This commemorative medal was instituted in 1966 by the public organization “Soviet War Veterans Committee” (SWVC) and was issued to surviving participants, both men and women, of the Spanish Civil War. Decoration was also awarded to foreign citizens from friendly states. Estimates for the total number of Soviet citizens who voluntarily served in Spain in combat and advisory positions are given at 2,000-4,000, including 772 pilots,. 351 tank crew members, 156 signallers, 100 artillerymen, 77 seamen and submariners, 222 general advisors and instructors, 339 technical advisors and 204 interpreters. Within October 1936-January 1939 Soviet aid amounted to 648 airplanes, 347 tanks, 60 armoured cars, 1,186 field guns, 20,486 machine guns, 497,813 rifles. According to the Soviet statistics, military casualties of the Spanish Civil War were as follows: 127 killed in action, 11 succumbed to wounds, 32 missed in action as well as 19 non-battle deaths due to various accidents. So totally Spanish Civil War cost USSR 189 casualties.
Commemorative medals were presented to veterans during solemn ceremonies held in Moscow and Leningrad (now Saint-Petersburg). Description of the very first ceremony that took place in February 1967 is quoted from the book “Espionage is not a Game. Memoirs of Kent, the Soviet Station Chief” written by the veteran of the Soviet military intelligence service Anatoly Gurevich, alias “Kent” (07.11.1913-02.01.2009). “In February 1967 the Leningrad House of Friendship and Peace was made a site for the solemn meeting with the participation of Division of the National Revolutionary War in Spain Soviet volunteers members, Great Patriotic War veterans, universities lecturers and school teachers, students, pupils and other guests. Representatives of SWVC, regional and city committees of CPSU [Communist Party of the Soviet Union] and Komsomol [All-Union Leninist Young Communist League], Lensovet [Leningrad Council of the People’s Deputies], public organizations, schools and universities sat on the panel.
The solemn meeting was held in conjunction with presentation of SWVC commemorative medals “To participant of the National Revolutionary War in Spain 1936-1939”. Leningrad division of SWVC chairman, former Leningrad Military District Commander-in-Chief Colonel General Mikhail Konstantinov was entrusted with an award ceremony in Leningrad by SWVC headquarters.
I still keep a photo in my album that shows stately and amicable way in which Mikhail Konstantinov presented me medal and award document. The reason for such an attitude was that we worked together for several years already. As a member of the Council of participants of the National Revolutionary War in Spain, I was assigned to the bureau of the SWVC Leningrad division chairman.
Having received medal together with an award document, I returned to the panel and took my seat there. I examined the document straight away and found out that it bore two signatures, that of the SWVC chairman Twice Hero of the Soviet Union Marshal of the Soviet Union, former People’s Commissar for Defence Semyon Timoshenko, and that of the legendary fighter pilot of the Great Patriotic War Hero of the Soviet Union Major Alexey Maresyev. (…) Since 1956 the latter held position of the SWVC senior secretary”.
“To participant of the National Revolutionary War in Spain 1936-1939” Commemorative Medal was presented for several years at least until February 1970.
An obverse with raised border showed symbolistical terrestrial globe with six lines marked on it: prime meridian, two meridians, equator and two parallels. Large embossed three point star – symbol of the “Popular Front” (Frente Popular), electoral coalition of various left-wing political organizations founded in Spain in January 1936 – was superimposed on obverse. Three edges of the star slightly went beyond perimeter of the medal. Red enameled five-point star bearing sickle and hammer emblem in its centre was situated in the right upper part of an obverse.
A reverse without border contained inscription running across the whole backside in capital letters in five horizontal lines: “To participant of the National Revolutionary War in Spain 1936 · 1939” (“Участнику национально /note: without hyphen, though it should have been placed there/ революционной войны в Испании 1936 · 1939”.
Circular medal, assuming its shape might be generally described as a circle, measured 30 mm in diameter with no account taken of dimensions of slightly protruding edges of the star.
Protruding upper edge was topped with an eyelet for the ring that hold medal bar. The latter had a shape of an isosceles triangle pointing downwards. Its legs, i.e. two sides of equal length measured 39 mm each, while the base, i.e. the shorter side measured 27 mm. An obverse of the medal bar with horizontal incisions was covered with red enamel. An upper part of its reverse had a seamless clip with a safety-pin fixed inside.
The medal itself and its bar were manufactured of aluminum, red enamel was applied to five-point star and obverse of the medal bar.
“To participant of the National Revolutionary War in Spain 1936-1939” Commemorative Medal was presented to veterans together with calico-covered red colored award document that sported large gilt three point star on its front cover. Name, patronymic and surname of an awardee as well as date of issue were the only entries filled in by hand; no space for photo of a veteran was provided. Each document bore round stamp of SWVC, facsimile of its chairman Marshal of the Soviet Union Semyon Timoshenko as well as signature of SWVC senior secretary Alexey Maresyev. Please note that award documents for high-ranking Soviet citizens and foreigners were hand-signed by SWVC chairman.
Design of the medal with minor additions was subsequently used to create two more jubilee decorations, namely “To participant of the National Revolutionary War in Spain 1936-1939” SWVC commemorative badge (1987) and “60 Years of the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939)” jubilee medal issued in 1996 by the Russian War Veterans Committee, a legal successor of SWVC in the modern-day Russian Federation.