Russians in exile in Paris issued WWI medal to keep memories of 1914 heroics alive

The Research Desk column from the march 9, 2015, issues of Coin World
By , Special to Coin World
Published : 02/25/15
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Few Russian medals mark the nation’s entry into World War I. Russia was one of the main participants in the struggle, suffering military and civilian losses greater than any other nation. Its unswerving support for Serbia brought it into the conflict, matched by the support it received from France, making the conflict truly worldwide.

This war brought military defeat and destruction of centuries-old institutions and an entire economic system with the rise of Communism.

Keeping memories alive

Memory of the heroic events of late 1914 was kept alive by Russians in exile, notably the large emigré community that settled around Paris after the Russian Civil War of 1918 to 1921.

One such organization was the Society of Amateurs of the Russian Military Past, which commissioned a series of medals struck by the Paris Mint during the 1960s.

This group released its 1964 Russian War Involvement 50th Anniversary medal, struck in 1967.

Inscribed entirely in Russian, this 49.8-millimeter piece was struck in bronze and silverplate, designed by N.V. Zaretskii and sculptured by Paris Mint engraver Daniel Fleur.

Initially puzzling

At first glance the medal is puzzling, presenting a bearded head facing left with Russian legend “Emperor Nicholas the Second.” The reverse bears a wreath of oak and laurel enclosing an L positioned over “20 July 1914–1964.” This is not the date of the assassination in Sarajevo nor of the declaration of war, but the date of the arrival of French President Raymond Poincaré in Russia, sealing an alliance that brought Russia to the brink of war.

Near the rim appears the incuse Ob-VO REVNIT. RUSSKOI VOEN. STARINBI, for Society of Amateurs of the Russian Military Past. The medals were sold for the benefit of the Union of Russian War Invalids.

The medal bears the edgemark of a cornucopia and BRONZE 1968.

Nine medals issued

The society issued nine medals in all, but as one of its officers told an inquiring American, membership was dwindling, “as more and more members report for duty at Sainte Genevieve,” the great Russian cemetery of Sainte Genevieve des Bois outside Paris.

Russian President Vladimir Putin toured this historic Russian cemetery in Paris during his first state visit to France and endowed a fund for its preservation and maintenance.

Putin also restored the imperial double-headed eagle, crowns and all, and the white-blue-red flag of the Romanovs.

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