Russia's President is to bestow the Alexander Nevsky award on Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic, putting him in the company of a number of world leaders not known for their democratic principles.
Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic has been awarded the Order of Alexander Nevsky by Russian President Vladimir Putin – which testifies to the warm links between Belgrade and Moscow but also puts him in the company of a number of leaders not known for respecting democratic values.
The presidents of Turkmenistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan and Belarus all received the same order from President Putin.
All of these countries have poor levels of human rights and some of them, such as Turkmenistan, have been marked as extremely repressive by the international rights watchdog Human Rights Watch HRW.
The official website of the Russian President says the Order of Alexander Nevsky is normally awarded for outstanding personal achievements in nation-building, years of honest public service and for high results in carrying out official duties.
Other merits are strengthening Russia’s international prestige and defence capacity, and achievements in the economy, science, education, culture, arts and healthcare.
Putin signed the order awarding Vucic his medal on January 7 for his “great personal contribution to the development of multilateral cooperation with the Russian Federation”.
The decision has sparked discussion in Serbia on the importance of the award, and as well on the company that Vucic now shares.
“The Order of Alexander Nevsky ... is primarily intended for meritorious state officials of Russia for 20 years of work. Putin laughed at @avucic and despises him – rightly,” one of the opposition leaders, former Serbian foreign minister Vuk Jeremic, tweeted.
Order of Friendship was awarded to Tomislav Nikolic, former President of the Republic of Serbia, in November 2017. Photo: Kremlin
The Serbian public is not very familiar with the Order of Alexander Nevsky, as the Russian President has usually handed deserving Serbian politicians another medal, the Order of Friendship.
This was given so far to Tomislav Nikolic, the former Serbian President who now heads the Serbian Council for Coordination of Cooperation with the Russian Federation and the People’s Republic of China.
It also went to the Serbian nationalist and ardently pro-Russian filmmaker and musician Emir Kusturica, Zagreb Mayor Milan Bandic, and the Mayor of Ljubljana, Zoran Jankovic.
Following Vucic’s award, the media rushed to report other important historical figures from Serbia and the Balkans that had received the award.
Срдачно честитамо Председнику Србије Александру Вучићу на високој награди. Данас, 7. јануара, указ о награђивању @avucic орденом Александра Невског потписао је Председник Русије Владимир Путин. pic.twitter.com/HZe0Vx8mY3
— Александр Чепурин (@AVChepurin) January 7, 2019
According to the Serbian daily Vecernje novosti on January 7, the list includes the Serbian interwar politician Nikola Pasic, King Milan of Serbia, King Aleksandar Obrenovic of Serbia and King Nikola of Montenegro.
The original Imperial Order of St Alexander Nevsky, which these historical figures received, was established in 1725 but was abolished with the fall of the Russian monarchy in 1917. These medals can be bought on E-bay for few thousands euros.
The award was revived under Stalin during World War II in 1942, and renamed the Order of Alexander Nevsky.
Vucic is expected to collect his medal from his Russian counterpart on January 17, during Putin's planned visit to Serbia.
Nevsky was a 13th-century prince of Novgorod and Vladimir who was widely venerated for keeping German and Swedish invaders out of northwest Russia. He was canonised by the Russian Church in the 16th century.