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 guiding and protecting spirit of Lenin is invoked in a 1943 poster by renowned sculptor and portraitist Veniamin Pinchuk, which visually references the 1942 poster by Vladimir Serov discussed last week. The differences between the two posters are minor but significant.
An image of Stalin from the chest up is placed before a chalky red banner. His right arm is outstretched and his hand palm down in a gesture of benediction. Over his right shoulder is the ghostly head of Lenin.
In these details, the 1943 Pinchuk poster closely resembles the top half of the 1942 Serov poster. However, in the 1943 poster, the entire bottom section of the poster – that unconventional section that shows the brutal slaying of the German enemy – has been removed.
In addition, there are subtle differences in the portraits of Lenin and Stalin used by Pinchuk. The Lenin of the Serov poster looks out to the left at eye level, his face serious, but composed. In the Pinchuk poster, Lenin’s narrowed eyes and head are tilted up, and his mouth set with a grim, almost angry look.
And while Stalin is wearing the same clothes in both posters, and making the same gesture with his right arm, in the 1943 poster he turns to face the viewer, looking directly out of the poster and into the viewer’s eyes.
Both posters show Stalin from the chest up, however in the 1942 poster his lower body has been dissolved in a bank of battle smoke, while in the 1943 poster Stalin’s body is solid to the edge of the image.
This Stalin is not floating in the sky like a disembodied spirit, but has been brought back to ground to lead his troops to victory. By 1943, there were already some small signs that the USSR’s fortunes in war were turning around after the disasters of 1942.
On 2 February 1943, the Germans troops at Stalingrad surrendered. Although the war was far from won, there was finally some good news to spread to the populace and, in 1943, Stalin’s image began to be cautiously associated with victory.
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