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 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.
This 1941 poster by successful graphic duo Nikolai Denisov and Nina Vatolina is part of an ongoing theme of Stalin poster that depicts the continuing lineage of great revolutionary thinkers.
Although the Great Patriotic War largely saw the revolutionary thinkers theme disappear for a period of time, there is one poster that deals with this theme from the early days of the war, carrying the slogan ‘Long live the great invincible banner of Marx–Engels–Lenin–Stalin!’. Perhaps during the war ideology took a back seat to more critical matters.
The poster is dominated by the busts of Marx, Engels, Lenin and Stalin, all gazing to the viewer’s left at the same distant point. Stalin is shown as the most recent in the lineup of giants of Marxist thought.
However, unlike Gustav Klutsis’ famous poster of 1933, Stalin is not differentiated from the other three, either in pose or manner of treatment. The diagonal line formed by the row of heads (Stalin’s head is the closest and largest, ostensibly due to perspective) is counterpoised by the diagonal of the bottom of the banner which has the words ‘Proletarians of all countries, unite!’ inscribed in small white lettering across the top.
Lenin stands at the right shoulder of Stalin, with Engels on Lenin’s right, and Marx on his right, but the poster portrays the great men as equals.
As Marx, Engels and Lenin are dead, and their writings have become dogma, the implication is that Stalin’s writings and pronouncements too are dogmatic, and a further development in the evolution of Communist thought.
While the portraits are realistic, they have a chiseled, immovable quality about them, and disappear into an uneven white wash at the bottom of the page.
In 1941, the Soviet people are being urged to place their faith in the wisdom of Stalin and in this poster Stalin has joined the Communist gods.
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