Decision of the Central Committee of the CPSU to institute "50 Years Membership in the CPSU" badge for party members who joined it 50 years ago and even earlier is a tribute to distinguished party fighters and its veterans.
"Party Life" Magazine, No.22, 1981
"50 Years Membership in the CPSU" badge was instituted by the Decree of the Political Bureau (Politburo) of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU) issued on October 22, 1981. It was awarded to CPSU members with unbroken record of party membership for at least fifty years. It's worth stressing here that this respected breast badge was not a recurrent mass jubilee trinket issued to all CPSU members since 1981, but prestigious decoration awarded only to those who were eligible for it by long-term impeccable membership, 50 years and more.
Statute of the Badge and its description were elaborated and approved by the Decree of the Secretariat of the Central Committee of the CPSU issued just in a week, on October 28, 1981.
Documents for decoration with the badge were filled by district and city CPSU committees, military political authorities or by superior party committees either upon nominations by primary party organizations or on their own initiative.
The badge was to be presented in solemn settings during meetings of primary party organizations and sittings of party committees by their secretaries.
Paragraph 5 of the Statute of the Badge stipulated the decoration "to be kept in the family of the deceased communist as a token of remembrance".
According to the regulations of the "CPSU Veteran" status that was approved on January 31, 1991 by the Joint plenary session of the Central Committee and the Central Control Committee of the CPSU, "CPSU members decorated with the "50 Years Membership in the CPSU" badge are entitled to be issued with the "CPSU Veteran" badge as well as its certificate instantly", i.e. without submission of their candidatures for consideration by public meetings of primary party organizations.
"50 Years Membership in the CPSU" badge resembled vaguely miniature of a screw-back Order of Lenin of 2nd and 3rd types that was awarded in 1934-1943. Thus, the badge had a roundish shape with its central circular medallion covered with dark grey enamel that bore elongated silver number "50". Medallion was surrounded by two golden panicles of wheat and a ruby red-enameled banner at the top right corner with abbreviation "КПСС" ("CPSU") in Cyrillic script executed in gilt capital letters. Five-point ruby red-enameled star was placed at the bottom of the badge. Both star and banner had thin gilt borders.
"50 Years Membership in the CPSU" badge measuring 16x15 mm (height x width) and weighing 4 g approximately was manufactured at the Moscow Mint. It was made of silver with application of ruby red and dark grey hot enamel and had glided surface.
Unverified data published in the "Komsomolskaya Pravda" newspaper on December 19, 2001 stated without any proof that the badge presented in 1981 to the General Secretary of the Central Committee of the CPSU Leonid Ilyich Brezhnev was a unique decoration "casted of gold". Most collectors assume that information to be a newspaper hoax.
Official article dedicated to decoration of the Soviet leader with the party badge was published on October 30, 1981 on the front page of the "Izvestia" newspaper and titled "Presentation of Comrade L.I.Brezhnev with the "50 Years Membership in the CPSU" Badge". The solemn ceremony was held on October 29, 1981 in the Kremlin and the decoration was presented to Leonid Brezhnev by Mikhail Andreevich Suslov, Secretary of the Central Committee of the CPSU and an éminence grise of the USSR.
Based on Brezhnev's statement that he was "awarded with the badge exactly on the day of the 50th jubilee of [his] CPSU membership", it would not be unfounded to assume that introduction of the badge in question was timed to that remarkable date.
Here's an extract from the second edition of the book "Heraldry of the Labor Glory" written by the Moscow journalist Vasily Nikolaevich Iljinsky in 1979 and supplemented in 1987.
"50 Years Membership in the CPSU" breast badge is one of decorations for veterans. This small badge, elegant in its modesty, pays homage and shows respect to distinguished veterans of the Lenin's party.
It has a round shape bordered with a golden wreath made of ears of wheat. Silver number "50" is placed at the centre of the badge. Red banner is placed at the upper right part of the wreath, while five-point star – at its bottom. Star and banner are ruby red-enameled and have gilt borders. The banner bears inscription "CPSU" in gilt letters. Breast badge is manufactured of gilt silver. It measures 16 mm in height and 15 mm in width.
It's a well-known fact that no distinctive CPSU membership badges were ever introduced. Party membership isn't defined by external insignia, but by profound belief in communist ideals, selflessness and yearning for creation of a new communist society by state-of-the-practice. Being communist means not only to be graced with great honor but to be given with immense responsibility as well.
Those who created Turkestan-Siberian Railway and Magnitogorsk Iron and Steel Works, Dnieper Hydroelectric Station and "Gigant" state farm in the steppes of the Sal river bear the badge with great pride. These are the men who broke records on surface and in coal mines, who paved the way for knowledge, who led attacks during stern years of the Great Patriotic War.
Special badge "50 Years Membership in the CPSU" instituted in October 1981 represents extent of distinction and honor rightfully deserved by veterans who gained vast wisdom of life and fight during their party membership.
Hoary with age veterans wearing "50 Years Membership in the CPSU" badges including communists who joined the party before the revolution, were numerous amongst delegates of the XXVII Congress of the CPSU. Those were Marta Martynovna Krustynson, CPSU member since 1912 as well as the Hero of Socialist Labor Konstantin Grigorievich Petrov, CPSU member since 1926, holder of numerous awards, party organizer of "Tsentralnaya-Irmino" coal mine, the birthplace of the Stakhanovite movement, to name a few".
The badge was worn on the left side of the breast attached by safety pin of a special construction. Lower part of the reverse bore hallmark of the Moscow Mint.
The badge was presented in a crude red plastic case with transparent lid and soft cushion made of foam-rubber. Unified award document had family name, patronymic and name of the veteran as well as year he joined either Russian Communist party (bolsheviks) or All-Union Communist Party (bolsheviks) filled in handwriting. Documents without indication of the year by an oversight of clerks are unique.
Left part of the inner spread bore famous quote from Vladimir Ilyich Lenin's speech at the II Congress of the Russian Social Democratic Labor Party that was held during July 30 – August 23, 1903 in Brussels and London: "We have to make efforts to rise status and significance of party member higher, higher and higher".
"50 Years Membership in the CPSU" badges bore no serial numbers neither on their reverses nor in award documents.
Less than dozen variations of the decoration in question are known to exist differing in hallmark types and metal. Besides silver badges, small production run of bronze or brass pieces weighing 2,8 g existed as well though violated Statute of the badge. The latter had gilt number "50" instead of a silver one.
There has been much controversy regarding aluminum badges of simplified design weighing 1 g approximately. While some collectors stigmatize them as "fakes", those custom-made lightweight pieces with paint used instead of enamel, gilt number "50" and slightly concave reverse were manufactured after breakdown of the USSR on order of the Communist Party of the Russian Federation (CPRF), the immediate successor of the CPSU which was banned in 1991 by the then-President Boris Yeltsin. Those badges are said to be presented to aged CPRF members whose continuous length of membership in both parties, i.e. CPSU and CPRF, reached fifty years. Lack of funds was the main reason for ordering of such unattractive badges especially in comparison with elegant original pieces. Aluminum badges were presented with award documents of different pattern.
"CPRF-style" badges were awarded even in the XXI century. Thus, aluminum badge "50 Years Membership in the CPSU" was presented in 2003 to teacher with 60 years experience Darikhan Salikhovna Skhalyakho (20.04.1926-15.02.2012), People's Teacher of the USSR (1982) and holder of the Order of Lenin (1971). General educational school No.4 in a village of Afipsip (Republic of Adygea) was named after her in 2011.
Here's a list of known varieties of the badge in question the author is aware of.
1. Silver badge of an early production run with safety pin of a special construction and classic Moscow Mint hallmark (cipher made of three intertwined capital letters).
2. Silver badge of a late production run with safety pin of a special construction and Moscow Mint hallmark framed with dotted circle.
3. Silver badge of a late production run with a simple pin and Moscow Mint hallmark framed with dotted circle.
4. Badge bearing classic Moscow Mint hallmark with simple pin and reverse showing multiple small circles.
5. Badge manufactured of heavyweight yellow-color metal, i.e. bronze or brass with a simple pin and bearing no hallmark.
6. Badge manufactured of heavyweight yellow-color metal with hallmark stamped behind a simple pin.
7. Lightweight aluminum badge of a slightly salient shape produced in Russia after breakdown of the USSR.