Jubilee Medal “XX Years of the Workers’ and Peasants’ Red Army”, the very first medal of the Soviet Union, was instituted by the Decree of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR of January 24, 1938, on the eve of the twentieth anniversary of creation of the Workers’ and Peasants’ Red Army, i.e. army and air force of the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic (since 1922, USSR) and the Workers’ and Peasants’ Red Navy.
The medal was awarded to regular commanding officers of the Workers’ and Peasants’ Red Army and the Workers’ and Peasants’ Red Navy who had served in their ranks for twenty years by February 23, 1938; to distinguished participants of the Civil War and the war for freedom and independence of the Fatherland still being regular military personnel; to holders of the Order of the Red Banner conferred for combat merit during the Civil War. Period of service with various units and fighting squads of the Red Guard as well as with Red underground fighters’ groups who struggled against anti-Bolshevik forces between 1917 and 1921 was taken into account while calculating length of service.
All decorations with the medal were made on behalf of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR.
Design of the medal was elaborated by the Moscow-based artist Sergey Dmitriev.
An obverse with a polished 2,5 mm rim showed a large five-point red enameled star with a silvered edge. Gilt (5±0,5 micron) prominent Roman numeral “XX” measuring 8 mm in height and 7 mm in width was situated between the lower rays of the star resting upon the rim.
A reverse representing combat readiness of the Red Army showed a 25 mm figure of the Red Army sentry wearing winter uniform and firing a rifle. Two dates, “1918-1938” were placed horizontally at the lower right part of a reverse. It’s worth mentioning here that initial design of the medal showed Red Army sentry at his post surrounded by symbols of the Soviet military strength: airplanes, field gun, tank and battleships.
Round medal measuring 32 mm in diameter was manufactured of oxidized 925 silver and was 2,9 mm thick.
Initially the medal was worn on the left side of the tunic suspended from the rectangular silver or silvered bar measuring 25x14 mm covered with 26 mm wide silk red ribbon. Decoration was attached with a screw and 18 mm nut. The latter featured a serial number corresponding to that of the award certificate number.
Decree of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR of June 19, 1943 stipulated that rectangular medal bars of all the pre-war decorations, including that of the jubilee medal “XX Years of the Workers’ and Peasants’ Red Army” should be changed to pentagonal pattern. Ribbon of the medal was changed as well to the 24 mm wide grey silk with two 2 mm vertical red stripes at the edges. Those medals were not numbered on the reverse of the bar.
Interesting to know that production of medals continued in limited numbers even during the Great Patriotic War. Thus, 81 pieces were manufactured in 1943 at the Krasnokamsk Mint, the temporary mint located in the Molotov region in 1941-1949.
According to the Decree of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR of July 07, 1941, the decoration had to be returned either to the People’s Commissariat of Defense, People’s Commissariat for Naval Affairs or to the People’s Commissariat for Internal Affairs. That situation wasn’t changed until 1977.
The very first Decree of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR announcing recipients of the jubilee medal was signed on the eve of the Red Army anniversary, i.e. on February 22, 1938. The list of awardees was opened with the name of the then People’s Commissar for Defense Kliment Voroshilov. Altogether 27,575 medals were awarded in 1938, 2,515 in 1939 and 2,037 in 1940. Totally jubilee medal “XX Years of the Workers’ and Peasants’ Red Army” was issued to 37,504 male and female recipients.