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.
Mizin’s 1934 poster celebrates the Komsomol, the All-Union Leninist Young Communist League (or VLKSM) for youth aged 14 to 28 years. Originally formed in 1918 as the Russian Young Communist League, or RKSM, the Komsomol was one of a series of youth organisations that provided activities and education for children, and groomed them to become valuable Party members.
Children under nine years old could join the Little Octobrists, then progress onto the Pioneers (Vladimir Lenin All-Union Pioneer Organisation) for children aged 10 to 14. Pioneers wore red scarves and undertook activities similar to the scouts. After Pioneers came the Komsomol.
Mizin’s poster shows Stalin down among the youth, one of the ‘everyday’ people, although his white tunic and cap mark him out for special attention. The youth represent a cross-section of Soviet young people – armed forces personnel, aviators and agricultural workers.
Agricultural workers were often represented as women in red scarves, the knot tied behind their head. The red scarf designated a collective farm worker, someone who had willingly embraced Stalin’s policy of collectivisation and laboured for the state. The knot behind the head, rather than under the chin as with traditional peasant women, showed the new breed of peasant woman – strong, dedicated and determined.
Behind Stalin’s right shoulder, a female aviator follows him. Many women embraced the opportunity to forge a career in aviation and some of the first female heroes of the Soviet Union were aviators.
An attempt to capture the ethnic diversity of the USSR is made, with Stalin surrounded by youth of various nationalities, all striding together in the same direction.
Stalin and the youth are protected by the ubiquitous red banners, Lenin’s glowing profile offering protection and blessing over the youth who strive in his name. These youth are particularly notable, some of them wearing state awards.
Behind the youth and banners, a crowd throngs in, stretching back for miles to a horizon punctuated by electricity towers, evidence of the huge strides made in electrification of the country. Electrification of Russia was a project particularly associated with Lenin. Stalin took Lenin’s work further by undertaking electrification of the entire Soviet Union.
The text of the poster is taken from Stalin’s speech on the tenth anniversary of the Komsomol, October 28, 1928:
‘The Leninist Komsomol was and still is the young reserve of our revolution’.
Although the Komsomol is primarily associated with Lenin, it is Stalin, the man of the present, who takes the role of interpreter of Lenin’s doctrine.
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.