Tsarist Russia had developed an elaborate svstem of military decorations. The best known was the St George Cross (also known as the 'Badge of the Military Order' - Znak Vomnogo Ordenti). This was worn on a ribbon in orange and black, colours that are believed to have represented fire and death. The awarding of this and other military decorations in a war
in which Russian killed Russian was seen bv main White generals as the ultimate sacrilege.
hi east Russia, however, the pragmatic Admiral Kolchak continued to award the St George, St Vladimir, St Anne. St Stanislas and other orders. The serial numbers 011 these awards were, however, restarted at 1. I11 the north-west, generals Miller and Vudenich followed Kolchak's lead, and issued all awards except the Si George Cross — the sacred decoration which was never intended to be given lor extinguishing the lives of fellow Russians.
In the south, Denikin and Wrangel refrained from awarding the old state decorations. Instead tliev issued special campaign medals to the participants of hard-fought actions. The most famous of these was the Badge (Znak) for the lsi Kuban March, more popularly known as the ice March' medal, which depicted a sword on a crown of thorns. It was awarded to participants of the Volunteer Army's epic winter campaign of 1917/18. Other Volunteer Armv decorations included the Medal for the Drozdovtsi, and the 'Cross for the March with General Bredov'. Heaw losses meant that few were issued - and though technically mere campaign medals, they were worn with as much pride as gallantry awards.
Denikin was notorious for preferring promotion to decorations. Bv the time Wrangel took over from him, there were so many voung colonels and generals that Wrangel saw the need for a new decoration -the Order of St Nic holas the Miracle-Maker. Wrangel also conferred this
011 entire units, breaking with long Imperial Armv tradition in which unit awards normally took the form of banners, silver trumpets and kettledrums.
In north-west Russia the most prominent of the new gallantry awards was the 'Cross of the Brave', issued bv Bulak-Balakhovich to members of his corps. In north Russia, General Miller introduced the medal In Commemoration of the Liberation of the North Region from the Bolsheviks' on 18 June 1919.
Many more decorations were established in east Russia: the Ural Cossacks awarded the 'Cross of Archangel Michael' for heroism; the 'Order for the Liberation of Siberia' was issued by the short-lived Directoria government whic h kolchak deposed; and Kolchak himself approved the 'Order for the Great Siberian March', for all White troops who had taken part in the retreat from the Volga to Lake Baikal.
Most White volunteer units also had their own unit badges, as a means of stressing their elite status. Main of these were miniature works of art, rivalling the intricate enamelled designs of Faberge. Especially noteworthy are the badges of the 'Colourful' regiments in south Russia, of Bermont-Avalov's Western Volunteers, and the Cross of the Baltic Landwehr in the north-west. A number of commemorative regimental badges were issued by the Whites after their evacuation abroad - the Northern Armv to Finland, the Siberian Armv to (ihina, and the AFSR to Turkey. Mam of these can now be seen in the Museum of the Lifeguard Cossack Regiment, in Paris.
Unusual group photo of foreign troops in Vladivostok, 1920. From the front row backwards: Czechoslovak Legion, US Marines, Japanese sailors and British sailors. The Czechs wear Russian uniforms but are distinguishable by the lack of shoulder-boards (which remained in constant use in the Russian Far East) and the white-over-red Czech ribbon in their caps. The officer at left also has a Czech shield badge on his right arm. The photo is part of a large collection of Czech Legion material in the Prague archives.
Was this article helpful?