Iraklii Toidze, Under the banner of Lenin, under the leadership of Stalin, forward to the victory of communism!, 1949
After the Great Patriotic War (Second World War), emphasis in propaganda was increasingly placed on technical expertise over the breakneck physical labour characteristic of the Stakhanovite era. Thee science budget of the Soviet Union tripled in 1946.
Iraklii Toidze uses a richly symbolic visual image to illustrate this new emphasis, captioned by the familiar text, ‘Under the banner of Lenin, under the leadership of Stalin, forward to the victory of communism!’
This 1949 poster employs the preferred Toidze palette of black, white and red, with small embellishments of gold. The top half of the poster is dominated by the figures of Lenin and Stalin.
Lenin appears as a life-size sculpture in characteristic pose, right arm extended and whole hand beckoning the crowd forward and appears to be shepherding Stalin forward.
Stalin, only slightly less monolithic due to the higher contrast on his figure, mirrors Lenin’s gesture almost exactly, except that his right index finger points and his left hand drapes over the podium.
The pole of the ubiquitous scarlet banner divides the background in half vertically, at exactly the place where the heads of Lenin and Stalin meet, identifying Stalin with the banner, but not Lenin, a link that is visually reinforced by the touches of red on Stalin’s uniform. The podium on which Stalin and the statue of Lenin are elevated divides the top and bottom halves of the poster.
Beneath the podium, with their backs to Lenin and Stalin, are civilian members of the populace. On the left, a young female agricultural labourer, a huge sheaf of wheat over her right shoulder, stands next to a young male worker, both looking forward in the direction indicated by Lenin and Stalin.
On the right, a young man holds aloft a sparkling white book with the words ‘Marx, Engels, Lenin, Stalin’ emblazoned on the front cover in gold. His pose mimics that of Lenin and Stalin, although his right hand does not point, but clutches the sacred text.
Behind him is a young woman with windswept hair who adopts the same pose and looks up to Lenin and Stalin for guidance. In her right hand is a large spray of flowers, symbolising abundance and kultur’nost, the postwar emphasis on living a cultured lifestyle.
The left or ‘Lenin side’ of the poster is associated with the past — the two young workers are manual labourers, in the factory and field. Stalin’s side of the poster represents the present pushing on to the future.
The two young people are not dressed for manual labour and rely on education and a sound knowledge of the science of Marxism, as adapted by Lenin and Stalin, for the imminent victory of communism. The early 1950s saw a continuation of the emphasis on education and the mastery of science, with a number of posters published in 1952 on these themes.
Aleksandr Zhitomirskii, Stalin is the greatness of our era, Stalin is the banner of our victory!, 1942
In his 1941 address on the anniversary of the October Revolution, Stalin cautiously told the military parade that victory was possible in 1942:
‘Some more months, another half year, perhaps a year, and Hitlerite Germany will have to break under the weight of its crimes.’*
Confidence grew cautiously and Stalin sometimes appeared without Lenin in war propaganda posters.
In most cases, where Stalin appears without Lenin, he is in gigantic scale, and only visible from above the chest as in this Red Army poster by Aleksandr Zhitomirskii** in which the picture plane is effectively divided in two.
The top of the poster is dominated by just such a gigantic image of Stalin gazing out at the viewer. Down the right side of the top half of the poster is a red segment that contains the text ‘Stalin is the greatness of our era, Stalin is the banner of our victory!’
The bottom half of the poster shows a photomontage of Soviet tanks rolling through Red Square on parade, soldiers marching on parade and a tank in profile with open turret and crewman in the foreground.
The splash of vibrant red colour on the banner of the tank picks up the red field of the text in the top of the poster. Otherwise, the poster consists of a montage of black-and-white photographs.
Aleksandr Zhitomirskii was a leading political artist and satirist who pioneered photomontage techniques in propaganda work, alongside artists like Gustav Klutsis, Aleksandr Rodchenko and El Lissitzky, and German artist John Heartfield.
During the Great Patriotic War, Zhitomirskii used photomontage techniques as part of a psychological warfare campaign in which leaflets, printed in editions of up to one million, were dropped from planes on German troops, urging them to lay down their arms rather than freeze to death in the long Russian winter at the front. This was was so effective that Joseph Goebbels, Nazi Germany’s Minister of Propaganda, is said to have placed Zhitomirskii on the Third Reich’s list of “most wanted” with the order “to find and to hang.”*** Although, Erika Wolf points out that this latter is just myth.
* I. Stalin, O Velikoi Otechestvennoi voine Sovetskogo Soiuza, 4th edn, Moscow, Gospolitizdat, 1944, p. 36.
** For an excellent book on Aleksandr Zhitomirskii, see Erika Wolf, Aleksandr Zhitomirsky: Photomontage as a Weapon of World War II and the Cold War, 2016
*** See http://www.nailyaalexandergallery.com/russian-photography/alexander-zhitomirsky
Mikhail Oskarovich Dlugach, 10 years of the civil fleet of the USSR, 10 years of hard Bolshevik struggle and the world’s greatest victories at the aviation front USSR, 1933
Mikhail Oskarovich Dlugach (Михаил Оскарович Длугач), 10 years of the civil fleet of the USSR, 10 years of hard Bolshevik struggle and the world’s greatest victories at the aviation front USSR.(10 лет гражданского воздушного флота СССР – 10 лет упорной большевистской борьбы и крупнейших побед на фронте аэрофикации СССР), 1933
In the early 1930s, a significant genre of poster production emerged that focussed on Soviet achievement, presenting accomplishments in eye-catching format with striking visuals and simple, emphatic text.
This genre had its origins in Lenin’s time and flourished throughout the Stalinist era, from the time of the first Five-Year Plan, right up to Stalin’s death.
One of the early posters that linked Stalin with great Soviet achievements, Mikhail Oskarovich Dlugach’s, ’10 years of the USSR Civilian air fleet’ of 1933, emerges from a time at which facts and figures were still held to have more power than the charisma of the leader.
Stalin, looking ordinary, a little tired, and surprisingly disinterested, is perched in a corner of the poster, above the text which proclaims the celebration of ten years achievement.
It appears as if Stalin’s primary role is to announce the anniversary of the founding of the civilian air fleet and its successes. Claims of success are backed up in scientific fashion with the three graphs near the bottom of the poster, showing the amazing improvements in the spread of the air network, the transport of passengers, and the transport of mail, cargo and baggage over the ten years. Propaganda posters of the 1920s and early 1930s often featured graphs and ‘scientific’ data as evidence of claims of progress.
The centre of the poster is occupied by the large image of a civilian aircraft and a dirigible looming above a silhouetted power plant, which sends out one of two criss-crossing beams of light into the night sky, drawing the eye up to the figure of Stalin.
Electrification had always been associated with Lenin. Light bulbs were known in early Soviet days as ‘Lenin lamps’ – lampochka Lenina – and Lenin saw electrification as a cornerstone of progress towards the new socialist society, his famous slogan:
“Communism is Soviet power plus the electrification of the whole country.”*
In Dlugach’s poster, Lenin’s ghostly and familiar silhouette, in benedictory pose on a pedestal, projects out into the electrical plant and points directly to the dirigible. It is Lenin’s work, commenced 10 years earlier, that made all of this development possible and in 1933, it is the spirit of Lenin who gives his blessing to the enterprises.
As if to make this message totally unambiguous, the second beam of light originates from Lenin’s feet. In 1933, Stalin is still claiming lineage from Lenin and his public identity is still primarily as Lenin’s ‘most able pupil’, the one who carries forth the torch of Lenin’s legacy.
In keeping with the ‘scientific’ and ‘factual’ tone of the poster, Dlugach employs black and white photos, and a subdued but dramatic colour scheme of blacks, reds and dark blues.
The text on the side of the poster reads: 10 years of the civil fleet of the USSR, 10 years of hard Bolshevik struggle and the world’s greatest victories at the aviation front USSR.
The text at the bottom: Your messages go by air to all major destinations as one of the most important means of communication with remote areas and large industrial centres.
The focus is on Soviet achievement, rather than on the personal qualities of Lenin and Stalin. However it is interesting that even a poster that appeals so overtly to the realm of science and fact incorporates mystical and spiritual allusions.
*V. I. Lenin. ‘Our Foreign and Domestic Position and Party Tasks’, Speech Delivered To The Moscow Gubernia Conference Of The R.C.P., November 21, 1920, Collected Works, 4th English Edition, Progress Publishers, Moscow, 1965, Volume 31, pages 408-426.
Boris Belopol’skii, Peace to all nations!, 1952
This is Boris Belopol’skii’s second 1952 poster on the theme of peace.
The poster is captioned ‘The world will be saved and enhanced if people take responsibility for maintaining peace into their own hands and defend it to the end. I. Stalin’, with the words ‘Peace to all nations!’ inscribed in the background at the top of the poster.
The caption quotation comes from ‘A conversation with the Pravda correspondent of Pravda on 17th February 1951.* In this interview, Stalin labels as slanderous the declaration of British Prime Minister Clement Attlee that the Soviet Union has actually increased its military forces since the end of World War II.
Stalin also discusses the Korean War, labelling the Americans as the aggressors and calling the United Nations decision to declare China the aggressors as ‘scandalous’. He concludes the interview by championing the Soviet Union as the vanguard of the world peace movement on behalf of the international masses.
In the poster, a human, almost humble Stalin stands at a podium and makes a speech. Stalin appears in his old-style tunic, rather than the uniform of Marshal of the Soviet Union. In this poster, the warrior archetype is not being emphasised.
In contrast to the other 1952 Belopol’skii poster (stalin poster of the week 26), there is no background – no banner, no crowd, just white light.
Stalin is more ‘real’, greyer in skin and hair, and softer and more rounded than in the other poster. His left hand, in a loose fist, rests on a copy of Pravda (the source of the quote, which is not from an actual publicly delivered speech) and his right hand points loosely in the direction of the future, on which his transcendent gaze is also focussed.
The podium is not real. Stalin leans on a text box or banner bearing his own words. This is a quieter, softer Stalin, the teacher or wise man. He neither commands nor exhorts. In this poster he persuades and appeals, on an intimate, almost one-on-one level.
*I.V. Stalin. ‘A conversation with the Pravda correspondent.’ Pravda, 17 February 1951, accessed at http://www.marxists.org/russkij/stalin/t16/t16_29.htm on 04/08/2013.
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