This commemorative medal regarded as the very first portable medal of the Soviet Russia was issued to pay tribute to the third anniversary of the Great October Socialist Revolution of 25 October 1917 (by the Julian or Old Style calendar, which corresponds to 7 November in the Gregorian or New Style calendar). It was awarded in November 1920 to participants and organizers of the grand conference of the Petrograd Soviet of Workers', Peasants' and Red Army Deputies, the highest governing institution of Petrograd, the former capital (Moscow was proclaimed the capital city on March 12, 1918). The conference itself was held in the iconic building of the former Smolny Institute for Noble Maidens that housed Bolshevik headquarters during the October uprising and used to be Lenin's residence for several months until the national government was moved to the Moscow Kremlin. After that it became the headquarters of the local Communist Party office and the city hall.
Medals were presented to distinguished revolutionaries by Clara Zetkin, eminent German Communist, on her first visit to the Soviet Russia, on behalf of Vladimir Lenin, the Chairman of the Council of People's Commissars of the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic (RSFSR).
Design of the medal was elaborated by the famous Russian sculptor, medalist, engraver and artist Anton Vasyutinsky (17.01.1858-02.12.1935), prominent designer of numerous table medals, plaquettes, coins and decorations in the Russian Empire and Soviet Union, e.g. “For Zeal”, “For Irreproachable Service in the Police”, “Commemorative Medal for the Tercentenary of the Romanov Dynasty”, etc. By 1920, Anton Vasyutinsky worked in the premises of the Petrograd Mint as the Medallist and Auxiliary Department assistant manager. Come 1934, he would take part in elaboration of a new design of the Order of Lenin, the highest decoration of the USSR (the so-called Type 2 of the Order).
An obverse with raised border showed full-length figure of an apron-clad worker standing in front of an anvil with a double-faced sledgehammer lying at its base. The worker was shown holding rifle with mounted bayonet in his lowered right hand and riveting hammer in his raised left hand. Huge emblem in the shape of the five-point star with crossed sickle and hammer in its centre was also seen being held with worker's left hand. Soviet Russia motto “Workers of the World, / Unite!” (“Пролетарии всех стран, / соединяйтесь!”) executed in capital letters was running in semi-circle in two lines at the upper right part of the obverse.
Centre of a reverse with raised border showed crossed sickle with serrated curved blade and hammer, an emblem symbolizing alliance of worker and peasant in their fight for socialism. Abbreviation “R.S.F.S.R.” (“Р.С.Ф.С.Р.”) was placed in semi-circle above, while commemorative inscription “October / 1917-1920” (“Октябрь / 1917-1920 г.”) in two lines was situated at the bottom, arranged in a semi-circle as well. The word “October” was executed in capital letters. Both inscriptions were separated with two small raised five-point stars.
“Third Anniversary of the Great October Socialist Revolution” medal measuring 36 mm in diameter and 2,3 mm-thick was minted in the medallist workshop of the former Petrograd Mint and came in two versions: silver and light bronze medals. Weight of each piece varied from 19,6 to 20,4 g.
No mount for medal was ever provided. Thus, according to one version, it was worn suspended from a bow made of folded red cloth slid through an oblong ring. Sewing of the medal onto lapel through a ring is considered another method of its wearing. However, the author knows no period photographic evidence of the “Third Anniversary of the Great October Socialist Revolution” medal in wear.
3,000 silver medals were reportedly presented to participants of the grand conference, and 400 bronze pieces were handed to organizers of that event. However, it is quite likely that the total number of medals minted exceeded those figures, judging from the fact that they are still available through various Russian militaria auctions and websites in various state of wear as well as dug up pieces. At the same time collectors should be aware of quality fakes that are occasionally offered online due to considerably high price of original pieces in nearly mint condition. Accurate weight check as well as comparative analysis of the smallest details of design (e.g. note that sickle on reverse of original pieces had distinctively serrated fine blade) could prevent from pouring money down the drain. Meanwhile, quality copies are sold as such as well, yet secured to fantasy pentagonal mounts.
According to the “Soviet Commemorative Medal 1917-1967” catalogue compiled by Anatoly Shaten and published in 1970, “Third Anniversary of the Great October Socialist Revolution” medal was also minted as a table medal, without an eyelet.
Another interesting period artifact related to the medal in question is worth being mentioned in this article as well. Petrograd Mint of 1920s is known for manufacturing various souvenir, commemorative items and even metalware for household usage. Not surprisingly that the factory reportedly produced souvenir lighters of several patterns decorated with two circular plates attached to the sides. One of those lighters had plate minted of light bronze measuring 36 mm in diameter and showing obverse of the “Third Anniversary of the Great October Socialist Revolution” medal. Opposite side had similar plate depicting premises of the Petrograd Mint.