stalin poster of the week 12: naum karpovskii, ‘labour with martial persistence so your kolkhoz becomes part of the vanguard. the reward for honest work is wealth, fame and honour!’, 1948

Naum Karpovskii propaganda poster 1948

Naum Karpovskii (Карповский), ‘Labour with martial persistence so your kolkhoz becomes part of the vanguard. The reward for honest work is wealth, fame and honour!’ (Трудись с упорством боевым, Чтоб стал колхоз передовым!), 1948

 

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.

By 1948, the Second World War had been over for three years. Soviet victory gave Stalin political legitimacy, and he was almost always portrayed in the military uniform of the Marshal of the Soviet Union from this point onward.

Stalin had in fact been awarded the military rank of Generalissimus in 1945, but claimed that the rank did not exist in the Soviet military, and expressed discomfort at being addressed in this way. Although a new uniform was designed for the rank, Stalin continued to appear in posters in the Marshal’s uniform.

In Karpovskii’s 1948 poster, Stalin’s warrior archetype is transplanted to an agricultural setting. A military Stalin is surrounded by outstanding agricultural workers whom he has just rewarded with Gold Star Hammer and Sickle Hero of Socialist Labour medals and the Order of Lenin for their outstanding labour feats.

 

Detail of Karpovskii propaganda poster 1948

Stalin is surrounded by outstanding agricultural workers of varying ethnicities

 

The workers are both male and female, of varying ages, and represent a variety of ethnicities from throughout the territories of the USSR. In contrast to earlier posters featuring agricultural workers, these workers wear suits, and there are no bales of cotton or sheafs of wheat to be seen. This is in keeping with the post-war emphasis on using science and technology to increase productivity, rather than simply pushing people to work harder at manual labour.

 

Karpovskii propaganda poster detail 1948

Stalin demonstrates his personal modesty by holding his hand in his jacket and by wearing fewer awards than those around him

 

Unlike many other posters of this era, Stalin stands on the same level with the workers, only just the tallest person in the room by a hair’s breadth. The atmosphere is relaxed and genial with smiles all round. Stalin’s modesty is most apparent in that he is even less decorated than the others in the room, wearing only his Hero of Socialist Labour medal.

Stalin asks the kolkhoz (collective farms) workers to treat their work as if it were a battle, and promises them ample reward for their efforts. From the earliest days of the Bolshevik Party, battle metaphors were extended to all areas of life, with frequent reference to struggles, fronts and weapons in a non-military context. In this context, the war was just one of many battles facing the fledgling Soviet state, and a strong, militant leader is needed to keep ensuring victory.

 

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Poster caption: Labour with martial persistence so your kolkhoz becomes part of the vanguard. The reward for honest work is wealth, fame and honour!

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.

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Albania: an absurdist adventure in a land of art and archaeology

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New Plaza Hotel building in central Tirana

 

Based on an informal, anecdotal survey of friends and family, Albania is not high on the bucket lists of the people in my (fairly extensive and eclectic) circle. On the other hand, for me, visiting Albania has been a long-held ambition, dating back about 30 years to my early university days when it was still a country closed to foreigners.

 

Enver Hoxha, leader of Albania from 1944 till his death in 1985, his residence in Blloku, and the monument built by his daughter to honour him after his death

With the death of the Communist dictator Enver Hoxha in 1985, and the collapse of communism in 1991, Albania opened up to the world and, in some ways, has been playing catch-up ever since.

 

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Markets in Tirana

Today, the country is recognised as a burgeoning new tourist destination, cheap for those with Western wages, and unspoilt, in some areas, by over-commercialisation. Indeed, this poorly managed economy is becoming increasingly reliant on the tourism industry to bolster GDP, and some 5 million tourists a year, mainly from the Balkans, Italy, Greece and ex-pat Albanians (almost another 5 million Albanians live outside Albania) visit this small nation with a declining population of only 2.9 million.

I am not a typical tourist! I travelled from an Australian summer into an Albanian winter and largely stayed away from the beaches of the Adriatic coast. I spent almost two weeks based in the Albanian capital Tirana, from where it was fairly easy to travel to numerous destinations around the country, although sometimes only by private car. The capital does not have a functioning train station and the buses are an adventure in themselves. But it is all good.

 

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Tirana sits nestled beneath stunning Mount Dajt, a national park that can be viewed from the spectacular Dajti Express cable car, the longest cable car ride in the Balkans

 

I came here to experience, as best you can as an outsider who doesn’t speak the language, how Albanians live and to explore Albanian art and culture. I was also interested in the legacies of socialism and prolonged isolation from the rest of the world in a century during which the pace of change accelerated exponentially.

Although I am fortunate that Australian currency trades well against the lek and the prices of most things here seem comparatively cheap, I do not lack imagination and I think I have gained some understanding of how Albanian people live on a daily basis.

I shopped in the supermarkets, cooked in the kitchen, caught buses and furgons, ate burek from street stalls, and chatted extensively to people left idle by the lack of winter tourism. Albanians are a friendly lot, many of whom speak excellent English and are happy to chat to you about their country and their strong sense of Albanian identity.

 

Street art in Tirana

I was astounded by the richness of the Albanian cultural heritage, and equally so by the utter indifference of many people in this nation to its cultural treasures. Exceptions are notable, but feel that they are fighting an uphill battle.

 

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St Christopher Cynocephalus (dog-faced), an unusual Orthodox rendition of St Christopher, found at the National Museum of Medieval Art in Korce

 

From an Australian perspective, I feel as if I have been travelling through an absurdist landscape in which everyone else around me seems perfectly at home.

Allow me to explain….

If I were to review my hotel on a site like tripadvisor, (and I don’t – usually) I’m not sure how I would proceed. My small B&B sat in a brilliant location in central Tirana. The three staff on reception – the owner, manager, and a casual – were largely fabulous, very engaging, and incredibly helpful, except when they forgot to be so.

The room itself looked pretty good, but like most things in Albania, didn’t bear too close scrutiny. Heating was provided by an air conditioning unit that could only operate at 32 degrees – try to turn it down and it shut off. This is a bit too warm, even for an Aussie, so nights that fell a few degrees below zero were spent with the aircon running while the windows were cracked open to varying degrees to modulate the inside temp.

TV remotes sat on the nicely appointed dining table, although there was no TV in sight. On enquiry about its whereabouts, a television was produced from another room, with another couple of remotes, and the receptionist attempted to wire an antenna connection herself by stripping the plastic from wires on the antenna cable and hanging the exposed wires over the antenna plug at the back of the TV.

Needless to say, this didn’t work.

 

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Tirana streets

 

A shower perched over a spa bath narrow enough only for the trim and athletic had no shower curtain, and thus flooded the bathroom each morning – counteracted by the small fan heater used for drying the floor.

A harsh crashing noise heard during a quiet cup of tea led, upon investigation, to the discovery that half the bathroom tiles had launched themselves from the wall into the (thankfully unoccupied) bath.

The kitchen had a fully functional range hood with a flue that terminated directly below the top of the kitchen cupboard. More than half of the lights did not work. Of those that did, the bathroom lighting situation is a particularly treasured memory.

In the bathroom itself there was a carefully wired motion sensor that killed the light after 90 seconds, right in the middle of your piddle or shower. In the alcove just outside the bathroom, directly in line with the double bed, was a bulb with no switch that was thus on permanently, as in 24 hours a day. For good measure the staff had fitted the brightest bulb possible, making sleep without the doona over your head a virtual impossibility.

This great little hotel has been ranked at  9.3 and 9.4 on a leading travel website, and reviewed as being above the usual standard of Albanian hotels. And despite all the flaws and potential threats to life, it was!

 

The tiny, poorly lit Archaeological Museum in Tirana had some lovely exhibits, many of which could only be viewed under flickering fluoros or by using your own torch. In some instances, ageing blutack failed to keep the exhibit upright

 

One of the primary purposes of my trip was to explore Albanian art and culture. Museums were a big attraction and it was with some excitement that I planned a day in the Albanian National Museum which, the website assured me, was open for business with a wide range of cultural exhibits. As it turned out, not only was the museum not open on this day, but it had not been open for more than a year due to reconstruction of the Skanderbeg Square.

Well then, off to the Archaeological Museum, located by the university on Mother Teresa Square. Thankfully I routinely carry a torch because some of the exhibits, thrown rather haphazardly into glass display cases (and not always upright), were in total darkness. In other corners, fluorescent bulbs strobed in a slightly worrying manner.

 

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Wall of Byzantine icons at the National Museum of Medieval Art in Korce

 

The beautiful new National Museum of Medieval Art in Korce, which advertised an opening time of 10 am, was resolutely locked when I arrived at 11.30 after a 100km journey to view the unparalleled collection of Albanian orthodox icons. After four rings of the buzzer, and a retreat halfway down the entry path, the door opened a crack. ‘Yes, of course we are open. Come in.’

 

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Sweet street dog in Durres

 

Perhaps the most lasting impression of Albania for this canine-loving traveller was the number of stray dogs on the streets – about 7,000 dogs roam free. Contrary to some rumours, they are generally gentle and sweet, looking for a bit of kindness and a square meal. They live absolutely everywhere and efforts to vaccinate and de-sex them , while valiant, have thus far reached only about 300 dogs.

 

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Stray dogs living in the park in Tirana

 

An entire pack of dogs live on a tiny roundabout in the middle of one of the busiest roads leading out of Tirana. They are remarkably street-savvy and road-smart. Most heart-wrenching for me was a mother with five young pups who tried to get them across the road. The pups were too scared to follow and they ended up separated by a never-ending stream of dodging  and weaving traffic.

 

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Children lighting a fire by the canal on one of the busiest streets in Tirana – no-one blinked

 

I must confess, I absolutely love this country, but two weeks was enough and I am just as happy to leave. Shonkiness, shoddiness and bodginess are an artform here, and absurdist principles (a la Waiting for Godot) abound.

Ankle-breaking holes in the footpath, deep wells that appear suddenly in the snow without barriers or warnings, maniacal drivers who charge into oncoming traffic to gain a one-car advantage, a deep underground water cistern at a tourist attraction with neither fences or signage …

 

Hazards for the unsuspecting tourist include footpaths that terminate in deep underground water cisterns, and unmarked wells and vertical shafts in the snow or grass

Albanians who survive into adulthood must be a wily and resilient lot because walking down the street is enough to cull the inattentive and non-athletic.

In stark contrast to this indifference to life, limb and culture is the Albanian passion for cars, and the proliferation of car washes and tire repair shops.

 

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Castle walls in Durres

 

The Albanian land is phenomenally beautiful. Seventy percent of the country is covered by mountains that drop almost to the sea. It is bewildering that such a beautiful landscape is so marred and scarred by the presence of humanity.

 

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Castle at Berat. Many residents have ancestors who have lived here for countless generations

 

One can only hope that once the wider world begins to make its way to Albania’s shores, through both tourism, and art and cultural exchange, Albanians as a whole will begin to value the gift they have to share with the world.

Travelling tip: bring your own plug. They don’t come with the sink, can’t be bought, and google translate lists no Albanian word for plug.

 

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Durres

stalin poster of the week 11: vladislav pravdin, long live the bolshevik party, the lenin-stalin party, the vanguard of the soviet people forged in battle, the inspiration and organiser of our victories, 1950

Vladislav Pravdin propaganda poster 1950 Stalin and the Politburo

Vladislav Pravdin (Правдин), Long Live the Bolshevik Party, the Lenin-Stalin Party, the Vanguard of the Soviet People Forged in Battle, the Inspiration and Organizer of Our Victories! (За здравствует партия большевиков, партия ленина-сталина, закаленный в боях авангард советского, вдохновитель и организатор наших побед!), 1950

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.

Many Stalinist propaganda posters depict huge red banners that fill the sky and hover protectively over the crowds below them. The text on the posters specifically invokes the banner as a protective and inspirational object, whether protecting the troops going into battle, inspiring citizens to further sacrifice in the name of the victory of communism, or even protecting and legitimating the leadership.

A 1950 poster by Vladislav Pravdin features two red banners that dominate the sky. The largest of the two, which occupies almost all of the top half of the poster, is intensely red and decorated with gold braid — it ripples as if in a gentle breeze.

 

Detail 1950 propaganda poster by Vladislav Pravdin Lenin

Lenin, already dead for 26 years, is a protective saint

 

It is emblazoned with the head and shoulders of Lenin in fleshy tones, associating Lenin with eternal life, as in the icon, and also acknowledging his sacrifice for the sake of the people – Lenin survived an assassination attempt in 1918 and, despite dying of natural causes, was still viewed as a martyr to the cause by many.

Lenin looks out to the viewer’s left, his eyes focused on a distant vision of the past. Beneath him, the figure of Stalin dominates the foreground, his head jutting up into the red field created by the banner, with Lenin hovering over his right shoulder like a protective ‘good angel’.

Stalin’s gaze mimics that of Lenin and he partakes of the implication of eternal life already bestowed upon Lenin.

 

Detail of 1950 propaganda poster Vladislav Pravdin Politburo

Nikita Krushchev, Georgii Malenkov, and ‘Iron Lazar’ Kaganovich – key Soviet leader figures under Stalin

 

Behind Stalin, and also underneath Lenin’s banner, are the figures of the Soviet leadership although it is interesting to note that this was not the membership of the Politburo at the time.

The other leaders are differentiated from Stalin by appearing smaller and their gazes turn in a number of directions, with Andrei Andreev and Anastas Mikoian looking directly at the viewer.

Behind the first banner is a second large banner that hovers over the anonymous faces of ‘the masses’, carrying text which reads: ‘Under the banner of Lenin, under the leadership of Stalin — forward to the victory of communism!’, making literal the well-worn slogan.

We can read Pravdin’s poster as an icon, replacing Russian Orthodox iconography with Soviet iconography. The apotheosised Lenin floats in the upper part of the poster, contained within an implicit aureole.

His red banner spreads over the Party leaders, guiding and protecting them as they lead the people forward to victory.

 

Detail 1950 propaganda poster Vladislav Pravdin

Nikolai Shvernik, Lavrentii Beria, Nikolai Bulganin, Vyacheslav Molotov, Aleksei Kosygin, Anastas Mikoian – key Soviet leader figures under Stalin

 

Stalin, the largest figure in the poster and, therefore, the most important, is the chief saint, while the other leaders flanking him fill the ranks of the minor saints.

The common people follow behind Stalin and are also guided and protected by a Lenin banner.

Like the icon, the poster is a primarily visual medium which relies on the impact of the image to deliver its message. By visually referencing the characteristics of the Russian Orthodox icon, the posters encouraged the viewer to respond in a spiritual manner to the form and content of the poster, and to draw parallels, both conscious and unconscious, between the central figure in the posters and the key spiritual figures of the Orthodox faith.

This was facilitated by Russian traditions of leadership in which the tsar held both secular and spiritual powers and was viewed as the sacred protector of the people.

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 10: unknown artist, ‘the foreign policy of the soviet union is clear and explicit’, 1940.

1940 poster of Stalin about USSR foreign policy

Unknown artist, ‘The foreign policy of the Soviet Union is clear and explicit’ (Внешняя политика Советского Союза ясна и понятна), 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.

This poster by an unidentified artist was published during the era of the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact in which the USSR attempted to avoid entry into the Second World War. In 1940, the rest of Europe had been at war for one year, and the USSR was still using the time bought by the pact to try to increase its arsenal and expand the armed forces.

The poster has for its caption a substantial text quoted from Stalin’s speech of 10 March 1939. The text stresses that the Soviet Union offers ‘moral’ support to the workers of all countries, and the final words state specifically that the foreign policy of the Soviet Union aligns it with countries who are not interested in breaching the peace.

Detail of 1940 USSR propaganda poster

As the USSR watched the rest of Europe go to war, Stalin was presented as a man of peace

The text is extensive, and stresses both the desire for peace, but readiness for war if the USSR’s sovereignty is violated. It reads as follows:

“The foreign policy of the Soviet Union is clear and explicit.

  1. We stand for peace and the strengthening of business relations with all countries. That is our position; and we shall adhere to this position as long as these countries maintain like relations with the Soviet Union, and as long as they make no attempt to trespass on the interests of our country.
  2. We stand for peaceful, close and friendly relations with all the neighbouring countries which have common frontiers with the USSR. That is our position; and we shall adhere to this position as long as these countries maintain like relations with the Soviet Union, and as long as they make no attempt to trespass, directly or indirectly, on the integrity and inviolability of the frontiers of the Soviet state.
  3. We stand for the support of nations which are the victims of aggression and are fighting for the independence of their country.
  4. We are not afraid of the threats of aggressors, and are ready to deal two blows for every blow delivered by instigators of war who attempt to violate the Soviet borders.

Such is the foreign policy of the Soviet Union. In its foreign policy the Soviet Union relies upon:

  1. Its growing economic, political and cultural might;

  2. The moral and political unity of our Soviet society;

  3. The mutual friendship of the nations of our country;

  4. Its Red Army and Red Navy;

  5. Its policy of peace;

  6. The moral support of the working people of all countries, who are vitally concerned in the preservation of peace;

  7. The good sense of the countries which for one reason or another have no interest in the violation of peace.

Detail 1940 USSR popaganda poster

A red flag is raised from the turret. The Red Army are not the aggressors – but are prepared for war

This landscape format poster is a colourful offering in this otherwise black, white and red era, with Stalin at a podium in the foreground, papers in hand, seemingly at the beginning or end of his speech, and a crowd of multinational citizens, many in national dress, walking up behind him.

The crowd comprises people of all ages, including children, and they come from all walks of life. A child holds aloft a red balloon, while on the left this action is paralleled by the raising of a red flag from the open turret of a tank. The gesture is one of salute, but is akin to the gesture of truce or surrender, which is usually made with a white flag. The tank is motionless and the personnel exposed — they are prepared, but are not heading off to war.

Detail 1940 propaganda poster USSR

People of all the nationalities of the USSR rally behind Stalin’s call for peace

The background is a colourful and busy tribute to Soviet achievement — tractors, lorries and harvesters are busy in the lush green fields, smoke plumes out of the factories in the distance, aircraft fly in formation in the blue sky, and buildings at the side highlight the end results of successful construction.

The poster was published by Izostat, the All-union institute of pictorial statistics of Soviet construction and economy. Izostat was set up in 1931 to train Soviet designers and technicians in the effective use of pictorial statistics, particularly as an instrument for propaganda and agitation. The institute was closed in 1940.

Detail 1940 USSR propaganda poster

The USSR strides ahead with massive industrialisation and collectivisation in agriculture

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 9: viktor koretskii, beloved stalin is the people’s joy!, 1949

1949 Stalin poster Viktor Koretskii

Viktor Koretskii (Виктор Корецкий), Beloved Stalin is the people’s joy! (Любимый сталин – счастье народа!), 1949

 

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.

1949 was the year of Stalin’s massive official 70th birthday celebrations, and this poster by Viktor Koretskii shows him being greeted and applauded by a sea of festive people crowding into Red Square. The Soviet masses bear flowers, and carry banners and portraits of Lenin and Stalin – significantly, there are two portraits of Lenin in the crowd, but three of Stalin.

Stalin stands on the tribune on top of Lenin’s Mausoleum, which raises him above and separates him from the crowd. While each member of the crowd gazes at him, Stalin makes eye contact with no-one.

 

Detail of 1949 Koretskii poster

Who exactly is Stalin applauding? Himself?

 

Although Stalin may appear to be acknowledging the applause of the crowd by applauding them as well, he does not actually engage with his audience, looking above and beyond them. It is unclear precisely what he is applauding …  perhaps joining in with the crowd to applaud himself.

The presence of flowers and children in the crowd is reminiscent of posters thanking Stalin for providing a happy childhood and this poster appears to belong to a long-standing genre of posters that depict the reciprocal obligation between the leader and the citizens. This genre includes posters that:

  • highlight the debt owed to Stalin for a happy childhood
  • highlight the debt owed by women for their new equality in society to Stalin and the Party
  • thank Stalin, the Party and/or the Red Army for winning the war
  • acknowledge Stalin as the benefactor of all humankind
  • associate Stalin and the Party with great Soviet achievements
  • acknowledge and encourage those who strive to do their duty and
  • appear to acknowledge that obligation is a two-way street

 

Detail 1949 Koretskii poster

Stalin, in his white Marshal’s uniform, does not make eye contact with the crowd

 

However, closer examination of both textual and visual cues within the posters reveals the one-sidedness of the relationship and this poster ultimately reinforces the notion of Stalin as the bestower of all bounty and the source of all achievements. The caption removes any possible ambiguity: ‘Beloved Stalin is the people’s joy!’

Citizens can never hope to reciprocate these gifts adequately in any tangible manner, having only their eternal gratitude and well-crafted birthday gifts to offer, and thus remain in a condition of permanent indebtedness to their leader.

The text on the banner on the building opposite Stalin reads: “Hail to our great homeland – the stronghold of friendship and glory for the peoples of our country!”

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 8: viktor deni, “with the banner of lenin we won in the battles for the october revolution. with the banner of lenin we achieved decisive success in the battle for socialist construction. with the same banner, we will win in the proletarian revolution all over the world”. i. stalin, 1930

1930 poster by Viktor Deni showing Stalin facing down class enemies

Viktor Deni (Виктор Дени), “With the banner of Lenin we won in the battles for the October Revolution. With the banner of Lenin we achieved decisive success in the battle for socialist construction. With the same banner, we will win in the proletarian revolution all over the world”. I. Stalin (“со знаменем ленина победили мы в боях за октябрьскую революциюю. со знаменем ленина добилиь мы решаюших успехов в борьбе за победу социалистического строителства. с этим же знаменем победим в пролетарской революций во всем мире.” и. сталин.), 1930

 

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.

Despite the fact that charismatic leadership hinges on binary codings of ‘us’ and ‘them’, and on salvation narratives in which the leader identifies enemies and saves the populace from them, Stalin was rarely depicted in posters with the enemy or alongside any kind of brutality, even during the Second World War.

This 1930 poster by Viktor Deni, ‘With the banner of Lenin we won in the battles for the October Revolution …’ is one of Stalin’s rare appearances with enemies. In these early days of his leadership, not quite a decade on from the end of the Civil War, Stalin saw the USSR as still being engaged in class war. In fact, he saw class war as intensifying, and this provided one of the major justifications for the Great Terror from 1936 to 1938 in which whole classes of people were exiled or executed.

 

Detail of Deni poster 1930

Enemies of the people: the priest

 

Enemies of the people included Trotskyists, the Right, the Left, Mensheviks, spies, traitors, kulaks (wealthy peasants), priests, drunkards, bureaucrats, shirkers, saboteurs, capitalists, White Guardists and skeptics about the first Five-Year Plan.

 

Detail of 1930 poster by Deni

Enemies of the people: the Oblomov

 

In November 1918, Martin Latsis, Chairman of the Eastern Front Cheka (state security organisation), stated:

We are not waging war against individual persons. We are exterminating the bourgeoisie as a class. During the investigation, do not look for evidence that the accused acted in deed or word against Soviet power. The first questions that you ought to put are: To what class does he belong? What is his origin? What is his education or profession? And it is these questions that ought to determine the fate of the accused.*

 

Detail of 1930 poster by Deni

Enemies of the people: the Menshevik

 

Deni’s 1930 poster features small caricatures of a priest, a capitalist, an ‘oblomov’**, and a Menshevik, lined up down the left side of the poster. They gesture angrily at Stalin, who faces them off from the right with an unperturbed gaze, and the machinery of Soviet industrialisation and construction bolstering him.

 

Detail of 1930 poster by Deni

Enemies of the people: the capitalist


* Martin Latsis quoted in Klaus-Georg Riegel, ‘Marxism–Leninism as a political religion’, Totalitarian Movements and Political Religions, 2005, 6:1, p. 106.

** The terms ‘oblomov’ and ‘oblomovism’ derive from Ivan Goncharov’s popular novel, Oblomov (1859). The central character, Oblomov, is indecisive and apathetic, and takes the first 50 pages of the novel to get from his bed to his chair. ‘Oblomovshchina’ (oblomovism) refers to a condition of fatalistic apathy and sloth. Chonghoon Lee notes that the condition was a central concern of Soviet psychiatric and neurological research and was viewed as a ‘national disease’ which was denounced in the drive for industrialisation and the search for heroes of labour (See ‘Visual Stalinism from the perspective of heroisation: posters, paintings and illustrations in the 1930s’, Totalitarian Movements and Political Religions, 8:3–4, 2007, pp. 503–21, p. 503).