Military Review

Order of St. George: two and a half centuries mark the highest prowess

Order of St. George: two and a half centuries mark the highest prowess

History and remarkable facts about the first and most significant military award in Russia

Today marks almost two and a half centuries - and to be precise, 246 years - from the day of the establishment of the most honorable and most important military award of Russia: the Imperial Military Order of the Holy Great Martyr and the Victorious George. The one whose proud colors - orange and black - forever became a symbol of courage and heroism of Russian soldiers, no matter in which army and in any wars they might fight. That same order, whose insignia, soldier George, earned the affectionate nickname “Egory” from the lower ranks and was the most expensive and weighty reward for them. The one that was almost unchanged was restored in the new Russia and is again the main military order of our country.

The decree on the establishment of the new order and its statute were signed by Catherine II on November 26 (December 7 on the new style) 1769 of the year. And since then there has been no higher and more honorable award for warriors of the Russian Empire than this one.

Fourth Order of Russia

The idea to establish a special distinction for awarding Russian officers, who showed not only courage, but also commanding ingenuity in battles, came to mind the reigning Empress Catherine II at the height of the next Russian-Turkish war 1768 – 1774. Another one on the list, but not by value: after all, it was this campaign that brought the country the long-awaited Kuchuk-Kaynardzhsky world, which forever consolidated Russian dominion in the Northern Black Sea region and in the Crimea. It was during this war that the Russians scored the loudest victories of the 18th century: on land - at Larga, Cahul and Kozludji, at sea - in the battle of Chios and at Chesme.

The valor shown in this war needed a worthy monarchy and an award which, according to the empress’s plan, would encourage officers to continue to show the same zeal. That is why in the statute of the new order from the very beginning it was emphasized that “neither the high clan, nor the previous services, nor the wounds received in battles are accepted in respect for being honored for the Order of St. George for military exploits; he is honored with the only one who not only fulfilled his duty in oath, honor and duty, but above all this marked himself for the good and glory of Russia weapons special distinction. "

Thus, the fourth national order appeared in Russia - after the Imperial Order of St. Andrew the First-Called (1698 year), St. Catherine the Great Martyr (1714 year) and the Imperial Order of the Holy Blessed Prince Alexander Nevsky (1725 year). But among the military orders, he was the most famous and honorable - because, unlike all other top awards, this under no circumstances could get a civilian - in general. Only the military, and above all - for courage and ingenuity in battle. And although the first award was given to the Empress Catherine the Great herself, who had placed herself not only with the first, highest degree, but also the title of the first Grand Master of the Order, and later the award was received several times by the ruling persons for purely political reasons, it did not affect the military glory of the Order .

Catherine II with the Order of St. George 1 degree. Artist F. Rokotov

Heavenly patron of the orthodox army

Why was it that St. George was chosen as the patron saint of the first Russian military order? There were several reasons for this.

Firstly, by this time the heraldic shield with the image of St. George, classical for the Orthodox tradition, was painted on the chest of a two-headed eagle - the coat of arms of the Russian Empire. He got there during the time of Ivan the Terrible and was not accidental: from the time of Dmitry Donskoy, St. George was considered the patron saint of Moscow (founded by the name of Yuri Dolgoruky) and the Moscow principality, and soon became its official symbol, and in 1730 it appeared on the Moscow coat of arms .

Secondly, it was Saint George who was one of the few saints who became famous in the military field and immediately after adopting Orthodoxy in Russia, he was honored as the patron saint of soldiers. To whom, if not the former Roman millennial (that is, the tribune of the legion), could the Russian soldiers trust their patronage!

Thirdly, it was precisely in the name of George that he called himself in baptism - the first among Russian princes! - Yaroslav the Wise, one of the most famous rulers of ancient Russia, whose name and military exploits were especially honored in Russia. He, in honor of his victory over the Pechenegs, laid a temple in Kiev in 1036, dedicating it to his heavenly patron. This temple was consecrated 26 November 1051, why this November day and became the second St. George Day in Russia - a holiday in honor of St. George.

It was on this holiday, more than seven centuries later, that the imperial decree on the establishment of a new order was signed — the highest degree of distinction for Russian soldiers. In the palace church, in the presence of the empress, the empress served the divine liturgy, after which they solemnly consecrated the signs of the order - the St. George Cross, the St. George star and the St. George ribbon. The appearance of a new order and a new award made a particularly celebratory and already widely celebrated day, which was supplemented with artillery salute that year. Since then, until the October Revolution 1917, the 26 day of November was the day of the George Knights and was very widely and solemnly celebrated in all corners of Russia, where, as provided for by the statute of the award, “a knight of the great cross” will happen.

"Koi in the troops of our good service is sent"

Over the long history of the Order of St. George, which always remained a purely military reward for differences in hostilities, its statute was adjusted more than once. The biggest change he underwent in 1855 was the refusal to serve this long service award. In Catherine's times and immediately after, the officers who “served as officers in the 25 field service years, could receive the order, and served as officers in the maritime 18 campaigns,” because, as the empress was convinced, “such cases are not always revealed to every faithful son of the fatherland where his jealousy and courage can shine. "

It was after this that the Order of St. George finally became a purely military reward, which he remains to this day. The eleventh paragraph of the statute signed by the Empress cited examples of heroic deeds for which an officer could receive the title of holder of the Order of St. George: “Worthy is written in the mural to us. The officer who encouraged the example of his subordinates and leading them will finally ship the ship, battery, or another place occupied by the enemy; if anyone in the fortified place withstood the siege and did not rise, he defended and attacked with exalted courage, bravely and wisely led, and through that won a victory, or gave ways to acquire it; if anyone introduces himself and takes on the dangerous enterprise that he will succeed in; if someone connects their packs; if someone was first on the attack, or on enemy soil, when people were disembarking from ships. ”

St. George the Victorious. Photo:

A little earlier, the fourth paragraph of the statute determined that only acting officers could apply for the award of the Order of St. George: “Among those who can receive this order are all those who in Our land and naval forces send our service to the Headquarters and Ober-Officers well; and from the Generalitet those who in the army are really serving, against the enemy, excellent courage, or military art, was shown. ”

“Even to this we add annual pensions ...”

As the highest military award, the Order of St. George gave his cavaliers tangible privileges. Since this was the first order in Russia, which had not only one, but four degrees, privileges differed depending on degrees. Thus, in the eighth paragraph of the statute it was said: “... we shall add to senior elders of each class annual pensions, namely: first-class 700 rubles, second class 400 rubles, third class 200 rubles, fourth class 100 rubles ... These every cavalier will receive his pension on death, even if one of them has a special salary. ” Subsequently, this rule was extended to the widows of those awarded: they received a St. George retirement for another year after the death of the awarded spouse.

In addition, the ninth paragraph of the statute stipulated that “each Cavalier of the two first classes has an entrance with the Major General at the Court of Our Soul and in all public places and celebrations; the two last classes, Cavaliers, have an entrance to the above-described places and cases with Colonels. ” And shortly before the First World War, benefits for the Cavaliers of St. George were expanded: in particular, they received the right to preferential travel and annual two-month leave with content.

The Order of St. George, like all other orders of that time, gave the award to the hereditary nobility. This condition was unconditionally fulfilled until the fall of 1917, even after the award remained one of two in 1845, in which the hereditary nobility received the owner of any order, not only the highest degree. But what is interesting: there was an opportunity to take away the award from the awarded person, if there was a reason to do so. What exactly, 17 specifically stipulated the statute clause: “In an unfortunate event, which we do not hope, however, if some of the Cavaliers fall into such errors, which are disgusting for the Officer’s honor, will be in a hurry, or the most timid, We are excluded from the order by the preliminary military court, we are excluded from the order, and we command the signs of the order from him. ”

Order of St. George in facts and figures

The fact how honorable it was in Russia to be a knight of the Order of St. George can be judged by simple facts. Over the entire history, awards of the highest, first degree were awarded to all 25 people, including two Russian emperors, Catherine II and Alexander II, as well as Prussian King William I. 125 people received the second degree of the Order, the third about 650 people, and the fourth is over 10 000 people, the overwhelming majority of whom have become senior holders.

In the entire history of the order he had only four full gentlemen. The first Field Marshal, Grand Prince Mikhail Illarionovich Golenishchev-Kutuzov-Smolensky, was awarded the 1 degree of the Order in 1812 for expelling Napoleon’s army from Russia. The second is Field Marshal Prince Mikhail Bogdanovich Barclay de Tolly, who was awarded the 1 degree of the Order in 1813 for winning the battle of Kulm. The third was Field Marshal, Grand Prince Ivan Fyodorovich Varshavsky, Count Paskevich-Erivansky, who was awarded the highest degree of the Order in 1829 for taking Erzerum and successfully ending the war with the Turks. The last, fourth, was Field Marshal Count Ivan Ivanovich Dibich-Zabalkansky, who received the 1 degree in the same 1829 year and also for the successful end of the Russian-Turkish war.

Field Marshal M.I. Kutuzov, full holder of the Order of St. George. Artist R. M. Volkov

Three more people were awarded the Order of St. George from the third to the first degree: General Field Marshal, Grand Duke Grigory Alexandrovich Potemkin-Tavrichesky (in 1788), Generalissimo Prince Alexander Vasilevich, Count of Suvorov-Rymniki (in 1789) and General of the Savior; Count Leonty Leontyevich Bennigsen (in 1814 year).

It is noteworthy that since 1812, the order of St. George and the priests could have been awarded - but only those who served in the ranks of the active army. They were awarded only one degree of the order - the fourth. In just over a hundred years - from 1812 to 1916 a year - 16 regimental priests were honored with this award. The first in 1813 was Father Vasily (Vasilkovsky), who showed courage a year earlier during the battles of Vitebsk and Maloyaroslavets. In 1829, the father of Job (Kaminsky) received the Order for crossing the Danube; in 1854, Father John (Five Side) received an order for taking part in the assault of the Turkish battery on the Danube. A year later, Father Ioaniky (Savinov), a participant in the defense of Sevastopol, was honored with a posthumous award. In the twentieth century, the regimental priest, Father Stephen Shcherbakovsky, a participant in the Russian-Japanese war of 1904 – 1905, became the first (actually the fifth after Father Vasily) priest-holder of the Order of St. George. One of the first priests to be awarded this award for feats during the First World War was the priest of the linear barrower Prut, the hieromonk of the 70 monastery of Bogulma, year-old Antony (Smirnov): on October 16 of the year 1914 he died heroically with the ship, refusing to leave him for the whole team, because there was not enough space in the boats.

First or only

Lieutenant Colonel Fyodor Ivanovich Fabritian, who was awarded the Order of St. George of the 8 degree, became the first Knight of St. George awarded the award for military feat. 1769 December 3. A month before that, on November 5, his 1600 detachment man managed to repel the offensive and put the seven-thousandth unit of the Turkish army to flight.

The first holder of the Order of St. George 1 degree was 27 July 1770, an outstanding Russian commander Peter Rumyantsev-Zadunaysky, who won two dozen days earlier a brilliant victory in the battle of Larga. On the same day, and for the courage shown in the same battle, the first cavaliers of the Order of St. George of the 2 degree were Lieutenant-General Peter Nemyannikov, Lieutenant-General, Prince Nikolai Repnin and Quartermaster General Fyodor Bour, having been the first military personnel to be marked by war. 2 degree. And the first holder of the Order of St. George 4 degree for the difference 3 February 1770 of the year became Prime Minister of the Kargopol Carabinier Regiment Reinholt von Patkul - “for breaking the 12 January 1770 of the year under the m Kind Polish Rebels”.

Of those who "retired" the award of the Order of St. George 4-th degree on land was Lieutenant-General Ivan Springer, the famous founder of the second Omsk fortress, and at sea - Lieutenant Commander Ivan Durov. Both high award was awarded 25 November 1770 of the year.

The first holder of the Order of St. George for non-Orthodox officers, who appeared on 16 August 1844 (the image of the saint on the medallion in the center of the order was replaced with the image of the Russian coat of arms) was Lieutenant-Colonel Jamav Bey Kaytahsky, who received the award only two days later - August 18.

The first military pilot to be awarded the Order of St. George 4 degree - alas, posthumously - was the staff captain Peter Nesterov, who was awarded the award 25 January 1915 of the year in the world in the first air ram.

Since the Order of St. George of the 1 degree was not awarded even during the First World War, the Order of the 2 degree actually became the highest degree of difference in those years. During the three years of the war, only six people were awarded it: four of them represented the Russian army, and two - the French. Surprisingly, the Frenchman was the first: in September 1914 of the year, General Joseph Jacques Sezer Joffre received the high award for defeating the German forces in the Marne Battle of 5 – 12 in September of 1914. The second was the Adjutant General, General of Artillery, Commander-in-Chief of the Southwestern Front Nikolai Ivanov (October 1 1914), the third - Adjutant General, General of Infantry, Commander-in-Chief of the Armies of the Northwestern Front Nikolai Ruzsky (October 22 1914). The fourth order of St. George 2 degree was awarded to a member of the royal family - Grand Prince, Adjutant General, cavalry general, Supreme Commander Nikolai Nikolayevich Jr. (9 March 1915 of the year), and the fifth - General from Infantry, commander of the Caucasian army Nikolai Yudnichich (March 9). February 15 of the year). The last, sixth, was French General Ferdinand Foch, who was awarded an order in December 1916 for the successful completion of the Verdun operation.

Return of the main military award

In 1807, the insignia of the Order of St. George was established for the lower ranks, which received four degrees in 1856, and from 1913, it officially became St. George's Cross. For the entire existence of this award, it has been rewarded with a little less than two million people!

The Soviet government canceled all the awards of imperial Russia in one fell swoop, although the leaders of the White movement continued to present the Order of St. George even after 1917 (although never raising the highest, 1 degree) but of their own institution. And only after 1991, the Order of St. George returned to the national award system, but not immediately. Only in 2000, Vladimir Putin approved the statute of the Order of St. George, and eight years later it was slightly modified. This had to be done in order to be able to present this award to Russian officers who were members of the operation to force Georgia to peace: until then, the statute assumed rewarding only "for conducting military operations to defend the Fatherland during an external enemy attack, which ended in complete defeat of the enemy." In total, so far in Russia there are ten winners of the revived highest military award. Among them are three cavaliers of the Order of St. George of the 2 degree and seven of those of the Order of the 4 degree.
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  1. yuriy55
    yuriy55 13 December 2015 05: 59
    I have such a reverent attitude to the history of this award that I want to express hope and wish that in the future, it will be awarded to worthy Russians, so that it always remains a symbol of not only faithful service, but also the highest valor ...
    1. velikoros-xnumx
      velikoros-xnumx 13 December 2015 15: 17
      I apologize for wedging into the top of the branch, there is a reason. I APPEAL TO FORUMAN, help to find out the fate of the St. George Cross. Got it from my grandfather, according to him he was found in the field. I tried many times to find out who it belonged to, but there are snags. To buy a reference book on awards worth more than ten thousand for one line is, firstly, expensive, and secondly, there is no guarantee that it will contain the same necessary line, since the numbering of the award is not end-to-end, several episodes were released, belonging to different eras. I suppose, judging by the number, "mine" refers to either the Russian-Japanese or the First World War (considering how many such awards were presented in it, it is more likely even to it). III degree silver 108 702. Many times there were offers to sell, I categorically do not accept the option of selling, I would like to find out its fate and, if there are adequate descendants, return the award. Thanks in advance for any information.
      1. saygon66
        saygon66 14 December 2015 03: 40
        Try searching on ...
    2. The comment was deleted.
  2. Aleksander
    Aleksander 13 December 2015 07: 07
    Great-grandfather, an officer of the Great War, disabled person, was awarded the George Cross 4 degree. Unfortunately, the cross was preserved only in photographs ...
  3. kvs207
    kvs207 13 December 2015 09: 21
    Imperial Military Order of the Holy Great Martyr and Victorious George.

    I did not know that the Order of St. George bore such a magnificent name. I think that about the St. George's Crosses, one could write in more detail.
    1. The comment was deleted.
  4. moskowit
    moskowit 13 December 2015 11: 10
    Good article. Thanks. With the permission of the author, I will add not much from Kuznetsov's book "Encyclopedia of Russian Awards"
    "... Initially, the cross of the 4th degree and as a sign of seniority, it was awarded for combat service in the army for 25 years in officer ranks, and in the navy and for 18 six-month navigation companies. Only since 1816 on it in this case began to place the inscriptions "25 years" or "18 campaigns" (since 1833 the inscription "20 companies" was added - for sailors who did not participate in battles) In 1855, the awarding of Georgy 4th degree for length of service was canceled, he was replaced by Vladimir 4 In total, 10300 insignia of the order were issued for length of service, while over a hundred years, from 1769 to 1869, only 2239 insignia of the 4th degree were awarded for military distinctions (of which 166 were foreigners). .. "

    The author in the article mentioned about the awarding of the Order of military priests, but for them there was also a very interesting award - "Thimble Cross on the St. George's Ribbon" established in 1790. This award was awarded to the priest of the cruiser "Varyag" Mikhail Rudnev.
  5. erg
    erg 13 December 2015 11: 17
    The decree on the status of the order was signed on November 27, 1769. And 26 is considered the day of the establishment of the order, when the empress placed the signs of this order on herself, as indicated in the decree on the status of the order (clause 1 of the status of the order). The correct name of the order is the military order of the Holy Great Martyr and Victorious George (paragraph 2 of the Status of the military order of the Holy Great Martyr and Victorious George). There was no imperial term in the name. Order ribbon - three black stripes and three yellow (status item 7). (complete collection of laws of the Russian Empire, year 1769, law numbered 13387). Orange color began to be used to create other insignia of St. George's colors (for example, buttonholes), probably in order to distinguish it from other details of the uniform, for example, gold embroidery, etc.
    Russian Orthodox tradition requires the image of a saint, at least with a halo. The traditional Russian iconography (do not confuse with the icon-painting tradition) of St. George requires just such an image. In the shield on the eagle’s chest was simply a horseman striking a serpent. Rider, as he was called. Initially considered the image of the prince himself. So to say, an allegorical image in the image of George, but not George himself. In the personal decree of Aleksei Mikhailovich of July 12, 1667, on Monday night, at 3 o’clock the state seal is described, where the eagle is called the coat of arms, and the image of the rider on the chest is the image of the heir (meaning, the deceased heir Alexei Alekseevich was soon dead). (complete collection of laws of the Russian Empire, year 1667, law number 421). If this was an image of St. George, could the Orthodox king, in his decree, equate his heir to the saint? Even under Catherine the Great, in a decree on the coat of arms, the rider is named after the old man - the rider. And only in the time of Peter 1, he was called St. George. Finally, this name was fixed and it became mandatory to place the image of a horseman on the eagle’s chest under Paul 2, when the Manifesto of the State came out. coat of arms. By the way, until the 1th century, only foreigners considered the Russian rider a coat of arms of the Moscow kingdom. And under Ivan the Terrible, the eagle on the seal was depicted without a rider. And on the other side of the seal was an image of a unicorn. That is, the image of the horseman in the era of Ivan the Terrible was almost never used.
  6. Nikita Gromov
    Nikita Gromov 13 December 2015 12: 03
    A silk ribbon flashed in the sun,
    Gray and tears in the holiday ranks
    Five contrasting bands - valor and legend,
    The faithful were strengthened in a righteous battle.

    Valiant George defeating the dragon
    He became a glorious example in Holy Russia.
    The white cross is the chest, and in the circle is the icon
    The soldiers were awarded: "Proudly carry!"
  7. moskowit
    moskowit 13 December 2015 12: 41
    The award was so high and popular that the awarding of the Georgievsk weapon (saber with diamonds), Adjutant General Aleksey Alekseevich Brusilov, regarded it as a diminution of his merits. For his famous "Brusilov Breakthrough", he was expecting a presentation to the Order of St. George, 2nd class. And as noted in some sources, this resentment influenced the political choice of A.A. Brusilov. further.
  8. moskowit
    moskowit 13 December 2015 18: 23
    Citizen minuser, kindly explain yourself. To set the minus you need a well-founded position. This is a very serious step. Well-grounded arguments are needed. I am open. And you?
    1. RUSS
      RUSS 13 December 2015 20: 54
      Quote: moskowit
      Citizen minuser, kindly explain

      Do not demand an explanation from him, he just fucked up.
  9. Litsvin
    Litsvin 13 December 2015 22: 26
    Yes, St. George the "soldier" was very respected among the people. My maternal great-grandfather had 4 and 3 degrees of the St. George's Cross. The ancestor received his first award "for the Japanese". My grandfather did not know the circumstances of my great-grandfather's receipt of the 4th degree St.George Cross during the Russo-Japanese War. The following information was reliably known - it was "in the Japanese war", in 1905 - the year of the demobilization of the ancestor from the tsarist army due to injury, the place was not Port Arthur (most likely in Manchuria, since the ancestor was mobilized after the beginning of the Russo-Japanese War). I could not get information in the archives - either I was looking for it in the wrong place, or there was no information initially. The great-grandfather was "receiving the sovereign's pension" - this is a reliable fact. How much is not known exactly in the royal money. But my grandfather said that his family "for this pension before the German", ie. from 1905 to 1914 ("German" - this is how old people in our area called and call the Great War of 1914) and the money received from the sale of agricultural products was able to acquire about 5 hectares of land (not a lot at that time, but also a lot) ... When, after the Treaty of Riga of 1921, Western Belarus "was temporarily occupied by the Poles", the new Polish government did not deprive (!!!) the FORMER PEASANTS OF THE RUSSIAN EMPIRE OF THE MAIN VALUE AT THAT TIME - the LAND, which they owned legally. You see, the state is different, but the peasants have the land !!! When the "red-bellied" Bolsheviks came in 1939, they did not manage to create collective farms before the war. But in 1946 they took EVERYTHING (!!!) from the peasants - not only the land obtained by blood (in relation to my family - in the Russian-Japanese and German wars), but also all the livestock and all agricultural implements. It was this that killed my great-grandfather - a simple peasant-farmer, disabled after a serious injury in 1915, a veteran of two soldiers.
    The story of the second "George" is known to our family - the great-grandfather was re-mobilized in the fall of 1914, taking into account the combat experience he received a non-commissioned officer rank, fought in the infantry, led the soldiers in a counterattack near Bialystok in 1915 and did not let the Germans break into our trenches and capture battery, in the same shell and was crippled. I received "George" deep in the rear, in an infirmary located in Polotsk (draws attention to the fact that even in those days, in conditions of retreat and confusion, how smoothly the staff vehicle worked - they did not forget about some "one gray overcoat" thousands died and were injured.
    My friend has a different story, also connected with the soldier's "George". His paternal ancestors from Stavropol were from the Cossacks, from those real ones who "were for the faith, the tsar and the fatherland." The family was ordinary, did not emigrate, because they did not think that it would be bad under Soviet rule. But in vain. For his ancestor, according to a denunciation, they "came" in 1935. There were no Cossacks at that time, not even a word was uttered. During the search, the very same 2 "Georgias" were found - that was enough for the arrest and "sewing the case" on charges of anti-Soviet activity. When resisting during his arrest, he was killed. A family of 7 people was sent to the Urals - to the Omsk region for a settlement (they got off "easily").
    The fact that the Order of St. George was revived in Russia is a great event !!! No matter how hard the Bolsheviks tried to erase "history before 1917" and "build a new world," the atheists did not succeed. There are no Bolsheviks, but Russia is, and the Orthodox Church is, and the Cross of St. George is - THERE IS AND WILL BE !!!