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Hierarchy of Soviet Awards?


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Gentlemen,

everybody knows the hierarchy of Soviet Awards according to the official regulations and laws of the former Soviet Union.

But how looks like the REAL hierarchy of the military awards?

The fact is, that a Glory is in the official hierarchy below a Red Star, but to get a Glory 3rd or 2nd cl was for the rank and file soldier definitly much more prestigious, than to get a Red Star.

The fact is, that a Suvorv 3rd or 2nd cl is in the official hierarchy below a Red Banner, but for the Red Army officer or general it was more prestigious to get a Suvorov, than to get (another) Red Banner.

So, my question to the forum is: What is the REAL hierarchy of Soviet Awards?

Maybe we can find a system ...

Best regards from Vienna, Austria

Christian Zulus

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Hi Christian,

You pose an excellent point which I hope will generate some good discussion; but I think that an absolute restructured hierarchy (or table) is too subjective. Nevertheless, there is a lot of knowledge represented by the members of this forum that I think, if applied, would be interesting and useful. To get things going, I would like to present a couple of ideas and observations.

1. It would be useful and more manageable to confine the discussion to the era of the GPW. After that, all of this began to unravel and then really went to hell in a hand basket under Brezhnev.

2, With the introduction of the new wave of awards, starting in mid 1942, we have a whole new situation, even though it seems to have taken a while for the new awards to become accepted and get into the system. Slowly though what would have previously qualified for a Red Star, Red Banner or Lenin now earned a Glory or Suvorov; and Red Stars, Red Banners, and Lenins all too often were relegated to long service award status. I have seen more than one reference to screwback Red Banners that were changed, per regulation, to suspension and then back to screwback to indicate that ?they really meant something?.

3. Ultimately, award citations are a key factor in determining the priorities and our new hierarchy.

With relation to my example regarding changed Red Banners in item #2, I suppose that I should mention that I have a Nevsky that was changed from suspension to screwback and then back to suspension. What makes it really interesting is the picture of the recipient where he is wearing it as a screwback and the eyelet for the suspension is visible.

Again Christian, thank you for posing an interesting question. I have offered a little for a start; I hope that some of our really knowledgeable members will follow up and share their thoughts.

Best wishes,

Wild Card

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Dear Wild Card,

many thanks for your valuable remarks!

You are right, the hierarchy and the value of the certain awards changed through the times and the main focus should be at the GPW-period.

The fact is, that it was more difficult to receive an award till mid 1943, than afterwards (has also to do with the success of the Red Army). To get a Red Star conferred during the battle of Stalingrad 1942/43 was something special and prestigious - according to the book of Victor Nekrassov "Stalingrad", Moscow 1946. To get a Red Star in Berlin was normal to all officers, who had got no other orders till that time, as I have read in a biography of a Jewish Red Army officer.

Maybe we should concentrate on the year 1945, where the full range of orders and medals was available and the GPW (+ the war against Japan) was still going on.

Of course, long service awards have another function:

10 years: Medal for Combat Merit

15 years: Red Star

20 years: Red Banner

25 years: Lenin

30 years: Red Banner #2

That procedure was stopped at the end of the 50's.

Best regards

Christian

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Dear Mr. Murphy,

I have read a similar story in the memoirs of Michail Gorbacev. He writes that his father was very proud about his Medal for Bravery, which he received for crossing the Dnjepr. Even more proud, than about his Lenin, which he got 1947 for harvesting a record crop on his collective farm. Son Michail Gorbacev - aged 16 years - helped his father at the harvest and received a Red Banner of Labour (I assume that the order helped young Gorbacev a lot in his political career).

The fact is, that the Medal for Bravery was never a long service award and was always linked to a heroic deed. So this medal is rather similar to the Order of Glory, despite the fact, that a Glory defintly higher in rank and prestige.

Best regards

Christian Zulus

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Hello Christian,

like Wild Card already pointed out, its important to set a timeframe, as the awards often changed rapidly in their prestige.

Just concerning the Great Patriotic War and if we speak about Bravery-awards and the prestige, the soldiers connected to them, i would say, these were the most respected awards:

Order of Alexander Nevsky

Order of the Great Patriotic War 1st class

Order of Glory

Medal for Bravery

I?ll skip the awards like Suvorov, Kutuzov, which i don?t know enough about to give a educated opinion.

The Order of Lenin and the Order of the Red Banner had the most prestige before they were given as a Long-Service award, which devalued them very much. Same with the Order of the Red Star, which was in the beginning a high Bravery award, like Christian already said.

But just restricted to the GPW-area, i would go with the four on the list above...

all the best,

Gerd

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I?ll skip the awards like Suvorov, Kutuzov, which i don?t know enough about to give a educated opinion.

The Order of Lenin and the Order of the Red Banner had the most prestige before they were given as a Long-Service award, which devalued them very much. Same with the Order of the Red Star, which was in the beginning a high Bravery award, like Christian already said.

But just restricted to the GPW-area, i would go with the four on the list above...

Lieber Gerd,

dear Gerd,

Gentlemen,

many thanks for your suggestions!

The restriction to the GPW-area makes sense, because after march 1953 the SU-award-system - as the political and economical system of the SU - was in decline and agony ;-)

I would include the Suvorov and the Kutuzov, but not the Khmelnitsky, which was a special award for the liberation of the Ukraine and also not the 4 special navy-awards (Ushakov & Nakhimov orders + medals).

Also I would include the Lenin (also part of the HSU!) and the Red Banner, despite the fact, that they had been also long service awards. Specially the Order of Lenin was a prestigious award, as you can read in the memoirs of Vasilevsky http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Image:Vasilevsky.png , who was very happy about his Lenin, which he got as the supreme commander of the war against Japan. Due to the special regulations of the orders, it was hardly possible to confer a Suvorov 1cl or Kutuzov 1cl to leading generals of the Japan campaign.

You pointed out, that a setting of a timeframe would be important.

I suggest 2 timframes including 2 rank-frames for 1945.

Time: Autumn 1942 AND autumn 1945.

Rank: Grass-root-soldiers & NCOs AND officers.

So we would have 3 shedules:

A: 1942

B: 1945 for grass-root-soldiers & NCOs

C: 1945 for officers

For "A" the order of precedence of awards according to prestige would match exactly the official order of precedence, I assume.

For "B" I suggest:

Glory 1st cl

HSU

Lenin

Glory 2nd cl

Red Banner

Glory 3rd cl

OGPW 1st cl

OGPW 2nd cl

Valour Medal

Red Star

Merit Medal

For "C" I suggest:

Victory

HSU

Suvorov

Kutuzov

Lenin

Red Banner

Nevsky

OGPW 1st cl

OGPW 2nd cl

Red Star

Valour Medal

Merit Medal

What is your opinion or objections about my orders of precedence according to prestige?

Beste Gr??e aus Wien,

best regards from Vienna, Austria

Christian Zulus

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Dear Gerd,

that is the question!

BTW: You have a OGPW 1st cl avatar and I have a Glory-ribbon avatar ;-)

The OGPW 1st cl is a highly prestigious award - no doubt about this. But I think, that its prestige was in category "A" defintly higher, than in "B" or "C", due to the fact, that till autumn 1942 there was not so much "competition" - only few orders existed.

If you look at the special regulations of both orders in the big book "Comphrehensive Guide ..." of PMD & SCH, than you will see, that the Glory IS the pure battle award. Also in the literature and memoirs the Glory is represented as THE "Soldier-Order". Also the Glory was comrade Stalin's personal invention - he created the name and slected the design. Due to the fact, that Victory and Glory were instituted at the same day, the Glory seems to be somehow a "Order of Victory for the common soldier or sergeant".

So, these are my arguments, why I think, that a Glory 3rd cl ranks higher in prestige, than a OGPW 1st cl in autumn 1945. But I am open for any substantiated arguments against my view.

Best regards

Christian

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Christian,

thats true and you are right, maybe i only place it higher due to personal preference. ;) But i love Glories too! :cheers:

If you only look at the numbers awarded, then the OPW 1st class was a more prestigious award and i think, that goes even more for soldiers/NCO?s than for officers. I imagine a soldier could impress his buddies more with an OPW 1st class than with a Glory 3rd class, also due to the fact, that first mentioned looked more like an order than the last mentioned, which made more the impression of a Medal.

But thats just my impression, you must keep in mind, i am not too long into soviet collecting.

Gerd

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Dear Gerd,

Glory 3rd cl vs. OGPW 1st cl: Seems to be a difficult question ;-)

My suggestion:

Let us consult Dr. Dietrich Herfurth (see the attached photograph). He is recognized as THE expert - outside Russia - for the history of Soviet Military Awards. Maybe you can phone him, because your telephon bill will be not stressed so much, because for you it is not an international long distance call. Please tell him "Sch?ne Gr??e von Herrn Zulus, dem Sammler aus Wien". That is his phone number in Berlin:

030 / 44 200 26

If Dr. Herfurth doesn't have a clear opinion, he might consult experts or military historians in Russia. Dr. Herfurth doesn't use the internet, as far as I know, but he could be a extremly good source for any other tricky questions concerning Soviet or Mongolian Awards.

What do you think about my suggestion?

Best regards

Christian

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Soviet Navy

Gentlemen,

due to the fact, that the Soviet Navy represents a large and rather homgenous group of GPW-participants and navy-awards are very much sought after among collectors, I want to disregard my first proposal:

I would include the Suvorov and the Kutuzov, but not the Khmelnitsky, which was a special award for the liberation of the Ukraine and also not the 4 special navy-awards (Ushakov & Nakhimov orders + medals).

A special category "A"-Navy does not exist, because navy awards did not exist at that time.

For "B"-Navy I suggest:

Glory 1st cl

HSU

Lenin

Glory 2nd cl

Red Banner

Glory 3rd cl

OGPW 1st cl

OGPW 2nd cl

Ushakov Medal

Nakhimov Medal

Valour Medal

Red Star

Merit Medal

(Sailors and mates also received Valour & Merit Medals. I have in my collection a Nakhimov Medal with document - medals booklet - listening a Valour Medal as the other conferred award, but this award is missing ...)

For "C"-Navy I suggest:

HSU

Ushakov

Suvorov

Nakhimov

Kutuzov

Lenin

Red Banner

Nevsky

OGPW 1st cl

OGPW 2nd cl

Red Star

Valour Medal

Merit Medal

I think, that for the common sailor or mate the Nakhimov Medal was even more prestigious, than the Valour Medal, because it was directly linked with a naval action and much more rare, than the Valour Medal.

My suggestions for orders of precedence concerning the Soviet Navy.

Best regards from Vienna, Austria

Christian Zulus

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Everybody knows the hierarchy of Soviet Awards according to the official regulations and laws of the former Soviet Union.

But how looks like the REAL hierarchy of the military awards?

Imho this would be an absolutely subjective hierarchy!

Only after two attempts by two members (Christian and Gerd) there are already two different results!

Not to mention what each Red Army soldier may feel about his own awards!

There are no other hierarchy of the Soviet military awards other than the official one, which is in fact the only REAL one!

All other attempts would only be based on personal feelings and preferences therefore completely subjective!

If only concerning the GPW period (not for long service) my list would probably be different from the two previously posted:

-HSU

-Order of Lenin

-Order of Alexander Nevsky

-Order of the Red Banner

-Order of the Great Patriotic War 1st class

-Order of the Red Star

-Order of Glory

-Medal for Bravery

And this is just my opinion now, rather an example, nothing definitive. Suvorovs, Kutuzovs, etc, not included because my knowledge and interest about those is almost zero.

Let us consult Dr. Dietrich Herfurth (see the attached photograph). He is recognized as THE expert - outside Russia - for the history of Soviet Military Awards.

Well, recognized by whom?! I have his last Catalogue and especially based on his Mongolian section I must confess I'm not that convinced.

What about P. McDaniel? And Andrey Kuznetsov ("Mondvor" here on the Forum, responsible for the Mondvor site, the best online Soviet Awards site around imho)? Not to mention at least another expert, but being also a dealer, let's just name these two confirmed experts.

Just my two cents,

Dolf

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Dear Dolf,

many thanks for your comments, but your private list, which should - as you told to us - represent the "official" hierarchy is wrong:

Red Banner always ranks above Newsky - also in my private list, but not at the market ;-)

Between Gerd's order of precedence and mine (and of most forum-members, who collect Soviet awards and have some specific historic knowledge, I assume) there is absolutly no differnce - except the - truly rather tricky - ranking of OGPW 1cl vs. Glory 3rd cl.

Dr. Herfurth is regarded as an expert in historic phaleristic affairs - as I already pointed out in bold letters in my previous posting - by PMD for example, as you can read in the foreword and introduction of the PMD-bible. At least he publishes about the beautiful Mongolian awards ...

Let us assume, that your point of view - the official order of precedence is the only right and true one - might be the historic truth. So a mere and simple Red Banner would rank above a Suvorov 1cl and the Lenin would rank above the Order of Victory :-))))))))))

The phaleristic and memoirs literature support our position 100 %.

We don't wont to represent subjective feelings, but to find out the historic reality about the prestige of the SU-awards during the GPW.

Best regards from Vienna, Austria

Christian

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Christian,

I guess I was probably not clear thus resulting in a misunderstanding.

What I said is that the only REAL Hierarchy of Soviet Awards is the official one (either we like it or not, either we agree with it or not) all the rest is subjective because each soldier and/or each collector will have his own preferences.

I didn't say that my list should represent the "official" hierarchy, therefore it cannot be wrong.

The awards I listed, as stated, are just a list of my own prferences, nothing official and/or definitive.

I'd add that it's just a list that came to my mind like that, "tomorrow" I might have a different preference list based on some award I'd start liking more than another.

We don't wont to represent subjective feelings, but to find out the historic reality about the prestige of the SU-awards during the GPW.

I may be missing or misunderstanding something here, but the "historic reality" is not the official one?!

Dolf

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Gents,

Whereas one may argue till dawn and beyond about who the experts are, I think we can safely say (and I hope that most would agree :unsure: ) that there is an official hierarchy for Orders of the Soviet Union. Discussion is always a healthy thing but why try to re-invent the wheel?

Regards,

Jim

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Real life and historic reality vs. official hierarchy and decrees

Gentlemen,

yes, there is an official hierarchy, an order of precedence, for SU-Awards - no doubt and everybody knows their ranks by heart. But, as often with laws, regulations, etc., they don't match 100 % with the real life - or in our case with history.

Nobody would deny, that a Suvorov is more prestigious, than a Red Banner, that a Glory beats the Red Star and so on ... These are historic facts against the official hierarchy.

Also compare the different regulations for conferring of the differnt orders. The regulations of the Order of Glory is definitly much more sophisticated and challenging, than the regulations of the Order of the Red Star. An excellent source for such comparative studies is the big PMD-bible "The Comprehensive Guide to Soviet Orders and Medals", where you will find all regulations of all orders and medals from the Soviet Union.

Take the "Glory-Trio". A cavalier of the Order of Glory posesses - according to the official order of precedence - 3 orders, who represent the absolut lowest rank (in 1945) among all Soviet orders. But according to another decree of the Supreme Soviet, the bearer of such a "Glory-Trio" has the same privileges and status, as a HSU, who is also according to the official hierarchy at the top rank. So, even the official hierarchy is rather contradictionary ;-)

Please take a also look into books, memoirs, reports and literature dealing with the GPW and representing the Soviet sight. There you will also make out the real hierarchy of military awards according to prestige. The Glory 3rd cl was conferred for a more outstanding heroic deed, than the Red Star (this fact you can also read in the official regulations of the 2 orders!), despite the fact, that the Glory is ranking below the Red Star.

These are no personal feelings or no subjetivism of certain soldiers or officiers - or nowadays: collectors - and other irrelevant stuff. These historic facts belong to unwritten general laws of the life dealing with awards at the front of the GPW. Please show me in the literature or in memoirs one general, who was more happy about a Red Banner, than about a Suvorov 1cl - you will find none ;-)

So we want to track the real existing hierarchy among the military awards of the Soviet Union in the period of the GPW and no discussion: I like Glorys and you like OGPWs :-(

Best regards from Vienna, Austria

Christian Zulus

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Well Christian, as I expected from the beginning, you have really started something here. I want to thank all who have contributed so much to this thread. There is more knowledge and information in this thread than I have seen in any other for a very long time. I would also like to take a moment to summarize a few key points which I think have become clear.

1. In focusing on the GPW era, I think that the suggestion of a pre and post mid 1943 division is worth consideration.

2. The naval awards, Ushakov and Nakhimov, should definitely be included.

3. Yes, an official hierarchy, which cannot be disregarded, does exist; but time and reality suggest that it may be less than truly accurate. Hence, this discussion.

4. Yes this ?revised? hierarchy is subjective to the point that, as I said earlier, individual award citations may turn out to be a major determining factor; but I think that in a way there is another factor in place which has been doing this for us - the marketplace.

Again, great work Gentlemen and thank you. :beer:

Best wishes,

Wild Card

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Dear Wild Card,

man thanks for your support :P .

Maybe we should make a survey about the aspects in question among the handful of scientists around the world, who are the true experts for Soviet Awards.

For me - and I assume also for all other historians with a postgraduate university degree in our forum ;) - the 2 parallel hierarchies and orders of precedence of the rank and status (the "official" one and the "real" one) were never in question.

It would be also interesting to find out, why i.e. the Glory has the much more compelling and prestigious regulations in comparison to the Red Star, but ranks below the Red Star. That's somehow a contradiction and looks odd, because the regulation of an order and the order of precedence of the specific ranking had been done by the same institution: The secretariat of the Supreme Soviet. Maybe the ranking is a mere political decision, done by the Politbuero and the regulations are an affair for the experts in the secretariat of the Supreme Soviet.

Phaleristics are a very exciting historical science :P .

Best regards

Christian

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Dear Dolf,

o.k., I have to respect your private opinion, that historic research in the field of phaleristics is worthless :speechless: . As long as we have an official order of precedence for state awards from the Supreme Soviet life is happy and books are stupid ... :beer:

Best regards

Christian

Hey guys,

Let me tell you why I personally would prefer an Order of Glory any time to any other award - well if I could another two of it (a 2nd and 1st class) then I would have cavalier status and priveleges to come with it too. Helps feed me and the family more than 3 red stars or OGPW! (Of course I am not thinking as a patriotic soldier fighting to save my motherland here!! :cheeky: ) However, if my actions merited an award that was higher than Glory, say an ORB, than that is what I would get irrespective of what I wanted because the State's hierarchy of orders would dictate otherwise! Of course, If I got a HSU and Order of Lenin (plus status and priveleges) I would not half be disappointed! I wonder how many may have got to their 2nd class Glory and received an ORB instead of a 1st Class glory!

As far as research goes, this is valid as long as it goes off documented sources. A hierechy based on perception of individual's value of medals is totally subjective and highly individual and cannot be supported by black and white. Research can establish several things. For example (and these exampels are definitley not exclusive) - Why was a person who was recommneded for HSU awarded say a red banner instead? Research can look at a number downgraded recommendations and establish the award criteria versus the documented action. What research can also establish is award patterns, serial numbering/variation changing. It can document order/medal/booklet/variation in minute detail. And the real wealth and potential of historical research is to bring to light award histories locked in archives for us to appreciate the stories behind these orders and make them more than just beautiful collectable items!! Good research will lead to the right conclusions, just as long as the it goes off a proper black and white base.

Christian, I think that your have drawn the wrong conclusions about Dolf's comments (and possibly mine as we seem to we seem to share a common side of this argument). I for one value research. But I for one would not question an official hierarchy of orders and try to create a new one. And I will give you two reasons for this.... firstly we have an official order in black and white so there is really no point arguing about it! Secondly, this black and white hierarchy has served as the framework behind the awarding of all soviet orders (even in the days when some pure combat decorations became long service awards!) And on this note I think I rest my case.

Regards,

Jim

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Guys:

I'm willing to throw a curve into the entire discussion, based on my experience.

I don't think there was a "set" hierarchy of awards that was common to all Soviet forces. I think it varied greatly on the person's rank, military specialty, and their unit.

For example, it is impossible to compare what the hierarchy of awards would be between a Private and, say, a Senior Lieutenant or Captain who was a pilot.

For a private, if he was to earn an HSU, that was about as good as you could get. Period. Because he was a private meant that he earned it through exceedly meritorious action on the ground.

At the same time, a pilot could receive the HSU for flying 100 missions by the end of the War. Definately an impressive record amongst pilots, to be certain. However, would the private who spent four years of his life living in the mud, snow, and dust, while the pilot lived in tents or buildings on a runway agree that his HSU meant the same as the other?

In much the same way, lower awards range in meaning. I have seen For Valor medals given to bakers and blacksmiths for nothing combat related. I have seen the same medal given to soldiers for clearing mines or hunting down a sniper. Which one meant more to the person? Would the same unit that gave the For Valor medal to the blacksmith for fixing horseshoes give the same award to another soldier who led a charge into a village fighting hand to hand?

And how did the award criteria differ from unit to unit? Were Guards units given preference for awards? Why does there seem to be more valor awards to artillery men than to rifles soldiers? Perhaps a higher survival rate? Or did the artillery branch have more liberal award criteria? We know that commissars were "supposed" to be well decorated, to the point of actually having a directive that dictated that policy. Did the fact that the commissar received a Red Banner for his actions in distributing Party paperwork to the soldiers on the frontline diminish the same award given to the combat leaders that were on the same line?

Consider also the combat history of units. A For Valor medal for combat against Japan in a unit that only saw combat against Japan for a week would be very impressive. A For Valor medal in a unit that served on the frontlines against the Germans for three straight years would probably not hold the same meaning. Were some units more stingy with some awards? Was the commanding officer of a unit who had received a Red Banner fighting in 1941 liberal with their awards of Red Banners in 1945? Maybe yes, maybe no.... There are hundreds of factors that we just cannot be certain of.

In through the 1950s and 1960s, the awards changed considerably in meaning. Although they stopped awarding Red Stars and Red Banners (etc.) for long service in December 1956, they were awarding significant numbers of Glories and Red Stars for wounds and disability all the way in to the early 1970s. Because a double amputee received an Order of Glory in 1968, were the wartime Glories diminished? We don't know.

Unfortunately, we are (thus far) a bunch of westerners trying to make sense of something that happened 60 years ago in the Soviet Union. I think every time we try to make a list of what award was important to who, there were probably thousands of exceptions out there to that list in reality. So before people get worked up about whose list is "right" and whose list isn't, we should consider that quite possibly all the lists are right for one segment of the Soviet military, but at the same time isn't the right one for another segment.

My two cents.

Dave

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