"For the Service and Valour"
The image of St George the Vanquisher played a special role in the Russian heraldry. The late 15th century was marked with appearance of the first seal of Prince Ivan III that can be rightfully called the first Russian State seal. The obverse bore the image of a horseman slaying the dragon - the symbol of the tsar -, on the reverse there was the image of the double-headed eagle. Peter the Great in his note of 1710 for the first time referred to this horseman as St George and since that time the rider on the Russian coat of arms is known as St George the Great Martyr and Vanquisher. At the same time St George's image became the coat of arms of Moscow. On 26 November 1769 Catherine the Great signed the statute of the Military Order of St George the Great Martyr and the Vanquisher. The official ceremony was held in the Winter Palace to start the tradition of the most magnificent court festivals. The Divine liturgy was recited in the palace church where the badges of the order - the cross, the star and the ribbon - were consecrated. The artillery salute not only announced the emergence of the new Russian order but also the fact that Catherine decorated herself with its insignia.
The Order of St George of the First Class has been awarded only 25 times since 1769. As long as Catherine the Great was the first bearer of this decoration she became automatically the head of the order. Among the other bearers of it in the 18th century were such famous generals as Count Piotr Rumiantsev-Zadunaisky, Count Alexei Orlov- Chesmensky, Prince Grigory Potemkin, Prince Alexander Suvorov-Rymniksky, Prince Mikhail Golenishchev-Kutuzov, Prince Mikhail Barclay de Tolly. The Order of St George of the Second Class was awarded 125 times. of the Third Class and the Fourth Class - 645 times. The bearers of all the four classes of the order during its 150-years of existence were Field Marshals Mikhail Golenishchev-Kutuzov, Mikhail Barclay de Tolly, Ivan Paskevich and Ivan Dibich.
As a rule the order was awarded to individuals. In 1904 however for the valour displayed by the officers of the cruiser "Variag" and of the gunboat "Koreyets" in the sea battle with Japanese ships all of them were decorated with the Order of St George of the Fourth - First Class. The church of St John the Baptist in St Petersburg was the order's church. Since the reign of Catherine the Great all official ceremonies of the order were held in the Winter Palace. The meetings of the Order of St George Duma were called in the St George Hall. Official receptions devoted to the order were held annually on 26 November with the bearers of the order being invited to them. The porcelain dinner service devoted to the Order of St George commissioned by Catherine the Great to the Gardner Porcelain Factory in 1777-78 was served during the dinners of the order. The last official reception was given to the bearers of the order on 26 November 1916.
Worth of particular attention are the awards connected with the Order
of St George. The golden crosses on St George ribbon were introduced in
the late 18th and early 19th centuries. In 1807 a special decoration -
a silver cross on the St George ribbon - was established for the low ranks
in the army known as The Badge of the Military Order. Since 1854
this decoration also had four classes.
There were also collective decorations for the military units known as St George Distinctions which included banners, standards, flags, trumpets, buttonholes on the collars of the uniform of low ranks.
In 1917 the image of St George disappeared from the coat of arms of Russia.
The Order itself and all accompanying decorations were abolished after
the October revolution. Now we witness the restoration of St George's
image in Russian life. It was returned to the original place in the coat
of arms of Moscow. The coat of arms of Russia with a double-headed eagle
and an escutcheon on it decorated with an image of a rider slaying the
dragon in the centre of the blazon was enacted by the decree of the President
of 30 November 1993. The decree of the President of the Russian Federation
of 8 August, 2000 established the statute of the Order of St George, the
statute of the badge the "St George Cross" and their description.