Skip to main content
President Vladimir Putin presents billionaire businessman Arkady Rotenberg with the title of Hero of Labor of Russia on March 18, 2020.
news

2,755 awards in 500 days Journalists break down Russia’s award system, revealing that only 5 percent of recent state honors were awarded for heroism, courage, and actual achievements

Source: Open Media
President Vladimir Putin presents billionaire businessman Arkady Rotenberg with the title of Hero of Labor of Russia on March 18, 2020.
President Vladimir Putin presents billionaire businessman Arkady Rotenberg with the title of Hero of Labor of Russia on March 18, 2020.
Mikhail Mettsel / TASS / Vida Press

In the last 500 days, Russian President Vladimir Putin has handed out 2,755 state awards. In part two of its investigation into Russia’s awards system, the website Open Media breaks down what these awards are actually for and who they went to, in numbers. Here are the key takeaways. 

It all adds up to 2,755 

Open Media tallied the number of state awards handed out in the past 500 days by studying presidential decrees published on the government website pravo.gov.ru. Most of the 2,755 titles, honors, and medals went to businessmen (1,019), civil servants and the staff of subordinate organizations (454), cultural figures (216), personnel from public organizations (198), and educators (180). 

Only around 5 percent of the awards were for heroism, feats, and courage

The title “Hero of Russia,” the Order of Courage, and medals “For Courage in the Fire,” “For Life Saving,” and other comparable awards went to 144 people — 39 honors were awarded posthumously. Among the recipients were crew members from the “Losharik” nuclear submarine station, who were killed during a fire on the vessel in the Barents Sea; medical workers who treated the victims of a nuclear explosion in the Arkhangelsk region; and a court bailiff who apprehended a shooter after he opened fire in a courtroom in Novokuznetsk. 

Leaders in their fields also have the highest numbers of orders and medals

Top managers received around 60 percent of the awards, and oftentimes not for concrete achievements, but rather for abstract services to labor. This tendency is particularly noticeable in the case of the oil giant “Rosneft.” In the last 500 days, Putin has awarded the energy company’s employees 62 awards, 51 of which went to top managers. That said, the opposite is true in the case of billionaire Arkday Rotenberg’s companies. The president awarded 84 awards to employees of Rotenberg’s enterprises, but only 32 of them went to people in leadership positions. According to experts, the fact that the companies themselves nominate candidates for these awards could explain the difference. 

Russia’s richest oligarch made the list

Russia’s top billionaire, the CEO of the firm Norilsk Nickel, Vladimir Potanin, received the Order for Merit to the Fatherland II Class, “for great services to the state and many years of dedicated work.” A number of awards also went to the sons of other members of the Forbes billionaires list, including, Boris Kovalchuk (Order of Alexander Nevsky), Andrey Zubitsky (Order of Honor), and Felix Evtushenkov (Order of Friendship). 

In sports, the most awards went to Putin’s judo club

Employees and trustees of St. Petersburg’s “Turbostroitel” Judo Club — including foreign citizens — were awarded a total of 10 orders and medals. Both Putin and Arkady Rotenberg trained there. For comparison, the “Kamaz Master” motorsport team received just seven orders and medals in 2019, for winning the 2018 Dakar Rally.

Summary by Olga Korelina

Translation by Eilish Hart