Just after announcing that Ukraine would follow Russia’s lead on developing close ties to China, Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich has continued a former Soviet trademark, the title of “Mother Hero.” The title (Мать-героиня) was a fixture of Soviet life, an honour bestowed on all mothers bearing and raising 10 or more children.
The practice began in 1944 in the midst of the Great Patriotic War and was accompanied by the bestowal of the Mother Hero Order and a certificate conferred by the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR. It was awarded upon the first birthday of the last child, provided that nine other children (natural or adopted) remained alive. The award was revived in 2005 by former president Yushchenko.
Children who had perished under heroic, military or other circumstances, including diseases were also counted. The award was created simultaneously with the Order of Maternal Glory (Орден “Материнская слава) and the Maternity Medal (Медаль материнства), given to women with five to nine children.
Mother Heroes were entitled to wear a badge, which was a gold star with silver straight rays between the arms; and were also entitled to a number of privileges for retirement pension, the payment of public utility charges, and the supply of food and other goods.
Just in case you’re wondering, there was one man during the Soviet period who received the award, Veniamin Petrovich Makarov (Вениамин Петрович Макаров) from the city of Orenburg. Makarov raised 12 adopted boys by himself.
Yanukovich wasted no time in this week naming a whopping 3189 Ukrainian mothers to be “Hero Mothers” of Ukraine. In contrast, the more well-known “Hero of Ukraine” award has been given to 265 persons as of this past 25 August.