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Russia revives a soviet era award

May 1, 2013

Russian president Vladimir Putin has awarded the Hero of Labor medal to five citizens. Introduced by Josef Stalin during the 1920s, the Hero of Labor or Hero of Socialist Labor award as it was later called, was given to 20,000 Russians before it was discontinued in 1991 when the Soviet Union fell. 

The medal mostly retains its historical form as a gold, five pointed star lapel pin, though instead of being stamped with a hammer and sickle, the new Hero of Labor award will be embossed with the double-headed eagle. The medal is made up of 15 grams of pure gold, notes the Telegraph. 

While Russians polled are broadly supportive of re-introducing the award, some dislike its association with the nation's brutal past and take it as evidence of President Putin's creeping Stalinism. It is a charge the Russian leader has denied vehemently. 

"Stalinism is connected to the cult of personality, massive legal abuses, repression and camps," Putin said during a late April press conference. " There are no such things in Russia, and I hope they will never happen again."

Among the new recipients of the medal are brain surgeon Alexander Konovalov and Marinsky Theatre director Valery Gergiev. Gergiev once performed a battlefield-side concert during the brief 2008 war between Russia and Georgia. He is also a principal conductor at the London Symphonic Orchestra. The award was also presented to three blue-collar workers. 

Apart from honoring achievement, the re-introduction of the Hero of Labor medal is also intended to help the Russian state develop new national role models, according to the BBC. 

"As opposed to the Soviet Union, today's Russia doesn't have an ideology, an overarching narrative," Moscow radio editor  Konstantin Eggert told the BBC. "Moreover, Russia doesn't have a national identity. This is a huge problem. Heroes of the old do not fit; new heroes are either controversial or non-existent."

Whether the award should have been introduce again and if it went to the right people are issues that those with international calling cards can discuss with friends and family around the world. 


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