Nadezhda Kashina, Invincible Moscow. (Long live the 1st May), 1942
TASS (Telegraph Agency of the Soviet Union) window posters were a return to the earlier idea of ROSTA (Russian Telegraph Agency) windows, which originated in 1919 as satirical posters that were heavily influenced by the traditional lubok and featured political themes.
In 1919, ROSTA began publishing newspapers, but chronic shortages of paper led to the idea of pasting short news articles and agitational materials up onto walls and in empty shop windows. The windows drew crowds and the idea expanded from Moscow to the provinces.
On 23 June 1941, Aleksandr Gerasimov, head of the Organising Committee of the Union of Soviet Artists, approved a proposal by Mikhail Cheremnikh, Nikolai Denisovskii and Pavel Sokolov-Skalia, to create a new propaganda studio in Moscow based on the ROSTA model.
The first TASS poster appeared on 27 June 1941. While initially the subject matter of posters was derived from Party directives, orders, news items and then Stalin’s speeches, artists and writers were soon able to submit their own ideas for designs for approval.
TASS posters were seen as an important part of the war effort, with Sokolov-Skalia claiming in 1943: ‘My weapon is the three hundred posters I created during the war.’ During the war, the TASS poster workforce increased from about 12 to nearly 300 employees, and one poster was produced for nearly every day of the war.
The posters were large in scale and, unlike most other posters of the Soviet period, were usually created from complex stencils rather than lithographs, some demanding 60 to 70 different stencils and colour divisions.
The use of stencils meant that each poster was printed by hand, hence the painterly look of the posters. This was a labour-intensive process and mobilised a number of artists and craftspeople in the service of the war, while limiting reliance on machinery. It also meant that editions were limited, usually to an issue of a few hundred each.
After the disastrous first months following the German invasion of the Soviet Union, 1942 saw some victories for Soviet troops, and propaganda made much of good news at last.
Monumentalist and graphic artist Nadezhda Kashina’s TASS poster of April 1942, produced for May Day festivities, celebrates Soviet success in forcing the Germans to pull back from Moscow in January. Although Moscow remained under threat for some considerable time, this constituted a significant victory after a string of heavy battle losses and was used to encourage the population in the belief that the USSR would ultimately prevail in the war.
This horizontal format poster takes the form of a tryptich. The largest central image, in pastel tones with splashes of festive red, blue and yellow, shows the Spassky tower in the background, defended by aircraft flying in formation in a golden sky and a barricade of tanks.
In the foreground, a partisan raises his right hand in a gesture of victory, while his left hand holds that of his wife, who carries their toddler in her arms — Moscow is now safe for women and children.
The left side of the middle panel is devoted to the military sphere, which includes another partisan, a line of soldiers, and one woman in military uniform. Significantly, the military personnel are departing.
The right side of the panel is devoted to the domestic sphere and is populated by women, some dressed in overalls and carrying tools, one an aviator, and another, perhaps, a nurse.
On either side of the main image are portrait-oriented images of Soviet soldiers. On the left, the soldier wields a banner with the slogan ‘Long live the 1st of May’ and sharply outlined profile images of Lenin and Stalin, both with plain collars (ie. Stalin is not in military uniform).
The banner crosses over into the panel of the central image and protectively covers the departing soldiers of the Red Army, as well as the aircraft in the sky.Thus, both Stalin and Lenin are invoked as spiritual protectors of the soldiers.
On the right, a soldier looks to the sky with binoculars, still vigilant against the return of the enemy. Both soldiers look away from the central image, in the manner of sentries watching for external threats.
The poster is captioned at the bottom with the words ‘Invincible Moscow’ in Uzbek and Russian. All posters produced in Tashkent had to be published with text in both Uzbek and Russian.
The poster was published in Uzbekistan by UzTAG (Uzbek Telegraph Agency) — many artists were evacuated during the battle of Moscow and continued to produce posters in Tashkent and Kuibyshev. (This led to some confusion in numbering.)
This is the final edition of Stalin Poster of the Week. I would like to thank my many loyal readers for seeing this through with me, and particularly those who have made contact to discuss various aspects of the posters, Stalinism and personality cults. I have thoroughly enjoyed your company.
Iraklii Toidze compendium, images of Stalin
As Iraklii Toidze is my favourite of the Stalinist poster artists, and this blog will draw to a close soon, I have decided to break with tradition and include several Toidze posters in a single edition.
Iraklii Moiseevich Toidze was born on March 14 (27) in 1902 in Tbilisi (Tiflis), Georgia. Son of the famous artist and architect Moiseia Toidze, Iraklii studied with his father and graduated from the Tbilisi Academy of Arts in 1930.
Toidze was a founding member of RevMas (the Tiflis branch of AKhR) with his father from 1928 and its successor SaRMa (Georgian Association of Revolutionary Artists) from 1931.
Toidze is well-known for having produced some of the most iconic and emotive poster images of the Great Patriotic War.
Important exhibitions included:
Fifteen Years of the Workers' and Peasants' Red Army, Moscow 1933
Twenty Years of the Workers' and Peasants' Red Army, Moscow 1938
Industry of Socialism, Moscow 1939
All-Union Art Exhibition, Moscow 1946, 47, 49, 50, 55.
Toidze was the recipient of several Stalin Prizes:
1941 Painting (1st class) - illustration of the poem "The Knight in the Panther's Skin" by Shota Rustaveli (1937)
1948 Painting (1st class) - for "Speech I. Stalin at the solemn meeting devoted to the 24th anniversary of the Great October Socialist Revolution "and a portrait I. Stalin
1949 Painting (2nd class) - illustrations for the book "Anthology of Georgian poetry"
1951 Graphics (3rd class) - for a series of illustrations for the book "History of Georgia"
Toidze was also awarded the Order of the Red Banner of Labour.
B. Lebeșev, Opera "Khoroglu", 1939
This Azerbaijani poster by graphic artist B. Lebesev depicts a performance of the opera Khoroglu at the Azerbaijani State Opera and Ballet Theatre.
Based on episodes from the Epic of Koroghlu, the five-act opera premiered on April 30, 1937 and is still frequently performed today. The opera premiered in Moscow in 1938, although was only performed in full in Russian in 1943.
Considered to be composer Uzeyir Hajibeyov's finest work, Khoroglu won him a USSR State Prize in 1941.
In this poster, the ubiquitous red banner of Lenin-Stalin has morphed into a theatre curtain. A lifelike sketch of Stalin in colour sits before a moon-like bas-relief of Lenin, and both look to the right - the direction of the future.
This forward-looking symbolism is made explicit in the poster caption in Azerbaijani: Opera "Khoroglu" - a new stage in the development of the Azerbaijani opera.
On the stage, in 16th-century costume, is Khoroglu himself. Avenging the unjust blinding of his father and the terrible conditions in which the people live, Khoroglu gathers an army of rebels and ultimately overthrows the despotic Hassan Khan.
The bottom of the poster features a band of beautiful Azerbaijani folk design. The poster was published in Baku, Azerbaijan in 1939.
Mikhail Reikh, For Communism!..., 1948
A 1948 Uzbek poster by Mikhail Reikh celebrates communist post-war abundance and depicts Stalin as the sun.
The poster is dominated by a bust of Stalin emblazoned across a red sky. Stalin appears like the rising sun, illuminating the Uzbek people below who look to the sky, arms outstretched to offer thanks to the source of fertility and abundance.
In their arms, the Uzbek people hold offerings of bouquets of cotton. Ears of wheat and blossoming roses surround the poster caption.
"For communism! So youth exclaims, and this cry is heard in the distance. Youth swears allegiance, Comrade Stalin is the sun of all the earth!"
The caption appears in both Uzbek and Russian and names Stalin as the sun. It is taken from a letter signed by 26,474,646 Komsomol and youth on 3 November 1947.
The full text of the poem in the letter reads:
In the newly illuminated country of the Soviets,
Mikhail Reikh was born in 1904 (in Turkmenistan?). Arriving in Uzbekistan in 1924, he had a long and successful career as a painter, cartoonist, illustrator and graphic artist. He died in Moscow in 1966.
Iraklii Toidze, I am pleased and happy... , 1937
One of the most interesting pairings of Lenin and Stalin of 1937 occurs in Iraklii Toidze’s
‘“I am pleased and happy to know how our people fought and how they have achieved a world-historic victory. I am pleased and happy to know that the blood freely shed by our people, was not in vain, that it has produced results!” I. Stalin’.
The top half of the poster deals with the present day in 1937.
Stalin stands at a raised podium in front of a banner with a bas-relief of Lenin’s head enclosed in a medallion.
Below Stalin is a crowd of citizens, all paying tribute, including a young child — symbol of the new nation; an old man holding a bound copy of the 1936 Stalin constitution; an aviator; and, in the centre, elevated above the others but below Stalin, is the Rodina, symbol of the motherland, bearing aloft a cornucopia of harvest.
Stalin acknowledges the tribute paid to him with a strange, cupped hand gesture to the crowd. 1937 is depicted as a year of success and abundance, and Lenin appears as a kind of Soviet saint or deity whose presence confers approval upon the scene below.
The middle of the poster consists of a broad red text box containing the poster caption, which is a quotation from Stalin from the ‘Report on the draft constitution of the USSR.’ Extraordinary Eighth Congress of Soviets of the USSR, 25 Nov. 1936.
In this lengthy speech, Stalin discusses the changes in Soviet life since the previous constitution was instituted in 1924 and the necessity for a new constitution to reflect the recent declaration of the triumph of socialism in the USSR:
"Thus, the draft of the new Constitution is a summary of the path that has been traversed, a summary of the gains already achieved. In other words, it is the registration and legislative embodiment of what has already been achieved and won in actual fact." (Apparently greeted by loud applause.)
The bottom of the poster depicts a scene from the Bolsheviks’ mythic past. Lenin and a younger Stalin stand side by side, towering over, but separated from, the troops rushing into action during the Civil War.
While the scene at the top is static and the red banner does not move, all but Lenin and Stalin are in motion in the scene below, cavalry surging forward and the banner billowing in the wind.
Muscles ripple and strain, sabres are raised and pistols cocked, clouds swirl in the sky and a beam of light falls upon the head of the lead horse, and endowing the scene with a sense of the mythic or supernatural.
Stalin and Lenin are shown here as equals, although Lenin points the way forward to victory. Stalin is treated visually differently from the apotheosised Lenin in the part of the poster that deals with 1937, but the pair are treated similarly as co-leaders of the Party during the Revolution and Civil War in the part dealing with the past.
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.
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