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.
The ‘banner of Marx–Engels–Lenin-Stalin’ theme was a minor but fairly consistent theme (except during the war years) throughout the 25 years of Stalin’s leadership … and even beyond.
Several of these posters were published outside the two major centres of the Russian nation, Moscow and Leningrad, and this 1951 poster was published by Tatgosizdat, the publishing house of the Republic of Tatarstan, in Kazan, Tatarstan.
The text quotes Stalin on the necessity to train all cadres, regardless of specialty, in the scientific laws of Marxism–Leninism. It comes from the Report on the Work of the Central Committee to the 18th Congress of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, delivered on March 10, 1939.
But there is one branch of science which Bolsheviks in all branches of science are in duty bound to know, and that is the Marxist–Leninist science of society, of the laws of social development, of the laws of development of the proletarian revolution, of the laws of development of socialist construction, and of the victory of communism.’ I. Stalin.
Marxism-Leninism as a science was seen as defining immutable and unchallengeable laws and was foundational for all other scientific endeavour.
This 1951 poster by illustrator of folktales and fairytales Bainazar Al’menov (1909 -1976), shows the four pillars of communism – Marx, Engels, Lenin and Stalin – as part of a billowing banner that fills the top half of the picture plane.
Stalin and Lenin both appear particularly ‘Asiatic’ in their banner profiles. Stalin was often given facial features reminiscent of the general racial characteristics of the place in which the poster was published. In the Asian parts of the Soviet Union he tended to have Asiatic features, while in the European parts he looked more European.
In fact, Stalin actually described himself to Georgi Dimitrov, leader of the Communist International, as a ‘Russified Georgian–Asian’ (obrusevshii gruzin-aziat).* Lenin was part Kalmyk on his father’s side.
The banner is rich red in colour and adorned with gold tassels. Beneath it, also in rich red with gold trim, are four slender books, one by each of the men pictured above, which outline the immutable laws of Marxism–Leninism. Stalin’s work thus resides unambiguously beside those of the three legendary great thinkers.
Bainazar Al’menov worked as the Artistic Director of the regional publishing house, Tatknigizdat, served in the Second World War, and was awarded the Meritorious Art Worker of the Tatar ASSR.
*See Jan Plamper, The Stalin cult, p. 46.
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