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.


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