Soviet Award Dusted Off, Media Freedoms Take A Dive
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#1 May 2, 2013
In spite of his repeated assertions that his country is not regressing, Russian President Vladimir Putin appeared on May Day to present five recipients with the Hero of Labor award, Reuters reports. The medal is a clear throwback to the Stalin-era Hero of Socialist Labor award that was given out on International Workers’ Day by Soviet leaders beginning in 1938.
More than 20,000 people received the medal, a gold star hanging from a red ribbon. They included composer Dmitry Shostakovich, AK-47 inventor Mikhail Kalashnikov, and nuclear physicist Andrei Sakharov.
Putin pinned the new medals, which feature the Russian two-headed eagle rather than the Soviet hammer and sickle, in St. Petersburg. The new awardees included brain surgeon Alexander Konovalov and Marinsky Theater director and London Symphony Orchestra conductor Valery Gergiev, along with a coal miner, a lathe operator, and an agronomist.
“The Hero of Labor title is ... a step toward resuming the continuity of traditions, tighter ties between eras and generations,” Putin told the crowd at the May Day celebrations, according to Reuters.
Polls have shown Russians favor the medal’s revival and Putin hopes to boost his popularity by evoking nostalgia and praising the working class, the Telegraph reports. Putin’s critics, however, see the medal as another step toward the kind of leadership Stalin was known for.
Putin rejected that notion during his annual, nationwide call-in show, saying,“Stalinism is connected to the cult of personality, massive legal abuses, repressions, and camps. There are no such things in Russia, and I hope they will never happen again,” the Telegraph reports.
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