders’ awards, which caused a negative reaction from the party elite and made the secretary general a hero of folklore. After the disgraced leader resigned and Leonid Brezhnev took his place, it was decided to establish a special order, which could be awarded by statute to prominent figures of friendly states.

Illustrator Alexander Borisovich Zhuk, photo
Illustrator Alexander Borisovich Zhuk, photo

The occasion was the 50th anniversary of the formation of the USSR, which the country celebrated in December 1972.

The work on the sketch was entrusted to the illustrator Alexander Zhuk, who was then working at the Ministry of Defense. According to the author’s recollections, the initial version of the order was made in the classical tradition and looked rather modest.

However, the appearance of the regalia did not correspond to the aesthetic concept of the commission, which consisted of elderly generals and officials. They demanded more pomp from the artist, and as a result, a bright composite sign with sparkling rays and a multi-colored sash appeared.

Modern version of the Order of Friendship, XXI century 2
Modern version of the Order of Friendship, XXI century

Currently, the order is considered one of the most beautiful and complex in execution, but in the 1970s its appearance became the object of criticism of specialists. The venerable phalerist expert Igor Mozheiko called the design frivolous and poorly readable. The massive bezel around the medallion with the image of many handshakes was one of the most criticized elements, since the drawing could be seen in detail only at close range.

The decree establishing the order was promulgated on December 17, 1972. The second paragraph of the document said that the regalia can be awarded to both Soviet and foreign citizens, and the reason for the award was achievements in the field of cooperation and strengthening friendship between the countries of the socialist camp. The order received the unofficial status of “diplomatic”, but at the same time it was universal.

Modern version of the Order of Friendship, XXI century
Modern version of the Order of Friendship, XXI century

Cavaliers of the Order of Friendship of Peoples

The first awards were part of the pompous celebrations held in honor of the anniversary date at the end of December 1972. The regalia was awarded to all fifty-three Soviet republics, autonomous regions and national districts. This, in the opinion of the Soviet leadership, once again confirmed that in the country of victorious socialism the national question had been resolved once and for all. In 1973, a whole group of aviators, which included 199 people, was awarded the insignia, and by the end of the year the number of those awarded exceeded a thousand.

Order of Friendship of Peoples, photo 1980
Order of Friendship of Peoples, photo 1980

Enterprises, collective farms, printed publications and creative teams were awarded. In accordance with the status, the regalia began to be actively presented to foreigners among the first order bearers was the head of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Vietnam Nguyễn Thị Định. With the collapse of the USSR, the order automatically ceased to exist, but almost immediately it was revived by the decision of the Supreme Council.

Legislators left the essence, but made minor changes to the appearance of the sign, replacing the attributes from Soviet to Russian ones. However, the rapid collapse of the former union of republics led to the need to reduce the name of the regalia to one word. Currently, the Order of Friendship is preserved in the award system of the Russian Federation, but its design has radically changed.

Order of Friendship of Peoples
Order of Friendship of Peoples
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