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.
Gustav Klutsis uses sweeping diagonals and a photomontaged sea of people to create a dynamic representation of the tide of change brought on by socialism.
This 1933 poster uses hieratic scale to depict the Bolshevik leadership. Klutsis begins with the apotheosised Lenin, the largest figure cast in stone set against the red banner. Lenin’s immortality is symbolised by the fact that he is treated differently from the living and is seen as foundational and monolithic.
In front of Lenin and mimicking his pose is Stalin, the General Secretary of the Central Committee. The first rank of leaders features Vyacheslav Molotov, Lazar Kaganovich, Kliment Voroshilov, and Sergo Ordzhonikidze.
Marching behind them are Mikhail Kalinin, Sergei Kirov, Valerian Kuibyshev, and Stanislav Kosior. The only identified figure in the third row is Vlas Chubar (second from the left), and Anastas Mikoian and Pavel Postyshev are the couple in the rear.
The poster caption features on several posters of 1933, and had appeared as early as 1931:
With the banner of Lenin we were victorious in the battle for the October revolution.
With the banner of Lenin we were victorious in attaining decisive achievements in the struggle to build socialism.
With the same banner we will be victorious in our proletarian revolution throughout the world.
The caption is taken from the Political Report of the Central Committee to the Sixteenth Congress of the C.P.S.U.(B.), delivered by Stalin on June 27, 1930 and published in Pravda on June 29.
This mammoth speech includes the following sections:
- The Growing Crisis of World Capitalism and the External Situation of the USSR
- World Economic Crisis
- The Intensification of the Contradictions of Capitalism
- The Relations Between the USSR and the Capitalist States
- The Increasing Advance of Socialist Construction and the Internal Situation in the USSR
- Successes In Industrialisation
- The Key Position of Socialist Industry and Its Growth
- Agriculture and the Grain Problem
- The Turn of the Peasantry Towards Socialism and the Rate of Development of State Farms and Collective Farms
- The Improvement In the Material and Cultural Conditions of the Workers and Peasants
- Difficulties of Growth, the Class Struggle and the Offensive of Socialism Along the Whole Front
- The Capitalist or the Socialist System of Economy
- The Next Task
- The Party
- Questions of the Guidance of Socialist Construction
- Questions of the Guidance of Inner-Party Affairs
Stalin concludes that all achievements have been possible because “we were able to hold aloft the great banner of Lenin,” before finishing with the rousing quotation that forms the poster text.
Like many of Stalin’s speeches, this report consists of the relentless presentation of statistical information to drive the points home. It must have been quite a marathon performance and a feat of outstanding endurance for the speaker and audience alike.
The poster was published in a large edition of 300,000 and would also have served to familiarise the populace with the faces of the leadership in the early years of Stalin’s rule.
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.
Visit Anita Pisch’s website at www.anitapisch.com