stalin poster of the week 72: viktor deni and nikolai dolgorukov, we’ve got a metro!, 1935

metro2

Viktor Deni and Nikolai Dolgorukov (Виктор Дени и Николай Долгоруков), We’ve got a Metro! (есть метро!), 1935

 

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.

Following on from last week’s poster (stalin poster of the week 71), this poster, once again by graphic duo Viktor Deni and Nikolai Dolgorukov, employs the same caption and addresses the same theme – the opening of the newly built Metro in Moscow.

The poster uses some of the same photographic components as the other poster on this theme, but here places more emphasis on the commuters than on images of the Metro itself.

 

Detail of 1935 poster of the opening of the Metro by Viktor Deni and Nikolai Dolgorukov

Lazar Kaganovich may have been the designer and chief engineer on the Metro project, but it is Stalin who must be thanked first

 

Stalin is brought down from the top of the poster and into the picture plane with Lazar Kaganovich, designer and chief builder of the Metro, and the other commuters. However, Stalin is pictured as larger than Kaganovich, and walks slightly ahead, indicating his preeminent place in the hierarchy of obligation.

Despite the fact that the building of the Metro had been achieved only through the almost superhuman efforts of the workers involved, including large numbers of volunteers, the Metro was presented as a gift to the people from the State, with Stalin presented as the ultimate benefactor of the Soviet population.

 

Detail of 1935 poster of the opening of the Metro by Viktor Deni and Nikolai Dolgorukov

The underground tunnels were an exceptional feat of Soviet engineering, executed with the help of volunteer labour.

 

The Metro stations were both a triumph of Soviet construction, and a form of cultural palace for the common people, bringing both convenience and beauty into everyday life.

Metro stations are large, lavish, and ornate, with marble walls, sculptures, mosaics, and enormous chandeliers.

The stations were designed to inspire awe, and to make tangible to the ordinary citizen the monumental achievements of the Soviet Union under Stalin.

As Kaganovich,  said in 1935, the Metro “went far beyond . . . the typical understanding of a technological construction. Our metropolitan is a symbol of the new socialist society being built.”

 

Maiakovskii Metro Station. CC image by Szabolcs Vörös, Columns at Moscow metro's Mayakovskaya station, 1 August 2014, 17:01:02

Maiakovskii Metro Station. CC image by Szabolcs Vörös, Columns at Moscow metro’s Mayakovskaya station, 1 August 2014, 17:01:02

 

In ‘A Metro on the Mount: The Underground as a Church of Soviet Civilization’,* Andrew Jenks describes the overall effect of one of the most beautiful of the Metro stations, named for the poet Vladimir Maiakovskiĭ:

In 1938 the chief artist for Moscow’s Mayakovski metro station urged Muscovites, “Raise your head, citizens, and you will see the sky.” Forty meters below the surface, Soviets would find images “preparing them for labor and defense.” Nearly three dozen cupolas crowned the top of a 155-meter-long platform dressed in stainless steel, Stalin’s favorite material. Each tile mosaic showed idealized scenes from a day in Soviet life: blast furnaces belched flames and carbon gases into the night sky, Red Army planes rumbled in formation, lithe athletes leaped into action, a parachutist tumbled down toward the viewer. To see the mosaics a passenger had to stand directly underneath them and gaze skyward. Heads permanently cocked back and eyes fixed on a heaven of Soviet power: this was the preferred pose for a citizen in Stalinist society, a pose inscribed in the design of the Moscow metro.

 

The electrification of the system and stations, always highlighted in Soviet propaganda on industrialisation, was very technologically advanced for its time – “Soviet lighting would outshine London’s, 50 lux to 24 lux.”**

The stations were also designed to promote the socialist message through the creation of a sacred Soviet space that induced reverence. Jenks likens the atmosphere to that of a church: “Ornamental elements helped transform the first line’s thirteen stations into a working Bolshevik church of modernity, offering Soviet communion on every ride.”***

Although Metro stations were named after several deceased heroic figures, Stalin was the only living man in Soviet history to have a Metro station named after him.

*Andrew Jenks. ‘A Metro on the Mount: The Underground as a Church of Soviet Civilization.’ Technology and Culture, Vol. 41, No. 4, Oct., 2000, pp. 697-724, p.699.

**Andrew Jenks. ‘A Metro on the Mount: The Underground as a Church of Soviet Civilization.’ Technology and Culture, Vol. 41, No. 4, Oct., 2000, pp. 697-724, p.710.

***Andrew Jenks. ‘A Metro on the Mount: The Underground as a Church of Soviet Civilization.’ Technology and Culture, Vol. 41, No. 4, Oct., 2000, pp. 697-724, p.708.

 

Anita Pischs book, The personality cult of Stalin in Soviet posters, 1929 – 1953, is available for free download through ANU Press open access, or to purchase in hard copy. 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 71: viktor deni and nikolai dolgorukov, we’ve got a metro, 1935

1935 poster of Stalin and Lazar Kaganovich by Viktor Deni and Nikolai Dolgorukov

Viktor Deni and Nikolai Dolgorukov (Виктор Дени и Николай Долгоруков), We’ve got a Metro! (есть метро!), 1935

 

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.

By 1935, an achievement of great and tangible significance for the daily lives of Muscovites occurred and was celebrated in propaganda posters that appeared throughout Moscow in the hundreds of thousands.

Two 1935 posters, both titled ‘We’ve Got a Metro!’, by prolific poster artists Viktor Nikolaevich Deni(sov) and Nikolai Andreevich Dolgorukov celebrate the opening of the Metro in Moscow, one of the truly grand Soviet achievements.

Although plans for a rail system of various types had been submitted and discussed since 1898, the construction of an underground railway service to move Moscow’s burgeoning population only finally got underway under Stalin’s government in November 1931.

There were huge natural obstacles to overcome, including soil unsuitable for tunnelling and the existence of several underground waterways. Work was done mainly by hand using pickaxes, spades and bars, as there was a shortage of pneumatic hammers and rock loaders.

The Muscovite population was mobilised to get behind the massive effort needed to achieve the Metro with the organisation of subbotniks (days of voluntary unpaid labour) amid a festival atmosphere with bands playing.

Political officials, business leaders and delegates all picked up shovels. Labourers were recruited from all over the vast empire, and peasants brought in from the collective farms. Thus it was a truly national effort, and credit for this monumental achievement belonged to the people, who were genuinely invested in it.

A Pravda article from late 1933 exclaimed: “How many people recreated themselves in the process of building the metro!”

Thus, building the Metro and other achievements of Soviet engineering, were viewed not only as extraordinary physical feats, but also as contributing to the central task of socialism – the engineering of a new human soul.

The Soviet leadership used the Metro project to bring art and beauty into the everyday lives of Soviet citizens. Function and aesthetics were seen as wholly intertwined in socialist theory, with the utility of beauty the dominant paradigm.

As historian Andrew Jenks points out: in 1935 “Moscow stood triumphantly at the centre of a newly sacralised domain, bounded below by the world’s deepest metros and above by the world’s highest flying pilots.”*

The metro was open to the public on May 16, 1935, with 285,000 passengers riding the subway on the first day.

Simon Sebag Montefiore describes an amusing scene as Stalin, his daughter, and their lengthy entourage, including bodyguards, all decided to take a ride on the Metro, causing near-riots at two stations.**

 

Detail of 1935 poster of Stalin and Lazar Kaganovich by Viktor Deni and Nikolai Dolgorukov

Stalin oversees the building of the Metro in 1935

 

On the opening day, fifty-five thousand colour posters celebrating the occasion were hung around the city, including two designs which contained an image of Stalin, by Deni and Dolgorukov. Both titled ‘We’ve Got a Metro!’, these 1935 poster images consist of a photomontage of key features of the Metro – stations, route maps, tunnels trains, and the long escalators used to move commuters 30 to 40 metres underground at some stations.

In the first image, Stalin is inset at the top of the picture as the overseer and inspirer of the project. A sea of commuters floods the lower picture plane, and flank Lazar Kaganovich, after whom the Metro was named until 1955 (it is currently named after Lenin.)

 

Detail of 1935 poster of Stalina and Kaganovich by Viktor Deni and Nikolai Dolgorukov

The Metro, now named after Vladimir Lenin, was originally named after ‘Iron’ Lazar Kaganovich until 1955

 

One of the crowd carries a red banner which reads: ‘Long live our great Stalin.’ The caption above the image says: ‘There are no fortresses that the Bolsheviks cannot capture.’

 

*Andrew Jenks. ‘A Metro on the Mount: The Underground as a Church of Soviet Civilization.’ Technology and Culture, Vol. 41, No. 4, Oct., 2000, pp. 697-724, p.699.

**Simon Sebag Montefiore. Stalin: The Court of the Red Tsar. London, 2003, p.156.

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 70: konstantin cheprakov, so – greetings, stalin, and live for a hundred years…, 1939

1939 poster of Stalin and Molotov by Konstantin Cheprakov

Konstantin Cheprakov (Чепраков, К.П.), So – greetings, Stalin, and live for a hundred years… (Так – здравствуй, Сталин, и сто лет живи…), 1939

 

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 1939 Uzbek poster, ‘So — greetings, Stalin, and live for a hundred years …’  by Konstantin Cheprakov, dates from the immediate prewar era in which Stalin’s munificence extended beyond the borders of Russia and out to all the nationalities and states of the Soviet Union.

Uzbekistan is one of the many countries that at that time made up the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. This poster illustrates the gratitude to Stalin of the Uzbek people for the building of the 270-kilometre-long Great Fergana Canal to irrigate the cotton fields, and thus create cotton independence for the Soviet Union.

Stalin is surrounded by a flowing multitude of Uzbek peasants bearing flowers and displaying the fruits of their irrigated fields. Stalin gives and receives congratulations to Vyacheslav Molotov who, due to his position in the composition and the distinctive colour of his clothing, occupies centre stage.

 

Detail of 1939 Uzbek poster of Stalin and Molotov by Konstantin Cheprakov

Stalin allows Molotov to assume the limelight during this outpouring of Uzbek gratitude

 

Interestingly, Molotov is also the centre of light in the poster, with a subdued Stalin in muted tones placed off in the shadows to the right.

Despite Stalin’s reluctance to assume the limelight in the visual component of the poster, the text of the poster in both Russian and Uzbek)  — ‘So — greetings, Stalin, and live for a hundred years, shine like the sun, live for victory! And lead us on the way to victory! Accept the country’s joyous greetings!’ — makes it clear to whom the Uzbek people owe their gratitude for the canal which is to be their lifeblood.

In fact, Stalin is responsible for more than just water for the crops, he also provides the sunshine. Molotov takes centre stage because Stalin allows him to do so, a manifestation of Stalin’s modesty and humility.

 

Detail of 1939 Uzbek poster of Stalin and Molotov by Konstantin Cheprakov

Grateful Uzbek peasants dance in with baskets full of an abundant cotton harvest that would prove to be one of the greatest ecological and social disasters of the 20th century

 

The text makes clear that all of the illustrated bounty is due to the blessing bestowed by Stalin. By appearing to be a spontaneous outpouring of gratitude from the hearts of the people, both the image and the text illustrate the correct relationship between the leaders and the people.

Sadly, the construction of the Great Fergana Canal ultimately precipitated the desiccation of the Aral Sea, a huge ecological and environmental disaster with lasting implications.

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. 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 69 international women’s day edition: n.i. mikhailov, stalin among the delegates, 1937

1937 poster of Stalin among female delegates by Nikolai Mikhailov

N.I. Mikhailov (Михайлов, Н.И.), Stalin among the delegates (Cталин среди делегаток), 1937

 

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 among the delegates’ is a 1937 poster by N.I. Mikhailov, published in Moscow by Glavlit, the censorship bureau, as part of a series that included posters of ‘Kalinin among the Uzbeks’ and ‘Peasants visiting Lenin’.

The poster highlights the new rights of women as enshrined in the 1936 Constitution of the USSR and features a verse at its base recalling the ‘slave-like’ conditions under which women laboured in the past.

As a legacy of the past,

Women laboured in the darkness of slave-like conditions

With back-breaking work and

Without any rights.

The congress of workers and peasants

Needs to address

How to get rid of

These inequities.

In his discussion with the female delegates

Stalin says: ‘We are nearing a victorious conclusion’.

And the female delegates from the East,

Meditate on the clear and articulate words

Of the leader.

 

The visual imagery of the poster is striking and unusual.

 

1937 poster of Stalin amongst female delegates by Nikolai Mikhailov

Stalin appears young, and a bit dashing, although he is already 58 years old in 1937

 

All of the delegates are young women from the eastern republics in colourful traditional dress. A young-looking Stalin (Stalin was already 58 years old in 1937) is pictured sitting among them, as ‘real’ and ‘fleshy’ as they are, and drawn on the same scale.

He is differentiated from the women only by his throne-like chair; most of the women stand. Stalin leans forward to talk intimately with a woman in blue, while a woman in a red veil listens attentively.

 

1937 poster of Stalin amongst female delegates by Nikolai Mikhailov

Stalin talks and the women listen attentively

 

Stalin is relaxed and friendly, superior, but not threatening, however, it is clear that he speaks, and they listen. He adopts the roles of teacher and mentor to these women from traditional societies going forth in daring new roles.

 

1937 poster of Stalin amongst female delegates by Nikolai Mikhailov

Women in love

 

Behind Stalin, the woman draped over his chair is clearly enamoured of him, as are the beaming women in the background. Two women whisper conspiratorially and giggle.

The informality of the scene is reinforced by the papers scattered across the table, which imply that they have all been working together.

While the purpose of the poster is to highlight Stalin’s mentorship and support of women, this is the most overtly sexual image of Stalin I have encountered. Other poster images of Stalin may suggest fertility and marital union in an abstract allegorical manner, but here he appears almost as if he is presiding over his harem, while the women seem positively titillated to be in his presence.

Despite the thematic emphasis on female rights and equality, the women’s deference to Stalin is unambiguous in the composition and in the text. The poster was published in a large edition of 200,000 during the year of the Great Purge.

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. 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