Back in the USSR
I was inspired to dig out my buttons after seeing this photograph by Semyon Danilov for the Associated Press, taken on Friday, December 15, 2006. It was printed in Saturday's St. Petersburg Times. That's the St. Petersburg in Florida, not Russia.
The Times caption reads: "A statue of Vladimir Lenin casts a doubtful eye on a pair of workers as they struggle to place a star atop a large Christmas tree on Friday. Lenin was the architect and first leader of the Soviet Union, which was officially an atheistic state until its collapse in 1991." The location of the photo is given as Stavropol.
Even though the Soviet era has passed, that's a red star being placed on the Christmas tree -- which makes for an interesting juxtaposition....
According to Wikipedia, the red star "is a symbol of Communism and Socialism and represents the five fingers of the worker's hand, as well as the five continents (as traditionally counted). A lesser known suggestion is that the five points on the star were intended to represent the five social groups that would lead the nation to communism. In no particular order, they are: the youth (the future generations), the military (to protect and defend socialism), industrial workers (labourers), agricultural workers (peasantry), and the intelligentsia (to criticize and to improve the ideas and practices of life in order to attain communism). In general, it was the emblem, symbol, and signal that indicated the truth of the new order under the rule and guidance of the Communist Party."
Wikipedia goes on to say that Russia and former USSR member nations still use the red star on military uniforms and equipment. Given all that symbolism and its potential for various degrees of irony, I love the way Danilov framed his shot.
I'd acquired the buttons shown below during my trip in the summer of 1981 to the then-Soviet Union. (Click here for the photoset of individual button shots.) I visited what is again Russia (including Siberia) and Armenia. The prominence of the red star shows up particularly in the button shown above. That one commemorates the 26th Congress of the CPSU (Communist Party of the Soviet Union), which was in session at the time of my visit.
Here's a shot of the entire collective:
Somewhere I have a printout of the diary I kept during that trip. I'll have to go look for it.