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.
This poster by N. Petrov and Konstantin Ivanov was published in 1952 and carries the same slogan as the 1951 poster by Boris Belopol’skii on the same theme.
Unlike the earlier poster, which was in full colour and employed a graphic portrait of Stalin in front of a huge hydroelectric station, this 1952 poster uses black-and-white photography as a means of documentary evidence of the progress of Soviet society.
Stalin is superimposed in front of a view of Moscow and is looking up the Volga River. The city appears to be bustling with pedestrians, cars and river traffic, and is bathed in a white light which also shines on Stalin from above.
Stalin looks out of the picture, this time to the viewer’s left, which is usually associated with the past, and suggests that Stalin is surveying what has already been achieved.
The poster plays on the two levels of meaning of the architect symbol. Stalin is literally shown as responsible for the planning and rebuilding of Moscow, which commenced in 1935, but he is also responsible for planning and building the new communist society.
As Robert Tucker notes:
It was [Stalin’s] role as Supreme Architect of Communism to discover the laws, and it was the business of Soviet society to study them and put them into effect, and thus to “attain mastery” over them.*
Moscow was seen as a symbol for the whole federation, her transformation a metaphor for the moral and political transformation of the whole of Soviet society.
Katerina Clark points out that, although only parts of Moscow were rebuilt, Moscow was usually represented as being totally rebuilt, and photographs of models were often presented to the public (as in the case of the Palace of Soviets) as if the new buildings already existed.**
Moscow was also represented — in Stalin’s ‘Greetings on her 800th anniversary’ in 1947, for example — as a sort of symbolic saviour of the West, having liberated the West from the Tartar yoke, repulsed the Polish–Lithuanian invasion in the Time of Troubles, repelled Napoleon in 1812, and won the Great Patriotic War against the fascists.
*Robert C. Tucker, ‘Stalin and the Uses of Psychology,’ World Politics, Vol.8, No.4, 1956, pp. 455-83, p. 461.
**Katerina Clark, ‘Eisenstein’s Two Projects for a Film about Moscow,’ The Modern Language Review, Vol. 101, No. 1, Jan., 2006, pp. 184-200, p. 186.
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 www.anitapisch.com