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Soviet origin 
The Gold Star was established by the decree of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet on August 1, 1939. Previously, a Hero of the Soviet Union was awarded the Order of Lenin and a special diploma (gramota, грамота) describing the heroic feat. The medal was introduced to distinguish these heroes from other Order of Lenin recipients.
The Gold Star was not normally issued for posthumous awards of the title "Hero of the Soviet Union".
The medal is a gold star hanging from a rectangular suspension device with a ribbon in the color(s) of the issuing state (red for the USSR, white/blue/red for the Russian Federation, blue/yellow for Ukraine, red/green for Belarus). It is worn on the left side of the chest above all other orders and medals.
Although it is described as a medal, it is actually a distinctive badge, worn apart and above any other orders and medals, and always in full.
Post-Soviet successors 
From 1939 to 1991 it was associated with the title "Hero of the Soviet Union". Since the demise of the Soviet Union, that title has been replaced by successor titles and insignia in some of the now-independent states, such as "Hero of Belarus", "Hero of the Russian Federation" and "Hero of Ukraine".
Similar Titles/Medals/Orders in Other Countries 
- Hero of the People (Albania)
- Hero of the People's Republic of Bulgaria
- Hero's Medal (People's Republic of China)
- Hero of the Republic of Cuba
- Hero of the Czechoslovak Socialist Republic
- Hero of the DDR (German Democratic Republic)
- Hero of the Republic (Democratic People's Republic of Korea)
- Hero of the Mongolian People's Republic
- Hero of Romania
- Gold Star Order (Vietnam)
- Order of Sukh Bator (Mongolia)