President Vladimir Putin on Friday revived the Soviet-era Hero of Labor award, once again turning to the symbols of the Soviet Union to reach Russians who look back to those times with nostalgia.
Putin, a 60-year-old former KGB officer, also has turned to Soviet practices to address the problems of Russia today. In his decree, the president said he was establishing the title Hero of Labor of the Russian Federation "with the goals of raising the social significance and prestige of selfless and honest labor."
The new Hero of Labor medal is now Russia's highest state award and as such is to be worn on the left side of the chest and above all other Russian and Soviet awards. The medal is to be made from gold with a weight of 15.25 grams (more than half an ounce).
The award should be given to Russian citizens who "make a significant contribution to the social and economic development of the country, including development of industrial and agricultural production, transport, construction, science, culture, education and health care, and also other spheres of activity," the decree states.
The systemic corruption in Russia — from kickbacks paid to Kremlin-loyal businesses to bribes demanded by doctors and teachers — has undermined people's faith in government and hindered economic growth. While the opposition pins the blame squarely on Putin, he has made a concerted effort in recent months to show that he is addressing the problem.
In announcing his intention to revive the Hero of Labor award, Putin said that it had "proved to be useful" in the past.
Earlier this month, Putin called for the revival of a Soviet-era physical evaluation program that required all schoolchildren to pass fitness tests. He lamented that children today are in much worse shape than a few decades ago and said the restoration of GTO, the Russian acronym for Ready for Labor and Defense, would teach them "to stand up for themselves, their family and, in the final run, the fatherland."
On Friday, he called for children once again to wear uniforms to school as they did in Soviet times.
Shortly after he first became president in 2000, Putin brought back the Soviet anthem and reinstated the Soviet-era red banner and red star for the military. The return of the familiar symbols was part of Putin's effort to revive Russia's image as a great power and restore national pride, and was welcomed by many Russians.