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.
At a time at which Stalin was being lauded and celebrated as the saviour of the USSR, this 1948 poster by Naum Karpovskii depicts a flesh-and-blood Stalin as a man of the people. In ‘Long live the Komsomol generation’ Stalin is surrounded by smiling people, pressed right up against him, some of them even higher than him in the picture plane.
The landscape format of the poster suggests an equality of the people depicted, rather than a hierarchy, and in this poster it is only the huge stone head of Lenin that sits above all others.
Rather than the flattened, airbrushed appearance of Stalin’s face as seen in posters such as that by Denisov and Pravdin of the same year, Stalin’s face shows as many dimples, lines and shadows as those of the people around him.
The publication of the poster coincides with the 30th anniversary of the founding of the Komsomol. Komsomol membership was open to those aged between 14 and 28 years of age, although higher functionaries could be older and, apart from providing an educational arena for the instillation of Bolshevik values, Komsomol members were often mobilised as mobile work brigades to make up for shortfalls or complete special tasks.
In this poster Stalin combines the warrior and father archetype. On the one hand, he inspires young people to join the Soviet Armed Forces, but is also encouraging of those in industry and agriculture, the continuing battlefront. Industrial work such as mining appears to be the domain of men, while women work in agriculture, or look pretty and present flowers.
However, in 1948 Soviet propaganda was already emphasising the need for young people to gain technical and scientific skills, and to work smarter rather than harder. Thus, this poster can also be read as a celebration of the past, with Stalin, first among equals, surrounded by the characters who built the Soviet Union.
* IV Stalin. ‘Leninist Young Communist League: Welcome to the day of the tenth anniversary of the Komsomol,’ Pravda № 252, October 28, 1928 accessed at http://www.marxists.org/russkij/stalin/t11/t11_24.htm.
Anita Pisch‘s 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 at www.anitapisch.com