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 significant genre of Soviet propaganda was concerned with documenting and publicising great Soviet achievements, crediting them all to the Revolution, the Party, and ultimately the brilliance of the great enabler whom history had placed in the role of the leader.
Stalin was effusively credited with not only facilitating all of the successes of the Soviet Union, but with such apparently miraculous abilities as keeping his aviators and polar explorers warm against the Arctic cold. Stalin was able to do this by virtue of the breadth and depth of his paternal care.
The 1937 poster ‘Glory to Stalin’s falcons — the conquerors of aerial elements!’ by Viktor Deni and Nikolai Dolgorukov, celebrates the historic and dangerous flight from Moscow to the United States via the North Pole without even identifying the men directly involved in the flight (Valerii Chkalov, Georgii Baidukov and Aleksandr Beliakov).
Instead, the focus is on Stalin, whose profile image sketched on a red flag sits above the city of Moscow in the mid-left of the poster.
The centre of the poster is dominated by a flat view of the globe from the North Pole, with the USSR positioned to the bottom, and the United States tucked away at the top. The large landmass of the USSR is coloured Soviet red, and extended by the adjoining red flag, which billows across the globe in a symbol of Soviet domination.
A well-populated Moscow bustles below, the people carrying a sea of red flags and banners. The route of the historic flight is traced by a thick red line through the North Pole, the centre of the poster, which swoops upwards through Canada to the United States.
While Moscow is sketched in vibrant red, features the identifiably ‘Russian’ towers of the Kremlin, and is densely populated, Washington is a colourless and unpopulated landscape of featureless and indistinct skyscrapers.
The steep red line that marks out the route is reminiscent also of the line on a graph, the upward swoop registering success and progress, as well as the trajectory of takeoff.
Almost as large as the globe itself, and larger than the whole territory of the United States, are the images of the two Soviet planes that sweep across the top of the poster, and to which Stalin’s gaze directs our eye. The nearer, larger plane is marked with the number 25 (the Tupolev 25 flown on the mission), the abbreviation USSR, and its body is inscribed with the words ‘Stalin’s falcons’.
The text reinforces the association of this historic accomplishment with Stalin, proclaiming glory to ‘Stalin’s falcons’, rather than to the individuals involved, and also reiterates the key Soviet priority for conquering nature and the elements.
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