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.
After the Great Patriotic War (Second World War), emphasis in propaganda was increasingly placed on technical expertise over the breakneck physical labour characteristic of the Stakhanovite era. Thee science budget of the Soviet Union tripled in 1946.
Iraklii Toidze uses a richly symbolic visual image to illustrate this new emphasis, captioned by the familiar text, ‘Under the banner of Lenin, under the leadership of Stalin, forward to the victory of communism!’
This 1949 poster employs the preferred Toidze palette of black, white and red, with small embellishments of gold. The top half of the poster is dominated by the figures of Lenin and Stalin.
Lenin appears as a life-size sculpture in characteristic pose, right arm extended and whole hand beckoning the crowd forward and appears to be shepherding Stalin forward.
Stalin, only slightly less monolithic due to the higher contrast on his figure, mirrors Lenin’s gesture almost exactly, except that his right index finger points and his left hand drapes over the podium.
The pole of the ubiquitous scarlet banner divides the background in half vertically, at exactly the place where the heads of Lenin and Stalin meet, identifying Stalin with the banner, but not Lenin, a link that is visually reinforced by the touches of red on Stalin’s uniform. The podium on which Stalin and the statue of Lenin are elevated divides the top and bottom halves of the poster.
Beneath the podium, with their backs to Lenin and Stalin, are civilian members of the populace. On the left, a young female agricultural labourer, a huge sheaf of wheat over her right shoulder, stands next to a young male worker, both looking forward in the direction indicated by Lenin and Stalin.
On the right, a young man holds aloft a sparkling white book with the words ‘Marx, Engels, Lenin, Stalin’ emblazoned on the front cover in gold. His pose mimics that of Lenin and Stalin, although his right hand does not point, but clutches the sacred text.
Behind him is a young woman with windswept hair who adopts the same pose and looks up to Lenin and Stalin for guidance. In her right hand is a large spray of flowers, symbolising abundance and kultur’nost, the postwar emphasis on living a cultured lifestyle.
The left or ‘Lenin side’ of the poster is associated with the past — the two young workers are manual labourers, in the factory and field. Stalin’s side of the poster represents the present pushing on to the future.
The two young people are not dressed for manual labour and rely on education and a sound knowledge of the science of Marxism, as adapted by Lenin and Stalin, for the imminent victory of communism. The early 1950s saw a continuation of the emphasis on education and the mastery of science, with a number of posters published in 1952 on these themes.
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