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.
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!
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.