Nikolai Denisov & Nina Vatolina, Long live the great invincible banner of Marx-Engels-Lenin-Stalin! Proletarians of all countries unite!, 1941
This 1941 poster by successful graphic duo Nikolai Denisov and Nina Vatolina is part of an ongoing theme of Stalin poster that depicts the continuing lineage of great revolutionary thinkers.
Although the Great Patriotic War largely saw the revolutionary thinkers theme disappear for a period of time, there is one poster that deals with this theme from the early days of the war, carrying the slogan ‘Long live the great invincible banner of Marx–Engels–Lenin–Stalin!’. Perhaps during the war ideology took a back seat to more critical matters.
The poster is dominated by the busts of Marx, Engels, Lenin and Stalin, all gazing to the viewer’s left at the same distant point. Stalin is shown as the most recent in the lineup of giants of Marxist thought.
However, unlike Gustav Klutsis’ famous poster of 1933, Stalin is not differentiated from the other three, either in pose or manner of treatment. The diagonal line formed by the row of heads (Stalin’s head is the closest and largest, ostensibly due to perspective) is counterpoised by the diagonal of the bottom of the banner which has the words ‘Proletarians of all countries, unite!’ inscribed in small white lettering across the top.
Lenin stands at the right shoulder of Stalin, with Engels on Lenin’s right, and Marx on his right, but the poster portrays the great men as equals.
As Marx, Engels and Lenin are dead, and their writings have become dogma, the implication is that Stalin’s writings and pronouncements too are dogmatic, and a further development in the evolution of Communist thought.
While the portraits are realistic, they have a chiseled, immovable quality about them, and disappear into an uneven white wash at the bottom of the page.
In 1941, the Soviet people are being urged to place their faith in the wisdom of Stalin and in this poster Stalin has joined the Communist gods.
Viktor Govorkov, In the name of communism, 1951
Stalin and Lenin are juxtaposed as equals in Viktor Govorkov’s 1951 poster ‘In the name of communism’ which depicts the past and the present with realistic parallel scenes involving Lenin and Stalin.
Both men are planning the electrification of the nation on a map. In Lenin’s left hand is a book titled Plan for the electrification of the RSFSR, 1920.
Lenin was always strongly associated with electricity in propaganda campaigns aiming to electrify the nation using the slogan ‘Communism is Soviet power plus the electrification of the whole country,’ which was originally a quotation from a 1930 speech by Lenin.
In the Soviet Union, lightbulbs were commonly referred to as ‘Ilich’s little lamps’ and Lenin was ceremonially thanked for delivering electricity to new communes.
During Stalin’s leadership, electrification remained strongly tied to Lenin, although Stalin was also associated with bringing power to the nation through massive industrial projects like the Dnieper Dam.
In Govorkov’s poster, Stalin holds his unlit pipe and a newspaper with the headline ‘World Victory’ in his left arm. On the table lies a book titled Electrification of the SSSR and he is marking out the Main Turkmen Canal.
Thus, Stalin is seen to be continuing the work begun by Lenin. Lenin’s plan extends across the entire Russian republic, while Stalin’s encompasses the whole of the Soviet Union.
Building of the Main Turkmen Canal in Turkmenistan began in late 1950, but was halted in 1953 after Stalin’s death. It was replaced by the construction of the 1300km long Qaraqum Canal further south in 1954.
Viktor Ivanov, 1918 – 1948. Glory to the Party of Lenin and Stalin – the Organizer of Victorious Armed Forces of the USSR!, 1948
The 1948 poster ‘Glory to the Party of Lenin and Stalin – the Organiser of Victorious Armed Forces of the USSR’ by Viktor Ivanov celebrates 30 years of the Red Army and its history of victories from the Civil War through to the recent victory in the Great Patriotic War in 1945.
In the poster, Stalin is not credited with sole responsibility for victory in the war. The poster allocates responsibility for the victory to the Bolshevik Party, rather than to the military and strategic brilliance of the great leader alone.
The imagery of the poster focuses on might and victory, the central image being that of the sparkling red star victory medallion and curling ribbon, resting in front of ears of grain, and imagery denoting the army, navy and airforce.
In the background, the sky is criss-crossed with search lights (a recurring motif in these later posters) contributing to the sense of movement and action in the distance, while in the foreground the only suggestion of movement comes from the gentle motion of the three flags flapping in the breeze.
The top of the picture plane is dominated by the largest flag, with the cameos of Lenin and Stalin, while beneath it fly three more flags, two of them largely obscured by the third one which reads ‘For the Soviet motherland.’
By 1948 Stalin appears in the Marshal’s uniform in almost all posters. Stalin had been made Marshal of the Soviet Union in 1943, and Generalissimus in 1945, although he refused to wear the ostentatious, newly designed uniform of the generalissimus.
In this poster, Stalin’s identification with the warrior archetype is complete and can now be taken for granted.
Dmitrii Moor (Orlov) and Sergei Sen’kin, Long Live Our Dear Invincible Red Army!, 1938
Throughout the 25 years of his leadership of the Soviet Union, Stalin frequently appeared in posters alongside the image of Lenin. In ‘Long Live Our Dear Invincible Red Army!’ by Dmitrii Moor and Sergei Sen’kin, Stalin and Lenin are both featured in large individual black-and-white photographic portraits, each under a red aircraft, and above scenes showing battle-ready armed forces of all branches.
Stalin and Lenin appear as equals. Stalin is no longer portrayed as the disciple and student of Lenin, but as a leader and thinker in his own right.
Under each of the leaders is a quote from them that stresses the popular nature of the Soviet armed forces as an army for the people – that is, the workers and peasants.
Lenin: “For the first time in the world an army has been created, an armed force that knows what it is fighting for.”
Lenin and Stalin face inwards, their faces in three-quarter view, neither of them engaging the eye of the viewer. They appear almost as sentries over the flags of the armed services, and the text of Article 132 of the 1936 (Stalin) Constitution of the USSR:
“Article 132. Universal military service is law. Military service in the Armed Forces of the USSR is honorable duty of citizens of the USSR.”
Everything else in the poster faces out – soldiers, airplanes, guns, turrets, tanks, horses and ships. Stalin and Lenin protect the homeland from within, while the armed forces are ever-vigilant and demonstrate their preparedness to go out to war if necessary.
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