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.
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