The Maltese Cross on Russian Badges, 1897-1916

© Author: Craig Barclay 1999

No topic relating to the history of the Order of St John has provoked more controversy or acrimony than question of whether, following the confiscation of the property of its Hereditary Commanderies in 1810-11, the Russian Orthodox Priory ceased to exist. Almost without exception, nineteenth century sources concede that the priory did indeed survive in one form or another, although in recent years a more sceptical attitude has been adopted by some authors.

During the closing years of the nineteenth century, it became very fashionable both for the military and for public servants to commission badges in celebration of important anniversaries relating to their regiments or organisations. As these badges were intended to be worn by their recipients whilst in uniform, it was necessary for the designs to receive the formal approval of the Emperor.

Although non-commissioned ranks frequently received base-metal badges free of charge, officers were expected to purchase their badges from approved jewellers. These badges were generally made in gold or silver, skilfully enamelled and accordingly very expensive. They were also produced to a very high quality, a fact which has led to them remaining much sough-after and highly collectible to the present day.

The most accessible guide to these badges was produced by Serge Andolenko and Robert Werlich in 1972. Printed in the USA in a limited edition of only 500 copies, Badges of Imperial Russia became the standard work both in the Soviet Union and the West. In recent years the weaknesses of the book in terms of breadth of coverage have become more obvious, and it has recently been supplemented by a number of new works authored in Russia. Even a cursory examination of Werlich and Andolenko does however highlight a surprising fact: the Maltese cross was a dominant symbol on the officially approved badges during the reign of Nicholas II.

Such a dominance may in part be explained away by reference to the fact that many of these badges were commissioned by army regiments or other bodies founded during the reign of Paul I. That the white cross might be adopted to commemorate a founder who took such an intense personal interest in the Order of Malta doubtless provides us with part of the explanation for this symbolic explosion.

Sight should not however be lost of the key fact that these badges were produced in a spirit of Russian patriotism, and that the intention of the symbolism can hardly have been to celebrate a surviving Catholic chivalric Order. To those who designed and wore these badges - as well as the Emperor who approved them - the white Maltese cross must surely have been recognised as a familiar and appropriate Russian symbol. The spirit of Paul’s Priory was clearly very much alive at the dawn of the twentieth century.

What follows is a listing of those badges incorporating the white Maltese cross authorised during the period 1897-1916 which are known to the author. Where known, the date of foundation of the issuing regiment or organisation is recorded. All badges have been organised according to the date upon which they received Imperial approval. It is freely admitted that this is a purely provisional catalogue, and that it will be subject to considerable expansion as more information becomes available.

Boynovich et al: Boynovich, A.D., Shabanov, Yu.A., Kuprukhin V.A & Patrikeev, S.B., Badges and Jettons of the Russian Empire (St Petersburg, 1994).
Dotsenko et al: Dotsenko, V.D., Boynovich, A.D. & Kuprukhin, V.A., The Badges and Tokens of the Imperial Russian Navy 1796-1917 (St Petersburg, 1993).
Werlich & Andolenko: Werlich, R. & Andolenko S., Badges of Imperial Russia: Military, Civil, Religious (Washington, 1972).

Anniversary of Udels
7 March 1897
Celebrates anniversary of 1797-1897.
Boynovich et al 103
140th Zaraysk Infantry Regiment
22 August 1910
Founded 1798
Werlich & Andolenko 298
Anniversary of Department of Communication
6 February 1898
Founded 1798
Boynovich et al 114
141st Mozhaysk Infantry Regiment
22 August 1910
Founded 1796
Werlich & Andolenko 299
Anniversary of Forestry Department
18 May 1898
Founded 1798.
Boynovich et al 116; Werlich & Andolenko 108 attribute this badge incorrectly to the Paul Infantry School Jubilee
4th Battery of the 27th Artillery Brigade
3 June 1911
Founded 1796
Werlich & Andolenko 468
Graduates of the Corps of Pages of His Majesty
14 March 1902
Founded 1802
Boynovich et al 150; Werlich & Andolenko 141
112th Ural Infantry Regiment
19 August 1911
Founded 1797
Werlich & Andolenko 274
Graduates of the Corps of Pages of His Majesty
14 March 1902
Founded 1802
Boynovich et al 149; Werlich & Andolenko 142 attribute this badge to Instructional Staff of the Corps of Pages
135th Kerch-Yenikale Infantry Regiment
30 August 1911
Founded 1798
Dotsenko et al 92; Werlich & Andolenko 294
Imperial Clinical Obstetrical Institute
21 December 1902
Boynovich et al 157
Imperial Guard Cossack Regiment of His Majesty
14 September 1911
(note: The Maltese cross is in raspberry enamel, recalling the standard presented to the regiment by Paul I)
Werlich& Andolenko 22
95th Omsk Infantry Regiment
26 September 1908
Werlich & Andolenko 258
1st Battery of the 1st Artillery Brigade
23 November 1911
Founded 1796
Werlich & Andolenko 432
93rd Kura Irkutsk Infantry Regiment of Grand Duke Michael Alexandrovich
20 November 1908
Werlich & Andolenko 255
1st, 2nd and 4th Batteries of the Caucasian Grenadier Artillery Brigade
19 December 1911
Founded 1796
Werlich& Andolenko 431
95th Krasnoyarsk Infantry Regiment
20 November 1908
Founded 1797
Werlich & Andolenko 257
5th Battery of the Caucasian Grenadier Artillery Brigade
2 May 1912
Founded 1812
Werlich & Andolenko 431
2nd Artillery Regiment of the Imperial Guard
17 August 1909
Werlich & Andolenko 35
116th Maloyaroslavets Infantry Regiment
2 May 1912
Founded by Paul I
Werlich & Andolenko 278
147th Samara Infantry Regiment
17 August 1909
Founded 1798
Werlich & Andolenko 305
119th Kolomna Infantry Regiment
2 June 1912
Founded 1797
Werlich & Andolenko 281
145th Novocherkassk Infantry Regiment of Emperor Alexander III
17 August 1909
Founded by Paul I
Werlich& Andolenko 303
111th Don Infantry Regiment
27 June 1912
Founded 1797
Werlich & Andolenko 273
St Petersburg Quartermaster Corps
14 November 1909
Werlich & Andolenko 536
4th Battery of the 1st Artillery Brigade
8 August 1912
Founded 1796
Werlich & Andolenko 433
1st Moscow Cadet Corps of Empress Catherine II
28 November 1909
Founded 1778
Werlich & Andolenko 152
1st Battery of the 5th Artillery Brigade
28 August 1912
Founded 1796
Werlich & Andolenko 437
14th Olonets Infantry Regiment of Peter I, King of Serbia
20 December 1909
Founded 1798
Werlich & Andolenko 187
4th Battery of 1st Grenadier Artillery Brigade
4 October 1912
Werlich & Andolenko 429
79th Kura Infantry Regiment of General Field-Marshal Prince Vorontsov, Now of Grand Duke Paul Alexandrovich
29 December 1909
Founded 1802
Werlich& Andolenko 246
2nd and 5th Batteries of the 37th Artillery Brigade
10 September 1913
Founded 1796
Werlich & Andolenko 476
Nicholas Engineering School
31 December 1909
Boynovich et al 194; Werlich & Andolenko 138 give date of badge as 1 April 1910
2nd Moscow Cadet Corps of Nicholas I
15 January 1914
Founded 1849
Werlich & Andolenko 153
101st Perm Infantry Regiment
15 March 1910
Founded 1797
Werlich& Andolenko 263
2nd Battery of the 21st Artillery Brigade
15 January 1914
Founded 1796
Werlich & Andolenko 464
8th Moscow Grenadier Regiment
26 April 1910
Founded 1790
Werlich & Andolenko 165
Graduates of Accelerated Courses of the Corps of Pages of His Majesty
24 February 1915
Founded 1802
Werlich & Andolenko 143
37th Yekaterinburg Infantry Regiment
5 May 1910
Founded 1796
Werlich & Andolenko 210
Alexis Engineering School
12 September 1916
Werlich & Andolenko 139
47th Ukranian Infantry Regiment
26 May 1910
Founded 1798
Werlich & Andolenko 221
Imperial Couriers
Reign of Nicholas II
Founded 1796
Werlich & Andolenko 606
39th Tomsk Infantry Regiment
22 August 1910
Founded 1796
Werlich & Andolenko 213

Created 18th September 1999

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