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.
A striking Uzbek poster featuring Lenin and Stalin, Pen Varlen’s 1942 ‘The path to our glory is immutable — Fascism will die! …’, shows an infinite wedge of Soviet peoples surging forward to take on the enemy. The huge mass moves as one body and consists not only of military personnel, but also of nurses and civilians of a variety of ethnicities.
In the 1942 poster, the sky is dominated by the huge diagonal field of a sweeping red banner, with hammer and sickle thrusting forward, and behind it the sketched figure of Stalin is shadowed by the ghostly white silhouette of Lenin.
The sketch of Stalin has distinguishing features, tone and depth; however, he does not occupy the same space as the Soviet citizens. Stalin inhabits the world of the banner and simply disappears below the waist.
Stalin’s right arm is flung out, the hand extended to indicate the way forward to victory, palm open almost as if it is he who provides the momentum for the people below. Stalin appears on a giant scale and dwarfs the silhouette of the Kremlin.
The spirit of Lenin appears as Stalin’s shadow, almost morphing them into the same person, and is even larger than Stalin.
While Lenin’s pose is almost exactly that of Stalin, the same upthrust jaw and outstretched arm, Stalin’s left arm hangs at his side whereas Lenin’s is bent and held high against his body. While Lenin’s coattail flaps, Stalin’s clothing is orderly and undisturbed.
These minor variances highlight the difference in rhetorical style between the two men — Lenin speaking urgently, leaning forward, moving his body; Stalin calm and still — and also the fact that, while Lenin was on his way to socialism, Stalin has already arrived.
The full text of the poster reads:
The way to our glory is immutable — fascism will die! The enemy will fall! We were inspired by the great Lenin — the great Stalin leads us in battle!
The caption names Lenin as the inspiration for both Stalin and the Soviet people, although it is Stalin who now leads the battle, bridging the spiritual and corporeal worlds.
Pen Varlen (1916-1990) was a Goryeoin, a Korean born in Russia, outside the Korean national border when Korea lost its sovereignty. In addition to his contributions to Soviet art, he also established the foundations of North Korean art.
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 can be found at www.anitapisch.com