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Hero of the Soviet Union
Gold Star Medal of the Hero of the Soviet Union
Awarded by the  Soviet Union
Type Honorary title
Eligibility Soviet and foreign citizens
Awarded for heroic feats in service to the Soviet state and society
Status No longer awarded
Established April 16, 1934
First awarded April 20, 1934
Last awarded December 24, 1991
Total awarded 12,775
Next (higher) none
Next (lower) Order of Lenin
Related Hero of the Russian Federation

The title Hero of the Soviet Union (Russian: Герой Советского Союза) was the highest distinction in the Soviet Union, awarded personally or collectively for heroic feats in service to the Soviet state and society.[1]

Overview[edit | edit source]

The award was established on May 5, 1934, by the Central Executive Committee of the Soviet Union.[2] The first recipients of the title originally received only the Order of Lenin, the highest Soviet award, along with certificate (грамота, gramota) describing the heroic deed from the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR. Because the Order of Lenin could be awarded for deeds not qualifying for the title of hero, and to distinguish heroes from other Order of Lenin holders, the Gold Star medal was introduced on August 1, 1939.[3] Earlier heroes were retroactively eligible for these items.

A hero could be awarded the title again for a subsequent heroic feat with an additional Gold Star medal and certificate. An additional Order of Lenin was not given until 1973. The practice of awarding the title multiple times was abolished by the Supreme Soviet of the USSR in 1988 during perestroika.

Many foreign citizens were awarded the title.

The title was also given posthumously, though often without the actual Gold Star medal given.

The title could be revoked only by the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet.[4]

History[edit | edit source]

Marshal Georgy Zhukov (center) wearing three Hero of the Soviet Union medals and Marshal Konstantin Rokossovsky (right) wearing two

The total number of persons who were awarded this title is 12,755 (twenty people have been stripped of this title due to various circumstances). The great majority of them received it during World War II (11,635 Heroes of the Soviet Union, 101 twice Heroes, 3 three-time Heroes, and 2 four-time Heroes). Sixty-five people were awarded the title for actions related to the First Afghan War, which lasted from 1979 until 1989.[5]

The first recipients of the award were the pilots Anatoly Liapidevsky (certificate number one), Sigizmund Levanevsky, Vasily Molokov, Mavriky Slepnyov, Nikolai Kamanin, Ivan Doronin and Mikhail Vodopianov, who participated in the successful aerial search and rescue of the crew of the steamship Cheliuskin, which sank in Arctic waters, crushed by ice fields, on February 13, 1934. Valentina Grizodubova, a female pilot, was the first woman to become a Hero of the Soviet Union (November 2, 1938)[6] for her international women's record for a straight-line distance flight. Zoya Kosmodemyanskaya, a Soviet partisan, was the first woman to become a Hero of the Soviet Union during World War II (February 16, 1942), posthumously. In addition, 101 people received the award twice. A second award entitled the recipient to have a bronze bust of his or her likeness with a commemorative inscription erected in his or her hometown. Two famous Soviet fighter pilots, Aleksandr Pokryshkin and Ivan Kozhedub were three times Heroes of the Soviet Union. A third award entitled the recipient to have his/her bronze bust erected on a columnar pedestal in Moscow, near the Palace of the Soviets, but the Palace was never built.

After his release from serving a 20-year sentence in a Mexican prison for the assassination of Leon Trotsky, Ramon Mercader moved to the Soviet Union in 1961 and was awarded the Hero of the Soviet Union medal from the then head of the KGB Alexander Shelepin.

The only individuals to receive the title four times were Marshal Georgy Zhukov and Leonid Brezhnev. The original statute of the Hero of the Soviet Union, however, did not provide for a fourth title; its provisions allowed for a maximum of three awards regardless of later deeds. Both Zhukov and Brezhnev received their fourth titles under controversial circumstances contrary to the statute, which remained largely unchanged until the award was abolished in 1991. Zhukov was awarded a fourth time "for his large accomplishments" on the occasion of his 60th birthday on December 1, 1956. There is some speculation that Zhukov's fourth Hero medal was for his participation in the arrest of Beria in 1953, but this was not entered in the records. Brezhnev's four awards further eroded the prestige of the award because they were birthday gifts, on the occasions of his 60th, 70th, 72nd and 75th birthdays. Such practices halted in 1988 due to a decision of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR, which formally ended it.

By the 1970s, the award had been somewhat devalued. Important political and military persons had been awarded on the occasions of their anniversaries rather than for any immediate heroic activity.

All Soviet cosmonauts, starting from Yuri Gagarin, as well as foreign citizens who participated in Soviet cosmic program as cosmonauts, received Hero award for each flight (but no more than twice).

Apart from individuals, the title was also awarded to twelve cities (Hero City) as well as the fortress of Brest (Hero-Fortress) for collective heroism during the War.

The last recipient of the title "Hero of the Soviet Union" was a Soviet diver, Captain of the 3rd rank Leonid Mikhailovich Solodkov on December 24, 1991 for fulfillment of a special diving task. Following the collapse of the Soviet Union, this title was succeeded in Russia by the title "Hero of the Russian Federation", in Ukraine by "Hero of Ukraine" and in Belarus by "Hero of Belarus". Azerbaijan's successor order is that of National Hero of Azerbaijan and Armenia's own hero medal is that of National Hero of Armenia, both modeled on the Soviet one.

Heraldry[edit | edit source]

Philately[edit | edit source]

Notable Recipients[edit | edit source]

File:Левин Александр Иванович-1.jpg

Hero of the Soviet Union Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Ivanovich Levin

Hero of the Soviet Union Colonel Endel Puusepp

Hero of the Soviet Union Army General Pavel Grachev

File:Konev ivan.jpg

Twice Hero of the Soviet Union Marshal of the Soviet Union Ivan Konev

File:Alexander Molodchy.jpg

Twice Hero of the Soviet Union Lieutenant General Alexander Molodchy

Single award[edit | edit source]

Twice awarded[edit | edit source]

  • Andrei Grechko – General, Marshal of the Soviet Union and Defense Minister
  • Alexander Ivanchenko – Russian Cosmonaut
  • Semyon Timoshenko – military commander and senior professional officer of the Red Army, Marshal of the Soviet Union and People's Commissar of State for National Defense.
  • Ivan Konev – Marshal of the Soviet Union, commander of the First Ukrainian Front.
  • Hazi Aslanov – Major General of armored troops during World War II; participated in the 1944 Soviet offensives in Ukraine, Belarus and the Baltic countries.
  • Ivan Baghramian – military commander; took part in the great 1944 Soviet offensive in Belarus and Lithuania (Operation Bagration).
  • Konstantin Rokossovsky – Marshal of the Soviet Union, Commander of the First Belorussian Front, Marshal of Poland and Polish Minister of National Defense,[7] Deputy Minister of Defense and Commander of the Transcaucasian Military District, Chief Inspector of the Soviet Ministry of Defense.
  • Nelson Stepanyan – World War II dive bomber pilot.
  • Vladimir Kokkinaki – Famous test pilot and record breaker.
  • Sydir Kovpak – partisan leader in Ukraine.
  • Amet-Han Sultan – World War II-era fighter and test pilot.
  • Oleksiy Fedorov – organized underground resistance in Nazi-occupied Ukraine.
  • Issa Pliyev – military commander.
  • Vasily Chuikov – A General responsible for the victory at Stalingrad and attacking Berlin. Made Marshal of the Soviet Union in 1955.
  • Sergey Gritsevets – fighter pilot with 40 credited kills.
  • Mikhail Katukov – Marshal of the Soviet Union, 1st Guards Tank Army Commander.
  • Vasily Petrov – Guards Artillery Major during the second World War, for Dnepr crossing 1943 (No. 3504) where he lost both hands, and defense of an Oder bridgehead 1945 (No. 6091).
  • Viktor Leonov – Soviet Naval Scout (Commando), fought in both European and Pacific Theatres in World War II.
  • Aleksandr Vasilevsky – Marshal of the Soviet Union and the Soviet Chief of the General Staff and Deputy Minister of State for Defense during World War II.
  • Aleksei Leonov – cosmonaut who made the world's first spacewalk in 1965.
  • Pavel Popovich – cosmonaut (Vostok 4 and Soyuz 14)[8]
  • Ivan Yakubovsky – tank commander during World War II. Made Marshal of the Soviet Union, First Deputy Minister of Defense, and Supreme Commander of the Warsaw Pact in 1967.
  • Vladimir Komarov – Pilot cosmonaut (Voskhod 1 and Soyuz 1)
  • Alexander Molodchy – famous World War II pilot of the Soviet Long Range Aviation.
  • Ziya Bunyadov – Ziya Bunyadov was awarded the Soviet Union's highest military honor, the Hero of the Soviet Union, for his action in the battle over Pilitsa bridge in Poland on January 14, 1945, resulting in 100 enemy fatalities and 45 enemy prisoners taken. He received his second award while being in the Shtrafbat, a Soviet penal battalion.

Three times awarded[edit | edit source]

  • Ivan Kozhedub – highly decorated World War II fighter pilot; is considered the World War II Allied "Ace of Aces" with 62 victories, more than any other Allied pilot of the 1939-1945 war.[9]
  • Alexander Pokryshkin – World War II fighter pilot.
  • Semyon Budyonny – Military Commander, 1st Cavalry Army in the Civil War and later of the Army Cavalry Commands, also Marshal of the Soviet Union and from 1937 to 1940, Commanding Officer, Moscow Military District.

Four times awarded[edit | edit source]

Foreign recipients (all single awards)[edit | edit source]

See also[edit | edit source]

Notes[edit | edit source]

  1. Prokhorov, Aleksandr Mikhaĭlovich (1982). Great Soviet Encyclopedia, Volume 6. New York: Macmillan. pp. 594. OCLC 810278. 
  2. "Resolution of the Central Executive Committee of the Soviet Union of May 5, 1934" (in Russian). Wikisource. 2010-09-04. http://ru.wikisource.org/wiki/%D0%9F%D0%BE%D1%81%D1%82%D0%B0%D0%BD%D0%BE%D0%B2%D0%BB%D0%B5%D0%BD%D0%B8%D0%B5_%D0%A6%D0%98%D0%9A_%D0%A1%D0%A1%D0%A1%D0%A0_%D0%BE%D1%82_16.05.1934_%D0%93%D0%B5%D1%80%D0%BE%D0%B9_%D0%A1%D0%A1%D0%A1%D0%A0. Retrieved 2012-02-20. 
  3. "Decree of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR of August 1, 1939" (in Russian). Wikisource. 2011-09-28. http://ru.wikisource.org/wiki/%D0%A3%D0%BA%D0%B0%D0%B7_%D0%9F%D1%80%D0%B5%D0%B7%D0%B8%D0%B4%D0%B8%D1%83%D0%BC%D0%B0_%D0%92%D0%A1_%D0%A1%D0%A1%D0%A1%D0%A0_%D0%BE%D1%82_1.08.1939_%D0%BE_%D0%B4%D0%BE%D0%BF%D0%BE%D0%BB%D0%BD%D0%B8%D1%82%D0%B5%D0%BB%D1%8C%D0%BD%D1%8B%D1%85_%D0%B7%D0%BD%D0%B0%D0%BA%D0%B0%D1%85_%D0%BE%D1%82%D0%BB%D0%B8%D1%87%D0%B8%D1%8F_%D0%B4%D0%BB%D1%8F_%D0%93%D0%B5%D1%80%D0%BE%D0%B5%D0%B2_%D0%A1%D0%BE%D0%B2%D0%B5%D1%82%D1%81%D0%BA%D0%BE%D0%B3%D0%BE_%D0%A1%D0%BE%D1%8E%D0%B7%D0%B0. Retrieved 2012-02-20. 
  4. McDaniel and Schmitt, The Comprehensive Guide to Soviet Orders and Medals.
  5. http://faculty.winthrop.edu/haynese/medals/afghan/af_hsu.html
  6. (Russian) Гризодубова Валентина Степановна
  7. Rokossovsky held Polish citizenship while serving as Polish Defense Minister. This would technically make him the only "foreign citizen" to hold multiple titles of Hero of the Soviet Union, but it should be noted that he was awarded the titles while a Soviet citizen.
  8. "Pavel Romanovich Popovich" (in Russian). Space Encyclopedia ASTROnote. 11 June 2009. http://www.astronaut.ru/as_rusia/vvs/text/popovich.htm?reload_coolmenus. Retrieved 2009-09-30. 
  9. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_World_War_II_air_aces
  10. http://www.warheroes.ru/hero/hero.asp?Hero_id=1055

External links[edit | edit source]

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