Decoration of the Imperial Military Order of the Holy Great Martyr George the Victory-Bearer was instituted in one class only on February 13 (25), 1807 by the Manifesto of the Russian Emperor Alexander I as an award for bravery performed in action against the enemy. Lower ranks (NCOs and enlisted men) were eligible for an award.
The decoration got its widely known name “Cross of Saint George” on the eve of the Great War, in its statute of 1913.
Design of an award was stipulated in its statute of 1833: “Decoration of the Military Order has a shape of a silver cross with a central medallion that shows St.George on horseback on one side and ciphers [sic!] of St.George together with a number corresponding to that entered on the list of holders of an award, on the other side”.
Decoration was worn on breast suspended from the standard Russian pentagonal mount covered with a
Since August 09, 1844 non-Christian recipients were issued with a special version of a Decoration that had image of Saint George and ciphers replaced with the Russian coat of arms – black double-headed eagle.
On March 19, 1856 Decoration of the Military Order was divided into four classes, two highest being manufactured of gold and two lowest of silver. A bow made of the same ribbon was affixed to the crosses of the 1st and the 3rd classes to distinguish them from the 2nd and the 4th class awards. The following description is taken from the “State statute code” (volume VIII, section II chapter 6, Part 4 “On a Decoration of the Military Order for lower ranks”) introduced in 1892.
“The first or the highest class: gold cross with a bow of a prescribed ribbon; a circular medallion that shows St.George on one side and cipher of St.George on the other side; transversal arms of the cross have the engraved number corresponding to that entered on the list of holders of the first class of an award; lower arm of the cross bears an inscription: 1st cl.
The second class: the same gold cross, but worn without bow; transversal arms of the cross on its reverse have the engraved number corresponding to that entered on the list of holders of the second class of an award; lower arm of the cross bears an inscription: 2nd cl.
The third class: the same cross made in silver, worn on a bow; transversal arms of the cross on its reverse have the engraved number corresponding to that entered on the list of holders of the third class of an award; lower arm of the cross bears an inscription: 3rd cl.
The fourth or the lowest class: the same silver cross, but worn without bow; transversal arms of the cross on its reverse have the engraved number corresponding to that entered on the list of holders of the fourth class of an award; lower arm of the cross bears an inscription: 4th cl.”.
The final statute of the Decoration, known since then as the Cross of Saint George, was instituted in 1913 stipulating that an award was issued “for outstanding heroic deeds of bravery and self-sacrifice in action against the enemy”.
Economic hardship of the belligerent Russia made since September 10, 1916 gold and silver used in production of crosses being substituted by “yellow” and “white” metal.
The statute of the award was revised by the Decree of the Provisional Russian Government of June 24, 1917. Thus, it was particularly noted that besides lower ranks, army officers were also eligible for decoration with the Cross of Saint George “for acts of their personal bravery, subject to resolution of a general meeting of company, squadron, sotnia [Cossack squadron], battery”. Those amendments were extended to the Navy officers on July 25, 1917 who were also made eligible for the decoration “subject to resolution of a general meeting of a crew”.
Those crosses measuring 34x34 mm with altered design were made of yellow and silver metal (1st, 2nd and 3rd, 4th classes, respectively). When awarded to officers, a gilt or silver laurel branch device was attached to the ribbon, depending on the class of award. Trial pieces with embroidered laurel branches were manufactured as well.
The Cross of Saint George together with other awards was abolished shortly after the October Revolution of 1917. Thus, Paragraph 4 of the Council of People’s Commissars Decree of December 29 (16), 1917 “On the equalization of rights of military personnel” stipulated that “all the orders and other decorations are abolished”.