Hero of Ukraine

2007 Schools Wikipedia Selection. Related subjects: Military History and War

Hero of Ukraine ( Ukrainian: Герой України, transliteration: Heroy Ukrayiny; Russian: Герой Украины) is the highest state decoration that can be conferred upon an individual citizen by the Government of Ukraine. The title was created in 1998 by President Leonid Kuchma, and currently has two classes of distinction: one for heroism and the other for achievement in labor. Since the technical scientist Borys Paton first received the title in 1998, 170 people have been awarded the title. The decoration of Hero of Ukraine closely resembles awards in neighboring states, such as Russia's Hero of the Russian Federation and Belarus's Hero of Belarus. The nature of these decorations together has been historically and culturally influenced by decorations awarded in the now-defunct Soviet Union (USSR), especially (in this particular case), the prestigious Hero of the Soviet Union.


The origin of the "Hero of Ukraine" award can be traced to the highest decorations established in the USSR, of which Ukraine was a constituent republic: Hero of the Soviet Union, established on 16 April 1934, and the Hero of Socialist Labor, established on 27 December 1938. Most of the recipients of the former title received it for heroic military action (with Soviet cosmonauts being a notable exception), while those awarded the latter were recognized for their contributions to national economy and culture. The awards could be given to the same individual more than once, and only the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet could deprive a recipient of the award once given. After the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, similar awards were created in the resulting independent countries, including Ukraine.

The title Hero of Ukraine was created on 23 August 1998 with Edict #944/98 by President Leonid Kuchma. Similar in structure to the titles issued by the Soviet Union, the title is awarded in two distinctions: "The Order of the Gold Star" and "The Order of the State". Unlike the Soviet awards, Ukrainian law allows a person to receive a title in each distinction only once, although the person may receive both levels in due course. This means that if a holder of the Order of the State performs a heroic action, he or she can be presented with the Order of the Gold Star. Vice versa, if labor achievements of a holder of the Order of the Gold Star are recognized to be of exceptional value to the nation, the recipient can be eligible to receive the Order of the State. Either of the distinctions can be presented posthumously, and a hero cannot have the title voided upon conferment.


Order of the State Order of the Gold Star Miniature Medal

Because of the two distinctions of the title, two different medals have been created by Ukrainian law. They have several common features – for example, both medals use a ribbon 45 mm long and 28 mm wide and divided equally into two bands along its length, with a blue band on the left and a yellow band on the right, matching the colors of the Ukrainian flag. Connected to the ribbon is a suspension device joined to a medallion, both of which are made out of gold. On both medals, the name of each decoration and a serial number are engraved on the reverse side of the medallion.

Below the ribbon of the Order of the Gold Star, the golden suspension device contains an engraving of the trident, a small Coat of Arms of Ukraine. The medallion is shaped like a five-pointed star with the width of 35  mm from one end to the other, and is set within a wreath of oak leaves. Inside the star, there are two smaller stars engraved inside it. In contrast, the medallion for the Order of the State has the trident of Prince Volodymyr of Kiev (St. Vladimir) placed on top of a wreath of oak leaves. The size of the medallion is 35 mm high and 36 mm wide. There is no special design or symbol engraved on the suspension device. In addition to the formal award, recipients of either level are given a wearer's copy for use in public. Only one design of the wearer's copy exists, being modeled after the Hero of the USSR medal with the red ribbon replaced by a blue and yellow ribbon. This medal is made out of non-precious metals and it is worn on the wearer's left-hand side above all other decorations.


Two different regulations have been issued by President Leonid Kuchma: the edict of 1998 and a new edict in 2002. The edict of 2002 voided the edict of 1998, being issued after the law of Ukraine on state awards confirmed the status of the title in 2000.

The 1998 edict contained general guidelines about the title. Some of the subjects mentioned were the criteria for receiving each level of the title, who can present the title, and how the medal should be displayed in public. The decree specified the title as being awarded to "citizens of Ukraine for their personal heroism and great labor achievements." It stipulated that only the president could award the title, though certain other bodies of the Ukrainian Government could recommend people to receive it. The edict also allowed for special benefits, including increased pay, social security, and health care, which heroes could use until their death. The decree also covered the topics of duplicate medals and the display, ownership and storage of the insignia.

The new 2002 regulations differ only slightly from the original ones. The designs of the medals were not changed, the new edict introduced the measurements of the miniature medal, or the "wearer's copy". Article 4 outlines the details on the ownership of the insignia and special procedures for the medals to be displayed in museums.


Ribbon bar
Ribbon bar

The medal that is presented with the title is always worn on the left side of a business or suit jacket and is worn above any other medals and decorations awarded by Ukraine. If a person has been awarded both levels of the title, the Order of the Gold Star medal is placed to the right of the Order of the State medal. A copy of the medal, made out of non-precious metals, can be presented to the hero for daily wear. If wearing the medal is not permitted, a ribbon bar measuring 12 x 18  mm can be worn in its place. Another copy of the decoration, called the miniature badge, is worn above the ribbon bars on the left side of the uniform.


In order for a person to be awarded the title, a recommendation must be made to the President by the Chairman of the Verkhovna Rada ( parliament of Ukraine), the Prime Minister, the Prosecutor General, the Chairman of the Constitutional Court, the Chairman of the Supreme Court, any of the ministers or heads of other central executive bodies, or any regional authorities.

If the title is to be conferred to a member of the Ukrainian military, security services, national and border guards or civil defense services, a recommendation must be filed by the Ministry of Defense, the Ministry of Internal Affairs, the Security Service, the National Guard, the National Border Guards Committee or the Ministry of Emergencies.

The recommendations are then sent to the President for consideration, along with a package composed of the details of the nominee's deeds and the recommendations that have been filed on his or her behalf. If the President agrees with the recommendation, he will issue a decree to award the person the title, which includes receiving a medal, miniature badge and certificate at a ceremony at the Presidential Palace in Kiev.

Notable recipients

Vitali Klitschko, right, with his brother Wladimir
Vitali Klitschko, right, with his brother Wladimir
  • Sofia Rotaru - arguably the best-known popular singer from Ukraine in the former Soviet Union, "for outstanding personal merits in the sphere of art".
  • Yana Klochkova - Yana won gold medals in swimming at the Athens and Sydney Olympic Games. She was awarded the title in recognition of "Klochkova's outstanding services to Ukraine and her efforts to build up the country's reputation in the Olympic arena."
  • Vitali Klitschko - champion boxer: given the level "Order of the Gold Star" in 2004.
  • Valery Lobanovsky, the former coach of the football club FC Dynamo Kyiv (Dinamo Kiev). Lobanovsky died on 13 May 2002 in the hospital after he passed out during a game. Awarded the title for "his years of service to Ukraine for the development of football inside the nation and also improving national prestige".
  • Andriy Shevchenko - 2004 European Footballer of the Year and two time winner of the Serie A scoring title; awarded the "Order of the Gold Star" in 2004.
  • Pavlo Zahrebelnyy - writer, for "self-sacrifice for Ukraine, and for many years of writing and significant personal contributions toward the enrichment of the national spiritual treasury" in 2004.

Controversial awards

There have been allegations that some members of Kuchma's inner circle, mainly Viktor Medvedchuk, may have masterminded inappropriate awards of Ukrainian decorations and titles, including the Hero of Ukraine title. Police, according to the Associated Press, sent summons to Medvedchuk on 15 July 2005, inviting him for questioning about these awards. Kuchma and Medvedchuk were also questioned on Aleksandr Bartenev's Hero of Ukraine title. Bartenev, known also as "Major", an alleged gangster, is currently facing legal charges in Ukraine.

Due to these problems, President Yushchenko has agreed to stop awarding state decorations starting in June 2005 until further notice. This move was announced by Ivan Vasiunyk, the First Deputy Secretary of State, and backed by the Ukraine's Commission for Decorations and Heraldry. According to Vasiunyk, forty one people were awarded the title of Hero of Ukraine in 2004, with some of the awardings being presented during the election period. Vasiunyk also said that "I don't think you know a third of these names", referring to those who were presented with the hero title in that year. The Commission also agreed not to strip anyone of their decorations, unless Ukrainian law would permit them to do so. Even so, two posthumous titles were awarded in July of 2005 to Oles' (Oleksandr) Honchar and Vadym Hetman.

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