stalin poster of the week 33: viktor deni, with the banner of lenin…, 1931

Viktor Deni (дени, B. – Виктор Николаевич Денисов), With the banner of Lenin… (со знаменем ленина…), 1931

Viktor Deni (дени, B. – Виктор Николаевич Денисов), With the banner of Lenin… (со знаменем ленина…), 1931

 

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.

Viktor Deni’s distinctive drawing style is already well established in this 1931 poster in which the apotheosised Lenin is called on to legitimate Stalin’s rule.

Deni was one of the major agitprop artists from the beginning of the Soviet Union in 1917, right through to the end of the Great Patriotic War and his death in 1946.

While in this poster Stalin’s image dominates the picture plane, Stalin and the scenes of construction behind him are watched over by the banner of Lenin, which is the subject of the poster’s text. In these early years of Stalin’s leadership, Lenin was continually referenced as the Party’s charismatic founder, as an ideological authority, and as a legitimator of his successor to the Party leadership.

 

Detail of 1931 poster of Stalin by Viktor Deni

The banner of Lenin is inspirational, protective and intercessionary for both Stalin and the Soviet people

 

Lenin, in characteristic collar and tie (a white-collar intellectual) looks slightly to the left, signifying his association with the Party’s past.

The poster caption invokes the protective and inspirational function of the Lenin banner, as well as stressing the military metaphor of the ongoing battles in the quest to achieve socialism:

With the banner of Lenin we were victorious in the battle for the October revolution.

With the banner of Lenin we were victorious in attaining decisive achievements in the struggle to build socialism.

With the same banner we will be victorious in our proletarian revolution throughout the world.

Long live Leninism.

This text quotes Stalin from the Political Report of the Central Committee of the XVIth Congress of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union CPSU (b) on June 27, 1930 in which he discusses the world economic crisis and capitalism in decline, contrasting it with socialist success and growth.

 

Detail of 1931 poster of Stalin by Viktor Deni

Deni depicts Stalin in a typical ‘hand-in’ pose, signifying ‘boldness tempered with modesty’

 

Stalin appears in the poster as steely and determined, his head turned to the right – the direction of the future. Stalin is depicted with his hand in his jacket, in what the English-speaking world refers to as the ‘Napoleonic pose’.

Stalin sometimes adopted this pose in media photographs, which suggests that perhaps this was habitual or comfortable for him. While portrait painters and poster artists may have been copying nature when presenting Stalin in this manner, the prevalence of this gesture in images of him in the media suggests that it conveyed a specific meaning.

Unlike in the English-speaking world, the gesture is not interpreted as ‘Napoleonic’ in Russia, and it makes little intuitive sense for Stalin to copy a gesture associated with Napoleon.

In fact, as Arline Meyer* notes, the ‘hand-in-waistcoat’ pose is encountered with relentless frequency in 18th-century English portraiture, possibly both because it was a habitual stance of men of breeding and because of the influence of classical statuary (Stalin frequently adopts this pose in statues).

Meyer traces classical references to the ‘hand withdrawn’ back to the actor, orator, and founder of a school of rhetoric, Aeschines of Macedon (390–331 BC), who claimed that speaking with the arm outside the cloak was considered ill-mannered.

The gesture is discussed as a classical rhetorical gesture by John Bulwer** in 1644 and by François Nivelon*** in 1737. Nivelon states that the ‘hand-in-waistcoat’ pose signifies ‘boldness tempered with modesty’, and Bulwer notes that ‘the hand restrained and kept in is an argument of modesty, and frugal pronunciation, a still and quiet action suitable to a mild and remiss declamation’.

Stalin took pride in his mild, anti-oratorical mode of speech. A reading of this gesture that suggests ‘boldness tempered with modesty’ is in keeping with the persona created for Stalin in Soviet propaganda.

 

*Arline Meyer, ‘Re-dressing classical statuary: the eighteenth-century “hand-in-waistcoat” portrait’, The Art Bulletin, 77, 1995, pp. 45–64.

**See John Bulwer’s double essay ‘Chirologia, the natural language of the hand’, and ‘Chironomia, the art of manual rhetoric’, in Chirologia: or the naturall language of the hand. Composed of the speaking motions, and discoursing gestures thereof. Whereunto is added Chironomia: or, the art of manuall rhetoricke. Consisting of the naturall expressions, digested by art in the hand, as the chiefest instrument of eloquence, London, Thomas Harper, 1644.

***François Nivelon, The rudiments of genteel behaviour, 1737.

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 32: boris belopol’skii, glory to stalin, the great architect of communism!, 1951

1951 poster of Stalin as the architect of communism by Belopol'skii

Boris Belopol’skii (Белопольский, Б), Glory to Stalin, the great architect of communism! (слава сталину – великому зодчему коммунизму!), 1951

 

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 1951 poster by Boris Belopol’skii carries the caption ‘Glory to Stalin, the great architect of communism!’ and was issued in a massive edition of half a million copies, which suggests that it was viewed as an important piece of propaganda. The notion of Stalin as the architect of Soviet communism dates to the time of the burgeoning of the Stalin cult in 1934.

On 1 January 1934, in Pravda, Karl Radek published a laudatory article on Stalin titled ‘The architect of socialist society’, which was then reissued as a pamphlet in an edition of 225,000.*

Written after Radek’s expulsion from the Party for ‘oppositionist activities’ in 1927, and readmission to Party ranks after capitulating to Stalin in 1930, the booklet has the intriguing subtitle: ‘the ninth in a course of lectures on “The history of the victory of socialism”, delivered in 1967 at the School of Inter-Planetary Communications on the fiftieth anniversary of the October Revolution’, and its content is so excessively eulogistic that it is difficult to determine just how one should read it.

After signing a document capitulating to Stalin in 1929, Radek was readmitted to the Party in 1930 and went on to lead Cominform and deliver a keynote address at the Writers Congress of 1934. He was arrested in the purges of 1937 and subsequently died in the gulag during a sentence of ten years’ hard labour.

In his article, Radek argues that Stalin, rather than Lenin, was the architect of socialism. He acknowledges that Stalin stood on the shoulders of Lenin, but claims that in executing Lenin’s will, Stalin had to take many daring independent decisions and to develop Lenin’s teachings in the same manner that Lenin had further developed those of Marx.

When Radek wrote in 1934, the Congress of Victors had just declared the full achievement of socialism and the new task of progressing to the higher stage, communism, had commenced. By the time this poster celebrating Stalin as the architect of communism appeared, Stalin was an old man, already over 70, and the quest to introduce a communist society had been taking place for 17 years, complicated by the need for defence in the Great Patriotic War.

 

Detail of 1951 poster of Stalin as an archietect by Boris Belopol'skii

While the scroll in Stalin’s hands looks like an architect’s blueprints, it associates him symbolically with Christ in the Orthodox icon, who often carried a sacred scroll.

 

The poster, in pale blues and muted browns typical of the pastel shades of the ‘era of abundance’, is dominated by Stalin, depicted with attributes of leadership (his marshal’s uniform) and standard props (unlit pipe in the right hand and scroll in the left). At the literal level, the scroll is suggestive of an architect’s blueprints, but at a symbolic level it also references the scroll or logos held by Christ.

Behind Stalin, bathed in a white glow that appears to emanate from him, is the new hydroelectric work being undertaken across the Soviet territories. The inscription on the dam wall is carved in stone and reads ‘“Communism is Soviet power plus the electrification of the whole country.” Lenin’, an iconic Lenin slogan, to which Radek also draws attention in his pamphlet. In the far distance is a small statue of Lenin, the man upon whose foundation Stalin was building.

 

Detail of 1951 poster of Stalin as an archietect by Boris Belopol'skii

Inscription on the bridge: Communism – is Soviet power plus the electrification of the whole country. Lenin. (Коммунизм – есть советская власть плюс электрификация всей страны. Ленин)

 

There are two groups of figures in the poster, both existing only in order to react (and illustrate for the viewer the correct attitude to take) to Stalin. The group of men on the left, who appear to be professional workers associated with bringing the communist dream to fruition, stare up at Stalin with awe and respect.

In the bottom-right corner, passers-by on a barge hail Stalin with visible enthusiasm. Stalin pays them no attention and gazes out to the viewer’s right at a future that only he can see. By focusing on Stalin, the other figures demonstrate that it is Stalin who embodies the communist future. Like a priest or shaman, Stalin acts as a sort of intermediary between the vision and the people.

 

Detail of 1951 poster of Stalin as architect by Boris Belopol'skii

Lenin is the father of electrification, as acknowledged by this minute statue of Lenin in the distance. Stalin is acclaimed as the architect of communism

 

*Karl Radek, The architect of socialist society, Moscow, Co-operative Publishing Society of Foreign Workers in the USSR, 1934

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 31: b.v. vorontsov, iosif vissarionovich stalin – companion and a great follower of lenin…, 1951

1951 poster of Stalin by B.V. Vorontsov

B.V. Vorontsov (Воронцов, Б.В.), Iosif Vissarionovich Stalin – Companion and a great follower of Lenin… (Иосиф Виссарионович Сталин – соратник и великий продолжатель дела Ленина…), 1951

 

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.

B.V.  Vorontsov’s ‘Iosif Vissarionovich Stalin’ was published in 1951, just two years after Stalin’s 70th birthday and two years before Stalin’s death, and pulls all of the elements of the Stalin personality cult together into one fascinating hagiographic poster.

The poster does not have complete publication details, so it is not known where it was published or who commissioned it. It would be an unusual poster for its time if it were published in Moscow or Leningrad as, by 1951, such laudatory personality cult posters of Stalin were not generally being published in the two major Russian centres, although they were being published in the other republics and in the territories newly incorporated into the USSR after the war. However, the text of the poster is only in Russian, which may suggest that it does not come from one of the republics.

The poster is composed in a hagiographic style resembling somewhat the lives of the saints in Orthodox icons. The central panel features an oval black-and-white portrait of Stalin at the top of a large panel that consists mainly of text.

 

Detail of 1951 poster of Stalin by B.V. Vorontsov

Stalin is encased in gold and red, colours of the Orthodox icon

 

The background colour of the central panel is yellow-gold, similar to the background colour of icons, and the box is outlined in a shimmering gold. The text is in the holy colour red.

A greying but unblemished and dignified Stalin gazes serenely into the distance, wearing the epaulettes of the Marshal of the Soviet Union and the single Hero of Socialist Labour medal. The positioning of Stalin, and the oval shape that semi-encloses his image, is reminiscent of the position of God in the heavens in icons.

The text of this central panel is extensive and translates as follows:

Iosif Vissarionovich Stalin

– Companion and a great follower of Lenin, a wise leader and teacher of the Bolshevik Party and the Soviet people and the working people of the world, a brilliant strategist of the socialist revolution, the greatest leader of all time, the founder and leader of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, the inspirer and organiser of all the victories of socialism.

This short passage outlines most of the major symbolic values that Stalin’s image represented in Soviet propaganda. He is not only the disciple of Lenin, but an equal – a companion; he is a leader and teacher; a genius; a creator; an inspirer; and responsible for organising all of the victories of the Soviet people and the socialist system.

In fact, the text paraphrases a lengthy tribute to Stalin released by the Propaganda and Agitation Department of the Central Committee of the CPSU (b) in Moscow in 1949 on the occasion of Stalin’s 70th birthday.

 

Detail of 1951 poster of Stalin by B.V. Vorontsov

An all-star cast at Stalin’s 70th birthday party includes Mao Zedong.

 

The larger landscape photograph underneath the golden box is a photograph of Stalin’s birthday celebrations. Among those attending are Mao Zedong and many prominent members of the Politburo, including Lazar Kaganovich, Nikolai Bulganin, Aleksandr Vasilevskii, Nikita Krushchev, Mikhail Suslov, Georgii Malenkov, Lavrentii Beria, Kliment Voroshilov, Vyacheslav Molotov, Anastas Mikoian and Chairman of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR, Nikolai Shvernik, speaking.

The portrait of Stalin in the background is huge, approximately two-and-a-half men high, and is framed with an elaborate border and surrounded by a sea of flowers, which are celebratory, tributary, and symbols of Soviet abundance.

On either side of the central panel are small text boxes and significant scenes from Stalin’s life, with the poster serving as a pictorial illustration of the Propaganda department’s text.

The text in gold on the top left translates as: “Comrade Stalin has raised the glorious banner of Lenin, courageously led our party on the Leninist path …”

 

Detail of 1951 poster of Stalin by B.V. Vorontsov

The first meeting between Stalin and Lenin, from a painting by Veihbadze

The scenes beneath it show Stalin:

  • leading a demonstration of Batumi workers in March 1902, taken from a painting by Kutateladze;
  • Stalin meeting Lenin for the first time at the National Bolshevik conference in Tammerfors, Finland in which Stalin is portrayed as Lenin’s faithful ally in the fight against the Mensheviks for the Leninist line of the revolution;
  • Stalin in exile in Turukhansk, his longest period of exile from which he was only released in February 1917, from a painting by the famous artist trio, the Kukrynisky;
  • Stalin and Lenin as co-leaders of the October Revolution;
  • and Stalin and Kliment Voroshilov in the trenches at the front near Tsaritsyn, a crucial front during the civil war in 1918. Stalin was sent to Tsaritsyn, later to be named Stalingrad and now known as Volgograd, by Lenin, as Commissar in charge of food supplies, but was soon given military leadership responsibilities and was credited with organising victory in this decisive battle.

 

Detail of 1951 poster of Stalin by B.V. Vorontsov

Stalin in exile, from the well-known painting by the Kukryniksy

 

The righthand side of the poster illustrates the text, “Stalin’s name is the most precious for our people, for ordinary people around the world. Stalin’s name is a symbol of the future victory of communism.”

 

Detail of 1951 poster of Stalin by B.V. Vorontsov

Soviet generals throwing the battle banners captured from the Germans in WW2 at Stalin’s feet

 

Scenes beneath this caption are taken from Stalin’s life after the death of Lenin:

 

Detail of 1951 poster of Stalin by B.V. Vorontsov

Stalin and the Soviet leadership plot the future of the world

 

The text of the tribute by the Propaganda and Agitation Department on the occasion of Stalin’s 70th birthday stresses Stalin’s lineage from the great Communist leaders, Marx, Engels and Lenin, but also his huge independent contribution to the achievement of communism, which allows him to be placed alongside these legendary figures as an equal.

It refers to Stalin as the ‘Lenin of today’, and concludes by expounding on the symbolic value of the name Stalin, then wishing him a long life before closing with the slogan ‘Under the wise leadership of Comrade Stalin – forward to communism!’

Each of the scenes from the life of the saint is enclosed in a wreath of leaves outlined in gold – symbolising Stalin’s role as the organiser and inspirer of the many victories of the Soviet people and the system.

 

Detail of 1951 poster of Stalin by B.V. Vorontsov

Stalin and Lenin are portrayed as joint leaders of the October Revolution.

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.

Visit Anita Pisch’s website at www.anitapisch.com

 

stalin poster of the week 30: petr golub’, great stalin is the best friend of the latvian people!, 1950

1950 poster by Petr Golub' promoting Stalin as a friend of the Latvian people

Petr Golub’ (Голубь, П.), Great Stalin is the best friend of the Latvian people!, (великий сталин – лучший друг латышского народа!), 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.

Petr Golub’s poster of 1950 is an audacious piece of postwar propaganda which, although seemingly targeted at the Latvian people, was probably actually produced to make the Russian population feel good about their relationship with Latvia. The poster was published in Moscow and Leningrad in the Russian language and was thus most likely intended for a Russian audience.

The Republic of Latvia came under the Soviet sphere of influence/was liberated/was militarily occupied by the USSR under the 1939 Molotov-Ribbentrop pact. Latvia had declared its independence in 1918 and, after a prolonged war of independence, made peace with Soviet Russia in 1920:

Russia recognises without objection the independence and sovereignty of the Latvian State and forever renounces all sovereign rights held by Russia in relation to the Latvian nation and land on the basis of the previous State legal regime as well as any international agreements, all of which lose their force and effect for all future time as herein provided.

Peace Treaty between Latvia and Russia (August 11, 1920)

On Jun 16, 1940, Soviet troops entered Latvia and Estonia. Elections were organised for July 14-15 with a pre-approved list of candidates from the Latvian Working People’s Bloc and the results allegedly published in Moscow 12 hours before the polls closed in Latvia. One week later, the newly installed government petitioned to join the Soviet Union.

Latvia’s sovereignty was only fully restored in 1991 after the fall of the Soviet Union. On August 22, 1996, the Latvian parliament adopted a declaration stating that the Soviet occupation of Latvia in 1940 was a military occupation and thus an illegal incorporation.

In fact, even prior to the Second World War in the 1930s, the Soviet leadership had targeted the Latvian community in the purges, and it is very likely that it was renowned poster artist Gustav Klutsis’ Latvian ethnicity that led to his arrest and execution in 1938.

Klutsis, who created numerous acclaimed and memorable posters in service of the regime, had also been a member of the Latvian rifle guard that formed Lenin’s personal bodyguard during the days of the October Revolution of 1917.

Klutsis was arrested and executed in 1938 due to his ‘alleged participation, beginning in 1936, in the Latvian fascist-nationalist organization, operating at the time in Moscow’. Prometheus, a Latvian cultural organisation, was established in Moscow in 1923 and shut down by government decree in 1937.*

Petr Golub, a noted poster artist and illustrator, died just three years after this poster was released, one week before his 40th birthday. Rumours that he was executed for having depicted Stalin with a deformed hand with only four fingers may be apocryphal.**

In Golub’s 1950 poster, just five years after the end of the Second World War when the Soviet Union was presenting itself as the world leader of the peace movement, Stalin’s figure, in his white marshal’s uniform, fills the picture plane. This serves as a pointed reminder of Soviet victory in the war and of Stalin’s leading role in bringing about this victory.

 

Detail of 1950 Golub' poster of Stalin as the saviour of the Latvian people

The beautiful young Latvian woman wears national costume and is surrounded by flowers, signifying the abundance and respect for national identity that Stalin brings to Latvia.

 

Stalin’s right arm points the way to a future of victorious communism and a young man and woman gaze, as in a trance, in the direction he indicates. The position of Stalin’s hand, held in a gesture of firing at someone, is one of many gestures made by Stalin in posters to indicate movement towards the future.

The young man beneath Stalin wears a suit and tie and the young woman wears the blouse of a national costume. She holds a bunch of carnations that are not offered to Stalin, and probably signify postwar abundance, the payoff for all of the past sacrifices made in the name of socialism.

The caption of the poster, which must have been particularly galling to the Latvian people, states ‘Great Stalin is the best friend of the Latvian people!’

 

Detail of 1950 Golub' poster of Stalin as the saviour of the Latvian people

Stalin indicates the brilliant future awaiting the Latvian people under Soviet rule. Strangely, this is also the gesture one makes when shooting someone with a finger.

*Margarita Tupitsyn, Gustav Klutsis and Valentina Kulagina, p. 1

** See http://www.memiauctions.com/MMA_Sep2011.pdf, p. 69

 

Anita Pischs 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 view Dr Anita Pisch’s website at www.anitapisch.com