Viktor Deni, With the banner of Lenin…, 1933
Viktor Deni’s poster of Stalin and Lenin of 1933 is one of three known posters of Stalin of that year with the lengthy caption:
With the banner of Lenin we were victorious in the battle for the October revolution.
The caption is from the Political Report of the Central Committee of the XVI Congress of the CPSU (b) speech delivered by Stalin on June 27, 1930. The other two posters of that year were by well-established artists Gustav Klutsis (stalin poster of the week 111) and emerging artist Iraklii Toidze (spelled Taidze on the poster – see stalin poster of the week 123).
Deni’s poster features sketches of the head of Lenin, and head and neck of Stalin, almost equal in size, on either side of a radio transmitter that broadcasts the words ‘Long live the proletariat revolution of the whole world’, set against a plain backdrop.
The cream background and sketched heads are readily identifiable as Deni’s signature style.
Lenin’s head, sketched in faint tones, seems to float in the picture plane, while Stalin, anchored by his neck and collar and sketched in darker tones, casts a shadow and appears more solid.
Thus, Lenin, already dead for nine years in 1933, is somewhat spectral, while Stalin is ‘fleshier’ and more terrestrial.
Although it is Lenin’s inspiration that is invoked in the text, it is Stalin who invokes it through his quotation. Stalin is depicted as the truest disciple and interpreter of Leninism, carrying on the work of the great revolutionary.
Iraklii Taidze (sic - Toidze), With the banner of Lenin... , 1933
The red banner is the most frequently recurring motif in the Soviet propaganda poster, appearing in approximately seventy percent of posters that contain an image of Stalin, while several more utilise a plain red backdrop which evokes both the banner and also the red background which is sometimes found in Russian Orthodox icons.
Scenes that do not feature banners are frequently indoor settings, or close-cropped photographic portraits, particularly black-and-white photographs of Stalin’s head.
The colour red had several connotations in the Soviet Union. The Russian word for ‘red,’ krasnyi, shares a common etymology with the word for ‘beautiful,’ krasivyi, and red is associated with beauty.
Red is a sacred colour in the Russian Orthodox Church, and symbolises life, love, warmth and the victory of life over death as made manifest in the Resurrection. It is also the colour of blood and as such can signify martyrdom in general, and Christ’s sacrifice of his own life for humankind in particular, with a red background on an icon symbolising eternal life or martyrdom.
The association of the red flag with communism dates to the Paris Commune of 1871, where it was raised at the seized Hotel de Ville by proletarian revolutionaries. The Russian communists adopted the red flag as the symbol of their movement and when the Bolsheviks seized power, they made the red flag, with yellow hammer and sickle insignia, the flag of the nation.
This 1933 poster by emerging graphic artist Iraklii Toidze is one of three known posters of Stalin of that year featuring the text:
With the banner of Lenin we were victorious in the battle for the October revolution.
The text is from the Political Report of the Central Committee of the XVI Congress of the CPSU (b) speech delivered by Stalin on June 27, 1930. The other two posters of that year were by well-established artists Gustav Klutsis (stalin poster of the week 111) and Viktor Deni (upcoming - SPotW124).
Toidze’s poster juxtaposes the present and the past with Stalin adopting a static ‘hand-in’ pose behind a red podium.
Arrayed behind Stalin are the smiling Soviet people, male and female, of various nationalities and in the garb of various occupations, looking to the future.
Behind them are three banners and behind these two historical scenes – the storming of the Winter Palace with Lenin atop the turret of a tank, urging the revolutionaries forward; and a smaller scene with a younger Stalin, mimicking Lenin’s pose and speaking on his behalf at the semi-legal Sixth Party Congress of August 1917 in Petrograd. This significant Congress was held semi-legally between the February and October Revolutions. Lenin was in exile and unable to attend, and Stalin delivered the Political Report on behalf of the Bolshevik Party.
Stalin is thus seen as Lenin’s right-hand man in the revolutionary years, and as the ‘Lenin of today’ in the 1930s.
The publishing details on the poster misspell Toidze’s surname as ‘Taidze’, however the bottom right of the poster contains Toidze’s signature and can thus be safely attributed to him.
Iraklii Toidze, Under the banner of Lenin, under the leadership of Stalin - forward, to the victory of communism!, 1936
Posters on the theme of female delegates became popular in the mid-1930s. The woman delegate also became something of an archetype in painting at the same time. In fact, almost all delegates were women and the image of the female came increasingly to represent the stereotypic ‘Soviet citizen’ in visual culture.
This 1936 poster by renowned Georgian poster artist Iraklii Toidze depicts a female delegate from the 'exotic East', in at least some elements of traditional dress, addressing a multicultural crowd.
The delegate appears to be speaking in an animated and impassioned manner and the crowd are attentive and appreciative.
In fact, so persuasive is the delegate's rhetoric that Lenin leans forward out of his picture frame to listen in. Strangely, Stalin leans away from the women.
Although the poster employs an over-used and somewhat hackneyed caption - 'Under the banner of Lenin, under the leadership of Stalin - forward, to the victory of communism!' - the visual imagery is distinct and unusual.
The bodily positions of both Lenin and Stalin seem exaggerated, and the direction of the gaze of the three figures in the poster cause the eyes of the viewer to zig zag dramatically through the picture plane.
The poster was published in Moscow and Leningrad in an edition of 100,000 using the rotogravure technique. In rotogravure, an image is engraved onto a cylinder for use in a rotary press. These intaglio cylinders can usually run at high speeds and produce large editions.
SPECIAL EDITION - INTERNATIONAL WOMEN'S DAY -Mikhail Solov'ev, such women didn’t and couldn’t exist in the old days, 1950
Mikhail Mikhailovich Solov'ev’s 'Such Women Didn’t and Couldn’t Exist in the Old Days' of 1950 features a woman delegate making a speech, flanked on either side by a delegate who listens attentively to her.
Despite the depiction of women as holding positions of power and influence, this poster in fact makes the obligation women have to Stalin particularly explicit.
Solov’ev’s poster places Stalin on a wall in a frame, removed from the action of the real, earthly world. A palette of reds and gold is employed, sacred colours of the Orthodox icon, with the entire earthly domain bathed in golden light, representing the radiance of heaven.
Reminiscent of the Virgin in the icon, the women are dressed in blues and reds. The female delegate is the central figure of a holy trinity. Her placement behind a podium, which serves as a kind of socialist altar, and in front of Stalin’s looming image, is reminiscent of the placement of the Deity in the Orthodox Church.
Although the young woman does not adopt the Virgin’s pose of prayer, her attitude does draw attention upwards to the authoritative figure hovering above her, the position reserved for Jesus in the Church.
While the figures of the women are three dimensional, Stalin is flatter and monochrome, and stands against a symbolic and semi-stylised background – more of an iconic image than a real man. In many images of Stalin with a portrait of Lenin, the Lenin portrait is also in grayscale in contrast to the coloured flesh of Stalin. In this poster, Stalin's hand lays across the page of an open book, almost as if he is taking an oath, or perhaps drawing on the authority of The Word.
While the strong young woman on the podium in the centre dominates the image, it is clear, both visually and through the text on the poster, that it is only through Stalin’s support that she can do so. It is only by virtue of his authority that she can exist at all.
Stalin is captured in a stylised, rhetorical pose, which reflects, almost in mirror image, the pose of the young woman in front of him. The woman in the 1950 poster exists in the same symbolic relationship to Stalin as the blacksmith’s assistant did to the blacksmith-magician in the propaganda posters of 1920. In her pose, her gaze, and even her upswept hair, she is an imitator of Stalin, and his messenger in the everyday world from which, by 1950, he has almost totally retreated.
The text is taken from Stalin's speech at the reception for female collective farm-shock workers of the beet fields on November 10, 1935 in which Stalin outlines how collectivisation of agriculture has liberated women. In the poster, it reinforces the identification of Stalin with Christ. It is Christ’s sacrifice that has saved humankind just as here it is Stalin who is the saviour of women, who could not find freedom or salvation before his advent.
Boris Knoblok, “A strong and powerful dictatorship of the proletariat ..., 1933
Boris Knoblok (Бори́с Гео́ргиевич Кно́блок), “A strong and powerful dictatorship of the proletariat—that is what we need now in order to scatter to the winds the last remnants of the dying classes and to frustrate their thieving designs..” Stalin (“Сильная и мощная диктатура пролетариата – вот что нам нужна теперь для того, чтобы развеять впрах последние остатки умирающих классов и развить их воровские махинации”. И. Сталин), 1933
Like many other posters of the early 1930s and using the same portrait of Stalin, this time mirrored, this 1933 poster by Boris Knoblock uses stark graphics and a block of text as a means of communicating directives from the leadership to the public.
The poster is focused on the section of Stalin’s January 1933 speech in which he outlines the results of the five-year plan in four years in the sphere of the struggle against the remnants of the hostile classes – in other words, class warfare.
Aware of the value of an enemy in uniting a population, Stalin refers to them as ‘has-beens’ who, unable to make a frontal assault on the regime, have wormed their way into workplaces and even the Party, sabotaging work and causing mischief and harm, and plundering state property.
Stalin identifies the enemy as comprising
“the private manufacturers and their servitors, the private traders and their henchmen, the former nobles and priests the kulaks and kulak agents, the former Whiteguard officers and police officials, policemen and gendarmes, all sorts of bourgeois intellectuals of a chauvinist type, and all other anti-Soviet elements.”
Stalin urges the public not to become complacent and to actively fight to protect public property from theft and plunder. Vigilance is necessary.
One of Stalin’s main assertions is that as class struggle nears an end, it actually intensifies and the state needs to intensify its power to the utmost to crush the remnants of the dying classes.
Boris Knoblok was a highly celebrated artist and recipient of the Stalin Prize, second class in 1948, the title of Honoured Artist of the RSFSR in 1955 and the State Prize of the Tatar ASSR in 1973.
Having studied at VKhUTEMAS, he did military service as a poster artist and festival designer between 1927 and 1933 before de-mobilisation and a subsequent career as a production designer in the theatre, the circus, the cinema and of festivals.
Unknown artist, Komsomol political education system mid-Volga organisation VLKSM for 1930-31, 1931
Stalin gained control of the Politburo at the Fifteenth Party Congress on 18 December 1927 demonstrating that not only had he been a close companion and confidant of Lenin, but that he had always supported Lenin’s political positions and was a devoted adherent to his dogma.
In his interview with the German author Emil Ludwig, Stalin stated modestly:
“As for myself, I am just a pupil of Lenin’s, and the aim of my life is to be a worthy pupil of his.”*
The first appearances of Stalin with Lenin in a poster occur in the year 1930. This poster by an unknown artist was published in Samara** by the Propaganda Department and Theoretical Studies Regional Committee of Middle-Volga Komsomol.
The poster promotes the value of political education. Lenin and Stalin appear outlined in a sacral red Bolshevik aura on either side of the poster, although as a full-length figure, Lenin is larger and therefore more prominent than the smaller bust of Stalin.
Both Lenin and Stalin are quoted, along with Engels, and their authoritative texts are depicted around the page. Circles containing text may reference the underground ‘circles in which Stalin and the other Old Bolsheviks cut their ideological teeth as they fomented revolution.
These circles, which Stalin joined while he was still in the seminary in Tiflis, circulated illegal literature of a political and ideological nature. They were places of lively and often heated discussion and morphed into the secret cells that actively sought to undermine the tsarist regime.
The larger text on the posters is in the form of recognisable catchy slogans:
Achieve the five-year plan in four years.
This poster is typical of posters of the very early 1930s in which a great deal of text is reproduced and there is an assumption that people will spend a lot of time examining the poster.
Later posters capitalised on the strength of the medium by presenting shorter and punchier captions with arresting images, able to be taken in quickly as people bustled about their daily activities.
* J. V. Stalin, ‘Talk With the German Author Emil Ludwig’, December 13, 1931, Transl. by Hari Kumar, J.V. Stalin, Works, 13, (Moscow, Foreign Languages Publishing House, 1955), pp. 106-25, http://www.marxists.org/reference/archive/stalin/works/1931/dec/13.htm.
** From 1935 to 1991 Samara became known as Kuibyshev.
Vladimir Musinov, Great Stalin is the hope of the world / peace!, 1951
The powerful image of Stalin in Vladimir Musinov’s 1951 poster shows a three-quarter view of the relaxed and friendly vozhd’ in monochrome, set against the brilliant red of the Soviet flag.
The rich red is associated with the Revolution and the Soviet government, with beauty and sacredness in icons, and also with the blood of the sacrifice of Soviet forces in the Great Patriotic War, which by transference is also Stalin’s sacrifice.
Stalin’s sacrifice during the Great Patriotic War was in fact a real sacrifice. Stalin’s son Yakov Djugashvili by his first wife was an artillery lieutenant who on 16 July, 1941 was captured by the Germans during the battle of Smolensk. He did not perform the expected honourable act of committing suicide, and so was imprisoned in a POW camp.
When German Field Marshall Friedrich von Paulus surrendered to the Soviet forces on January 31, 1943 (and also did not commit suicide), the Germans proposed an exchange of prisoners. Stalin refused, stating as his reason that Yakov was not equivalent to a Field Marshall.
When Stalin was asked after the war if the von Paulus story was a myth he replied:
“Not a myth... Just think how many sons ended in camps! Who would swap them for Paulus? Were they worse than Yakov? I had to refuse... What would they have said of me, our millions of Party fathers, if having forgotten about them, I agreed to swapping Yakov? No, I had no right... Otherwise, I’d no longer be “Stalin”... I so pitied Yasha!”
Yakov committed suicide in the POW camp, without having co-operated with the Germans in April 1943.*
The simple poster caption in large font plays on the dual meanings of the Russian word 'mir' as both 'peace' and 'the world'. With the Soviet Union conspicuously heading world peace movements in the 1950s, Stalin was presented in propaganda as the shining hope for peace - world peace, the beacon of hope for the entire world.
In Musinov's poster, Stalin’s eyes actually sparkle with friendship and joy. His approachability is highlighted by the fact that he is not wearing his characteristic marshal’s uniform, just a simple military-style tunic, without epaulettes or braid, and his sole decoration is the star of the Hero of Socialist Labour.
To be portrayed in the marshal’s uniform might have served as a reminder of the recent war and conquest in Eastern Europe. In official parlance, the nations of Eastern Europe had been ‘liberated’ and for this they owed the friendly avuncular figure of Stalin an unpayable debt of gratitude.
Vladimir Musinov was a well-known Soviet photographer who travelled the USSR from Vladivostok to the Arctic to middle Asia, documenting collectivisation and Soviet development. He was one of four Russian photographers who contributed to the March 29, 1943 special edition of LIFE (vol. 14, no. 13) on the USSR.
* S. Sebag Montefiore. Stalin: The Court of the Red Tsar. London, 2003, pp.394-5.
Gustav Klutsis, Shock workers of the fields engage in fighting for the socialist reconstruction of agriculture, 1932
This 1932 poster by highly acclaimed photomontage artist Gustav Klutsis focuses on agriculture and references the six conditions outlined in Stalin's speech of 23 June, 1931.
The shock workers (udarniki), people who performed exemplary and extraordinary feats of labour, were the predecessors of the Stakhanovites. From the 1950s, the shock worker of communist labour (udarnik kommunisticheskogo truda) was an official title, awarded along with a badge, certificate and cash.
In Klutsis' poster, Stalin rises solid from the earth, forged to the motherland and presenting a fortress of protection for the work beneath him.
Immediately beneath him and literally heading into his body is a wedge-shaped scene of the old, labour-intensive farming methods - horse and plough, and manual tilling.
In another of Klutsis' characteristic diagonals, a modern scene occupies the foreground in which a huge paddock is ploughed by an enormous tractor and only a handful of agricultural workers. The tractor flies an impossibly large red banner.
Behind Stalin, there is another typical Klutsis motif - the sea of people, in this case peasants - streaming in as a surging tide towards the inevitable socialist future.
Stalin is lit by a red ray from the heavens, containing a quotation of his own words:
"At the end of the Five-Year Plan, Soviet collectivisation should be mostly finished. "( I. Stalin)
The green side bar contains a series of slogans:
For organisational and economic strengthening of the collective!
Unknown artist, Six historical conditions of Comrade Stalin, undated
Yet another 'six conditions' poster on cheap paper, this time unsigned and undated. As the speech by Stalin from which the six conditions are taken was delivered on June 23, 1931, the poster post-dates this speech.
The poster appears to have been created in the early 1930s, as both the style and the Stalin portrait are of that time. The cameo format of the portrait places this poster within the tradition of informative and statistical posters of early Stalinism.
The poster shows scenes of industrialisation at the top and agricultural collectivisation at the bottom. The use of red fill denotes the socialist nature of this progress.
Strong diagonals among the industrial construction lead the eye to the medallion photographic portrait of Stalin. Stalin gazes directly at the viewer, appealing to them to adopt his six conditions.
The text of the poster reads:
Unknown artist, The path to victory - implementation of the six conditions of Comrade Stalin, 1932
This 1932 version of the six conditions poster by an unknown artist prioritises text over image. This sort of poster with simple design on cheap paper was often used as a way to publicise important messages from the leader.
The text reads:
The path to victory - implementation of the six conditions of Comrade Stalin.
Dr Anita Pisch
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.
SPotW61 Babitskii 1944
SPotW62 Pen Varlen 1942
SPotW63 Bayuskin 1942
SPotW64 Belopol'skii 1950
SPotW65 Belopol'skii 1952
SPotW66 Dlugach 1933
SPotW67 Zhitomirskii 1942
SPotW68 Toidze 1949
SPotW69 Mikhailov 1937
SPotW70 Cheprakov 1939
SPotW76 Toidze 1943
SPotW77 Futerfas 1936
SPotW78 Mukhin 1945
SPotW79 Golub' 1948
SPotW80 Karpovskii 1948