Were there in the USSR monasteries decorated with Soviet decorations, particularly, the Order of the Red Banner?

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    Why do you think there could be such a thing? Commented Jan 22, 2014 at 18:54
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    @Felix Goldberg absolutely no idea. But I heard from somebody that he was in an "Order of the Red Banner XXX monastery". I have no idea whether it was serious or a joke. On the other hand, why not given that people were working in the monasteries and also they possibly contributed during WWII.
    – Anixx
    Commented Jan 22, 2014 at 19:24
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    @Almost certainly a joke. Here is an example of jocular usage: wwwbloggercomerizo1947.blogspot.co.il/2012/08/… Commented Jan 25, 2014 at 12:44

2 Answers 2



No religious institution has ever been decorated by the Soviet government. I do not have a definitive proof (that would require searching through all the decoration records, which, given the fantastic generosity in decorations - tens of millions decorations awarded - is beyond my capabilities), but I am quite confident that this has never happened, even though I can understand the doubts someone who never lived in the USSR might have.

When thinking about USSR and its ideology, one has to remember the motto "We do not penny-pinch on ideology" - "На идеологии мы не экономим". Ideological concepts were taken quite seriously - only the need for the atomic bomb saved quantum mechanics, and, despite chronic food shortages, genetics was still condemned.

Until 1943, all religious institutions and their "officers" were treated as enemies and persecuted at any opportunity.

The official phraseology underwent a major shift from "internationalism" to "patriotism" during the WW2, including letting the church elect a patriarch and accepting donations from it, as well as decorating some individual priests.

However, the idea of decorating a church institution still is preposterous.

The reason is that the Soviet ideology invested organizations and institutions with a certain degree of sanctity (this is actually the reason why Kamenev/Zinoviev/Buharin &c were not exonerated in 1950-ies together with lesser victims - because they were condemned not just by the courts, which could err, but also by the party - which is infallible).

Similarly, decorating an individual priest says "even though he is confused and brainwashed by a retrograde ideology, he did the right thing and we recognize that".

However, decorating a church institution legitimizes it ideologically, so it was completely unacceptable to the Soviet officialdom.

Therefore, even if a monastery did something good in the eyes of the Soviet government, they would never decorate it, they would decorate the individuals responsible (e.g., monks). An example is the decoration of Alexy I with the Order of the Red Banner of Labour for his participation in the attack on the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church in 1946 - the person was decorated, not the institution he lead.


I think what you heard ("Order of the Red Banner XXX monastery" - "краснознамённый XXX монастырь"/"ордена красного знамени XXX монастырь") was a joke.

This was actually a very common theme in the Soviet folklore, playing on the officialdom's frequent abuse the "organization decorations", e.g., "Ленинградский ордена Ленина метрополитен имени В. И. Ленина" (Leningrad's of order of Lenin subway named after Lenin).

It was used to imply that the entity in question was important and well known (as well as "recognized by the government as legitimate"). E.g., one could say "московская трижды краснознамённая хоральная синагога" ("moscow choral synagogue thrice decorated by the red banner order") to emphasize its official standing with the soviet bureaucracy, as opposed to a group of Jews (secretly) praying together in a random basement.

Another common joke was referring to arbitrary cities as hero-city (e.g., "город-герой Нью-Йорк" - "hero-city New York"). In fact, the search for the term on the popular Russian joke site reveals the following "hero cities":

  • Not "краснознаменный монастырь", but "Ордена Красного Знамени ххх монастырь"
    – Anixx
    Commented Jan 22, 2014 at 20:20
  • Well this does not sound that jokingly given that the patriarch Alexis I was decorated with the Red Banner Order in 1946.
    – Anixx
    Commented Jan 22, 2014 at 20:25
  • Note that any monastery was also a fort and a workshop so they could theoretically contribute during WWII, especially given that the monasteries have an extensive history of supporting the Russian military during the wars. One can speculate that a monastery could successfully defend against a siege or they could contribute in another fashion (providing industrial production, food or curing the wounded).
    – Anixx
    Commented Jan 22, 2014 at 20:28
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    @Alex: that's exactly what I said: "impossible". Please read the answer again.
    – sds
    Commented Feb 20, 2014 at 6:43
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    @Anixx: that's the church's own order, not wonder it is decorating its in own institutions with it.
    – sds
    Commented Mar 4, 2014 at 0:47

No, they were not. Church was an "opium for the folk" so church institutions could not deserve to be decorated with respected symbols of communism. This Marx phrase was the official view.

Soviet regime was strong enough on its own. There was no need for it to accept any help from religious institutions, even if offered. And the official negative position was firm enough so that voluntary decoration with such symbols was unlikely to be helpful.

  • Any source?....
    – Anixx
    Commented Oct 27, 2014 at 9:59
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    "opium of the people" is said by Marx. Nobody decorates drugs with national symbols, does not make any sense. Putting American flag on the illegal drug can will not soften the hearth of the American policeman.
    – h22
    Commented Oct 27, 2014 at 10:12
  • Religion was legal.
    – Anixx
    Commented Oct 27, 2014 at 10:18
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    Many things are legal, but are not honored by the state.
    – MCW
    Commented Oct 27, 2014 at 11:57

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