Hero City

Soviet honorary title awarded for outstanding heroism during World War II 

A section of Moscow's Hero Cities memorial, set beside the Kremlin Wall
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It was awarded to twelve cities of the Soviet Union. In addition the Brest Fortress was awarded an equivalent title of Hero Fortress. This symbolic distinction for a city corresponds to the individual distinction Hero of the Soviet Union.

According to the statute, the hero city is issued the Order of Lenin, the Gold Star medal, and the certificate of the heroic deed (gramota) from the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR. Also, the corresponding obelisk is installed in the city.


The usage of the term «hero city» is dated to articles in Pravda as early as in 1942. The first official usage of the title is dated by May 1, 1945, when Joseph Stalin issued his Supreme Commander Order #20 commanding to fire salutes in «hero cities Leningrad, Stalingrad, Sevastopol, and Odessa.»

On June 22, 1961 (20th anniversary of the beginning of the Great Patriotic War) the term «Hero City» was applied to Kiev in the ukases that awarded Kiev the Order of Lenin and introduced the Medal «For the Defence of Kiev».

The statute of the title was officially introduced on May 8, 1965 by the ukase of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of USSR, on the occasion of the 20th anniversary of the victory in the Great Patriotic War. The same day ukases were issued about awarding the cities mentioned above: Leningrad (Saint Petersburg), Volgograd (former Stalingrad), Kiev, Sevastopol, and Odessa. (However traditionally for these cities the anniversaries of being Hero City correspond to the dates mentioned earlier.) Additionally, Moscow was declared Hero City and Brest declared Hero Fortress.

Subsequent awards were issued as follows:

  • September 14, 1973: Kerch and Novorossiysk.
  • June 26, 1974: Minsk
  • December 7, 1976: Tula
  • May 6, 1985: Murmansk, Smolensk

In 1988 the issuance of the award was officially discontinued.

On April 5, 2005 the State Duma of Russian Federation passed the law in the first reading about the introduction of the honorary title «City of Military Glory» (Город воинской славы). Potential candidates are places of fierce battles: Oryol, Rzhev, Yelnya, Voronezh, Vyazma, and others.

 A section of Moscow's Hero Cities memorial, set beside the Kremlin Wall
pinterest button A section of Moscow's Hero Cities memorial, set beside the Kremlin Wall   Vladimir OKC, Public Domain


At the gates of the Soviet capital, the German invaders suffered their first defeat in 1941.

The advance of the German Army Group Centre came to a halt in late November 1941, at the outskirts of Moscow itself. The Soviet Government had by then been evacuated, yet Joseph Stalin remained in the city.

Struggling between determination and despair, the city's population helped build defensive positions in the streets. The underground metro stations provided shelter during German air raids.

General Georgy Zhukov, who assumed command of the city's defence, largely left close combat tactics to the local commanders on the city's approaches, and focused on concentrating fresh troops from Siberia for an eventual counter-attack.

The Soviet counter-offensive was launched on 5 and 6 December 1941. In the freezing cold of an unusually harsh winter, Soviet forces, including well-equipped ski battalions, drove the exhausted Germans back out of reach of Moscow and consolidated their positions on 7 January 1942.

The victory in the battle provided an important boost in morale for the Soviet population. Moscow was awarded the title Hero City in 1965.

Useful Information

Hero City
Russian: Го́род-геро́й
Translit: gorod-geroy
Ukrainian: Місто-герой
Translit: misto-heroy
Belarusian: Горад-герой
Translit: horad-heroy

Eastern Front

Eastern Front is known in the Soviet Union as The Great Patriotic War.

Hero Cities

  • Brest Fortress
  • Saint Petersburg (Leningrad)
  • Stalingrad (Volgograd)
  • Оdessa
  • Sevastopol
  • Moscow
  • Kiev
  • Novorossiysk
  • Kerch
  • Minsk
  • Tula
  • Murmansk
  • Smolensk