stalin poster of the week 46: nina vatolina, thank you dear Stalin for our happy childhood, 1950

1950 poster of Stalin on happy childhood theme by Nina Vatolina

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

1950 saw the release of another poster in a long-running and popular series of posters on the theme of a ‘happy childhood‘. ‘Thank you dear Stalin for our happy childhood’ by Nina Vatolina depicts a grey-haired Stalin in military uniform, standing on a podium.

He reaches out and touches the arm of the young Pioneer boy, yet is separated in the picture plane from the two children and elevated above them.

 

Detail of 1950 poster of Stalin on happy childhood by Nina Vatolina

This little girl reaches for Stalin as if he were an icon … but she cannot touch him.

 

The girl carries a bunch of flowers to give to Stalin, but holds it off to the side, reaching up to touch Stalin with her right hand, as one might touch a holy icon. A huge bunch of red roses forms a barrier between them and the little girl cannot actually reach Stalin, just the flowers.

The colour palette in Vatolina’s 1950 poster is more vivid than in earlier posters. The flowers are depicted in a more realistic style and occupy a large space in the image.

 

Detail of 1950 poster of Stalin on happy childhood by Nina Vatolina

Stalin appears to be hypnotising this boy in a sea of holy white light

 

The figure of Stalin floats in an undifferentiated background of pure light that illuminates the face of the boy. In earlier happy childhood posters, children are relaxed and celebrating. Not all of them look at Stalin and, where they do look at him, it is with binding affection, from within the same space. Frequently, one of the children engages the viewer by looking directly out from the image.

In the later posters of this genre, the children have been reduced in number and importance and are restrained and respectful. It is clear in this poster that merely to be admitted to Stalin’s presence is an honour and reward. The boy appears in profile and the girl is viewed from the rear, no child engages the viewer’s gaze or embodies the ‘happy childhood’ of the poster’s text.

In 1950, a happy childhood consists entirely in being loyal and dutybound to Stalin. As Stalin is portrayed wearing military uniform, the formality of the occasion is reinforced, and the viewer is also reminded that all citizens owe Stalin a debt of gratitude for victory in the war.

After 1950, the ‘happy childhood’ theme slipped into the background in Soviet posters and poster artists focused on depicting obedient children performing their duty to Stalin by studying hard or taking oaths of allegiance at Pioneer ceremonies.

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 45: petr golub’, long life and prosperity to our motherland! i. stalin , 1949

1949 poster of stalin by Petr Golub

Petr Golub’ ( П. Голубь), Long life and prosperity to our Motherland! I. Stalin (Пусть здравствует и процветает наша родина! И. Сталин), 1949

 

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.

Stalin was frequently depicted as the father of the people in Soviet propaganda posters, but is always shown without a female partner.

Stalin had been married twice, his first wife dying young of an illness, and his second wife committing suicide in 1932. The nation saw Stalin mourn Nadia and, from this point on, he did not publicly have a female partner – in fact so little is known of this aspect of his personal life that there is only speculation as to further sexual relationships after Nadia’s death.

 

Fig 13 Shurpin

Fyodor Shurpin, The morning of our motherland, 1948

 

Stalin’s life centred around his role as leader and it was easy to depict him as ‘wedded to the nation.’ A famous painting of 1948 by Fyodor Shurpin, ‘The morning of our motherland,’ depicts a calm, reflective Stalin in a plain white tunic, isolated and alone in a muted pastel landscape, his greatcoat draped over his sleeve.

Behind Stalin in the distance, tractors plough the fields and power lines melt into the hazy sky. Stalin is bathed in the early morning light and looks out to the right to the dawn of the communist utopia.

This famous painting is undoubtedly the inspiration for a poster by Petr Golub’ published in 1949 in an edition of 300,000. The poster caption, ‘Long life and prosperity to our motherland,’ is a quote from Stalin.

 

 

It is interesting to compare the poster to the painting that inspired it, as the differences between them are telling.  A key difference is that Stalin is slightly more face-on to the viewer in the painting than in the poster and looks considerably more tired. In the poster, he is less heavily jowled, his skin brighter, and his moustache more trim.

Stalin has a much more military bearing in the poster, almost standing at attention, while in the Shurpin painting he is relaxed and leans back slightly. In the poster, Stalin wears his military uniform while in the painting he appears as a civilian, a much more private individual, alone at dawn.

The poster is in portrait format, while the painting is in landscape format, hence the poster emphasises the figure of Stalin, while Shurpin’s painting places him in the landscape.

 

Detail of 1949 poster of Stalin by Petr Golub'

The young Pioneer boy is the product of the union between Stalin and the Motherland and represents the bountiful future

 

Indeed, in the poster by Golub’, Stalin is not alone, but accompanied by a young Pioneer boy who gazes silently into the future with him, the symbolic son of the wedded union between Stalin and the Motherland. The landscape has also been altered and the Golub’ poster features the national Russian symbol of a birch tree in the foreground (birch is also associated with beginnings), standing straight as Stalin, and a patchwork of lush green fields behind the two figures.

The notion of plenitude and abundance is reinforced by the small sprig of flowers in the child’s hand. A river flows through the landscape, continuing the dual association of Stalin with water, and with the golden light that illuminates him from above.

By drawing so obviously on Shurpin’s painting, the poster suggests the dawn of a new age of abundance for the Soviet Union, the arrival of the long-awaited communist utopia after the dark nights of the Civil War, the purges, and the Great Patriotic War.

Stalin is the father of the nation who cared for, protected, and raised the nation and, in Golub’s poster, the hope of the future lies in the nation’s youth.

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 44: v. fedotov, xxv years of the komsomol, 1943

1943 poster of Stalin by Fedotov

V. Fedotov (В. Федотов), XXV years of the Komsomol (XXV лет ВЛКСМ), 1943

 

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 attempting to create an all-encompassing image for a leader with a personality cult, it is necessary to incorporate both stereotypical masculine and feminine traits within the leader persona.

In addition to such typically masculine traits as determination, iron will, bold leadership and a warrior demeanour, Stalin was sometimes also given traditionally female characteristics of nurturing, empathy, modesty and gentleness by his propagandists.

A degree of androgeny in leader personas is quite common in personality cults, and is found in the cults of Vladimir Lenin and Mao Zedong. One of the major archetypes associated with Stalin throughout his leadership is that of the father of the nation (otets narodov).

In this 1943 poster by Vladimir Fedotov, Stalin is portrayed on the battlefield (which, incidentally, he never visited) and is referred to as a father and ‘apparent husband of Lenin’ in the poster text. Stalin stands above the Soviet fighters and gazes over the field of battle, binoculars in hand.

 

Detail of 1943 poster of Stalin and Lenin by Fedotov

Stalin is far-sighted and watches over the field of battle. Lenin looks determined.

 

Despite Lenin appearing as strong and determined in the poster image, the poster caption, in the form of a verse by Kazimir Lisovskii,  sees Lenin take on the maternal qualities of love and nurturing.

Meanwhile, Stalin adopts the role of the father and raises the Komsomol generation – these are not children, but young people of fighting age. The poem reads:

In labour and battle we are stronger

We gave the Motherland our youthful enthusiasm.

Great Lenin lovingly nurtured us,

Stalin reared us with a father’s care.

Military winds are raging over us,

With enemies not yet decisively finished.

In the battle the banner of Lenin covers us

And beloved Stalin is conducting us to victory!

Lenin’s banner is draped protectively over the young fighters, like the veil of the Virgin in Orthodox icons of the Feast of Intercession. It is Lenin’s spirit that is invoked to intercede on behalf of the Red Army troops, while Stalin leads the troops in the earthly realm.

 

Detail of 1943 poster of Stalin and Lenin by Fedotov

Soldiers rush into battle, watched over by Stalin and protected by Lenin’s maternal care

 

Produced on cheap paper without details of place of publication or size of edition, this curious poster celebrates twenty-five years of the Komsomol, although the poster image itself is about the war effort.

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 43: nikolai zhukov, thank you comrade stalin for our happy life!, 1940

Fig 7 Zhukov

Nikolai Zhukov (Н. Жуков), Thank you Comrade Stalin for our happy life! (Спасибо товарищу Сталину за нашу счастливую жизнь!), 1940

 

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 genre of the happy childhood was a major theme in Soviet propaganda posters featuring Stalin from 1936 to 1950, with a brief interlude during the Great Patriotic War when propaganda had other priorities.

In 1940, with the Soviet Union on the brink of war, it is not only children but the entire population that is infantilised and thanking Stalin for their happy life. A poster by Nikolai Zhukov features a remote and celebrated Stalin as a giant poster on a wall above some youthful observers of a huge parade.

 

Detail of 1940 poster of Stalin by Nikolai Zhukov

Stalin’s image is five storeys high

 

Children and young people wave excitedly from a balcony above a festive parade that extends as far as the eye can see. Revellers carry red banner and images of Lenin and Stalin down a long avenue of apartments.

The apartment blocks are evidence of the state providing quality housing for the people. Two aircraft fly overhead, symbolic of Soviet achievements in aviation and of preparedness for the upcoming war although, in truth, the aircraft that were setting world records in aviation for the USSR were not the sort of aircraft needed to win a war.

 

Detail of 1940 poster of Stalin by Nikolai Zhukov

Aircraft symbolise great feats of Soviet aviation and reassure the population that the country is ready for the upcoming war

 

Zhukov’s ‘Thank you Comrade Stalin for our happy life!’ makes it clear that the Stalin persona presented by the propagandists of the personality cult is largely symbolic. The poster features a quotation from Vyacheslav Molotov on the Stalin symbol:

‘We have a name that has become the symbol of the victory of socialism. It is the name of the symbol of the moral and political unity of the Soviet people! You know what that name is — STALIN!’

In the Short Biography released in 1947, Stalin’s value as the symbol of a plethora of Bolshevik values is made explicit in the text:

‘In the eyes of the peoples of the U.S.S.R., Stalin is the incarnation of their heroism, their love of their country, their patriotism’

‘Stalin’s name is a symbol of the courage and the renown of the Soviet people, and a call to heroic deeds for the welfare of their great country’ and

‘The name of Stalin is a symbol of the moral and political unity of Soviet society’*

 

 

Detail of 1940 poster of Stalin by Nikolai Zhukov

Children and youth represent an infantilised population: loyal, obedient, dutiful and HAPPY!

 

Writing in 1971, with the benefit of historical perspective, Roy Medvedev also regarded Stalin as a rallying symbol to unify and give hope to a suffering population during the Great Patriotic War:

‘Stalin’s image became a sort of symbol existing in the popular mentality independently from its actual bearer. During the war years, as the Soviet people were battered by unbelievable miseries, the name of Stalin, and the faith in him, to some degree, pulled the Soviet people together, giving them hope of victory.’**

Evidence exists that this was true for at least some soldiers. The writer Konstantin Simonov quoted an officer on the Stalingrad front who said he

‘gained all his strength from the idea that our great leader directs everything in our enormous cause from his office in Moscow and thus invests in him, an ordinary colonel, part of his genius and spirit’.***

Poster artist Nikolai Zhukov was a highly decorated People’s Artist of the USSR with two Orders of Lenin, was also a Soviet pilot and was the artistic director of the Studio of Military Artists from 1943.

 

*G.F. Alexandrov, M.R. Galaktionov, V.S. Kruzhkov, M.B. Mitin, V.D. Mochalov & P.N. Pospelov, Joseph Stalin: a short biography, Moscow, Foreign Languages Publishing House, 1947, pp. 201-3.

** Roy Aleksandrovich Medvedev, Let history judge: the origins and consequences of Stalinism, New York, Knopf, 1971, p. 749.

*** Quoted in Orlando Figes, The whisperers: private life in Stalin’s Russia, New York, Metropolitan Books, 2007, p. 410.

 

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