The title of Hero is presented by various governments in recognition of acts of self-sacrifice to the state, and great achievements in combat or labor. It is originally a Soviet-type honor, and is continued by several nations including Belarus, Russia and Ukraine. It was also awarded to cities and fortresses for collective efforts in heroic feats. Each hero receives a medal for public display, special privileges and rights for life, and the admiration and respect of the nation. Some countries without Soviet connections also award Hero honours.
Hero of the Soviet Union
The first hero title established, "Hero of the Soviet Union", was created by decree of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR on 16 April 1934. The identifying badge, the "Gold Star Medal", was not created until 1 August 1939. The title was awarded for "personal or collective deeds of heroism rendered to the USSR or socialist society" and it was awarded to both military personnel and civilians.
Hero of Socialist Labor
The second hero title was "Hero of Socialist Labor", also created by decree of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR, was established on 27 December 1938. Its badge, the "Hammer and Sickle Medal", was created on 22 May 1940. The title was awarded for heroic labor achievements which significantly increased production, "thereby promoting the national economy, science, culture, might, and glory of the USSR."
Each "Hero of the Soviet Union" and "Hero of Socialist Labor" was given the highest Soviet award, the Order of Lenin, and a diploma describing the heroic accomplishment.
A "Hero of Socialist Labor" held the same official stature as a "Hero of the Soviet Union", with identical rights and privileges, but the title's prestige was eroded by the sheer numbers awarded (over 19,000 compared to 12,745).
The Soviet Union awarded the title to twelve (12) cities and one fortress for outstanding heroism during the Eastern Front (1941–1945).
The twelve Soviet cities awarded the title "Hero-City" are
- Leningrad (Saint Petersburg),
- Stalingrad (Volgograd), and
The one fortress awarded the title "Hero-Fortress" is Brest.
Each was awarded a Gold Star Medal to attach to its banner, and is allowed to the image of the medal on its coat of arms.
Arms of Sevastopol
Repeat awards of the titles "Hero of the Soviet Union" and "Hero of Socialist Labor" were allowed until the practice was abolished during perestroika. Afterwards, each title could be awarded to a recipient only once in their lifetime.
List of non-Soviet titles
- Afghanistan - Hero of Revolutionary Afghanistan
- Albania - Hero of the People, Hero of Socialist Work
- Bulgaria - Hero of the People's Republic of Bulgaria, Hero of Socialist Labor
- Cuba - Hero of the Republic of Cuba
- Czechoslovakia - Hero of the CSSR, Hero of Socialist Labor
- East Germany - Hero of the German Democratic Republic, Hero of Labor
- Hungary - Hero of the Hungarian People's Republic
- Indonesia - National Hero of Indonesia
- Jamaica - Order of National Hero
- North Korea - Hero of the Republic, Hero of Labor
- Mongolia - Hero of the Mongolian People's Republic
- Romania - Hero of the Socialist Republic of Romania, Hero of Socialist Labor, Hero of the Agrarian Revolution
- Yugoslavia - People's Hero of Yugoslavia
- Vietnam - Hero of Vietnam
The titles "Hero of the Soviet Union" and "Hero of Socialist Labor" were awarded until the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, which resulted in 15 independent republics. Each nation eventually began issuing their own titles, orders and decorations.
Some republics, like the Baltic republics of Estonia, Lithuania and Latvia, did not create hero titles. Others, such as Russia, Belarus and Ukraine, continue with their own successor hero titles. The award criteria for these titles were kept largely intact.
Ukraine is the only former Soviet republic to continue the two-hero award system: the "Order of the Gold Star" for heroism, and the "Order of the State" for labor. Georgia established the title "National Hero" and the decoration "Order of National Hero" in 2004. A breakaway region of Georgia, Abkhazia, has its own hero title, "Hero of Abkhazia".
List of post-Soviet titles
- Azerbaijan - National Hero of Azerbaijan
- Belarus - Hero of Belarus
- Kazakhstan - National Hero of Kazakhstan
- Russia - Hero of the Russian Federation
- Turkmenistan - Hero of Turkmenistan
- Ukraine - Hero of Ukraine (Order of the Gold Star and Order of the State)
- Uzbekistan - Hero of Uzbekistan