Order of the Red Star USSR award for military merit

Star of Mars with a plow and a hammer
Star of Mars with a plow and a hammer

The Order of the Red Star was officially approved in 1930, but its history began much earlier. Since 1918, the scarlet five-pointed symbol has been used by the soldiers of the revolutionary army and navy. The very name of the insignia was its purpose to reward soldiers and officers for military exploits. The Order of the Red Star has long been the most honorable award for military personnel, regardless of its official hierarchy.

History of the establishment of the Order of the Red Star

The Order of the Red Star was approved on April 6, 1930, simultaneously with the highest award of the young Soviet state the Order of Lenin, but its prototype appeared much earlier. The distinctive sign in the form of a scarlet star was published in one of the April issues of the Izvestia VTsIK newspaper for 1918.

The bright red color was considered the color of the Roman god of war, Mars, therefore, in the order of the People’s Commissariat for Military Affairs of the RSFSR, the badge was called the “star of Mars”, and the civilian population was strictly forbidden to wear it.

The Order of the Red Star was developed in addition to the only award that existed at that time the Order of the Red Banner, which since the Civil War was a rare and very honorable insignia.

Order of the Red Star
Order of the Red Star

The first projects appeared back in 1925, but the layout was officially ordered in 1930 from the Moscow factory of Goznak, where a staff of highly qualified specialists has survived from pre-revolutionary times. The enterprise was supposed to prepare a sample on the basis of a schematic sketch and immediately launch it into production, but the work was delayed due to the fact that it was planned to number the order with multiple awards.

The delay caused a negative reaction from the leadership of the Red Army, so Kliment Voroshilov in October 1930 sent a letter of complaint about the delay to the CEC Secretary Abel Yenukidze. The factory tried to speed up the process, but Voroshilov managed to approve the first sample only in mid-April 1931.

Order of the Red Star. Design by V. Golenetskiy
Order of the Red Star. Design by V. Golenetskiy

The author of the layout was the artist Vasily Kupriyanov, who worked at the Mint before the revolution.

In the center of the star, he placed an image of a Red Army soldier with a bayonet at the ready. Later, the sculptor Vladimir Golenetsky made adjustments to the design, he was instructed to correct the figure of the Red Army soldier, which looked “implausible and illiterate.” The master found a slender military man in the nearest unit and sculpted his bas-relief from life.

Order of the Red Star, Memorial to soldiers-internationalists in the city of Nikolaev, Ukraine
Memorial to soldiers-internationalists in the city of Nikolaev, Ukraine

Silver served as the material for the order, but it was made in an unusual way and consisted of the front and back parts, connected to each other by soldering with a cavity inside.

A bright scarlet enamel was applied to the star, and in the center was fixed an oxidized medallion with a sculptural composition and a circular inscription “Workers of all countries, unite!” The screw was soldered on the reverse side and the serial number with the manufacturer’s stamp was knocked out with punches. This design was caused by the lack of the necessary equipment at the factory for the production of monolithic signs, and in subsequent years the technology changed more than once.

For which they were awarded the Order of the Red Star.

Order of the Red Star, Marshal of the Soviet Union Vasily Blucher
Marshal of the Soviet Union Vasily Blucher

The list of feats at first consisted of only a few items and included:

  • activities contributing to the victory over the enemy in wartime;
  • personal exploits in peacetime;
  • work to improve the combat training of the Red Army;
  • inventions of great importance to the country.

The document then appeared in a new edition six times, changes were made until the 1980s. New technical conditions for the production of the award were approved, the design of the sculptural composition was improved according to the changed uniform.

Initial design. Red Army soldier in an unnatural pose.
Initial design. Red Army soldier in an unnatural pose.
Cavaliers of the Order of the Red Star

The first high award was awarded to the 1st rank army commander (later Marshal of the Soviet Union) Vasily Blucher.

The reason for the awarding was the success of the Red Army in protecting the borders “from the White-Chinese hirelings” during the conflict at the Chinese Eastern Railway. The military leader had to wait the longest for the delivery of the order due to the delay in production, the badge number 1 entered the award sector only in July 1931, although the application for the award was signed a year earlier.

Commander of the Order, pilot Feofan Shirokiy
Commander of the Order, pilot Feofan Shirokiy
In the lists of the first knights of the order:
  • a group of eight pilots who flew for many hours without landing on planes produced at Soviet factories;
  • employees of the OGPU leadership Ivan Pavlunovsky and Vasily Karutsky, and the latter’s description of merits in different award lists is radically different;
  • engineer Konstantin Kovalev for the improvement of machine tools for military factories (order number 11).

Only copy number 7, belonging to aeronautical engineer Anton Mezinov, has survived to this day, the first six samples were returned to the CEC award sector and sent for melting. The award was discontinued in 1991 due to the collapse of the Soviet Union.

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