It happened today - May 21, 2016

Speaking of awards you might not want, May 21 is the anniversary of the Imperial Order of St. Alexander Nevsky, created in 1725 by Empress Catherine I of Russia (not to be confused with her granddaughter-in-law Kate the Great) and awarded for service to Russia, typically of course state service. To the Russian government.

For starters, the motto is “For Labor and the Fatherland". That’s not gonna be good. Then you get Nevsky himself, a big hero including to Stalinists for defending Russia against German and Swedish invaders… on behalf of the Mongol Golden Horde to whom he paid tribute. Hence Eisenstein’s highly praised film Álexander Nevsky and the decision of the Bolsheviks, when they abolished all Tsarist honours, to recreate this one in 1942 as the drab grey concrete Order of Alexander Nevsky. And Vladimir Putin revived it in 2010.

He would, since one of Alexander Nevsky’s claims to fame is that on driving off the invaders he punished Novgorod for defying Mongol tax collectors, cutting off a number of leading citizens’ noses. (Later, Ivan III would crush its independence entirely, an important step in stifling any semblance of local of self-government in the nascent Russian empire.)

In consequence, Nevsky is a saint and polls suggest the most venerated hero in Russian history. Which surely shows, like the French having that award from Napoleon, a lack of genuinely inspiring heroes whose undoubted courage, determination, patriotism and leadership skills actually produced a result worth cherishing and imitating. It makes things enormously difficult for those brave Russians trying to construct an open politics and strengthen civil society.

Amusingly, exiled claimants to the nonexistent Russian throne still award the Order of St. Alexander Nevsky or, in a rival version scorned by most Romanovs, a dynastic knighthood called the Russian Imperial Order of Saint Alexander Nevsky.

As with either official version, you can keep mine.