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Hero of the Soviet Union

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Hero of the Soviet Union
Gold star medal of the Hero of the Soviet Union
TypeHighest degree of distinction
Awarded forHeroic feats in service to the Soviet state and society
Presented by Soviet Union
EligibilitySoviet and foreign citizens
StatusNo longer awarded
Established16 April 1934
First awarded20 April 1934
Last awarded24 December 1991
Next (lower)Hero of Socialist Labour
RelatedHero of the Russian Federation

The title Hero of the Soviet Union (Russian: Герой Советского Союза, romanizedGeroy 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.[1] The title was awarded both to civilian and military persons.


The award was established on 16 April 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 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 1 August 1939.[3] Earlier heroes were retroactively eligible for these items.[citation needed]

A hero could be awarded the title again for a subsequent heroic feat with an additional Gold Star medal and certificate.[4] The practice of awarding additional Orders of Lenin when the title was awarded multiple times was abolished by the Supreme Soviet of the USSR in 1988 during perestroika.[4]

Forty-four foreign citizens were awarded the title.[5]

The title was also awarded posthumously,[6] though often without the actual Gold Star medal presented.[citation needed]

The title could be revoked only by the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet.[7]

Most Soviet-bloc countries followed the Soviet example and instituted their own "Hero" awards. The Soviet-style "Hero" title is still used both in surviving current Communist states such as Cuba and in some non-Communist post-Soviet countries such as Russia, Ukraine, and others.


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.[8]
  • Priority on the housing list with 50% rent reduction,[8] tax exempt and an additional 45 square metres (480 sq ft) in living space.
  • Annual round-trip[8] first class airline ticket
  • Free local public transportation[8]
  • Free annual visit to sanatorium or rest home[8]
  • Medical benefits[8]
  • Entertainment benefits[8]


Marshal Georgy Zhukov (center) wearing three Hero of the Soviet Union medals and Marshal Konstantin Rokossovsky (right) wearing two (1945)

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 154 people who received the award twice (nine posthumously), three who received it three times, and two who received it four times. 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.[9]

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 13 February 1934. Valery Chkalov, who made the first-ever Trans-polar flight, was awarded the title on 24 July 1936. Valentina Grizodubova, a female pilot, was the first woman to become a Hero of the Soviet Union (2 November 1938)[10] 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.[citation needed]

In addition, over 100 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.[11]

Fighter pilots Aleksandr Pokryshkin and Ivan Kozhedub were three times Heroes of the Soviet Union.[12] A third award entitled the recipient to have their bronze bust erected on a columnar pedestal in Moscow, near the Palace of the Soviets, but the palace was never built.[citation needed]

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[13] was awarded the Order of Lenin and the Hero of the Soviet Union medal "for the special deed" by KGB head Alexander Shelepin.[citation needed]

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. Namely, Zhukov was awarded a fourth title in direct violation of the statute.[4] He was awarded the 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 Lavrentiy 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.[citation needed] By the 1970s, the award had been somewhat devalued. Important political and military persons had been awarded it on the occasions of their birthdays rather than for any immediate heroic activity.[citation needed] All Soviet cosmonauts, starting from Yuri Gagarin, as well as foreign citizens from non-capitalist countries who participated in the Soviet space program as cosmonauts, received a Hero award for each flight, but no more than twice.[citation needed]

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.[14]

Later recipients[edit]

The last recipient of the title "Hero of the Soviet Union" was a Soviet diver, Captain of the 3rd rank Leonid Mikhailovich Solodkov on 24 December 1991 for his leadership and participation in a series of unprecedented extreme depth diving experiments.[15] 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".[6] 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.[citation needed]



Notable recipients[edit]

Hero of the Soviet Union Army General Pavel Grachev
Twice Hero of the Soviet Union Major General Alexander Molodchy

Single award[edit]

Two times awarded[edit]

Three times awarded[edit]

  • 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[edit]

Foreign recipients (all single awards)[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Prokhorov, Aleksandr Mikhaĭlovich (1982). Great Soviet Encyclopedia, Volume 6. New York: Macmillan. p. 594. OCLC 810278.
  2. ^ "Resolution of the Central Executive Committee of the Soviet Union of May 5, 1934" (in Russian). Wikisource. 2010-09-04. 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. Retrieved 2012-02-20.
  4. ^ a b c Alander 2012, p. 15.
  5. ^ Статистика :: Герои страны [Statistics]. www.warheroes.ru (in Russian). Retrieved 2016-01-25.
  6. ^ a b Alander 2012, p. 17.
  7. ^ McDaniel and Schmitt, The Comprehensive Guide to Soviet Orders and Medals.
  8. ^ a b c d e f g Alander 2012, p. 14.
  9. ^ "Hero of the Soviet Union Awards for Afghanistan". Archived from the original on 2008-02-13. Retrieved 2005-10-07.
  10. ^ (in Russian) Гризодубова Валентиа Степановна
  11. ^ "Постановление ЦИК СССР от 16.04.1934 Герой Советского Союза — Викитека" (in Russian). Ru.wikisource.org. Retrieved 2022-03-13.
  12. ^ Alander 2012, p. 16.
  13. ^ Photograph of Mercader's Gravestone
  14. ^ Alander 2012, pp. 14–15.
  15. ^ "As Leonid Solodkov was the last hero of the Soviet Union?". Retrieved 5 September 2015.
  16. ^ "Герой Советского Союза Горанов Волкан Семёнович :: Герои страны". Retrieved 5 September 2015.
  17. ^ "Шменкель (Shmenkel) Фриц Пауль". www.warheroes.ru. Retrieved 2016-01-25.
  18. ^ "Джибелли Примо Анжелович". www.warheroes.ru. Retrieved 2016-01-25.


  • Alander, Jussi-Pekka (2012). Neuvostoliiton kunniamitalit (in Finnish). Tampere: Apali. ISBN 978-952-5877-13-7.

External links[edit]