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.
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).
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