Note: all of the photos below were taken by me of orders and medals in my collection. Any other photos used will be indicated as such. Many of the best awards, flags and uniforms in my collection were once part of collections of very good friends and fellow collectors/historians including Paul J. Schmitt, Norm Braddock, Alexei Merezhko, families of original awardees, others who wish to remain anonymous, and many, many more whose knowledge far surpasses mine in their areas of expertise. I am now and always will be grateful to these trustworthy people who continue to find authentic "needles" in a proverbial "haystack" of counterfeit items made and sold purely for the purpose of turning a profit at the expense of history.
Since NKVD agents tended to come from within the ranks of the military, they usually had already been awarded one or more medals by that point. The two most common medals awarded were the Order of Bravery and the Medal for Combat Service. The first types of both of these medals started out with 4-sided screw post suspensions before later, under new regulations, the five-sided ones that all medals and many orders hung from.
Originally, the Order of the Red Banner was a “screw back” award with a central screw post that had a large silver screw plate or “nut” to hold the order in place on the uniform. During WWII, the order was transformed to hang from a five-sided suspension that pinned to the uniform rather than punched a hole through it.
Another order that state security troops were eligible for during WWII and later in the Korean War, Vietnam War and the Afghanistan War as well as during peacetime was the Order of the Red Star (ORS). The order went through a number of changes though it remained a screw back until the end of the Soviet Union. The first of these orders issued were worn with a red silk “rosette” to make it “pop out” on the uniform. Later, the cloth backing was abandoned and the ORS was worn directly on the uniform. Unlike the previous order and medals, this one was worn on the wearer's right breast (see photos below).
A controversial and relatively rare item is the duplicate or dublikat (Russian - дубликат) which was made for recipients of a medal or order who for an acceptable "official" reason had lost the original. On the example above, a Cyrillic "Д" was stamped below the serial number. The original number was sanded off most likely at the mint and was then given a new and in this case, stamped, serial number. Due to this reprocessing, there is no way to tell what the original serial number was though serious collectors could give a safe estimate based on the order's shape, style and weight - all of this type of information is cataloged in numerous sources, but one of the most respected and commonly used is Ордена и медали СССР (Orders and Medals of the USSR) whose web address is http://mondvor.narod.ru/. The controversy comes from debates among collectors as to how reliable a duplicate order or medal is when so many of these Soviet awards are counterfeited with extreme skill and precision.
The portrait above is of NKVD General V.M. Blokhin who is wearing two Orders of the Red Banner on his left breast and an Order of the Red Star on his right breast just above the two shield and sword NKVD fifth and tenth anniversary badges. He also wears an Order of the Red Banner of Labor and Order of the Badge of Honor (last two on top row, right), which are normally non-military awards that security service personnel were also eligible to be given. These and other awards available to Cheka-KGB agents will be discussed in future chapters. One thing that should be mentioned about General Blokhin is that he was a viscious man who was responsible for some of the horrors that made the NKVD under Stalin such an infamous organization. Military decorations do not make a better man or woman.
*Schmitt, Paul J. Echoes of War: Researching Soviet Military Decorations; Historical Research L.L.C., Lorton, West Virginia, 2006.
** Photo courtesy of "slava1stclass" (see note about him in previous chapter).