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!
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