stalin poster of the week 42: nina vatolina, thank you dear stalin for our happy childhood!, 1939

Vatolina poster of Stalin 1939 happy childhood

Nina Vatolina (Н. Ватолина), Thank you dear Stalin for our happy childhood! (спасибо родному Сталину за счастливое детство!), 1939

 

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 theme of a happy childhood was a major trope in Soviet propaganda posters of the Stalin era, beginning in 1936. Many posters were produced on the theme of a happy childhood and, in some of them, Stalin appeared as the father of all children of all territories of the USSR.

In Nina Vatolina’s 1939 version of ‘Thank You Dear Stalin for our Happy Childhood,’ the children are from various nationalities within the Soviet Union, although Russian children still predominate in their Pioneer scarves.

Whereas in earlier posters on this theme Stalin and the children occupied the same space in the picture plane and interacted in an affectionate manner, in this poster the children are totally separated from Stalin. He is geographically isolated from them – nominally, away at the Kremlin, but in fact floating above them in the sky, looking down on them like an omnipotent god.

 

Detail of 1939 poster of Stalin happy childhood Nina Vatolina

Stalin floats above the children like a god in the heavens

 

This god-like quality is reinforced by the difference in scale in the two halves of the poster – Stalin’s head is that of a titan and it dominates the heavens.

There is no sky, only light (as in an icon) and the sacred spire of the Kremlin, topped by its red star, stands like the steeple of a church bathed in fairytale light. The Spassky tower is the earthly home of the benign deity and, in the poster, forms a link between the realms of the heavens (inhabited by Stalin) and earth (inhabited by the children).

 

Detail of 1939 poster of Stalin happy childhood Nina Vatolina

Children pay floral tribute to a remote Stalin

 

The children bring offerings, but these lush bunches of flowers will not actually reach Stalin and remain purely symbolic. While the children salute and gaze with reverential awe,

Stalin looks down on them as a symbolic father, offering protection and benefaction from afar. Stalin radiates white light, which not only illuminates the Kremlin tower, but also the faces of the children across the various lands and territories of the union.

It is here that Stalin’s transformation from man to myth commences.

 

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

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stalin poster of the week 41: dmitrii grinets, thanks to the party, thanks to dear stalin for our happy, joyful childhood, 1937

Poster of Stalin by Grinets 1937

Dmitrii Grinets ( Д. Гринец), Thanks to the Party, Thanks to Dear Stalin for a Happy, Joyful Childhood (спасибі партії, спасибі рiдному сталіну за щасливе, веселе дитинство), 1937

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 1937 poster ‘Thanks to the Party, Thanks to Dear Stalin for our Happy, Joyful Childhood’ by Dmitrii Grinets in the Ukrainian language, Stalin adopts a fatherly pose with three children.

The portrait format of the poster emphasises the intimacy and physical closeness of the scene. By depicting such a scene with Stalin standing in as the father for non-related children, the suggestion is made that he is the father of all children of all nationalities of the USSR, intimately concerned with the prospects and fate of each child in his care.

 

Detail of poster of Stalin by Dmitrii Grinets, 1937

Stalin cuddles the small boy in a fatherly way

 

Stalin holds the smallest child against his chest, while his focus is keenly on the elder boy who plays the violin for him. The youngest boy shows ambition to join the armed forces, wearing military garb and clutching a toy aeroplane in his right arm. The older boy wears a Pioneer scarf and will be a successful musician.

 

Detail of poster of Stalin by Dmitrii Grinets, 1937

Girls are nurturing and grateful

 

It is only the young girl, wearing traditional headdress, who is given no costume or prop to indicate her future vocation. Perhaps her gratitude and devotion are a sufficient contribution.

The caption of the poster, occupying the bottom third of the picture plane, reinforces this notion of gratitude, and is uncommon for its time in that it emphasises the thanks owed to the Party, as well as to Stalin.

The word ridnomu (and its Russian equivalent rodnomu) does not translate precisely in English. Used as a term of endearment, the word also connotes a kin or familial relationship with the person to whom it is applied.

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

stalin poster of the week 40: k.v. zotov, we’re growing up under lenin and stalin’s banner!, 1934

1934 poster of Stalin by Zotov

K.V. Zotov (К. В. Зотов), We’re growing up under Lenin and Stalin’s banner! (Мы растем под знаменем Ленина и Сталина.), 1934

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 early years of Stalin’s rule, he often appeared as an overseer of socialist development and progress, his image appearing in a corner of a poster about factory work, or alongside graphic depictions of Soviet progress.

In the case of ‘We’re growing up under Lenin and Stalin’s banner!’ of 1934 by K.V. Zotov, Stalin and Lenin oversee the upbringing of Soviet toddlers. Lenin, in the left corner, is the sacred and revered inspiration for this important work, while Stalin on the right is the interpreter of Lenin’s words, the one who translates Lenin’s doctrine into action.

 

Detail of 1934 poster of Stalin by Zotov

Stalin is the man with the plan

 

Between Lenin and Stalin is an indistinct graphic that mimics the statistical posters popular at that time in which the great feats of socialist progress are outlined in documentary fashion.

 

Detail of 1934 poster of Stalin by Zotov

Boys play with building materials. Women look after children – it’s the Soviet way!

Beneath the graphic, toddlers play in a nursery with toy trucks, building blocks and construction sets, pre-empting their future careers as builders of the socialist state.

Interestingly, the children are all male. The only female in the poster is the childcare worker who looks over the children with devoted attention, her red scarf tied behind her neck – the symbol of the female Soviet worker.

 

Detail of 1934 poster of Stalin by Zotov

The future is… male

 

In the foreground, three young boys of varied ethnicities beam out at the viewer. One wears a small Lenin badge on his jumper, and another holds an alphabet block with A for ‘Aviatsiya’ – Aviation – a desirable career path and one in which the Soviets were to set over 60 world records in the next few years.

Stalin, as the interpreter of Lenin’s teachings, is quoted beneath his own image:

“Let’s bring up a new generation; hard-working, healthy and cheerful and capable of elevating the power of the Soviet country to the height it deserves.”

In this early stage of Stalinist propaganda, Stalin is not portrayed as a fatherly figure and does not engage with the children. He is the conscientious leader with the master plan for bringing Lenin’s dream to fruition.

Within two years, Stalin’s image in propaganda was to undergo a dramatic transformation as a symbolic persona was created for him that incorporated key mythic universal archetypes and saw him depicted as the father of the nation.

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

stalin poster of the week 39: unidentified artist, under the name of stalin we won. under the name of stalin we will win!, 1941

Poster of Stalin from 1941

Unidentified artist, we won. Under the name of Stalin we will win! (с именеи Сталина мы побеждали. с именеи Сталина мы победии!), 1941

 

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.

It was relatively uncommon for Stalin to be depicted in propaganda posters with any form of enemy, and even more uncommon for him to be pictured alongside any kind of brutality.

The Great Patriotic War (Second World War) was cruel and the Soviet people suffered harshly under German occupation. The propaganda of the preceding decades, which emphasised the unity of the working classes around the world and their shared goals and interests, had been largely successful, and some of the Russian soldiers saw the war as an opportunity to reach out to the working classes of other less fortunate nations.

Well-known Russian writer Ilia Ehrenburg* recalled that the Russian people did not initially have any hatred for the German soldiers:

‘The men defending Smolensk or Briansk repeated what they had heard first at school and later at political meetings, or read in the newspapers: in Germany the working class was strong, it was a leading industrial country; true, the fascists, supported by the Ruhr magnates and the social-traitors, had seized power, but the German people were in opposition and were carrying on the struggle. “Naturally,” the Red Army men said, “the officers are fascists, and of course there must be misguided men among the rank and file, but millions of soldiers advance only because otherwise they’d be shot”.’

Ehrenburg recalls feeling enraged when gunners on the front line refused to shell a highway when commanded to do so. One of the gunners explained:

‘“We can’t just shell the road and then retreat. We must let the Germans approach and try to explain to them it’s time for them to come to their senses and rise against Hitler, and that we’ll help them to do it”. The others feelingly supported him. A young and intelligent looking artillery man said: “Who are we shooting? Workers and peasants. They think we’re against them, we don’t leave them any choice”.’

Terrible atrocities committed by German troops on Russian soil, a series of punishing defeats, and a concerted propaganda campaign with highly emotive images that highlighted the risk to women and children under German occupation, turned this pacifist attitude on its head, and troops were encouraged to fight savagely in order to win the war.

Many of the posters of the time (in which Stalin’s image does not appear) focus on fear, brutality and German atrocities, as well as depicting the enemy as subhuman or vermin.

In these most desperate years of the war, a few posters contained both an image of Stalin and an image of the hated enemy.

 

Detail of 1941 war poster of Stalin

A silhouette of Stalin on a red banner motivates and protects the troops as they go into war.

 

A simple war poster of 1941 by an unidentified artist, published in Leningrad in an edition of 25,000, is dominated by a large diagonal banner on which Stalin’s profile appears only in white outline silhouette.

Beneath Stalin’s head, the words ‘Under the name of Stalin we won. Under the name of Stalin we will win!’ separate his faint image from the battle scene below. This caption refers to Stalin’s earlier victory at Tsaritsyn (later Stalingrad) in the Civil War in order to legitimate his leadership and rally the troops in the current conflict.

 

Detail of 1941 poster of Stalin

Aircraft accompany a large Soviet tank that crushes the verminous Nazi enemy during the Great Patriotic War.

 

The crude graphic shows two aircraft above a Soviet tank that is crushing the enemy beneath it. The enemy is depicted in cartoon fashion as a skull in a helmet with long sharp-clawed paws protruding from the sleeves of its Nazi uniform — in both the Civil War and the Great Patriotic War, the enemy was often depicted with animal characteristics so as to highlight either the danger posed by the enemy, or its vermin-like, subhuman qualities. Alternately, the enemy could also be depicted in cartoon-fashion as cowardly and ridiculous.

*Men, years — life, vol. 5, The war: 1941–45, Tatiana Shebunina & Yvonne Kapp (trans.), London, MacGibbon and Kee, 1964, pp. 26-28.

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

 

stalin poster of the week 38: konstantin cheprakov, we swore an oath to our leader to fight the enemy…, 1941

Konstantin Cheprakov, We swore an oath to our leader to fight the enemy.We will keep the covenant of our fathers. Lead us into battle victory, wise Stalin - Clear the enemy, father of fighters! (in Uzbek and Russian), 1941

Konstantin Cheprakov (Чепраков, К.П.), We swore an oath to our leader to fight the enemy.We will keep the covenant of our fathers. Lead us into battle victory, wise Stalin – Clear the enemy, father of fighters! (Разбить врага – вождью мы клятву дали. Мы сохраним завет своих отцов. Веди нас в бой победный, мудрый Сталин – Гроза врагов, родной отец бойцов!) (in Uzbek and Russian), 1941

 

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.

Konstantin Cheprakov’s poster of 1941 shows Stalin looking slightly ethnically Uzbek in a characteristic wartime pose of strength and iron will.

 

Detail of 1941 poster of Stalin by Konstantin Cheprakov

Stalin looks slightly Uzbek in this poster by Uzbek artist Konstantin Cheprakov

 

Stalin appears in profile, right arm rigidly indicating the way forward to victory. His tunic and coat-tail swirl, but here he appears to have been depicted just as he has come to a halt.

In Stalin’s left hand, he carries a scroll. The scroll is symbolic on two levels: first, it can be read literally as a ‘plan’, i.e. Stalin has a strategy for winning the war and is in the process of executing it; second, it is visually reminiscent of the scroll (logos) carried by Christ in Russian Orthodox icons and suggests that Stalin is the saviour of the nation.

 

Detail of 1941 poster of Stalin by Konstantin Cheprakov

The enemy is under attack by strong and determined forces

 

Soldiers, tanks and aircraft surge forward past him, set on reaching the indicated destination. Diagonal banners and a raised bayonet in the foreground reinforce the violence of the forward motion, as do the aircraft diving in on a diagonal.

The poster’s caption, in Uzbek and Russian, reinforces the notion of the allegiance owed to Stalin as the wise father of the people:

‘We swore an oath to our leader to fight the enemy. We will keep the covenant of our fathers. Lead us into battle victory, wise Stalin — Clear the enemy, father of fighters!’

Images that appear to be photographic purport to tell the truth. Stalin never went near the front in the Great Patriotic War but, if Stalin is depicted as physically leading the troops into battle, it is easier to associate him with qualities of vision, bravery, heroism and steadfastness, even if this is at a subconscious level.

Despite the fact that Stalin is portrayed here as leading the troops into battle, he was not yet depicted in military uniform. Insignia of rank were abolished in 1917, immediately after the Revolution, however, in 1935, Stalin reintroduced personal ranks and, in 1940, general officer ranks. Insignia of rank were fully restored in 1943.

Stalin is shown hatless or, on the rare occasions when he does wear a cap, it is unadorned, and he wears no epaulettes or other insignia of rank.

To represent Stalin as a military genius at this point in time may have been risky and may even have opened him up to ridicule. Lack of preparedness for war, poor decision-making, and a blatant misreading of the enemy could all be placed at Stalin’s feet, as could the consequent losses of Soviet life.

Despite the advantages in wartime of portraying a strong and successful warrior, the propaganda machine was as yet unable to unambiguously drape Stalin in the mantle of the warrior. Instead, the established archetypes of Father and Teacher were called upon in an effort to maintain some legitimacy for the leader and to mobilise the population behind him in this crisis.

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.

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