Order of the Red Star, Type 4 Variation 3 (with screw post base), #214664, awarded on 31 July 1943 to Senior Lieutenant Iosif Monastyrskiy, a staff officer of the 39th Tank Brigade, for outstanding leadership and personal bravery during a Soviet offensive in the Donbass region which coincided with the Battle of Kursk.
Silver, enamels; 46.6 mm tall x 48.0 mm wide; weighs 27.3 g without the screw plate. This specimen was manufactured in 1943 at the Moscow Mint. Features screw post base and slightly curved up mint mark. The upper right side of the mint mark is lightly struck and the dash over the last letter in the word "Monetnyi" is therefore missing, but if it were legible, it would have been found above the letter. The screw post base is "sunk in" below the surface of the reverse. The enamel is of slightly lighter shade of red and noticeably finer quality than the more recent issues. /N. Strekalov, V. Durov, "Order of the Red Star", pp. 230, 231/.
In very fine to excellent condition. The enamel shows beautiful luster and appears practically prefect to the unaided eye. There is only a single tiny surface flake to the tip of the lower left arm which is nearly unnoticeable without magnification and a few microscopic contact marks that can barely be found even with a 10x loupe. The center medallion exhibits only minimal wear, its details are very well preserved and crisp. Nice dark toning to silver on both sides. The screw post is full length, nearly 11 mm measured from its base, and comes with original silver screw plate. Overall, this is an extremely attractive example of a mid-war Order of the Red Star.
Iosif Monastyrskiy was born in 1916 in the town of Vetka in Belorussia. He served a stint in the Red Army from 1935-37 and re-joined the military in 1939, probably by enrolling in an officer school. Starting from 1941, Monastyrskiy took part in the Patriotic War serving initially with the Western Front, fought in the Battle of Stalingrad, and by 1943 had been promoted to captain.
In July 1943, he distinguished himself in fighting in southeastern Ukraine serving as adjutant of the 1st Tank Battalion, 39th Tank Brigade, 23rd Tank Corps, Southwestern Front. In mid-July, when the Battle of Kursk was reaching its climax in the area just to the north, the 23rd Tank Corps was withdrawn from the front's reserves and tasked with supporting the 1st Guards Army during its spoiling attack on the Severskiy Donets River. The offensive, conducted jointly by the forces of the Southwestern and Southern Fronts, was later dubbed the Izyum-Barvenkovo Operation by Soviet historians. It had ambitious goals of totally dislodging the southernmost anchor of the German Army Group South, enveloping the 6th Army (reconstituted after the Battle of Stalingrad), and clearing much of the Donbass coal mining region.
On July 17, the first day of the operation, the 1st Guards Army successfully crossed the Severskiy Donets and spearheaded by the tank forces, pushed into the German defenses on the west bank. During 19-22 July, as the 23rd Tank Corps continued to expand its gains against the increasing German opposition, Monastyrskiy was constantly on the forefront immediately following the forward line of the attacking tanks of the 39th Brigade. On 19 July, he personally led an armored assault while coordinating support with adjacent artillery and infantry and by his personal example of bravery, greatly inspired the tankers of his battalion. When a strong Germans panzer force counterattacked on 22 July, Monastyrskiy replaced the commander of one of the tanks who had been taken out of action and led the crew in a fight with numerically superior enemy.
Monastyrskiy was soon recommended for an Order of the Red Star by his brigade commander. By 31 July, when the award was officially bestowed by a brigade's decree, the Izyum- Barvenkovo Operation was over. It had achieved only very modest territorial gains and failed in most of its goals. It had succeeded however in preventing the Germans from sending reinforcements north and thus denied the desperately needed help to the all-important German southern pincer in the Battle of Kursk at the most critical time of the battle. The attempted offensive in Donbass was very costly for the Soviet side and in particular its tankers; as a result, the awards to survivors of this strategically important operation are rather scarce.
Monastyrksiy went on to earn two other decorations during the Patriotic War: another Order of the Red Star for showing outstanding leadership and personally killing several enemy soldiers near Tārgu Frumos, Romania, during the course of the Jassy-Kishinev offensive in August 1944; and an Order of the Patriotic War, 1st cl. for bravery while defending the cut-off HQ of his brigade in early February 1945, during the last German attempt to relieve Budapest. Monastyrskiy was severely wounded the latter battle and taken to a hospital. He retired from active duty in the military in May 1946 still having the rank of captain and soon took at a job as a mechanic in the "Path to Communism" workshop in the town Cherkessk, Stavropol Territory in the south of Russia.
Research Materials: photocopy and translation of the
award record card and award commendation for the two Orders
of the Red Star and the Order of the Patriotic War, 1st cl.
Detailed information about the 39th Tank Brigade and 23rd
Tank Corps is available in the Volume 2 School of Battle of
the Charles Sharp's book series "Soviet Order of Battle,
World War II".
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