The Bolshevik

The Bolshevik
A painting from 1920 by Russian artist Boris Mikhailovich Kustodiev (1878–1927) currently in the possession of The Tretyakov Gallery in Moscow.

24 October 2010


Memory is fickle at best. History is very simply the study of the past. Since history does not have to be the distant past, relatively recent memories are part of human history. However, what we remember and how we remember the past are often not the way events actually occurred so much as a complicated mixture of fact, personal and external propaganda and sometimes pure fiction.

The way most US students like myself were taught about the Eastern Bloc and the Soviet Union in particular was a disproportionate solution of one part fact, one part fiction and two parts political propaganda resurrected and recycled from McCarthyism in the Reagan era during the 1980s. The fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 and the official end of the Soviet Union in 1991 together with the remaining ideologies of the 80s cemented the impression that the West had emerged victorious from the Cold War with the "Evil Empire" we were told was the Soviet Union.

This blog is not devoted to political rights or wrongs. It is intended mainly for the study of the history of the awards system developed by the Soviets and in part adapted from the long tradition of Russian Imperial orders, medals and special recognition badges and jetons. The main difference between the Soviet system and its predecessor was that instead of awarding only high-ranking career military officers, wealthy or nobly born persons, the emphasis was supposed to shift to the average "workers and peasants." In fact, after the initial revolution in 1917, the two armies fighting the civil war that ended in 1922 were the "White Army" made up essentially of former soldiers still loyal to the Russian crown and members of the newly formed Workers' and Peasants' Red Army (RKKA).

Taking on the entire history of the Soviet military and civilian decoration system in this format may be the only way in which to do it since the topic is the subject of numerous books, articles and various forms of digital and Internet media and could take several lifetimes worth of work to cover entirely. The actual facts, all of them, may not be available for an unpredictable amount of time due to the current laws regarding the regulation of the flow of information out of Russian Federation archives. In the meantime, this is an attempt at piecing together available information and facts that arise in the future. It is also a place in which I will attempt to catalog the awards, documents, uniforms, flags and other items which I have collected over the years since the end of the Soviet Union in 1991 and my departure from the Russian Federation in 1996 after working in Moscow during some of the early years of the transformation from the communist system of the Soviet Union to the current government of the Russian Federation.

I do not have a very specific plan for taking on this task, but I do plan on displaying photos of the items in my personal collection as well as those from other sources to illustrate various subjects that may be under discussion. Input and obervations are both welcome and strongly encouraged, as long as they contribute to the overall education of readers.

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