In 1969, in the lead-up to the 25th jubilee of the Great Victory Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR, the highest legislative body of the Soviet Union, decided to institute a commemorative medal “25 Years of Victory in the Great Patriotic War 1941-1945”, prepared relevant documentation and invited bids. Alexander Zhuk (21.10.1922-18.02.2002) who served as the development department chief designer of the Ministry of Defense Central Clothing and Equipment Department, was entrusted by the governing body of the Ministry with elaboration of the sketch. Two of his drafts represented the highest Soviet military decoration, The Order of Victory placed above the roof of the captured Reichstag; sword pointing downwards superimposed on a red enameled five-point star. However, the most prominent sketch by A.Zhuk came out in the shape of a medal described below.
Round silvery medal had a diameter of 32 mm. An obverse showed a figure of a Soviet soldier facing westwards and wearing summer field uniform with a helmet. He holds PPSh-41 submachine gun in his left arm hanging straight down, and hot enameled ruby flying banner with hammer and sickle in his right hand. Soldier tramples on a black oxidized territory of the defeated Germany. Two dates, “1945-1970” are situated in two lines on the left of the flagstaff. Initial design showed Soviet soldier trampling on the defeated German eagle and fractured wreathed swastika. The medal was intended to be worn suspended from a traditional pentagonal medal bar. The ribbon was planned to be manufactured of silk green with miniature ribbon of the medal “For the Victory Over Germany in the Great Patriotic War 1941-1945” (“За победу над Германией в Великой Отечественной Войне 1941-1945 гг.”) in the very centre, i.e. alternate three black and two orange stripes. Design of the reverse was never elaborated.
The sketch described above met approval of the Minister of Defense Marshal of the Soviet Union Andrey Grechko and was sent together with other drafts to the Leningrad Mint. The specimen temporarily named “25 Years of Victory Over the Fascist Germany” was sent for approval of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the Soviet Union. However, top leadership of the USSR rejected an idea of institution of the commemorative medal. It seems that the main reason for such an unfavourable decision was the workload of Soviet mints charged with production of millions of jubilee medals “In Commemoration of the 100th Anniversary since the Birth of Vladimir Ilyich Lenin” (1970). As a result, the Minister of Defense ordered development of the much cheaper ministry-level badge for further mass production.
Temporary specimen made of aluminum alloy was manufactured at the Moscow factory “Podeda” (“Victory”). It had a shape of the faceted five-point star with facetted beams between its rays. Beams bore three miniature collar devices of Soviet land forces: wreath with a star in its centre, tank, crossed cannons, as well as symbols of Air force (winged propeller) and Navy (anchor). Central medallion of an obverse bore an inscription “25 Years of Victory in the War 1941-1945” and two short laurel branches against a red background made of “cold” enamel. Interestingly enough, Alexander Zhuk had to shorten initial inscription “25 Years of Victory in the Great Patriotic War 1941-1945” due to the lack of space in medallion. It’s worth mentioning here as well that general layout of the temporary specimen was used by the artist during designing of another decoration, viz. medal “For Distinction in Military Service” (“За отличие в воинской службе”).
Traditional pentagonal medal bar with silk ribbon was replaced with rectangular aluminum bar with a fancy suspension below for financial reasons. Green background and central miniature ribbon consisting of alternate three black and two orange stripes were imitated with “cold” enamel.
Though design of the specimen was approved by the Soviet Minister of Defense Andrey Grechko, he insisted on further reduction in cost of its production. Having received an order, Alexander Zhuk elaborated and presented the final sketch of the badge that was entirely approved by the Minister in the end.
The ultimate version of the jubilee badge dedicated to the 25th anniversary of the Great Victory was instituted by the Decree of the Ministry of Defense of the USSR No.59 of March 17, 1970. Deputy Minister – Chief of Rear of the Armed Forces was charged with the production of the badge, while the Chief of the Main Department of Cadres was ordered to provide award documents. The badge was issued to all Soviet veterans for their gallantry and bravery during the battles of the Great Patriotic War and the Soviet-Japanese War of 1945 as well as to foreign citizens – veterans and heads of delegations who visited USSR to participate in celebrations on May 08, 1970 in conjunction with the 25th anniversary of the Great Victory. Highly popular among the Soviet veterans, the decoration was also known as the “War Veteran” Badge. It’s worth mentioning here that “25 Years of Victory in the Great Patriotic War 1941-1945” Badge never enjoyed status of a medal.
The badge measuring 64x35 mm approximately had an intricate shape consisting of a round composition superimposed on a five-point star with small facetted beams between its rays. Figure of a Soviet soldier facing westwards and wearing summer field uniform with a helmet is situated in the centre. He holds PPSh-41 submachine gun in his left arm hanging straight down, and red enameled flying banner with gilt star, hammer and sickle in his right hand. Soldier tramples on a black enameled eagle symbolizing defeated Germany with his right leg. Two dates, “1945-1970” are situated in two lines on the left of the flagstaff. The lower part of the obverse is framed with the red enameled ribbon bearing an inscription in capital letters: “25 Years of Victory in the War 1941-1945” (“25 лет победы в войне 1941-1945 гг.”). Laurel wreath being a prolongation of the ribbon is partially covered with the red banner.
Heptagonal medal bar made of medal bears laurel branch symbolizing victory superimposed on wide diagonal ribbon of so-called “St.George colors”, i.e. alternate three black and two orange stripes.
The badges were manufactured in 1970-1972 at various factories of the Soviet cities, including Moscow (“Pobeda” factory), Leningrad, Riga (“Darbs” repair and engineering factory), Rostov-on-Don (“REFS” factory – Rostov experimental factory of souvenirs and gift products), Shakhty in Rostov region, Pavlovsk in Gorki region and Shcherbinka in Moscow region.
Due to decorations of many millions of veterans, dozens of variations of the badge are known to exist, differing in linear dimensions, thickness, shape (either salient or flat), surface anodization extent, as well as in details of design of obverse and type of reverse. However, two main types of the “25 Years of Victory in the Great Patriotic War 1941-1945” Badge can be singled out: rare heavy-weight decoration made of Tombac and widely-distributed light-weight badge made of aluminum alloy.
150,000 badges produced in “Pobeda” factory (Moscow) were transferred to the possession of the special stock of the Minister of Defense for further distribution to high-ranking veterans. Those badges were issued to executive personnel of the Defense Ministry, other ministries, as well as local party, Soviet and trade union leaders. Some badges were sent to commanders of military districts.
Mass production cold enameled aluminum badges, ca.11 million pieces, were issued nationwide through military registration and enlistment offices.
Extremely rare batch of ten badges made of German silver were manufactured in 1972 at the “Pobeda” factory (Moscow). Nine pieces were presented to top management of the factory, and one badge to its designer, A.B.Zhuk. The most distinctive features of those badges are fine elaboration of details, e.g. medals on the soldier’s tunic, as well as gilt finish of laurel wreath and branch. German silver badges had screw soldered to the reverse of the medal bar.
Another rare specimens are 2,5 mm thick badges made of brass and bearing two pins, on reverse of the medal bar and badge itself.
On April 24, 1970 the very first Order of decoration with badges was signed. The badges were presented by the Minister of Defense Marshal of the Soviet Union Andrey Grechko on May 08, 1970 to high-ranking heads of delegations who arrived to the USSR from Bulgaria, Hungary, Vietnam, Cuba, GDR, Mongolia, North Korea, Poland, Czechoslovakia, Romania and Yugoslavia. The same day a large group of Soviet and foreign WWII veterans were decorated by the Army General Ivan Tyulenev at the Soviet Committee of War Veterans.
The badge was directed to be worn on the right side of the breast below orders but above other badges. It was attached by horizontal pin soldered to the reverse of the medal bar. However, certain custom-made screw-back badges modified as such to replace broken thin pin are known to exist.
When worn as a ribbon bar, the ribbon of the medal “For the Victory Over Germany in the Great Patriotic War 1941-1945” was generally used.
Three main types of award documents may be marked out. The rarest one with thick dark blue leather cloth cover was presented to the most distinguished citizens. That type of certificate was hand-stamped and hand signed by the Minister of Defense Marshal of the Soviet Union Andrey Grechko. It also bore serial number, even though the badge itself wasn’t numbered.
The second type issued to high-ranking military personnel and distinguished veterans, had thin cover made of green or blue color imitation leather. Those certificates bore serial numbers, were hand-stamped but lacked authentic signatures of the minister that were changed to facsimiles. The most common third type of an award document was made of coatless Whatman imitation paper. It lacked number, and the round stamp as well as facsimile were printed on certificate at typography. Due to millions of 3rd type award documents issued to Soviet veterans, minor variations in design may be found as well.
1. Varlamov D. Medal That Never Became Such
2. Bajkov A. The Badge “25 Years of Victory in the War 1941-45”. Classifier.