stalin poster of the week 33: viktor deni, with the banner of lenin…, 1931

Viktor Deni (дени, B. – Виктор Николаевич Денисов), With the banner of Lenin… (со знаменем ленина…), 1931

Viktor Deni (дени, B. – Виктор Николаевич Денисов), With the banner of Lenin… (со знаменем ленина…), 1931

 

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.

Viktor Deni’s distinctive drawing style is already well established in this 1931 poster in which the apotheosised Lenin is called on to legitimate Stalin’s rule.

Deni was one of the major agitprop artists from the beginning of the Soviet Union in 1917, right through to the end of the Great Patriotic War and his death in 1946.

While in this poster Stalin’s image dominates the picture plane, Stalin and the scenes of construction behind him are watched over by the banner of Lenin, which is the subject of the poster’s text. In these early years of Stalin’s leadership, Lenin was continually referenced as the Party’s charismatic founder, as an ideological authority, and as a legitimator of his successor to the Party leadership.

 

Detail of 1931 poster of Stalin by Viktor Deni

The banner of Lenin is inspirational, protective and intercessionary for both Stalin and the Soviet people

 

Lenin, in characteristic collar and tie (a white-collar intellectual) looks slightly to the left, signifying his association with the Party’s past.

The poster caption invokes the protective and inspirational function of the Lenin banner, as well as stressing the military metaphor of the ongoing battles in the quest to achieve socialism:

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.

Long live Leninism.

This text quotes Stalin from the Political Report of the Central Committee of the XVIth Congress of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union CPSU (b) on June 27, 1930 in which he discusses the world economic crisis and capitalism in decline, contrasting it with socialist success and growth.

 

Detail of 1931 poster of Stalin by Viktor Deni

Deni depicts Stalin in a typical ‘hand-in’ pose, signifying ‘boldness tempered with modesty’

 

Stalin appears in the poster as steely and determined, his head turned to the right – the direction of the future. Stalin is depicted with his hand in his jacket, in what the English-speaking world refers to as the ‘Napoleonic pose’.

Stalin sometimes adopted this pose in media photographs, which suggests that perhaps this was habitual or comfortable for him. While portrait painters and poster artists may have been copying nature when presenting Stalin in this manner, the prevalence of this gesture in images of him in the media suggests that it conveyed a specific meaning.

Unlike in the English-speaking world, the gesture is not interpreted as ‘Napoleonic’ in Russia, and it makes little intuitive sense for Stalin to copy a gesture associated with Napoleon.

In fact, as Arline Meyer* notes, the ‘hand-in-waistcoat’ pose is encountered with relentless frequency in 18th-century English portraiture, possibly both because it was a habitual stance of men of breeding and because of the influence of classical statuary (Stalin frequently adopts this pose in statues).

Meyer traces classical references to the ‘hand withdrawn’ back to the actor, orator, and founder of a school of rhetoric, Aeschines of Macedon (390–331 BC), who claimed that speaking with the arm outside the cloak was considered ill-mannered.

The gesture is discussed as a classical rhetorical gesture by John Bulwer** in 1644 and by François Nivelon*** in 1737. Nivelon states that the ‘hand-in-waistcoat’ pose signifies ‘boldness tempered with modesty’, and Bulwer notes that ‘the hand restrained and kept in is an argument of modesty, and frugal pronunciation, a still and quiet action suitable to a mild and remiss declamation’.

Stalin took pride in his mild, anti-oratorical mode of speech. A reading of this gesture that suggests ‘boldness tempered with modesty’ is in keeping with the persona created for Stalin in Soviet propaganda.

 

*Arline Meyer, ‘Re-dressing classical statuary: the eighteenth-century “hand-in-waistcoat” portrait’, The Art Bulletin, 77, 1995, pp. 45–64.

**See John Bulwer’s double essay ‘Chirologia, the natural language of the hand’, and ‘Chironomia, the art of manual rhetoric’, in Chirologia: or the naturall language of the hand. Composed of the speaking motions, and discoursing gestures thereof. Whereunto is added Chironomia: or, the art of manuall rhetoricke. Consisting of the naturall expressions, digested by art in the hand, as the chiefest instrument of eloquence, London, Thomas Harper, 1644.

***François Nivelon, The rudiments of genteel behaviour, 1737.

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 is at www.anitapisch.com

stalin poster of the week 32: boris belopol’skii, glory to stalin, the great architect of communism!, 1951

1951 poster of Stalin as the architect of communism by Belopol'skii

Boris Belopol’skii (Белопольский, Б), Glory to Stalin, the great architect of communism! (слава сталину – великому зодчему коммунизму!), 1951

 

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.

A 1951 poster by Boris Belopol’skii carries the caption ‘Glory to Stalin, the great architect of communism!’ and was issued in a massive edition of half a million copies, which suggests that it was viewed as an important piece of propaganda. The notion of Stalin as the architect of Soviet communism dates to the time of the burgeoning of the Stalin cult in 1934.

On 1 January 1934, in Pravda, Karl Radek published a laudatory article on Stalin titled ‘The architect of socialist society’, which was then reissued as a pamphlet in an edition of 225,000.*

Written after Radek’s expulsion from the Party for ‘oppositionist activities’ in 1927, and readmission to Party ranks after capitulating to Stalin in 1930, the booklet has the intriguing subtitle: ‘the ninth in a course of lectures on “The history of the victory of socialism”, delivered in 1967 at the School of Inter-Planetary Communications on the fiftieth anniversary of the October Revolution’, and its content is so excessively eulogistic that it is difficult to determine just how one should read it.

After signing a document capitulating to Stalin in 1929, Radek was readmitted to the Party in 1930 and went on to lead Cominform and deliver a keynote address at the Writers Congress of 1934. He was arrested in the purges of 1937 and subsequently died in the gulag during a sentence of ten years’ hard labour.

In his article, Radek argues that Stalin, rather than Lenin, was the architect of socialism. He acknowledges that Stalin stood on the shoulders of Lenin, but claims that in executing Lenin’s will, Stalin had to take many daring independent decisions and to develop Lenin’s teachings in the same manner that Lenin had further developed those of Marx.

When Radek wrote in 1934, the Congress of Victors had just declared the full achievement of socialism and the new task of progressing to the higher stage, communism, had commenced. By the time this poster celebrating Stalin as the architect of communism appeared, Stalin was an old man, already over 70, and the quest to introduce a communist society had been taking place for 17 years, complicated by the need for defence in the Great Patriotic War.

 

Detail of 1951 poster of Stalin as an archietect by Boris Belopol'skii

While the scroll in Stalin’s hands looks like an architect’s blueprints, it associates him symbolically with Christ in the Orthodox icon, who often carried a sacred scroll.

 

The poster, in pale blues and muted browns typical of the pastel shades of the ‘era of abundance’, is dominated by Stalin, depicted with attributes of leadership (his marshal’s uniform) and standard props (unlit pipe in the right hand and scroll in the left). At the literal level, the scroll is suggestive of an architect’s blueprints, but at a symbolic level it also references the scroll or logos held by Christ.

Behind Stalin, bathed in a white glow that appears to emanate from him, is the new hydroelectric work being undertaken across the Soviet territories. The inscription on the dam wall is carved in stone and reads ‘“Communism is Soviet power plus the electrification of the whole country.” Lenin’, an iconic Lenin slogan, to which Radek also draws attention in his pamphlet. In the far distance is a small statue of Lenin, the man upon whose foundation Stalin was building.

 

Detail of 1951 poster of Stalin as an archietect by Boris Belopol'skii

Inscription on the bridge: Communism – is Soviet power plus the electrification of the whole country. Lenin. (Коммунизм – есть советская власть плюс электрификация всей страны. Ленин)

 

There are two groups of figures in the poster, both existing only in order to react (and illustrate for the viewer the correct attitude to take) to Stalin. The group of men on the left, who appear to be professional workers associated with bringing the communist dream to fruition, stare up at Stalin with awe and respect.

In the bottom-right corner, passers-by on a barge hail Stalin with visible enthusiasm. Stalin pays them no attention and gazes out to the viewer’s right at a future that only he can see. By focusing on Stalin, the other figures demonstrate that it is Stalin who embodies the communist future. Like a priest or shaman, Stalin acts as a sort of intermediary between the vision and the people.

 

Detail of 1951 poster of Stalin as architect by Boris Belopol'skii

Lenin is the father of electrification, as acknowledged by this minute statue of Lenin in the distance. Stalin is acclaimed as the architect of communism

 

*Karl Radek, The architect of socialist society, Moscow, Co-operative Publishing Society of Foreign Workers in the USSR, 1934

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

stalin poster of the week 31: b.v. vorontsov, iosif vissarionovich stalin – companion and a great follower of lenin…, 1951

1951 poster of Stalin by B.V. Vorontsov

B.V. Vorontsov (Воронцов, Б.В.), Iosif Vissarionovich Stalin – Companion and a great follower of Lenin… (Иосиф Виссарионович Сталин – соратник и великий продолжатель дела Ленина…), 1951

 

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.

B.V.  Vorontsov’s ‘Iosif Vissarionovich Stalin’ was published in 1951, just two years after Stalin’s 70th birthday and two years before Stalin’s death, and pulls all of the elements of the Stalin personality cult together into one fascinating hagiographic poster.

The poster does not have complete publication details, so it is not known where it was published or who commissioned it. It would be an unusual poster for its time if it were published in Moscow or Leningrad as, by 1951, such laudatory personality cult posters of Stalin were not generally being published in the two major Russian centres, although they were being published in the other republics and in the territories newly incorporated into the USSR after the war. However, the text of the poster is only in Russian, which may suggest that it does not come from one of the republics.

The poster is composed in a hagiographic style resembling somewhat the lives of the saints in Orthodox icons. The central panel features an oval black-and-white portrait of Stalin at the top of a large panel that consists mainly of text.

 

Detail of 1951 poster of Stalin by B.V. Vorontsov

Stalin is encased in gold and red, colours of the Orthodox icon

 

The background colour of the central panel is yellow-gold, similar to the background colour of icons, and the box is outlined in a shimmering gold. The text is in the holy colour red.

A greying but unblemished and dignified Stalin gazes serenely into the distance, wearing the epaulettes of the Marshal of the Soviet Union and the single Hero of Socialist Labour medal. The positioning of Stalin, and the oval shape that semi-encloses his image, is reminiscent of the position of God in the heavens in icons.

The text of this central panel is extensive and translates as follows:

Iosif Vissarionovich Stalin

– Companion and a great follower of Lenin, a wise leader and teacher of the Bolshevik Party and the Soviet people and the working people of the world, a brilliant strategist of the socialist revolution, the greatest leader of all time, the founder and leader of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, the inspirer and organiser of all the victories of socialism.

This short passage outlines most of the major symbolic values that Stalin’s image represented in Soviet propaganda. He is not only the disciple of Lenin, but an equal – a companion; he is a leader and teacher; a genius; a creator; an inspirer; and responsible for organising all of the victories of the Soviet people and the socialist system.

In fact, the text paraphrases a lengthy tribute to Stalin released by the Propaganda and Agitation Department of the Central Committee of the CPSU (b) in Moscow in 1949 on the occasion of Stalin’s 70th birthday.

 

Detail of 1951 poster of Stalin by B.V. Vorontsov

An all-star cast at Stalin’s 70th birthday party includes Mao Zedong.

 

The larger landscape photograph underneath the golden box is a photograph of Stalin’s birthday celebrations. Among those attending are Mao Zedong and many prominent members of the Politburo, including Lazar Kaganovich, Nikolai Bulganin, Aleksandr Vasilevskii, Nikita Krushchev, Mikhail Suslov, Georgii Malenkov, Lavrentii Beria, Kliment Voroshilov, Vyacheslav Molotov, Anastas Mikoian and Chairman of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR, Nikolai Shvernik, speaking.

The portrait of Stalin in the background is huge, approximately two-and-a-half men high, and is framed with an elaborate border and surrounded by a sea of flowers, which are celebratory, tributary, and symbols of Soviet abundance.

On either side of the central panel are small text boxes and significant scenes from Stalin’s life, with the poster serving as a pictorial illustration of the Propaganda department’s text.

The text in gold on the top left translates as: “Comrade Stalin has raised the glorious banner of Lenin, courageously led our party on the Leninist path …”

 

Detail of 1951 poster of Stalin by B.V. Vorontsov

The first meeting between Stalin and Lenin, from a painting by Veihbadze

The scenes beneath it show Stalin:

  • leading a demonstration of Batumi workers in March 1902, taken from a painting by Kutateladze;
  • Stalin meeting Lenin for the first time at the National Bolshevik conference in Tammerfors, Finland in which Stalin is portrayed as Lenin’s faithful ally in the fight against the Mensheviks for the Leninist line of the revolution;
  • Stalin in exile in Turukhansk, his longest period of exile from which he was only released in February 1917, from a painting by the famous artist trio, the Kukrynisky;
  • Stalin and Lenin as co-leaders of the October Revolution;
  • and Stalin and Kliment Voroshilov in the trenches at the front near Tsaritsyn, a crucial front during the civil war in 1918. Stalin was sent to Tsaritsyn, later to be named Stalingrad and now known as Volgograd, by Lenin, as Commissar in charge of food supplies, but was soon given military leadership responsibilities and was credited with organising victory in this decisive battle.

 

Detail of 1951 poster of Stalin by B.V. Vorontsov

Stalin in exile, from the well-known painting by the Kukryniksy

 

The righthand side of the poster illustrates the text, “Stalin’s name is the most precious for our people, for ordinary people around the world. Stalin’s name is a symbol of the future victory of communism.”

 

Detail of 1951 poster of Stalin by B.V. Vorontsov

Soviet generals throwing the battle banners captured from the Germans in WW2 at Stalin’s feet

 

Scenes beneath this caption are taken from Stalin’s life after the death of Lenin:

 

Detail of 1951 poster of Stalin by B.V. Vorontsov

Stalin and the Soviet leadership plot the future of the world

 

The text of the tribute by the Propaganda and Agitation Department on the occasion of Stalin’s 70th birthday stresses Stalin’s lineage from the great Communist leaders, Marx, Engels and Lenin, but also his huge independent contribution to the achievement of communism, which allows him to be placed alongside these legendary figures as an equal.

It refers to Stalin as the ‘Lenin of today’, and concludes by expounding on the symbolic value of the name Stalin, then wishing him a long life before closing with the slogan ‘Under the wise leadership of Comrade Stalin – forward to communism!’

Each of the scenes from the life of the saint is enclosed in a wreath of leaves outlined in gold – symbolising Stalin’s role as the organiser and inspirer of the many victories of the Soviet people and the system.

 

Detail of 1951 poster of Stalin by B.V. Vorontsov

Stalin and Lenin are portrayed as joint leaders of the October Revolution.

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.

Visit Anita Pisch’s website at www.anitapisch.com

 

stalin poster of the week 30: petr golub’, great stalin is the best friend of the latvian people!, 1950

1950 poster by Petr Golub' promoting Stalin as a friend of the Latvian people

Petr Golub’ (Голубь, П.), Great Stalin is the best friend of the Latvian people!, (великий сталин – лучший друг латышского народа!), 1950

 

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.

Petr Golub’s poster of 1950 is an audacious piece of postwar propaganda which, although seemingly targeted at the Latvian people, was probably actually produced to make the Russian population feel good about their relationship with Latvia. The poster was published in Moscow and Leningrad in the Russian language and was thus most likely intended for a Russian audience.

The Republic of Latvia came under the Soviet sphere of influence/was liberated/was militarily occupied by the USSR under the 1939 Molotov-Ribbentrop pact. Latvia had declared its independence in 1918 and, after a prolonged war of independence, made peace with Soviet Russia in 1920:

Russia recognises without objection the independence and sovereignty of the Latvian State and forever renounces all sovereign rights held by Russia in relation to the Latvian nation and land on the basis of the previous State legal regime as well as any international agreements, all of which lose their force and effect for all future time as herein provided.

Peace Treaty between Latvia and Russia (August 11, 1920)

On Jun 16, 1940, Soviet troops entered Latvia and Estonia. Elections were organised for July 14-15 with a pre-approved list of candidates from the Latvian Working People’s Bloc and the results allegedly published in Moscow 12 hours before the polls closed in Latvia. One week later, the newly installed government petitioned to join the Soviet Union.

Latvia’s sovereignty was only fully restored in 1991 after the fall of the Soviet Union. On August 22, 1996, the Latvian parliament adopted a declaration stating that the Soviet occupation of Latvia in 1940 was a military occupation and thus an illegal incorporation.

In fact, even prior to the Second World War in the 1930s, the Soviet leadership had targeted the Latvian community in the purges, and it is very likely that it was renowned poster artist Gustav Klutsis’ Latvian ethnicity that led to his arrest and execution in 1938.

Klutsis, who created numerous acclaimed and memorable posters in service of the regime, had also been a member of the Latvian rifle guard that formed Lenin’s personal bodyguard during the days of the October Revolution of 1917.

Klutsis was arrested and executed in 1938 due to his ‘alleged participation, beginning in 1936, in the Latvian fascist-nationalist organization, operating at the time in Moscow’. Prometheus, a Latvian cultural organisation, was established in Moscow in 1923 and shut down by government decree in 1937.*

Petr Golub, a noted poster artist and illustrator, died just three years after this poster was released, one week before his 40th birthday. Rumours that he was executed for having depicted Stalin with a deformed hand with only four fingers may be apocryphal.**

In Golub’s 1950 poster, just five years after the end of the Second World War when the Soviet Union was presenting itself as the world leader of the peace movement, Stalin’s figure, in his white marshal’s uniform, fills the picture plane. This serves as a pointed reminder of Soviet victory in the war and of Stalin’s leading role in bringing about this victory.

 

Detail of 1950 Golub' poster of Stalin as the saviour of the Latvian people

The beautiful young Latvian woman wears national costume and is surrounded by flowers, signifying the abundance and respect for national identity that Stalin brings to Latvia.

 

Stalin’s right arm points the way to a future of victorious communism and a young man and woman gaze, as in a trance, in the direction he indicates. The position of Stalin’s hand, held in a gesture of firing at someone, is one of many gestures made by Stalin in posters to indicate movement towards the future.

The young man beneath Stalin wears a suit and tie and the young woman wears the blouse of a national costume. She holds a bunch of carnations that are not offered to Stalin, and probably signify postwar abundance, the payoff for all of the past sacrifices made in the name of socialism.

The caption of the poster, which must have been particularly galling to the Latvian people, states ‘Great Stalin is the best friend of the Latvian people!’

 

Detail of 1950 Golub' poster of Stalin as the saviour of the Latvian people

Stalin indicates the brilliant future awaiting the Latvian people under Soviet rule. Strangely, this is also the gesture one makes when shooting someone with a finger.

*Margarita Tupitsyn, Gustav Klutsis and Valentina Kulagina, p. 1

** See http://www.memiauctions.com/MMA_Sep2011.pdf, p. 69

 

Anita Pischs 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 view Dr Anita Pisch’s website at www.anitapisch.com

 

 

 

 

stalin poster of the week 28: alexander mytnikov, 26 years without lenin, but still on lenin’s path, 1950

1950 poster of Stalin and Lenin by Mytnikov

Alexander Abramovich Mytnikov (Мытников, Александр Абрамович), 26 years without Lenin, but still on Lenin’s path (26 лет без Ленина, по Ленинскому пути), 1950

 

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.

This intriguing poster by Alexander Mytnikov, published at Rostov-on-Don in 1950, employs the generic slogan ‘Under the banner of Lenin, under the leadership of Stalin — forward to the victory of communism!’ at its base, but has an unusual caption at the top of the poster — ‘26 years without Lenin, but still on Lenin’s path’.

An almost white-haired Stalin stands with his face in semi-shadow, his brows pinched as if in grief. According to literary scholar Katerina Clark,* in socialist realist literature the furrowed brow and pinched face are signs of the revolutionary’s dedication and sacrifice. Although Stalin’s skin is generally smooth and unblemished, he appears tired and aged.

 

Detail of 1950 Stalin poster by Mytnikov

Stalin looks old and tired, and his pinched brow symbolises revolutionary sacrifice

 

Behind Stalin, a massive red banner billows in a yellow sky, resembling a wall of fire. The tiny Spassky tower of the Kremlin is in shadow, with the golden fringe of the banner also resembling flames. The words on the banner read ‘Long live the Party of Lenin–Stalin!’

Dominating the banner, on a scale similar to Stalin’s head, is that of Lenin in grayscale. Lenin also looks out of the poster, but far further to the left (the left signifies the past) than Stalin. Lenin’s hair, normally portrayed in posters as flat and sparse, curls forward around his forehead above his ears, and his usually trim goatee is thick and lush and appears to circle his chin.

 

Detail of 1950 Stalin poster by Mytnikov

Lenin’s usually sparse hair is curly, thick and lush in this poster

 

This is an unusual depiction of Lenin, but bears some resemblance to depictions of St Nicholas the Wonderworker in Russian Orthodox icons. St Nicholas, whose feast day is 6 December (19 December, Old Calendar) is the ‘miracle-working’ saint and one of the most beloved figures in the iconography of the church, known for his gentleness, humility, love of all people and purity of heart.

Tales of St Nicholas’ life highlight a reputation for giving anonymous and secret gifts to aid people in need and he is reported to have divided his substantial inheritance among the poor. He is known to intercede for petitioners in response to heartfelt prayer through his icon in practical and tangible ways, particularly in matters of healing and rescue, and is also the patron saint of travellers, particularly seafarers.

 

St Nicholas the Wonderworker (Image in the public domain)

St Nicholas the Wonderworker (Image in the public domain)

 

Nicholas is usually depicted with a high, bald forehead, his hair curling in on either side, and with a trim circular beard and moustache. By placing Lenin on the red banner over Stalin’s right shoulder, visually referencing St Nicholas, and making textual reference to his exemplary role, Mytnikov is perhaps drawing a parallel between Lenin and Nicholas’s gentle nature, humility, and fame for redistributing the wealth of the rich among the poor.

There is also the suggestion that the apotheosised Lenin can intercede on behalf of both Stalin and the Soviet citizen. While Lenin is a saint in the Soviet pantheon, Stalin is the dedicated and self-sacrificial revolutionary who bears aloft the Lenin banner.

Katerina Clark, The Soviet novel, p. 57

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

stalin poster of the week 27: Vladimir Elpidiforovich Kaidalov, Departing from us, Comrade Lenin urged us to strengthen and extend the union republics…, 1940

1940 poster of Stalin and Lenin by Kaidalov

Vladimir Elpidiforovich Kaidalov (Кайдалов, В.), Departing from us, Comrade. Lenin urged us to strengthen and extend the union republics. We swear to you, comrade. Lenin, that we will fulfill with honor your behest (уходя от нас, тов. Ленин завещал укреплять и расширять союз республик. клянемся тебе, тов. Ленин, что мы выполним с честью и эту твою заповедь), 1940

 

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.

A 1940 poster from Tashkent, Uzbekistan, by Vladimir Kaidalov quotes from Stalin’s funerary oath to Lenin on 26 January 1924: ‘Departing from us, Comrade Lenin urged us to strengthen and extend the union republics. We swear to you, Comrade Lenin, that we will fulfil with honour your behest’.

 

Detail of 1940 poster of Stalin and Lenin by Kaidalov

Lenin’s head floats in the sky – a saintly protector who guides the nation from beyond

 

A giant head of Lenin sits above the Kremlin in a crimson sky. In 1940, Lenin had already been dead for 16 years, but was still the major legitimating tool for the Soviet government, and for Stalin as leader. By depicting Lenin as hovering in the sky, he appears as a protective spirit, guiding Stalin and the people on the path from socialism to full communism.

 

Detail of 1940 poster of Stalin and Lenin by Kaidalov

Stalin swears an elegaic oath to Lenin

 

Beneath the sky, a holy shade of red like the background in an Orthodox icon, a crowd of people in Uzbek dress carry large red banners and look up at Stalin, who stands at the podium, arm raised to swear his oath.

 

Detail of 1940 poster of Stalin and Lenin by Kaidalov

Uzbek citizens, many in traditional dress, look to Stalin for guidance

 

The portion of Stalin’s oath that is quoted on the poster refers to socialist work to be undertaken in the union republics. In 1940, Tashkent was in the early stages of a total reconstruction that would see a ‘cultured city’ rise out of the demolition of a city of single-storey mudbrick houses, the opening of the Tashkent canal, and the opening of the children’s railway.

 

Detail of 1940 poster of Stalin and Lenin by Kaidalov

The text of the poster is in both Uzbek and Russian

 

Plans to refashion Tashkent’s inhabitants into high-rise dwellers were meeting with resistance, and this poster calls upon the apotheosised Lenin to legitimate Stalin’s plan, whilst also showing Stalin to be a man of honour, having given his word to carry on Lenin’s plans in his funeral oration.

Kaidalov, who was born in Barnaul, Siberia in 1907 and only moved to Tashkent in 1932, achieved considerable fame as a painter in Uzbekistan and was awarded the
honorary title of the People’s Artist of Uzbekistan.

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

 

stalin poster of the week 26: boris belopol’skii, we stand for peace and we defend the cause of peace, 1952

1952 poster of Stalin by Boris Belopol'skii

Boris Belopol’skii (Белопольский, Б), We stand for peace and we defend the cause of peace. I. Stalin (Мы стоим за мир и мы отстаиваем дело мира. И. Сталин.), 1952

 

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.

In the 1950s, Stalin was increasingly promoted in propaganda as a man of peace and the Soviet Union led peace movements throughout the world.

Two posters of 1952 by painter and graphic artist Boris Belopol’skii address the peace theme. This one features Stalin in military uniform (while in the other, he is without).  A large red banner provides a backdrop to Stalin in his marshal’s uniform, standing in front of, but isolated from, a thronging crowd.

 

Detail of Belopol'skii poster of Stalin, 1952

Stalin stands in front of a banner that protects a river of grateful people

 

The diagonal crowd filling the space suggests the movement of a never-ending river of people, and is reminiscent of the posters of the mid-1930s, although now it is no longer just the Soviet people who are giving their thanks and support to the great man, but the people of the whole world thanking Stalin for bringing peace.

Stalin gazes into the utopian future. He holds a pencil and a piece of paper; however, the pencil is not held as one would hold it for writing, but flat between the thumb and index finger with the tip pointing out at the viewer. It looks as if the pencil is being used as a conductor’s baton, or even as a wand.

 

Detail of Belopol'skii poster of Stalin, 1952

This is not how one holds a pencil when writing

 

This unusual gesture suggests three things:

  • that Stalin is the author of the document he is holding, which is probably some sort of declaration,
  • that he is the orchestrator of this great mass movement,
  • and also that he is the bearer of magic powers — a magician.

This is one of the few instances in posters of Stalin in which the archetype of the Magician is employed, although Stalin is often associated with magical properties, such as control over the elements and spiritual powers, in the visual symbolism of posters produced by Iraklii Toidze, and is depicted with talismanic and spiritual–inspirational properties in a number of posters.

Although many of the epithets of Stalin’s personality cult ascribe superhuman or supernatural qualities to Stalin, it is only on comparatively rarely that the visual symbolism is as explicit as it is here.

Stalin’s figure in this poster is strangely elongated, making him appear taller and slimmer than is usually the case. Elongation of human figures is a characteristic of Russian Orthodox icons, and the language of the icon informed almost every aspect of Soviet poster design.

It is possible that by making Stalin’s figure so obviously elongated, Belopol’skii is drawing a parallel with the Orthodox saints, and thus reinforcing the Saviour archetype that is also associated with Stalin in posters of this era.

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 25: m. solomyanii, excellent study will please the leader!, 1952

Ukrainian poster of child learning from the writings of Stalin

M. Solomyanii (соломяний, м.), Excellent study will please the leader! (порадуємо вождя відмінні навчанням!), 1952 (Text in Ukrainian)

 

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.

After the Second World War, known as the Great Patriotic War in the USSR, the Soviet Union set about rebuilding its territories after the terrible devastation of people and property.

However, unlike the early years of Soviet construction, the emphasis moved from amazing feats of manual labour, such as those executed by the shock workers (udarniki) and Stakhanovites, to mechanisation and technical expertise. Thus, there was a drive for education, especially in engineering and the sciences, but always within the context of the science of Marxism-Leninism.

This 1952 Ukrainian poster, published by Mistetstvo in Kiev in the Ukrainian language, in an edition of 60,000, encourages youth to study hard in order to please the national leader, Comrade Stalin (who, interestingly, is not mentioned by name here).

Detail of 1952 Ukrainian poster of Stalin

One of the key archetypes associated with Stalin is that of the Teacher. Stalin’s writings provide a solid introduction to the science of Marxism-Leninism

 

The young girl, in pinafore and red Pioneer scarf, is totally engrossed in her lesson, writing in a large, even script. The text from which she studies features a portrait of Stalin, and is likely a volume of the great idealogue’s writings on Marxist-Leninist thought.

Neither Lenin, nor his voluminous writings, are anywhere to be seen in this poster. Stalin has surpassed the great Soviet genius to become a guiding philosopher in his own right. With victory in the war and more than two decades of leadership behind him, Stalin no longer needs to appeal to the legitimising presence of Lenin

The Stalin textbook is propped up by a stack of books on the desk, partially obscuring a globe, and shelves of books sit behind the girl. The new Soviet citizen is well-educated across a variety of academic fields, and also aware of wider global issues, especially those pertaining to peace.

 

Detail of 1952 Ukrainian poster of Stalin

Soft pastel books and pastel shades on the globe speak of a new era of abundance and peace

 

The colour scheme of the poster is in stark contrast to the bold reds and strong outlines of earlier rallying posters. Pastel shades, soft outlines and a painterly surface emphasise that this is an era of peace and abundance, and that the Soviet future is in the safe hands of serious and dedicated children like the child in the poster.

 

girl

This serious and dedicated girl is the future of the USSR

 

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 24: konstantin ivanov, happy new year beloved stalin, 1952

Poster of Stalin 1952 by Konstantin Ivanov in which Stalin's portrait is treated like an icon

Konstantin Ivanov (Иванов, К.), Happy New Year, Beloved Stalin! (с новым годом, любимый сталин!), 1952

 

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 is depicted as an icon in this festive poster from 1952.

Konstantin Ivanov’s  Happy New Year, Beloved Stalin! shows Stalin’s portrait being hung as an icon by a young boy at New Year. Stalin wears his Marshal’s uniform and is presented as the great saviour of the Soviet Union.

Unlike earlier posters in which Stalin interacts with children on festive occasions, by 1952 Stalin is present only as an icon portrait at which the child gazes raptly, almost hypnotically, as one prays before an icon.

 

Detail of 1952 poster of Stalin by Konstantin Ivanov

The child’s gaze is almost hypnotic as Stalin is presented as the saviour of the Soviet Union

 

In contrast to the Viktor Koretskii poster of 1943 in which a child also hangs an iconic image of Stalin on a wall, the child is alone in this poster, without siblings, peers or parents.

Perhaps the child is an orphan. Stalin stands in for the absent father, but here he is a remote presence and his relationship with the child is anything but familiar.

 

Detail of 1952 poster of Stalin by Konstantin Ivanov

The New Year tree is decorated with red stars, baubles, candy canes, and a rabbit and a fish, signifying Soviet abundance

 

The small portion of the New Year tree that is visible carries red stars as decorations, but none of the other portents of a happy future that are evident in earlier posters featuring New Year trees – aeroplanes, automobiles, etc

This tree is adorned with tinsel, traditional baubles, a candy cane, a fish and a rabbit – a reference to a time of plenitude and bounty for Soviet citizens. Stalin, the saviour, appears now to be removed from the realm in which he is expected to gift any physical or material objects, to inhabiting a realm in which he is thanked and praised in a manner akin to a god.

The poster highlights Stalin’s talismanic and protective properties.

 

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.

 

stalin poster of the week 23: vartan arakelov, stalin is the wisest of all people…, 1939

Poster of Stalin by Vartan Arakelov, 1939

Vartan Arakelov (Аракелов, В.), Stalin is the wisest of all people… (сталин – самый мудрый из людей…), 1939

 

One of the key symbols associated with Stalin across all genres of propaganda is the sun, with its related qualities of light and warmth. The sun has been a recurrent motif throughout propaganda associated with leaders since pre-Christian times, when leaders appealed to their sun gods to look favourably upon their leadership, their battles and their harvests.

Associating the leader with the sun suggests that he is the bringer of life and of bounty to the people and the sun became a central image in Stalinist propaganda, with Stalin unambiguously equated with the sun in poetry and song, while propaganda posters frequently associated Stalin with light in general. The sun also symbolises the masculine principle and leadership.

Perhaps one of the most laboured metaphorical associations of Stalin with the light of the sun occurs in a poem by Kazakh poet Dzhambul (28.02.1846 – 22.06.1945). This panegyric forms the text of a poster by Vartan Arakelov which was released in 1939, the year of Stalin’s 60th birthday celebrations.

Stalin is celebrated as the father of children of all nations and tribes, and the source of a radiating and shimmering light, which reflects onto everyone.

Despite the fatherly connotations of the text, this poster image of Stalin emphasises his remoteness from the realm of man and endows him with the qualities of a deity.

 

Detail of Stalin poster by Vartan Arakelov, 1939

Stalin is remote and inaccessible, a statue made of stone

 

Stalin is made of stone, an honour reserved for founding fathers and those who have accomplished exceptional feats. The statue is immutable and immortal. It stands amid lush blossoms and above a group of children, and it looks protectively out over the scene and beyond. Stalin appears as a god who guarantees abundance and safety, and invites veneration and worship.

 

Detail of Stalin poster by Vartan Arakelov, 1939

The children, resplendent in their red Pioneer scarves, are grateful, orderly and obedient

 

The children, who are from various nationalities of the USSR, cannot hope to access Stalin personally as they could in earlier posters. Instead, the remote stone Stalin is accessed through his representative in the earthly realm, the poet Dzhambul, who plays the dombra, the pear-shaped lute of the Kazakh people, and sings words of praise of Stalin to the children:

Stalin is the wisest of all people
You couldn’t get a more beloved father.
Radiating light beams onto
Children of all nations, of all tribes.

Stalin is like a fairytale sycamore tree.
His power is visible from everywhere.
Every leaf is an expensive diamond
Shining soft light on you.

Remember forever, pioneer:
Stalin is your best role model.
Like a father, his smile shines on
Children of all nations, of all tribes.

Dzhambul.

Detail of Stalin poster by Vartan Arakelov, 1939

Kazakh poet Dzhambul is like an intermediary priest guiding the children in singing hymns of praise to the omnipotent father

Dzhambul’s mission is sacred, as emphasised by his white tunic and rich red robe.

There is some disagreement as to whether Dzhambul Dzhabayev was a real poet or the creation of Russian writers who needed a traditional folksinger for propaganda purposes. Russian poet Andrei Aldan-Semyonov (27.10.1908 – 08.12.1985) claims to have authored Dzhambul’s poems from 1934 until he was sent to the gulag in 1938.

The children, all members of Lenin’s Young Pioneers, are passive and attentive. From this time onward, the ideal Soviet child was consistently depicted as obedient, disciplined and grateful across all media.  For example, the 1937 film Cradle Song, (Колыбельная) shows Stalin surrounded by children and includes footage of the Eighteenth Party Congress where the Young Pioneers joined in songs of praise sung to Stalin.