Orders and medals of modern Russia perform an important social function. The task of honorary badges is not only to encourage and distinguish those who distinguished themselves, but also to encourage citizens to engage in one or another activity that is useful for the state and society. The award work had to be rebuilt on the ruins of the socialist system, and over the course of two decades it has changed dramatically more than once. Orders and medals in modern Russia are the result of processing and understanding the country’s historical past.
Reforms of the RF award system
Orders and medals are part of the new system of awards in modern Russia, which incorporates features of both the imperial and Soviet heritage. The first attempt to modernize the premium business was made at the dawn of perestroika. The leadership was well aware that citizens need to encourage social and political activity, but by the early 1980s, the reason for awarding orders and medals, in most cases, was not military and labor exploits, but posts and positions. Candidates were nominated by the central and local bodies of the CPSU, which made lists of those who distinguished themselves at their discretion, which caused a negative attitude of the people.
Orders and medals, according to the reformers, in modern Russia were to be distributed according to the principle of justice, which began to be violated during the crisis of socialism. The government took the first step on this path in 1988, when it issued a decree “On improving the order of awards.” The document focused not on positions and military ranks, but on personal merit. Labor collectives, trade unions, and Komsomol organizations received the right to represent them for awards.
In fact, the document abolished the odious practice of party control, although the text did not directly mention this. The multiple awarding of status orders was excluded, and the legislative act also canceled the re-assignment of the titles of Hero of the Soviet Union and Hero of Socialist Labor. An attempt was made to stop the presentation of regalia of any rank for anniversaries and memorable dates, collective awards were canceled.
Preparatory stage (1990-1991)
The next stage of reforms coincided with the introduction of the institution of presidency in Russia – from that moment on, the exclusive right to present awards became the prerogative of the head of state. With the adoption of the Declaration of State Sovereignty of the RSFSR in June 1990, the authorities faced an acute issue of developing new, already Russian insignia. These functions were assumed by the newly created commission, and the responsibility to develop statutes fell to the Ministry of Justice.
The work intensified after the August events of 1991 – it was then that the idea was sounded to revive the St. George Cross in order to reward the Russians who did not allow a coup d’etat. At first, artists, collectors and art critics took part in the discussions, but then only Igor Mozheiko, a historian, falerist and writer, known under the pseudonym Kir Bulychev, remained from the experts in the commission. As a result, the question of the appearance of the awards was decided by officials, which became a reason for criticism from experts, who repeatedly called the approved compositions “a mixture of symbols.”
Transition period (1991-1995)
In 1991, the USSR ceased to exist, which led to the automatic cancellation of all regalia and greatly complicated the work of the commission. The awards system had to be created from scratch, since the Russian Federation did not even have officially approved symbols. As a matter of urgency, the government formed the Heraldic Service, which played a decisive role in the establishment of new badges of honor. After lengthy discussions, it was possible to develop a unified approach to the decoration of state awards – the design should be laconic and combine pre-revolutionary elements with the symbols of the new Russia.
The draft law “On State Awards” was prepared at the beginning of 1993. It was based on democratic principles, according to which any citizen could become awarded, regardless of his status, profession, nationality, religion and political views. However, the Supreme Council repeatedly returned the document for revision, and as a result, the law was never adopted. Only with the abolition of this authority in 1994, Russian President Boris N. Yeltsin managed to sign a regulation on awards, which approved a total of twelve regalia. Many of them have become analogues of their Soviet predecessors.
The previous insignia continued to be awarded for another seven months. The paradoxical situation was explained by the fact that the government considered it irrational to destroy old stocks. Mints in Moscow and St. Petersburg worked on new regalia, and for the first time in the history of Russia, base metals were used in the manufacture of elements up to 1996: copper-nickel alloy and tombak.
This was due to the difficult economic environment. There has been a shift in emphasis in the reward system. Legislators narrowed the list of civilians who could qualify for the promotion, and the notion of “labor” has practically disappeared from the list of merits, which was reflected in the design of awards. The transition to private business led to a loss of understanding of what is considered a value, therefore military exploits and the protection of the state came to the fore. This imbalance was partly offset by honorary titles for workers in various industries.
Development of the award system of the Russian Federation (1996 – current state)
During this period, there was a tendency to revive the awards of the pre-revolutionary period. In 1998, the Order of St. Andrew the First-Called was established, which rose to the highest step in the rank of regalia. Structurally, it repeated its historical predecessor, even the methods of wearing were almost the same. In 2000, work was completed on the statute of the Order of St. George, which topped the list of military badges of honor.
A stable economic situation, an increase in living standards, and an improvement in the demographic situation were the reason that the state decided to expand the list of regalia for the civilian population and returned to the idea of rewarding for labor activity. More attention was paid to design – cheap materials are a thing of the past forever, craftsmen used only precious metals in their work. Orders for complex medal insignia were handed over to the jewelers of the Russian Crafts factory, who decorated the items with engraving, double-sided enamel and artistic painting.
The institute of rewarding was finally formed by the end of the first decade of the 21st century. By presidential decree, public and other structures were prohibited from using heraldry similar to the state in the manufacture of badges and pseudo-orders. The prevailing fashion at that time for wearing uniforms, dummies and alternative surrogate awards was outlawed. At the same time, the country’s leadership tried to overcome the negative attitude of the population towards state awards and approved the initiatives of the phalerists to organize conferences and exhibitions.
In 2010, the President of the Russian Federation approved a new edition of the regulations on awards, which contained complete information about regalia, grouped by segment. Much attention has been paid to the rules of wearing. A novelty were miniature copies and rosettes that were attached to the lapels of a casual suit. The so-called “military” orders finally received official statutes. The list of Russian state awards did not change globally in the future and now has 37 positions.
I. List of special insignia of the Russian Federation:
- medal “Gold Star” of the Hero of the Russian Federation;
- gold medal “Hero of Labor of the Russian Federation”.
II. List of orders of the Russian Federation:
- Order of the Holy Apostle Andrew the First-Called;
- Order of Saint George;
- Order of Merit for the Fatherland;
- Order of the Holy Great Martyr Catherine;
- Order of Alexander Nevsky;
- Order of Suvorov;
- Ushakov Order;
- Zhukov Order;
- Order of Kutuzov;
- Order of Nakhimov;
- Order of Courage;
- Order of Military Merit;
- Order for Marine Merit;
- Order of Pirogov;
- Order of Honor;
- Order of Friendship;
- Order of Parental Glory.
III. List of medals of the Russian Federation:
- medal of the Order of Merit for the Fatherland;
- Medal of Honor”;
- Suvorov medal;
- Ushakov’s medal;
- Zhukov medal;
- Nesterov medal;
- Pushkin medal;
- “Defender of Free Russia”;
- “For distinction in maintaining public order”;
- “For distinction in the protection of the state border”;
- “For Courage in a Fire”;
- “For the salvation of the lost”;
- medal of Luke Krymsky;
- “For labors in agriculture”;
- “For the development of railways”;
- “For Merit in the Development of Atomic Energy”;
- Medal for Merit in Space Exploration;
- Medal of the Order of Parental Glory.
The government has modernized and reformed the incentive institution, drawing heavily on past experience. Over time, they revived the practice of collective awards, restored and consolidated a whole complex of regalia that existed before the October Revolution.
However, experts believe that regulation in this area needs further improvement, since there is still no clear relationship between the levels and types of departmental insignia. Twenty years is too little time to form an impeccable system in all respects, so further steps by the state in the development of a mechanism for stimulating citizens should be expected.