Hero of the Soviet Union was the highest honorary title in the USSR, established by the order of Central Executive Committee on 16 April 1934. It was awarded for personal or collective heroic feats. Initially, people receiving this title were presented a deed of Presidium of Supreme Soviet of the USSR. According to the statute of the title, created on 29 July 1936, those awarded this honorary title also received the Order of Lenin - the highest reward of the Soviet Union. Finally, as an additional distinction, a new medal "Gold Star" for people receiving this honorary title was established on 1 August 1939.

A Hero of the Soviet Union accomplishing a heroic feat for the second time received a second Gold Star medal (no Order of Lenin). A bronze bust of the hero is set up in his homeland. A bronze bust of a thrice Hero of the Soviet Union is set up in Moscow.

Some statistics

  • people who received the honorary title Hero of the Soviet Union - 12772 (according to other sources, 12745), including those who
    • received it twice - 154
    • received it thrice - 3
    • received it four times - 2
  • women who received the title - 91
  • people who received the title during the Great Patriotic War (1941-1945) - 11041 (104 twice)
  • Heroes of the Soviet Union alive as of 1 March 2002 - 1294 (39 twice)

The Hero of the Soviet Union honorary title was superceeded by the Hero of the Russian Federation title.

Five people received the title of Hero of the Soviet Union thrice or more. Two of them, Pokryshkin and Kozhedub were ace fighter pilots. One, Zhukov, was the famous commander of the WWII. Budenny and Brezhnev received their titles mostly as birthday presents.

Aleksandr Ivanovich Pokryshkin

Aleksandr Pokryshkin (6 March 1913 - 13 November 1985) - a fighter pilot, the only man who during the Great Patriotic War became Hero of the Soviet Union thrice. He was also the first pilot during the Second World War to bring down 50 enemy planes. In August 1944 Franklin Roosevelt called Pokryshkin the best ace of the WWII. Pokryshkin developed and introduced in Russian Air Forces a new revolutionary tactic of air combat. On 24 May 1943 Aleksandr Pokryshkin was awarded the Hero of the Soviet Union title . After two months he received the Legion of Merit with Combat and Gold Star (correct name?) from the United States. On 24 August 1943 he was awarded the Hero of the Soviet Union title for a second time. On 19 August 1944 he again received this honorary title.

During the war Pokryshkin made more than 650 sorties, the last one on 9 May 1945 over Prague. He brought down 75 enemy planes (unofficial estimate). No supporting aicraft was ever shot down fighting alongside Pokryshkin. More than 90 of Pokryshkin's followers became Heroes of the Soviet Union.

Ivan Nikitovich Kozhedub

Ivan Kozhedub (8 June 1920 - 8 August 1991) - a fighter pilot, he became Hero of the Soviet Union and received two Gold Star medals during the war, when he made 330 sorties and brought down 62 enemy planes (excluding two American P-51 planes that he shot down in spring 1945, when they attacked him first). In February 1945 he shot down a German Me-262 jet fighter. Kozhedub's last air fight happened in May 1945 over Berlin, when he shot down two FW-190 planes. During the war Kozhedub was never shot down and is rightly considered one of the best aces of Allied air forces. On 18 August 1945 Ivan Kozhedub was awarded the Hero of the Soviet Union title for the third time.

During the Korean war Kozhedub was in command of the 324th fighter division. The pilots of the division brought down 239 enemy planes.

Georgy Konstantinovich Zhukov

Georgy Zhukov (19 November (1 December) 1896 - 18 June 1974) - a famous Russian military leader. He started his military career in 1915 during the First World War as a junior corporal in cavalry. In October 1918 he joined the Soviet Army and fought in the Civil War as a commander of cavalry squadron. After the war he gradually made his way through the ranks and in 1939 he commanded the special corps that successfully defeated the Japanese invaders on the Khalkin Gol river. The attack by Zhukov became the first major armored offensive of the modern age. After their defeat Japan signed a truce with the USSR on September 1939 and turned towards the east and America. Also, the 45 Siberian divisions were later used for the counterattack against Hitler, and so, the nearly forgotten battle of Khalkin Gol might have decided the outcome of the WWII. On 29 August 1939 Zhukov was awarded the title of Hero of the Soviet Union.

During the Great Patriotic War Zhukov, the deputy Supreme Commander-in-Chief since August 1942, co-ordinated some of the largest military operations, including breaking the Leningrad blocade, Stalingrad operation and Kursk battle. He received his second Gold Star on 29 July 1944. In the end of the war he commanded the Soviet forces that captured Berlin. On 8 May 1945 Zhukov accepted the capitulation of Fascist Germany. On 1 June 1945 he received his third Gold Star.

On 1 December 1956 for suppression of the rebellion in Hungary Zhukov was awarded the title of Hero of the Soviet Union for the fourth time (formally it was done for his 60-year jubilee).

Semen Mikhailovich Budenny

Semen Budenny (13 (25) April 1883 - 17 October 1973) - a famous Russian commander, hero of the civil war. He was awarded the title of Hero of the Soviet Union in 1958, 1963 and 1968 for his past achievements (and for his 75-year, 80-year and 85-year jubilees).

Leonid Iliich Brezhnev

Leonid Brezhnev (1906 - 1982) - a political figure in the Communist Party and the USSR. Received the Hero of the Soviet Union title four times in 1966, 1976, 1978 and 1981 (for his 60-year, 70-year, 72-year and 75-year jubilees).

Useful links:
http://mondvor.narod.ru/HUssr.html - orders and medals of USSR
http://mondvor.narod.ru/HUssrA.jpg - photo of the Gold Star medal

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