The Order of St George – the first and only order of the Russian Empire awarded exclusively for military merit – was established by Catherine the Great on 26 November (9 December) 1769. The Order had four classes and was awarded to officers of the army and navy for services in the military field and valour in combat.
Until 1833, the 4th class could be awarded for long service, but later only for extraordinary courage on the battlefield. As a rule, it was necessary to have already been awarded the 4th class of the Order before receiving higher awards, but this rule was not always adhered to. The 1st class was awarded only 25 times. The prestige of the Order was extremely high – as even the Russian tsars were often awarded only the 4th class of the Order.
In 1807, Emperor Alexander I introduced the Cross of Saint George – “soldiers’ St George”, as a reward for lower military ranks for “undaunted courage”, which in 1856 was divided into four classes.
To celebrate the anniversary of the Order many museums organised special exhibitions and conferences.
The first badge of the Order of St George. Catherine the Great declared herself the Head of the new Order by assigning herself with the first class insignia. Is the rider on the horse actually a lady? Moscow Kremlin Museums
The Tallinn Museum of Orders of Knighthood
The Tallinn Museum of Orders of Knighthhood has on display a badge of the Russian Imperial Order of St George belonging to Austrian Field Marshal Hennequin Count of Fresner and Curel.
The Moscow Kremlin Museums
The Moscow Kremlin held an International Scientific Conference dedicated to the 250th anniversary of the establishment of the Order of St George on November 13-14, which was attended by specialists from Russia, the UK, Sweden, Finland and Estonia.
In addition to the conference, the Moscow Kremlin Museums organised an exhibition in the Armoury Chamber and published a wonderful book Statute of the Order of St George by Lyudmila Gavrilova.
The State Historical Museum
On 6 December 2019, the State Historical Museum of Moscow hosted the grand opening of the exhibition For Service and Courage
. Among the exhibits are military orders of Europe, which served as prototypes for the highest military award, regimental badges, banners, order weapons and accessories. (Photo courtesy Sammlung Collection
The exhibition will be open until 16 March 2020.
Another wonderful exhibition dedicated to the 250th anniversary of the Order of St. George opened on December 4 in the Hermitage. The exhibits are not limited to order insignia, statutes and documents, but include weapons, portraits of the knights of the Order, photographs, drawings and posters, order tableware and various souvenirs and accessories associated with the Order.
All 405 objects from the exhibition are wonderfully presented in the impeccably executed catalogue of the exhibition (345 pages). In addition to a detailed scientific description of all objects, the catalogue prepared by the Hermitage team (Vilinbakhov, Dobrovolskaya, Lukyanchikova, Vedensky, Yalovko) provides an opportunity to study the slightest details of even the smallest badges and objects and has certainly already become a reference book for all collectors and researchers of the Order of St George.
The exhibition will be open until 3 March 2020.
On 18 August 2019, the Tsaritsino Museum in Moscow opened their exhibition of one painting delivered from the Grand Master’s Palace in Valletta. The fully restored portrait of Empress Catherine II of Russia (1729-1796), painted by Dimitri Grigorievic Levitzky (1735-1822) can be seen until 12 January 2020, when it will be returning to Malta.
We suggest to all interested in phaleristics to take this unique opportunity to travel to Russia and visit these museums before the exhibitions are closed and the books are sold out.