stalin poster of the week 29: i. yang, voters of Stalin’s constituency in moscow, vote on june 26, 1938 in the elections to the supreme soviet of the rsfsr for the great leader of the people, dear and beloved iosif vissarionovich stalin, 1938

1938 electoral poster of Stalin

I. Yang (янг, и.), Voters of Stalin’s constituency vote in Moscow on June 26, 1938 in the elections to the Supreme Soviet of the RSFSR for the great leader of the people, dear and beloved Iosif Vissarionovich Stalin (избиратели сталинского избирательного округа в москвы голосуйте 26 июня 1938 г. на выборах в верховный совет рсфср), 1938

 

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 Bolshevik Party having a firm and unshakeable grip on power in the USSR from the late 1920s until the fall of the Soviet Union in December, 1991, elections were held in the Soviet Union under Stalin, throughout the period of his leadership.

When the Constitution of the USSR was adopted on 5 December, 1936, socialism was officially ratified as having been successfully accomplished, and the beginning of the next phase, the transition to communism, commenced.

It was mandated in the new Constitution that elections be held for all government bodies, from local councils to the Supreme Council of the Soviet Union. Elections to the Supreme Soviet were held on 12 December, 1937 and these were the first elections to be held under the new constitution.

Although these were declared multi-candidate elections, meaning that, under Article 124 of the Constitution, bodies like the Orthodox Church could field candidates, this decision was reversed, largely due to paranoia surrounding the Great Purge of 1937. Mass arrests were carried out by the NKVD (People’s Commissariat for Internal Affairs) shortly before the elections.

The Communist Party was subject to re-election, and in his pre-election speech as a candidate, Stalin took the floor begrudgingly and with the humility for which he had become well-known. After some self-effacing remarks, he continued:

I have been nominated as candidate, and the Election Commission of the Stalin District of the Soviet capital has registered my candidature. This, comrades, is an expression of great confidence. Permit me to convey to you my profound Bolshevik gratitude for this confidence that you have shown the Bolshevik Party of which I am a member, and me personally as a representative of that Party.

I know what confidence means. It naturally lays upon me new and additional duties and, consequently, new and additional responsibilities. Well, it is not customary among us Bolsheviks to refuse responsibilities. I accept them willingly.

For my part, I would like to assure you, comrades, that you may safely rely on Comrade Stalin. You may take it for granted that Comrade Stalin will be able to discharge his duty to the people, to the working class, to the peasantry and to the intelligentsia.

Further, comrades, I would like to congratulate you on the occasion of the forthcoming national holiday, the day of the elections to the Supreme Soviet of the Soviet Union. The forthcoming elections are not merely elections, comrades, they are really a national holiday of our workers, our peasants and our intelligentsia.  Never in the history of the world have there been such really free and really democratic elections — never! History knows no other example like it. The point is not that our elections will be universal, equal, secret and direct, although that fact in itself is of great importance. The point is that our universal elections will be carried out as the freest elections and the most democratic compared with elections in any other country in the world.

Joseph Stalin, “Speech Delievered by J.V. Stalin at a Meetings of Voters of the Stalin Electoral District, Moscow,” From the Pamphlet Collection, J. Stalin, Speeches Delivered at Meetings of Voters of the Stalin Electoral District, Moscow, Foreign Languages Publishing House, Moscow, 1950, pp. 7-18.

The majority of seats in both chambers of the Supreme Soviet were won by the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (Bolsheviks) (CPSU), of which Stalin was General Secretary.

In 1938, the legislative elections for the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic were held, with Stalin leading the party and up for re-election in his constituency. This 1938 electoral poster by I. Yang is similar to electoral posters throughout the world, featuring a portrait of the leader of the party, surrounded by a slogan urging voters to endorse the party candidate, and symbolic emblems of the party.

 

Detail of 1938 electoral poster of Stalin by Yang

Stalin manages to look humble, clever and visionary all at once in this portrait.

 

Stalin, with narrowed eyes indicative of shrewdness, looks out to the viewer’s right, the direction associated with the future. The plain collar of his military-style worker’s tunic can be seen, and he appears as both clever and humble, intelligent enough to lead the nation, but still one of the ordinary people at heart.

Stalin’s portrait is framed in gold and he is surrounded by red flags, a red star, and hammer-and-sickle emblems. Red and gold are colours that are both traditionally associated with the Bolsheviks, and also have a long tradition as sacred colours in Russian Orthodox icons.

 

Detail of 1938 election poster of Stalin by I. Yang

The hammer-and-sickle emblem was a logo for the Bolsheviks

 

The text of the poster informs the populace of the date of the election and requests that they vote for ‘dear and beloved Iosif Vissarionovich Stalin’. Unsurprisingly, the CPSU won 568 seats in the 1938 election, with 159 seats falling to independent candidates.

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.

Dr Anita Pisch’s website is at www.anitapisch.com

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stalin poster of the week 28: alexander mytnikov, 26 years without lenin, but still on lenin’s path, 1950

1950 poster of Stalin and Lenin by Mytnikov

Alexander Abramovich Mytnikov (Мытников, Александр Абрамович), 26 years without Lenin, but still on Lenin’s path (26 лет без Ленина, по Ленинскому пути), 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.

This intriguing poster by Alexander Mytnikov, published at Rostov-on-Don in 1950, employs the generic slogan ‘Under the banner of Lenin, under the leadership of Stalin — forward to the victory of communism!’ at its base, but has an unusual caption at the top of the poster — ‘26 years without Lenin, but still on Lenin’s path’.

An almost white-haired Stalin stands with his face in semi-shadow, his brows pinched as if in grief. According to literary scholar Katerina Clark,* in socialist realist literature the furrowed brow and pinched face are signs of the revolutionary’s dedication and sacrifice. Although Stalin’s skin is generally smooth and unblemished, he appears tired and aged.

 

Detail of 1950 Stalin poster by Mytnikov

Stalin looks old and tired, and his pinched brow symbolises revolutionary sacrifice

 

Behind Stalin, a massive red banner billows in a yellow sky, resembling a wall of fire. The tiny Spassky tower of the Kremlin is in shadow, with the golden fringe of the banner also resembling flames. The words on the banner read ‘Long live the Party of Lenin–Stalin!’

Dominating the banner, on a scale similar to Stalin’s head, is that of Lenin in grayscale. Lenin also looks out of the poster, but far further to the left (the left signifies the past) than Stalin. Lenin’s hair, normally portrayed in posters as flat and sparse, curls forward around his forehead above his ears, and his usually trim goatee is thick and lush and appears to circle his chin.

 

Detail of 1950 Stalin poster by Mytnikov

Lenin’s usually sparse hair is curly, thick and lush in this poster

 

This is an unusual depiction of Lenin, but bears some resemblance to depictions of St Nicholas the Wonderworker in Russian Orthodox icons. St Nicholas, whose feast day is 6 December (19 December, Old Calendar) is the ‘miracle-working’ saint and one of the most beloved figures in the iconography of the church, known for his gentleness, humility, love of all people and purity of heart.

Tales of St Nicholas’ life highlight a reputation for giving anonymous and secret gifts to aid people in need and he is reported to have divided his substantial inheritance among the poor. He is known to intercede for petitioners in response to heartfelt prayer through his icon in practical and tangible ways, particularly in matters of healing and rescue, and is also the patron saint of travellers, particularly seafarers.

 

St Nicholas the Wonderworker (Image in the public domain)

St Nicholas the Wonderworker (Image in the public domain)

 

Nicholas is usually depicted with a high, bald forehead, his hair curling in on either side, and with a trim circular beard and moustache. By placing Lenin on the red banner over Stalin’s right shoulder, visually referencing St Nicholas, and making textual reference to his exemplary role, Mytnikov is perhaps drawing a parallel between Lenin and Nicholas’s gentle nature, humility, and fame for redistributing the wealth of the rich among the poor.

There is also the suggestion that the apotheosised Lenin can intercede on behalf of both Stalin and the Soviet citizen. While Lenin is a saint in the Soviet pantheon, Stalin is the dedicated and self-sacrificial revolutionary who bears aloft the Lenin banner.

Katerina Clark, The Soviet novel, p. 57

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.

Dr Anita Pisch’s website can be found at www.anitapisch.com

stalin poster of the week 27: Vladimir Elpidiforovich Kaidalov, Departing from us, Comrade Lenin urged us to strengthen and extend the union republics…, 1940

1940 poster of Stalin and Lenin by Kaidalov

Vladimir Elpidiforovich Kaidalov (Кайдалов, В.), Departing from us, Comrade. Lenin urged us to strengthen and extend the union republics. We swear to you, comrade. Lenin, that we will fulfill with honor your behest (уходя от нас, тов. Ленин завещал укреплять и расширять союз республик. клянемся тебе, тов. Ленин, что мы выполним с честью и эту твою заповедь), 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.

A 1940 poster from Tashkent, Uzbekistan, by Vladimir Kaidalov quotes from Stalin’s funerary oath to Lenin on 26 January 1924: ‘Departing from us, Comrade Lenin urged us to strengthen and extend the union republics. We swear to you, Comrade Lenin, that we will fulfil with honour your behest’.

 

Detail of 1940 poster of Stalin and Lenin by Kaidalov

Lenin’s head floats in the sky – a saintly protector who guides the nation from beyond

 

A giant head of Lenin sits above the Kremlin in a crimson sky. In 1940, Lenin had already been dead for 16 years, but was still the major legitimating tool for the Soviet government, and for Stalin as leader. By depicting Lenin as hovering in the sky, he appears as a protective spirit, guiding Stalin and the people on the path from socialism to full communism.

 

Detail of 1940 poster of Stalin and Lenin by Kaidalov

Stalin swears an elegaic oath to Lenin

 

Beneath the sky, a holy shade of red like the background in an Orthodox icon, a crowd of people in Uzbek dress carry large red banners and look up at Stalin, who stands at the podium, arm raised to swear his oath.

 

Detail of 1940 poster of Stalin and Lenin by Kaidalov

Uzbek citizens, many in traditional dress, look to Stalin for guidance

 

The portion of Stalin’s oath that is quoted on the poster refers to socialist work to be undertaken in the union republics. In 1940, Tashkent was in the early stages of a total reconstruction that would see a ‘cultured city’ rise out of the demolition of a city of single-storey mudbrick houses, the opening of the Tashkent canal, and the opening of the children’s railway.

 

Detail of 1940 poster of Stalin and Lenin by Kaidalov

The text of the poster is in both Uzbek and Russian

 

Plans to refashion Tashkent’s inhabitants into high-rise dwellers were meeting with resistance, and this poster calls upon the apotheosised Lenin to legitimate Stalin’s plan, whilst also showing Stalin to be a man of honour, having given his word to carry on Lenin’s plans in his funeral oration.

Kaidalov, who was born in Barnaul, Siberia in 1907 and only moved to Tashkent in 1932, achieved considerable fame as a painter in Uzbekistan and was awarded the
honorary title of the People’s Artist of Uzbekistan.

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.

Dr Anita Pisch’s website can be found at www.anitapisch.com

 

stalin poster of the week 26: boris belopol’skii, we stand for peace and we defend the cause of peace, 1952

1952 poster of Stalin by Boris Belopol'skii

Boris Belopol’skii (Белопольский, Б), We stand for peace and we defend the cause of peace. I. Stalin (Мы стоим за мир и мы отстаиваем дело мира. И. 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.

In the 1950s, Stalin was increasingly promoted in propaganda as a man of peace and the Soviet Union led peace movements throughout the world.

Two posters of 1952 by painter and graphic artist Boris Belopol’skii address the peace theme. This one features Stalin in military uniform (while in the other, he is without).  A large red banner provides a backdrop to Stalin in his marshal’s uniform, standing in front of, but isolated from, a thronging crowd.

 

Detail of Belopol'skii poster of Stalin, 1952

Stalin stands in front of a banner that protects a river of grateful people

 

The diagonal crowd filling the space suggests the movement of a never-ending river of people, and is reminiscent of the posters of the mid-1930s, although now it is no longer just the Soviet people who are giving their thanks and support to the great man, but the people of the whole world thanking Stalin for bringing peace.

Stalin gazes into the utopian future. He holds a pencil and a piece of paper; however, the pencil is not held as one would hold it for writing, but flat between the thumb and index finger with the tip pointing out at the viewer. It looks as if the pencil is being used as a conductor’s baton, or even as a wand.

 

Detail of Belopol'skii poster of Stalin, 1952

This is not how one holds a pencil when writing

 

This unusual gesture suggests three things:

  • that Stalin is the author of the document he is holding, which is probably some sort of declaration,
  • that he is the orchestrator of this great mass movement,
  • and also that he is the bearer of magic powers — a magician.

This is one of the few instances in posters of Stalin in which the archetype of the Magician is employed, although Stalin is often associated with magical properties, such as control over the elements and spiritual powers, in the visual symbolism of posters produced by Iraklii Toidze, and is depicted with talismanic and spiritual–inspirational properties in a number of posters.

Although many of the epithets of Stalin’s personality cult ascribe superhuman or supernatural qualities to Stalin, it is only on comparatively rarely that the visual symbolism is as explicit as it is here.

Stalin’s figure in this poster is strangely elongated, making him appear taller and slimmer than is usually the case. Elongation of human figures is a characteristic of Russian Orthodox icons, and the language of the icon informed almost every aspect of Soviet poster design.

It is possible that by making Stalin’s figure so obviously elongated, Belopol’skii is drawing a parallel with the Orthodox saints, and thus reinforcing the Saviour archetype that is also associated with Stalin in posters of this era.

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.

You can visit Dr. Anita Pisch’s personal website at www.anitapisch.com