How to Collect Soviet Medals of the Great Patriotic War
There are two things to remember when collecting Russian medals from World War Two; Russia was not a combatant power and it didn't fight in WW2. What you are looking for are medals from the Soviet Union dating to a conflict it calls the Great Patriotic War.
What Medals Did the Soviets Award?
As with all great powers, the Soviet Union awarded a number of medals, banners, and awards to people who did a great service to the country during the war. Many of these medals are highly collectible, especially to the families of veterans or others who have a personal connection with the war. Some of the better known ones include:
- Hero of the Soviet Union: Usually issued along with the Order of Lenin, this was the highest Soviet award and conveyed lifetime benefits. It normally appeared as a gold star on a red ribbon.
- Order of the Red Banner: The highest strictly military decoration, the medal for this order displays on a red and white ribbon.
- Order of the Red Star: Awarded to over four million recipients, one wore this medal as a screw back star on the tunic, rather than hanging from a ribbon.
- Order of the Patriotic War: Another star, this decoration issued in two grades, 1st class and 2nd class.
What Should You Look For in Russian Medals?
The Russians issued awards for a number of reasons including service to the state and for victory over both Germany and Japan in WW2. Military medals are often more popular collectors' items than labor awards, but they all have their collectors. Depending on your interests, there are several things to look at when collecting Russian and Soviet military memorabilia:
- Completeness: An award is more desirable if it comes with the award document as well as the award medal. Many WW2 medal collectors may start with just the ribbons as they are smaller and sometimes easier to find.
- Condition: Even if you can't read Russian, you want clear, sharp lettering with minimal wear whenever possible. Also look for fraying around the edges of the ribbons.
- Rarity: Some Soviet and Russian awards like the Gold Star Hero are so rare that most collectors will never see one come available. These are also among the most desirable for collectors and veterans alike.
Russian and Soviet collectibles are a fascinating part of militaria, especially those from the 1941-1945 war. These military souvenirs reflect an era of Russian history the like of which may never come again. WW2 was the last great conflict of the western world and Russia played an important part in the final victory. Collectors can also take advantage of the fact that the USSR had a finite life, limiting the numbers of Soviet collectibles.