The Order of the Patriotic War was established by the personal order of Joseph Stalin. The Generalissimo instructed General Andrei Khrulev to prepare a draft award at the beginning of April 1942, about a month before the offensive operation near Kharkov, during which it was planned to cut off a large group of enemy forces, push it to the Sea of Azov and destroy it. The task was set urgent, since, according to the leader’s idea, the first military award in the history of the state was supposed to inspire soldiers and officers to feats of arms.
The Order of the Patriotic War was created based on the Order of St. George, even the statutes of the awards were almost identical, only the terminology was different. The insignia for the first time had two degrees, as was customary in the tsarist army. Famous masters, Sergei Dmitriev and Alexander Kuznetsov, were involved in the design work, who made about three dozen sketches in record time. Khrulev studied the work, chose the four most successful options and ordered the preparation of test samples of metal, which he submitted to Stalin for approval.
The leader liked the design by Alexander Kuznetsov. The artist placed a star covered with scarlet enamel with the symbol of the state in the center of the composition; golden rays made it look like royal awards. The design was then refined by adding a strip of white enamel with lettering. The material for the order of the first degree was a gold alloy, for the second silver. Initially, a ring for a small block was attached to the uppermost beam; a year later, the design was changed to a regular pin.
For which they were awarded the Order of the Patriotic War
The award was conceived as a massive one, without distinction of rank, it could be received by both privates and officers who distinguished themselves in battles with the German fascist invaders. The list of feats was quite extensive and included the destruction of enemy tanks, aircraft, combat artillery crews and ships. The Presidium of the USSR Armed Forces officially approved the new award on May 20, 1942.
However, there were no high-profile victories on the Southwestern Front. The command made serious mistakes in an effort to fulfill the order of the headquarters as soon as possible, and in the battles near Kharkov the Red Army suffered huge losses. The tanks did not have time to approach the place of battles, so the infantrymen died in thousands. Stalin gave the order to continue the offensive, and as a result, orders had to be awarded not to the winners, but to those who fought to the last on defense.
The headquarters was interested in the fact that the soldiers received orders as soon as possible, so the field commanders presented the award. The insignia were awarded right in the trenches almost immediately after the accomplished feat.
The award became somewhat unique, as it could be received and kept as a memory by the family of the deceased gentleman. All other regalia were subject to return to the state. The rule was in effect for several decades after the end of the war; it was officially canceled only in 1978. In the cities, the relatives of the heroes had to fulfill it, since without a certificate they did not pay the allowance for the loss of the breadwinner, in the villages it was possible to bypass the requirement.
First Knights of the Order of the Patriotic War
The first to deserve a high award were the soldiers of the artillery unit under the command of Captain Ivan Krikliy, who destroyed more than 30 enemy tanks near Kharkov. The battalion commander, who received a shrapnel wound in the head, refused medical assistance and continued to lead the battle. The Nazis were unable to break through in the area and retreated in search of workarounds. The captain died the next day, and for his feat was awarded the Order of the Patriotic War, 1st degree, posthumously.
However, the commander’s widow was able to receive the award only in June 1971. In fact, badge number one was awarded to the family of another hero political instructor Vasily Konyukhov, who died in the battles near Rzhev from a direct hit from a shell. Order of the second degree No. 1 was sent to the widow of the deceased scout Pavel Razhkin, who served in the 155th Tank Brigade.
Orders were handed out in large quantities, there were frequent cases of awarding entire units that participated in military operations.
A lot of signs were required, so several mints were engaged in their production at once, including:
- Krasnokamsky (KMD);
- Moscow (MMD);
- Leningradsky (LMD).
The signs were also stamped at the Moscow plant “Platinapribor”, so their classification is difficult even for the Falerist. Orders during the war years were made, albeit according to a simplified technology, but on different equipment and therefore significantly differed in size, type, weight, degree of relief of the reverse, and the method of applying the number.
The awards of the third type, which were issued in 1985, stand apart. In 1991, the insignia was no longer awarded due to the collapse of the USSR.