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 1952 poster of Stalin was published in a small edition of 3000 by Latgosizdat, the Latvian State Publishing House, one year before Stalin’s death.
Resplendent in his marshal’s uniform, Stalin sports the Gold Star Medal. Established in 1939, the medal was awarded to ‘heroes’ of the Soviet Union (formerly awarded the Order of Lenin and a special certificate).
Behind Stalin is the banner of Lenin. The heads of the two are merged (making a Lenin-Stalin) as they both gaze to the viewer’s right – the direction of the future.
So visionary is Stalin that he seems oblivious to the crowds behind him, who hail him in greeting and wave bunches of flowers in the air. The crowds line the City Canal, which was the site of the declaration of Latvian independence in 1918.
The banner on the gate has a double meaning: Stalin is the world/Stalin is peace. The poster coincides with the time at which Stalin was striving to be seen as the leader of the world peace movement.
1952 was also the time at which the so-called Latvian cultural wars erupted. After the 19th CPSU Congress and the 12th Latvian Communist Party Congress in September 1952, culture became the battleground for the question of nationalism versus internationalism among the Latvian communists.
The culture wars hinged around the question of whether Latvia’s allegiance was nationalist in nature, a form of ‘national communism, or to the Soviet Union.* The situation was exacerbated for the Latvian leadership by the fact that their attempts at recruiting the populace were largely unsuccessful.
The setting of the poster on the City Canal is, perhaps, a perfunctory nod to the nationalist sentiments of many of the Latvian communists. However, the poster depicts the Latvian people as being firmly behind Stalin and Lenin – the Bolshevik/Soviet model of communism, which will ultimately lead the world to peace.
*For more on this, see an interesting chapter on ‘Sovietization, Russification, and Nationalism in Post-war Latvia’ by William D. Prigge in the book The Baltic States under Stalinist Rule, edited by Olaf Mertelsmann.
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 can be found at www.anitapisch.com