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 early poster of Stalin, with hair parted on the side and wrinkles under his eyes and on his brow, was published in an edition of 25,000 by Litografia CKKPO in Krasnodar, Russia, in 1930, just one year after Stalin consolidated his personal power as leader in the battle for succession after Lenin’s death, and a year after Leon Trotskii’s exile. It is an interesting first tentative attempt to begin constructing a warrior identity for Stalin.
The text of the poster provides an extensive biography purporting to summarise each year of Stalin’s adult life, making mention of his revolutionary underground activities, several arrests, exiles and escapes.
However, at this early stage in Stalin’s career, his military exploits are not elaborated in great detail. The civil war years merely contain references to Stalin’s roles as People’s Commissar for Nationalities, and People’s Commissar for the Worker-Peasant Inspectorate, as well as his appointment as General Secretary of the Party in 1922.
Stalin appears hatless and in a vaguely military-style shirt without embellishment, although he prominently displays two military decorations, both Orders of the Red Banner, which were awarded for extraordinary heroism and courage in battle.
Behind Stalin, sketched in a faint pale green, is evidence of booming industrialisation, as a result of the implementation of the First Five-Year Plan, which was midway through in 1930.
The poster serves as an introduction to Stalin as leader, as a resumé of his revolutionary and civil war credentials and of his personal qualities of courage and Bolshevik conviction, and as a means of associating him with the goals of the Five-Year Plan.
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.