Dobrolet (Russian Association of Volunteer Aerial Fleet)
award badge, #7573, 1923-1926.
In silver, 14 K gold (airplane, lettering) and enamels.
Measures 37.9 mm between the outer edges of the golden
"CCCP" and "DOBROLYOT", 37.0 mm between the diametrically
opposite points of the cogwheel and wreath. The badge weighs
12.4 g without screw nut; the screw nut weighs 1.5 g. The
badge is of intricate multi-piece construction: the word
"DOBROLYOT" is a separate part made in solid gold
superimposed on the enameled airplane which is also in solid
gold. The airplane is attached to the silver hammer and
sickle emblem, which is in turn superimposed on the oval
base depicting a cogwheel and wreath of wheat sheaves. The
letters "CCCP" is yet another gold part attached directly to
the oval base and thus creating a bridge between the upper
points of the cogwheel and wreath.
The reverse of the wreath has silver hallmark 84 with a girl
wearing the traditional Kokoshnik headdress and Greek
character alpha, the emblem of Petrograd (Leningrad) assay
inspection. There is also a smaller assay inspection
hallmark with Kokoshnik. The style of the hallmarks
indicates that the badge was manufactured no later than in
1926: during that year, the old Imperial Russian
"Kokoshniks" were replaced with the new Soviet hallmarks
featuring a profile of a male worker in a soft cap. The
reverse also shows engraved serial number 7573.
The badge is in very fine to excellent condition, very
impressive for any surviving Soviet award from the first
half of 1920s decade. The enamel is preserved quite well
overall, free of repairs or penetrating chips. There is
extensive wear, light surface flaking and rubbing to enamel,
especially on the fuselage of the airplane. There are areas
on the wings however where the enamel is completely intact
and shows nice luster. The enamel appears to be completely
stable, free of hairline cracks. The raised details of the
silver and gold parts of the badge are nicely preserved and
crisp, free of significant wear. One of the wires connecting
the wing of the airplane to the base is missing (the right
wing when viewed from the obverse), but the others are
intact. All the parts including the airplane are firmly
attached. There is attractive patina to silver which partly
covers the adjacent gold portions of the badge; nevertheless
the gold stands out nicely in contrast to the silver parts.
The screw post measures over 10 mm long. The screw nut
showing a Kokoshnik hallmark is original to the badge and
fits the screw perfectly.
This particular specimen is literally a textbook
example: it is prominently featured (front and back) in
the Russian language book "Badges of Volunteer Societies of
the USSR" by Zak et al published in 2007 in Ekaterinburg.
Note that the book shows the badge with a roughly horizontal
orientation of the airplane and inscription "Dobrolyot."
This is generally accepted as standard for the badge among
collectors in Russia. We believe however that at least the
original intent of the designer of the badge, the famous
Soviet Constructivist artist Rodchenko, was to show the
airplane soaring almost vertically, with the gold "CCCP"
crowning the badge. This position would make much more sense
because it would portray the hammer & sickle emblem in a
traditional, "politically correct" way. The position of the
screw post gives much more credence to our theory: otherwise
the screw post would be skewed to the side making the badge
difficult to firmly affix to clothes.
Note that all or most of the published sources state that
this badge is made in silver alone, an error probably based
on the fact that there are silver hallmarks. We are
confident however that the airplane and the two words are
indeed in solid 14 K gold, not in silver.
The DOBROLET or Russian Association of Volunteer Aerial
Fleet was created in 1923 on Lenin's orders. Intended to
finance the fledgling Soviet civil aviation, it was
initially a private fund - clearly a product of the NEP era.
The aviators, executives and shareholders were issued badges
depending on their level of involvement in the association.
As the private business practices in the USSR came to an
end, so did the DOBROLET: in 1930, it merged with its two
sister organizations and came under centralized control as
the All-Union Society of the Civil Air Fleet. By 1932, it
had morphed into the familiar state AEROFLOT agency.
The badge we are offering here was the highest award of the
organization. Reportedly, some 5000 were awarded in total,
although serial numbers obviously may go well above 7500
(like in so many other cases with the Soviet award system,
some of the serial numbers were apparently never utilized.)
There is at least anecdotal evidence that many of the badges
were later turned in by their owners during the drive to
collect silver and gold for the needs of industrial
construction - i.e. for buying industrial equipment and
hiring specialists from hitherto enemy western countries. In
the late 20s - early 30s, giving away anything made of
silver and especially gold was declared patriotic duty of
every Soviet citizen. The prominent members of Dobrolyot
would find it highly "uncomfortable" to abstain, let alone
demur. The badges that were turned in were invariably
scrapped. Thus the actual number of the award badges that
still exist today is just a small fraction of the original
total - which explains why this award so rarely appears on
/"Badges of Volunteer Societies of the USSR" by Zak et al.,
p. 209, fig.4.19; similar to "Avers 8", p. 295, fig.