|Hero of the Soviet Union|
Gold star medal of the Hero of the Soviet Union
|Type||Highest degree of distinction|
|Awarded for||Heroic feats in service to the Soviet state and society|
|Presented by|| Soviet Union|
|Eligibility||Soviet and foreign citizens|
|Status||No longer awarded|
|Established||16 April 1934|
|First awarded||20 April 1934|
|Last awarded||24 December 1991|
|Next (lower)||Hero of Socialist Labour|
|Related||Hero of the Russian Federation|
The title Hero of the Soviet Union (Russian: Герой Советского Союза, romanized: Geroy Sovietskogo Soyuza) was the highest distinction in the Soviet Union, awarded together with the Order of Lenin personally or collectively for heroic feats in service to the Soviet state and society.
The award was established on April 16, 1934, by the Central Executive Committee of the Soviet Union. The first recipients of the title originally received only the Order of Lenin, the highest Soviet award, along with a 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. 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.
Forty-four 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.
Individuals who received the award were entitled to special privileges, including:
- A pension with survivor benefits in the event of the death of the title holder.
- First priority on the housing list with 50% rent reduction, tax exempt and an additional 45 square metres (480 sq ft) in living space.
- Annual round-trip first class airline ticket
- Free bus transportation
- Free annual visit to sanatorium or rest home
- Medical benefits
- Entertainment benefits
In total, during the existence of the USSR, the title of Hero of the Soviet Union was awarded to 12,777 people (excluding 72 stripped of the title for defamatory acts and 13 awards annulled as unwarranted), including twice – 154 (9 posthumously), three times – 3 and four – 2. Ninety-five women were awarded the title. Among the Heroes of the Soviet Union, 44 people are citizens of foreign states. The great majority of them received it during World War II (11,635 Heroes of the Soviet Union, 101 twice Heroes, three thrice Heroes, and two four-time Heroes). Eighty-five people (28 posthumously) were awarded the title for actions related to the Soviet-Afghan War, which lasted from 1979 until 1989.
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) 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 Hero title, either Hero of the Soviet Union or Hero of Socialist Labour 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, Ramón Mercader moved to the Soviet Union in 1961 and as Ramon Lopez was awarded the Order of Lenin and the Hero of the Soviet Union medal "for the special deed" by KGB head Alexander Shelepin. Ramon Lopes had other awards as well to display himself as the veteran of the Great Patriotic war of 1941-1945 and not an assassin, being in prison in 1940-1960.
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 all 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 it 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 the Soviet space 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 his leadership and participation in a series of unprecedented extreme depth diving experiments. 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.
Two times awarded
Three times awarded
- 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.
- Ivan Kozhedub – highest-scoring Soviet fighter pilot
- Alexander Pokryshkin – World War II fighter pilot
Four times awarded
Foreign recipients (all single awards)
- Abdul Ahad Mohmand – the first Afghan cosmonaut
- Ahmed Ben Bella – the first president of Algeria
- Zachari Zachariev – International Brigades pilot under Pseudonym Turk Halil Ekrem awarded #22 30 December 1936
- Georgi Ivanov – The first Bulgarian Cosmonaut
- Todor Zhivkov – Communist president of Bulgaria
- Aleksandar Panayotov Aleksandrov – The second Bulgarian Cosmonaut
- Vladimir Zaimov – Soviet spy in Bulgaria, awarded on the 30th anniversary of his death in 1972
- Fidel Castro – leader of the Cuban communist government
- Arnaldo Tamayo – the first Hispanic and Cuban cosmonaut
- Josef Buršík – for heroism during the liberation of Kyiv, awarded on December 21, 1943, after the occupation of Czechoslovakia he gave the award back
- Otakar Jaroš – for heroism in the Battle of Sokolovo, posthumously awarded on April 17, 1943 as the first foreign soldier
- Ján Nálepka (Slovak) – awarded in memoriam on May 2, 1945
- Vladimír Remek – the first Czech in space and the first cosmonaut who wasn't a citizen of USSR or USA
- Antonín Sochor – for heroism during the liberation of Kyiv, awarded on December 21, 1943
- Ludvík Svoboda – communist president of Czechoslovakia and army general, commander of the 1st Czechoslovak Army Corps
- Gustáv Husák (Slovak) – communist president of Czechoslovakia
- Stěpan Vajda (Rusyn) – for heroism during the liberation of Poland, awarded in memoriam on August 10, 1945
- Richard Tesařík – for heroism during the liberation of Kyiv, awarded on December 21, 1943
- Abdel Hakim Amer – Egyptian military officer, and member of the Free Officers movement
- Gamal Abdel Nasser – One of the two principal leaders of the Egyptian Revolution of 1952, and President of Egypt (1956–1970)
- Jean-Loup Chrétien the first French kosmonaut (also later NASA-astronaut)
- Marcel Albert – decorated World War II fighter pilot (Normandie-Niemen)
- Jacques André – decorated World War II fighter pilot (Normandie-Niemen)
- Roland de La Poype – decorated World War II fighter pilot (Normandie-Niemen)
- Marcel Lefèvre – decorated World War II fighter pilot (Normandie-Niemen)
- Sigmund Jähn – the first German cosmonaut
- Walter Ulbricht – East German leader
- Erich Honecker – East German leader
- Erich Mielke – East German head of the Stasi
- Fritz Schmenkel – German Communist who deserted to Soviet troops in November 1941 and became a partisan, killed 22 February 1944, posthumously awarded 1964
- Bertalan Farkas – the first Hungarian cosmonaut
- János Kádár – Hungarian politician
- Rakesh Sharma – the first Indian cosmonaut
- Primo Gibelli - Italian communist and Spanish Republican Air Force aviator, posthumously
- Jügderdemidiin Gürragchaa – the first Mongolian cosmonaut
- Władysław Wysocki – Polish officer from the battle of Lenino
- Juliusz Hibner – Polish communist and officer from the battle of Lenino
- Aniela Krzywoń – Polish soldier
- Mirosław Hermaszewski – the first citizen of Poland to travel into space
- Dumitru Prunariu – the first Romanian cosmonaut
- Ramón Mercader – assassinated Leon Trotsky in 1940
- Rubén Ruiz Ibárruri – son of the Spanish communist leader Dolores Ibárruri Gómez, killed in the Battle of Stalingrad while fighting for the Red Army
- Muhammed Faris – the first Syrian cosmonaut
- Phạm Tuân – the first Vietnamese cosmonaut