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     Home > SOVIET BADGES > Badges of the Early Soviet Volunteer Organizations

    Dobrolet (Russian Association of Volunteer Aerial Fleet) award badge, #7573, 1923-1926.

    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 the market.

    /"Badges of Volunteer Societies of the USSR" by Zak et al., p. 209, fig.4.19; similar to "Avers 8", p. 295, fig. 1440.b/


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