stalin poster of the week 7: s. podobedov, long live our leader and teacher, best friend of the red army, our dear and beloved stalin! / long live the leader of the red army, first marshal of the soviet union, kliment efremovich voroshilov!, 1940

1940 poster of Stalin and Voroshilov by S. Podobedov

S. Podobedov (С. Подобедов), Long live our leader and teacher, best friend of the Red Army, our dear and beloved Stalin! / Long live the leader of the Red Army, first Marshal of the Soviet Union, Kliment Efremovich Voroshilov! (Да здравствует вождь и учитель лучший друг Красной Армии, наш родной и любимый СТАЛИН! / Да здравствует вождь Красной Армии первый маршал Советского Союза Климент Ефремович ВОРОШИЛОВ!), 1940

 

Stalin poster of the week is a weekly excursion into the fascinating world of propaganda posters of Iosif Stalin, leader of the USSR from 1929 until his death in 1953.

Here, Anita Pisch will showcase some of the most interesting Stalin posters, based on extensive research in the archives of the Russian State Library, and analyse what makes these images such successful propaganda.

Anita’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.

Stalin came to be identified by his characteristic facial features, such as his moustache, his Georgian accent, and by certain props, such as his pipe.

Stalin’s pipe makes an appearance in a 1940 poster by Podobedov which features Stalin and Kliment Voroshilov, the Marshal of the Soviet Union, engaged in a jolly, informal chat. In fact, due to its similarity to other identified photos, it appears that this photo was taken on Stalin’s 60th birthday celebrations in December 1939.

Voroshilov appears to have said something amusing to Stalin, who looks out at the viewer, inviting him to share the joke.

 

Stalin and Voroshilov

Stalin and Voroshilov seem to be having a jolly time on Stalin’s official 60th birthday

 

Or perhaps it is the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact on the table in front of them which is causing such merry spirits. In 1939, the rest of Europe was embroiled in the Second World War. By signing the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact with Germany, Russia managed to postpone its arguably inevitable entry into the war for almost two years.

The black-and-white photograph of Voroshilov and Stalin is bordered with the usual formal accoutrements, banners, ribbons stars and wreaths. However, it is the text which is of particular interest in this poster, paying tribute to both Stalin and Voroshilov, and clearly differentiating their roles:

Long live our leader and teacher, best friend of the Red Army, our dear and beloved Stalin! Long live the leader of the Red Army, first Marshal of the Soviet Union, Kliment Efremovich Voroshilov!

 

Text of 1940 Podobedov poster

Text of 1940 Podobedov poster

 

Stalin is leader of the nation, teacher and friend; Voroshilov is the leader of the army. As with Lenin and Trotskii, these two roles were kept separate until 1941, when some serious errors of judgment made by Voroshilov saw him quietly removed from the military leadership. The Warrior archetype then came to reside in Stalin.

Despite the tension throughout Europe as war intensified, neither Stalin nor Voroshilov look here like they are particularly worried, or in the process of preparing for war.

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stalin poster of the week 6: viktor govorkov, thank you beloved stalin for our happy childhood, 1936

A happy childhood poster of Stalin with children by Viktor Govorkov

Viktor Govorkov (Виктор Говорков), Thank you beloved Stalin for our happy childhood (спасибо любимому Сталину – за счастливое детство!), 1936

 

Stalin poster of the week is a weekly excursion into the fascinating world of propaganda posters of Iosif Stalin, leader of the USSR from 1929 until his death in 1953.

Here, Anita Pisch will showcase some of the most interesting Stalin posters, based on extensive research in the archives of the Russian State Library, and analyse what makes these images such successful propaganda.

Anita’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.

Viktor Govorkov’s ‘Thank You Beloved Stalin for our Happy Childhood’ carries one variant of the iconic slogan, ‘Thank You Dear Comrade Stalin for our Happy Childhood!’ which was chanted by children at celebrations and appeared everywhere in Soviet childhood.

 

The theme of ‘A happy childhood’ was adopted for the 1936 May Day celebrations in Moscow and also appeared on beautifully presented biscuit and lolly boxes.

 

Detail of poster by Viktor Govorkov

Stalin radiates light, a young male Pioneer indicates that he wants to be a sailor when he grows up, and girls are just grateful

 

 

This 1936 poster shows Stalin dressed in white, surrounded by children with toys, flowers and artworks. Stalin’s white clothing has symbolic significance, suggesting purity, simplicity, and also making him appear as if he is full of light against the dark green vegetation. In fact, if you look at the patterns of shading on the children’s faces, it is clear that Stalin is the source of light in the poster.

In the background, children play in miniature cars and on scooters, watched by their mother, who is of secondary importance after Stalin. In the very distant background, parachutists enjoy their recreation time.

 

Detail of poster by Viktor Gocorkov

Children play in the background as parachutists descend from the sky

 

Stalin’s figure dominates the poster, his gaze focussed on the young boy who shows him a drawing of the Kremlin. Other boys hold model ships and aeroplanes. These toys are suggestive of career aspirations – the navy, the airforce, the arts – and symbolise the great potential for the future offered by Stalin and the Soviet state.

 

Detail from Govorkov poster

A boy shows Stalin a drawing of the Kremlin in sacred tones of red and gold

 

In contrast, despite the communist state’s explicit advocacy of equal rights and opportunities for women, who were expected to work as well as raise families, the girls in the poster are passive and express gratitude by gesture, and by the gift of flowers. One young girl clutches a stuffed toy, perhaps representing her nurturing and caring qualities.

 

Detail from poster by Viktor Govorkov

Girls are nurturing and show gratitude

 

Unlike the intense reds, whites and blacks of many of the Soviet posters on other themes, the colour palette of the happy childhood posters of the mid-1930s is mostly muted and pastel, emphasising the relaxed and idyllic nature of the scene. Red, green and white predominate – the colours of festivity.

Though happy and relaxed, the children are also orderly. Obedience, to Stalin and the state ahead even of parents, was seen as an ideal quality in the Soviet child.

The personality cult of Stalin in Soviet posters, 1929 – 1953 @ ANU Press

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 been published by ANU Press

Anita Pisch‘s new book, The personality cult of Stalin in Soviet posters, 1929 – 1953, is now available for free download through ANU Press open access, or to purchase in hard copy for $83. This lavishly illustrated book, featuring reproductions of over 130 posters, examines the way in which Stalin’s image in posters, symbolising the Bolshevik Party, the USSR state, and Bolshevik values and ideology, was used to create legitimacy for the Bolshevik government, to mobilise the population to make great sacrifices in order to industrialise and collectivise rapidly, and later to win the war, and to foster the development of a new type of Soviet person in a new utopian world.

stalin poster of the week 5: boris efimov, the captain of the soviet union leads us from victory to victory, 1933

Boris Efimov, The captain of the Soviet Union leads us from victory to victory, 1933

Boris Efimov (б ефимов), The captain of the Soviet Union leads us from victory to victory (капитан страны советов ведет нас от победы к победе!), 1933

 

Stalin poster of the week is a weekly excursion into the fascinating world of propaganda posters of Iosif Stalin, leader of the USSR from 1929 until his death in 1953.

Here, Anita Pisch will showcase some of the most interesting Stalin posters, based on extensive research in the archives of the Russian State Library, and analyse what makes these images such successful propaganda.

Anita’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.

This 1933 poster by highly decorated satirist and caricaturist Boris Efimov depicts Stalin as a maritime captain steering the ship of the USSR. In his greatcoat and plain workman’s cap, a hearty and broad-shouldered Stalin grasps the helm with two large firm hands, his vigilant gaze out over his left shoulder keeping watch against enemies and potential threats.

The Soviet flag flaps in the breeze and behind him is the midsection of a huge ship with its red star emblem. The caption states, ‘The captain of the Soviet Union leads us from victory to victory!’, advising the viewer that not only is Stalin keeping the Soviet Union safe from harm, but he is also steering a journey of multiple victories.

In fact, the entire journey consists of a journey from one port of victory to another – from socialism, which was officially achieved in 1934, to communism, which would be achieved under Stalin in the future. It is implicit that, without Stalin, the ship would sink.

Stalin's strong hands grasp the wheel of state of the USSR

Stalin’s strong hands grasp the wheel of state of the USSR

The helmsman image has a long history of association with skilled leadership and was a common motif in Byzantine, Ancient Greek and Ancient Roman literature and philosophy.

The helmsman symbol is part of a larger field of metaphors in which the ship represents the state, navigation represents knowledge, skill and care, and the journey becomes an odyssey.

Michel Foucault notes that the navigation metaphor implies three types of knowledge possessed by the skilled helmsman associated with medicine, political government and self-government.*

The helmsman image carries within it multiple implications. The helmsman:

  • is able to care for himself and for others
  • exerts both self-control and political leadership
  • has the wisdom to take account of the many aspects necessary to navigate a skilled course through often tempestuous waters (navigating by the stars, understanding the weather and wind, knowledge of the currents, knowledge of how the ship operates), and
  • holds his position with divine consent

This poster must have been considered an important propaganda tool because it was issued in an edition of 200,000 in 1933, before such big editions became commonplace.

 

* Michel Foucault, Frédéric Gros, François Ewald & Alessandro Fontana, The hermeneutics of the subject: lectures at the Collège de France, 1981–1982, New York, Palgrave-Macmillan, 2005, pp. 248–49

stalin poster of the week 4: gustav klutsis, raise higher the banner of marx, engels, lenin, and stalin, 1933

Gustav Klutsis (Густав Клуцис), Raise higher the banner of Marx, Engels, Lenin, and Stalin (выше знамя маркса, энгелса, ленина и сталина!),

Gustav Klutsis (Густав Клуцис), Raise higher the banner of Marx, Engels, Lenin, and Stalin (выше знамя маркса, энгелса, ленина и сталина!), 1933. Izogiz, Moscow and Leningrad. 1st ed 50,000, 2nd ed 30,000 1936 – 250,000, 1937 produced in more than 20 languages

 

Stalin poster of the week is a weekly excursion into the fascinating world of propaganda posters of Iosif Stalin, leader of the USSR from 1929 until his death in 1953.

Here, Anita Pisch will showcase some of the most interesting Stalin posters, based on extensive research in the archives of the Russian State Library, and analyse what makes these images such successful propaganda.

Anita’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 Stalin often appeared as a solitary leader figure in posters, he also frequently appeared with Lenin, and sometimes also with the great pantheon of communist thinkers, Marx, Engels and Lenin. Posters in which Stalin appears with the other great thinkers promote Stalin as a man of learning, a revolutionary thinker, a worthy teacher and a great leader, demonstrating his excellent ideological lineage.

Stalin’s place in the canon is demonstrated unambiguously in a well-known poster by Gustav Klutsis as early as 1933 — ‘Raise higher the banners of Marx, Engels, Lenin, and Stalin!’ The image is dominated by the heads of Marx, Engels, Lenin and Stalin, each on their own red banner.

The heads of Marx and Engels are turned to the viewer’s right. They do not engage the viewer, looking perhaps to the future (the right is associated with the future, the left with the past) and their own visionary predictions, but most definitely in the direction of the heads of Lenin and Stalin — the heroes of the past looking to the future, which is occurring in the present in 1933.

Lenin and Stalin are both almost full-face to the viewer, however, Lenin’s eyes are swivelled to the viewer’s right. Lenin, too, looks to Stalin for the leadership of the present day. The baton has been passed from Marx and Engels, to Lenin, who now passes it on to Stalin.

Stalin is neither focused on a mythical past, nor on a visionary future, but gazes out at the viewer from a firmly entrenched position in the present.

The crowd scenes surrounding each of the giant banners further illustrate this point. Marx and Engels are surrounded by fighters from the French and German revolutions of 1789 and 1848 respectively, wielding swords and muskets, fighting on foot and horseback. The numbers of soldiers engaged in the battle are relatively few.

Under Lenin’s banner, the October revolutionaries storm the Winter Palace in October 1917, while above, the crowds rush in to join the fight.

Stalin’s banner reveals something new. He is flanked by dense crowds of workers — some, like the woman in the foreground, beaming happily; others looking determined, steadfast and attentive; all carrying tools rather than weapons.

Happy workers carrying tools under Stalin's banner

Happy workers carrying tools under Stalin’s banner

Gone is the classical architecture that surrounds Marx and Engels, replaced around the figure of Stalin by scenes of Soviet construction, which include the wall of the Dnieper Dam — Soviet construction constituting the new ‘battlefront’.

Stalin’s ‘revolution’ began around 1928 with forced collectivisation, the revocation of the New Economic Policy (NEP), the Shakhty Trial, and the introduction of the five-year plans. Although Stalin’s revolution did not result from the violent overthrow of the existing order, the nature of his reforms was such that they provided a revolutionary break with the past and, from this perspective, Stalin can be viewed as the fourth great revolutionary thinker in the process of evolution that was leading to the communist utopia.

Klutsis’s poster unequivocally sets Stalin alongside the other great revolutionaries and pillars of socialist thought while, at the same time, emphasising his relevance to the current time.

Variations on this formula would recur often throughout the years of Stalin’s rule, with several posters visually referencing this one. Indeed, this poster was so successful that it was released in a first edition of 50,000, a second edition of 30,000, a 1936 edition of 250,000 and, in 1937, it was produced in more than 20 languages of the Soviet republics.

Later posters in this subgenre of Stalin posters feature the phrase ‘banner of Marx–Engels–Lenin– Stalin’ in the caption. In this light, Klutsis’s poster of 1933 appears at first to be something of an anomaly. The differences between this and later posters are subtle, but important.

Klutsis’s caption refers to the ‘banners of Marx, Engels, Lenin and Stalin’ and the visual imagery places each of the great thinkers on his own banner. In later posters, where Stalin’s name is appended to those of the other three, it is in hyphenated form, and the visual image shows all four heads emblazoned on a single banner. In these latter cases it is one protective banner which is invoked, and the four merge into a unifying force that symbolises the Party, the state and communism.