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Service decorations

Special distinctive tokens in the form of crosses were instituted for individual campaigns or battles. One such token of honour was, for example, the cross "For the Defence of Port-Arthur" in the Russo-Japanese War of 1904-1905. The Russian government was long reluctant to establish this distinction, although the statute of this badge of honour was drafted, and even several prototype crosses made, shortly after the war. It was only in 1914 that the surviving heroes of the defence of Port-Arthur received the crosses, which, incidentally, differed somewhat in appearance from the initial prototypes.

The cross "For Service in the Caucasus" witnessed the efforts of Russian tsarism to conquer and subjugate the peoples of the Caucasus. The Caucasian wars brought about the emergence of still another group of distinctions - those instituted by Imam Shamil, the leader of the liberation movement of the highland peoples of Daghestan and Chechnya. Before 1841, those in his army who distinguished themselves in battle were given weapons, war horses, various things and money by way of awards. There was also a special distinction, a rectangular piece of green cloth, which those who displayed outstanding bravery were entitled to sew on to their turbans, just as there were special signs of disgrace, which were fixed to a coward's right arm or to his back and removed after he rehabilitated himself in a new battle. In 1841, Shamil introduced new special silver tokens of distinction, which were to be worn by the bearer on his tunic front.

The History Museum has a number of such decorations. Executed by local silversmiths, they are of great artistic as well as historical value. The inscriptions made on them describe the exploits performed by the bearer of the badge, providing his vivid characterisation. One of these badges, which was given by Shamil to Naib Khadzhi Muhammad and which is now part of the Museum's collection, bears the following inscription: "This is the greatest of Khadzhi Muhammad's many distinctions. He is a true hero: his onslaught in war is unmatched, and he daringly charges ahead in battle". The inscription on another badge, also skilfully nielloed on silver, reads: "This is a distinction to mark the great valour of the lion-hearted Idris Efendi". The famous Khadzhi Murat, the hero of Lev Tolstoy's story of the same name, also wore a distinction given him by Shamil.

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