The personality cult of Stalin in posters: new book by properganderpress’s Anita Pisch

Anita Pisch’s new, fully illustrated book, The personality cult of Stalin in Soviet posters, 1929 -1953, published by ANU Press, is available for free download here, and can also be purchased in hard copy from ANU Press.

Although a lot has been written about the personality cult of Stalin, not much has been written about Soviet art under Stalin, and even less about posters of Stalin. Anita Pisch combed the dusty archives of Russian libraries, museums and galleries to find posters of Stalin, buried at a time when the tyrant who had ruled the USSR for 25 years was expunged from Soviet history as thoroughly as if he had never existed.

This book is the first dedicated study on the marketing of Stalin in Soviet propaganda posters. Hundreds of previously unpublished posters are examined, with more than 130 reproduced in full colour.

Book trailer for The personality cult of Stalin in Soviet posters, 1929-1953: archetypes, inventions and fabrications, by Anita Pisch. Published by ANU Press, 2016. Trailer (c) properganderpress 2016.

In Russia, posters from the Soviet era are kept in large cardboard folios in the dusty back rooms of the libraries and museums. Inadequately catalogued and without digital reproduction or a searchable index, a vital part of Soviet history lays buried in the archives, quietly degrading.

The posters provide a fascinating insight into the sort of society that Stalin and the Soviet leadership were striving to create, and also into how they wished to present their government to the people.

Stalin's care illuminates the future of our children, Iraklii Toidze, 1947. Image photographed by Anita Pisch.

Stalin in the pose of Christ in Russian Orthodox icons. ‘Stalin’s kindness illuminates the future of our children,’ Iraklii Toidze, 1947. Image photographed by Anita Pisch.

From 1929 until 1953, Joseph Stalin’s image became a central symbol in Soviet propaganda.  Touched up images of Stalin appeared everywhere:

  • emblazoned across buildings
  • lining the streets
  • carried in parades
  • woven into carpets
  • in painting
  • in statuary
  • in monumental architecture
  • in friezes
  • on banners
  • and on posters
Between 1929 and 1953, Stalin's image appeared everywhere. 'Thank you Comrade Stalin for our happy life,' Nikolai Zhukov, 1940.

Between 1929 and 1953, Stalin’s image appeared everywhere. ‘Thank you Comrade Stalin for our happy life,’ Nikolai Zhukov, 1940. Image photographed by Anita Pisch.

The ‘Stalin’ of the posters bore little resemblance to the man Iosif Vissarionovich Dzhugashvili, whose humble origins, criminal past, penchant for violence and pockmarked skin made him an unlikely candidate for charismatic adulation.

Through the posters, Stalin came to embody the qualities of

  • the wise Teacher
  • the Father of the nation
  • the great Warrior, and
  • the Saviour of Russia
Stalin was shown in posters as both the father to all children of the USSR, and as an icon to be hung on the wall for prayer. 'Happy New Year, beloved Stalin,' K. Ivanov, 1952. Image photographed by Anita Pisch

Stalin was shown in posters as both the father to all children of the USSR, and as an icon to be hung on the wall for prayer. ‘Happy New Year, beloved Stalin,’ K. Ivanov, 1952. Image photographed by Anita Pisch

The personality cult of Stalin in Soviet posters, 1929-1953 will be available from ANU Press in paperback, and for free download through open access, in December 2016. Join Anita for a fascinating journey into one of the earliest and most successful mass marketing campaigns of the twentieth century.

personality cult of Stalin, Soviet posters, Stalin, personality cult

Anita Pisch’s fully illustrated The personality cult of Stalin in Soviet posters, 1929-1953: archetypes, inventions & fabrications has just been released by ANU Press.

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