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Знак “Альпинист РККА”

“Mountain Climber of the RKKA” Badge

RKKA Mountain Climber Badge 2This article focuses on the colourful badge that remains virtually unknown among military collectors as it was never introduced and thus hasn’t been able to take well-deserved place on uniform of Soviet military alpinists. However, need for such an award was seemingly obvious. Thus, since 1935, commanders and other ranks of the Workers’ and Peasant’s Red Army (RKKA) who had no special decoration reserved for the military, have been decorated with two classes of the “Mountain Climber of the USSR” badge (subsequently reinstituted as a single class only badge) just as other Soviet citizens. Moreover, even back on December 21, 1934 Kliment Voroshilov, People’s Commissar for Defense of the Soviet Union, have signed Order No.85 stipulating that army commanders who satisfied the criteria for decoration with the I class of the “Mountain Climber of the USSR” badge (“Альпинист СССР” I-й ступени) were henceforth titled “Mountain Climber of the RKKA”. However, relevant departmental decoration of the same name was never introduced. This did not happen neither in the mid-1930s and during the World War II nor in decades of peace, until disintegration of the USSR in 1991. As so often is the case, enthusiast has decided to fill that gap, and bottom-up approach belonged to Lieutenant Mikhail Ivanovich Anufrikov (21.07.1911-01.01.1989), graduating senior of the All-Union Alpinism Instructors School in the year of 1937.

It was Mikhail Anufrikov, alpinism instructor at the School of Military Alpinism and Ski Training (Школа военного альпинизма и горно-лыжного дела, ШВАГЛД) of the Transcaucasian front, who elaborated design of the “Mountain Climber of the RKKA” breast badge in autumn 1944. As for the institution he worked in, it was founded on September 28, 1942 at the ski training base for units of the Transcaucasian front (former sports complex of the Voluntary Sports Society “Dinamo”). It was situated in the village of Bakuriani at the Borjomi region of the Georgian Soviet Socialist Republic.

According to the colour draft drawn by Mikhail Anufrikov, “Mountain Climber of the RKKA” badge was supposed to have a shape of the wide circular ring made of coil of light grey rope knotted at the top. The drawing showed red enameled five-pointed star superimposed on the middle of the knot flanked by the abbreviation “USSR” (“CCCP”): “US” (“CC”) on the left and “SR” (“CP”) on the right executed in gilt capital letters. Crossed ice axe and PPSh-41 Soviet submachine gun were to be superimposed on the lower part of the coil of rope protruding slightly from the outer limits of the “wreath”. Semicircular inscription “Mountain Climber of the RKKA” (“Альпинист РККА”) in gilt letters was supposed to be placed between ice axe and submachine gun, and the word “Mountain Climber” (“Альпинист”) was to be separated into two parts consisting of three and six letters each by the buttstock of the PPSh-41. Stylized image of brown rocks (on the left) and snow-capped peaks (on the right) against light blue sky should have been situated inside the coil of rope as the background. Five-pointed star, ice axe and submachine gun were to be manufactured as separate elements attached to the brass or bronze base with short prongs.

“Mountain Climber of the RKKA” badge was supposed to have plain reverse with serial number of decoration engraved at its upper portion. It should have been fixed to uniform by screw soldered to the centre of the backside and circular nut made of brass or bronze and bearing two semicircular abbreviations “NKO” standing for the “People’s Commissariat of Defense” (Народный комиссариат обороны, HKO) at the top and “USSR” (“CCCP”) at the bottom.  

Draft of the badge has been approved by Colonel I.K.Shonia, the second head of the aforementioned School of Military Alpinism and Ski Training, who sent drawings to Moscow authorities through Mountain and Ski Training Section of the Transcaucasian front. However, for reasons that remain unknown to the author, the badge was never instituted, and is available for research and study by modern collectors as a detailed sketch made by Mikhail Anufrikov seventy-five years ago.

The author thanks Boris Term (Tbilisi, Georgia) for providing essential information on the badge and e-copy of the decoration colour draft.

RKKA Mountain Climber Badge 1