Moscow, May 9, 1945 - STALIN'S ADDRESS TO THE PEOPLE:
Fellow countrymen and countrywomen!
The great day of victory over Germany has arrived. Fascist Germany, forced to her knees by the Red Army and the troops of our Allies, has admitted defeat and has announced her unconditional surrender. ...
We now have full grounds for saying that the historic day of the final defeat of Germany, the day of our people's great victory over German imperialism, has arrived.
The great sacrifices we have made for the freedom and independence of our country, the incalculable privation and suffering our people have endured during the war, our intense labours in the rear and at the front, laid at the altar of our motherland, have not been in vain; they have been crowned by complete victory over the enemy. The age-long struggle of the Slavonic peoples for their existence and independence has ended in victory over the German aggressors and German tyranny. ... (more here)
Now that the Soviet Union is no more, the sacrifices and achievements of the Russian people in the "Great Patriotic War" may seem distant. But those were monumental times, and no government ever celebrated its citizens' achievements like the Communist government of the Soviet Union. Look at the portrait of Marshal Zhukov on the left. It's a wonder he doesn't fall over from the weight of medals on his chest. He wears three Gold Star Hero of the Soviet Union medals, three Orders of Lenin, two Orders of Victory, and many more.
The Soviets awarded medals, orders, and decorations for military valor, for service in particular campaigns, for outstanding labor performance. It was all a very important part of the state propaganda, since there was little else to give to the people. The Communists did not hesitate to incorporate heroes from the Czarist era, like Alexander Nevsky, Marshal Kutuzov, and Bogdan Khmelnitsky, into their medals.
Orders and Medals of the Soviet Union, by Daniel M. Byrne, 1984.
Orders and Medals of the USSR, by Georgi Putnikov, 1990 Moscow Press.
Soviet-medals-orders.com - an excellent, thorough, site, with emphasis on collecting
Soviet Military Awards Page - another very comprehensive collector's site