stalin poster of the week 24: konstantin ivanov, happy new year beloved stalin, 1952

Poster of Stalin 1952 by Konstantin Ivanov in which Stalin's portrait is treated like an icon

Konstantin Ivanov (Иванов, К.), Happy New Year, Beloved Stalin! (с новым годом, любимый сталин!), 1952

 

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 is depicted as an icon in this festive poster from 1952.

Konstantin Ivanov’s  Happy New Year, Beloved Stalin! shows Stalin’s portrait being hung as an icon by a young boy at New Year. Stalin wears his Marshal’s uniform and is presented as the great saviour of the Soviet Union.

Unlike earlier posters in which Stalin interacts with children on festive occasions, by 1952 Stalin is present only as an icon portrait at which the child gazes raptly, almost hypnotically, as one prays before an icon.

 

Detail of 1952 poster of Stalin by Konstantin Ivanov

The child’s gaze is almost hypnotic as Stalin is presented as the saviour of the Soviet Union

 

In contrast to the Viktor Koretskii poster of 1943 in which a child also hangs an iconic image of Stalin on a wall, the child is alone in this poster, without siblings, peers or parents.

Perhaps the child is an orphan. Stalin stands in for the absent father, but here he is a remote presence and his relationship with the child is anything but familiar.

 

Detail of 1952 poster of Stalin by Konstantin Ivanov

The New Year tree is decorated with red stars, baubles, candy canes, and a rabbit and a fish, signifying Soviet abundance

 

The small portion of the New Year tree that is visible carries red stars as decorations, but none of the other portents of a happy future that are evident in earlier posters featuring New Year trees – aeroplanes, automobiles, etc

This tree is adorned with tinsel, traditional baubles, a candy cane, a fish and a rabbit – a reference to a time of plenitude and bounty for Soviet citizens. Stalin, the saviour, appears now to be removed from the realm in which he is expected to gift any physical or material objects, to inhabiting a realm in which he is thanked and praised in a manner akin to a god.

The poster highlights Stalin’s talismanic and protective properties.

 

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 23: vartan arakelov, stalin is the wisest of all people…, 1939

Poster of Stalin by Vartan Arakelov, 1939

Vartan Arakelov (Аракелов, В.), Stalin is the wisest of all people… (сталин – самый мудрый из людей…), 1939

 

One of the key symbols associated with Stalin across all genres of propaganda is the sun, with its related qualities of light and warmth. The sun has been a recurrent motif throughout propaganda associated with leaders since pre-Christian times, when leaders appealed to their sun gods to look favourably upon their leadership, their battles and their harvests.

Associating the leader with the sun suggests that he is the bringer of life and of bounty to the people and the sun became a central image in Stalinist propaganda, with Stalin unambiguously equated with the sun in poetry and song, while propaganda posters frequently associated Stalin with light in general. The sun also symbolises the masculine principle and leadership.

Perhaps one of the most laboured metaphorical associations of Stalin with the light of the sun occurs in a poem by Kazakh poet Dzhambul (28.02.1846 – 22.06.1945). This panegyric forms the text of a poster by Vartan Arakelov which was released in 1939, the year of Stalin’s 60th birthday celebrations.

Stalin is celebrated as the father of children of all nations and tribes, and the source of a radiating and shimmering light, which reflects onto everyone.

Despite the fatherly connotations of the text, this poster image of Stalin emphasises his remoteness from the realm of man and endows him with the qualities of a deity.

 

Detail of Stalin poster by Vartan Arakelov, 1939

Stalin is remote and inaccessible, a statue made of stone

 

Stalin is made of stone, an honour reserved for founding fathers and those who have accomplished exceptional feats. The statue is immutable and immortal. It stands amid lush blossoms and above a group of children, and it looks protectively out over the scene and beyond. Stalin appears as a god who guarantees abundance and safety, and invites veneration and worship.

 

Detail of Stalin poster by Vartan Arakelov, 1939

The children, resplendent in their red Pioneer scarves, are grateful, orderly and obedient

 

The children, who are from various nationalities of the USSR, cannot hope to access Stalin personally as they could in earlier posters. Instead, the remote stone Stalin is accessed through his representative in the earthly realm, the poet Dzhambul, who plays the dombra, the pear-shaped lute of the Kazakh people, and sings words of praise of Stalin to the children:

Stalin is the wisest of all people
You couldn’t get a more beloved father.
Radiating light beams onto
Children of all nations, of all tribes.

Stalin is like a fairytale sycamore tree.
His power is visible from everywhere.
Every leaf is an expensive diamond
Shining soft light on you.

Remember forever, pioneer:
Stalin is your best role model.
Like a father, his smile shines on
Children of all nations, of all tribes.

Dzhambul.

Detail of Stalin poster by Vartan Arakelov, 1939

Kazakh poet Dzhambul is like an intermediary priest guiding the children in singing hymns of praise to the omnipotent father

Dzhambul’s mission is sacred, as emphasised by his white tunic and rich red robe.

There is some disagreement as to whether Dzhambul Dzhabayev was a real poet or the creation of Russian writers who needed a traditional folksinger for propaganda purposes. Russian poet Andrei Aldan-Semyonov (27.10.1908 – 08.12.1985) claims to have authored Dzhambul’s poems from 1934 until he was sent to the gulag in 1938.

The children, all members of Lenin’s Young Pioneers, are passive and attentive. From this time onward, the ideal Soviet child was consistently depicted as obedient, disciplined and grateful across all media.  For example, the 1937 film Cradle Song, (Колыбельная) shows Stalin surrounded by children and includes footage of the Eighteenth Party Congress where the Young Pioneers joined in songs of praise sung to Stalin.

stalin poster of the week 22: n. petrov,it is our good fortune that in the trying years of the war the red army and the soviet people were led forward by the wise and tested leader of the soviet union the great stalin…, 1948

1948 poster of Stalin working at his desk in the Kremlin

N. Petrov (Петров, Н), “It is our good fortune that in the trying years of the war the Red Army and the Soviet people were led forward by the wise and tested leader of the Soviet Union the great Stalin. With the name of Generalissimo Stalin the glorious victories of our army will go down in the history of our country and in the history of the world. Under the guidance of Stalin, the great leader and organizer, we are now proceeding to peaceful, constructive labours, striving to bring the forces of Socialist society to full frui- tion and to justify the dearest hopes of our friends all over the world.” V. Molotov (“…это наше счастье, что в трудные годы войны Красную Армию и советский народ вел вперед мудрый и испытанный вождь Советского Союза – Великий Сталин. С именем Генералиссимуса Сталина войдут в историю нашей страны и во всемирную историю славные победы нашей армии. Под руководством Сталина, великого вождья и организатора, мы приступили теперь к мирному строительства , чтобы добиться настоящего расцвета сил социалистического общества и оправдать лучшие надежды наших друзей во всем мире”. В. Молотов), 1948

 

This 1948 poster by N. Petrov shows Stalin in uniform seated at his desk, wholly absorbed in writing in a large book. Behind him, the Spassky tower juts into a hazy sky, the red star atop the steeple blazing like a beacon, even in daylight.

On the top right is a simple framed portrait of Lenin, Stalin’s teacher and inspiration. The text of the poster quotes Vyacheslav Molotov’s speech of 7 November 1945, which credits Stalin with victory in the war. By putting the attribution of credit for victory to Stalin into the mouth of Molotov, Stalin can retain his personal modesty.

 

Detail of 1948 poster of Stalin working at his desk in the Kremlin by N. Petrov

Depicting Stalin in grayscale, except for his military insignia, marks him as a legendary and extraordinary figure, like Lenin

 

It is interesting to note that, while the poster is in full colour, featuring soft pastel hues, Stalin is in black-and-white, except for his military insignia. His hair and flesh are in grayscale, as is Lenin’s portrait in the background.

Many, although certainly not all, posters depict Stalin as a photograph, a cameo, or a sketch, often amid an otherwise colourful and ‘realistic’ background. This tactic seems to support the idea that, although Stalin acts in the real world, he is not a real man, made of flesh and blood, but an image and symbol, whose presence in the poster stands for a number of other referenced qualities and values.

 

Lenin portrait in 1948 Stalin poster by Petrov

Lenin’s portrait provides guidance, inspiration and legitimacy to Stalin’s work

stalin poster of the week 21: 50 years, 1929

1929 poster of Stalin celebrating his 50th birthday

Unidentified artist, 50 years (50 лет), 1929

 

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 1929 poster of Stalin, published by the Red Cross in Stalingrad, is one of the earliest Soviet propaganda posters featuring an image of Stalin and dates to the early days of Stalin’s consolidation of power after the turmoil of the power struggle after Lenin’s death in 1924.

A large bust of Stalin is sketched in red, the symbolic colour of Bolshevism, revolution, blood sacrifice and martyrdom, and of the Russian Orthodox icon. This red is picked up throughout the poster, on the red star on the engine of the train, on the wheels and carriages of trains and tractors, and on the chimneys of industrial buildings busily belching out smoke.

Stalin emerges from scenes of rapid industrialisation, construction, and burgeoning transport networks. The words on the sides of the trains are bread (хлеб), and coal (уголь), the two main thrusts of Bolshevik ambition – feeding the people and modernising the nation.

 

Detail of 1929 poster celebrating Stalin's 50th birthday

Industry, transport and agriculture are booming under Stalin’s recently consolidated leadership

 

For a nation that had been left behind by the rest of Europe, these visible signs of modernisation and industrialisation were scenes of great beauty, and proof that Stalin was the correct man to be leading the nation. The Bolsheviks saw overcoming and subduing nature as a key priority in bringing the USSR rapidly into the new world of the 20th century.

The personality cult of Stalin is often seen as beginning in earnest with Stalin’s 50th birthday celebrations on 21 December 1929. This date is interesting because neither the date nor the year correspond with Stalin’s real birthdate, which was 18 December 1878.

Stalin, for reasons of his own, chose to falsify his birthday, although all of his early records, such as those from his seminary days, clearly show the 1878 date.

 

Detail of Stalin poster from 1929

By colouring Stalin red, his status as sacred to the Bolshevik revolution is reinforced

 

By 1929 Stalin had a much firmer grip on the reins of power than in 1928. Perhaps 50th birthday celebrations and the cultic phenomena surrounding them were simply more politically expedient in 1929 than the previous year.

Such creative and expedient use of biographical data came to be a prominent feature of the Stalin era, although it should also be noted that many monarchs today have their birthdays publicly celebrated on a different date to their actual date of birth.

 

Text from 1929 Stalin poster

The text of the poster documents what were to become the mythical elements of the Stalin biography, from his birth, incorrectly reported as in 1879, to the current year of 1929, thus establishing his extensive Bolshevik credentials.

 

The bottom section of the poster is filled with a brief biographical outline of the major events in Stalin’s Bolshevik biography, from his birth, through his years in the revolutionary underground, to the revolution itself, and beyond to his assumption of the leadership. Bolshevik biographies came to serve the same function as the lives of the saints in the church – they were exemplary and didactic.

Adherence to historical fact was less important than higher moral truths and the lessons to be drawn from a life correctly lived. In the quest for legitimacy for a government that had neither inherited the throne, nor been elected democratically, it was also important to educate the public about the Bolshevik leadership – particularly the new leader, Stalin.

By emphasising Stalin’s Bolshevik credentials, the poster appeals to a sort of ideological legitimacy and is an early step towards developing a cult around the leader, who would partake of the charismatic legitimacy that had been invested in Lenin.

The poster was published by the Russian Red Cross in an era when many Soviet entities were involved in publishing their own posters, and before poster production became centralised and heavily controlled. The text on either side of the poster promotes the Red Cross: “They alone, of all of the toiling masses, stand outside their ranks” and asks the public to strengthen the military-health fund.

 

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.