Viktor Deni and Nikolai Dolgorukov, Long live the Leninist VKP(b), organiser of socialist construction, 1934
‘Long live the Leninist VKP(b), organiser of victorious socialist construction’ of 1934 by renowned graphic artist duo Viktor Deni and Nikolai Dolgorukov is an early example of the Stalin portrait being carried in a parade.
Five hands hold a sketched portrait of Stalin under the protective banner of the Leninist Party amid a sea of Klutsis-style open-palmed hands, all raised in the air and pointing upward in the direction of the victory of socialist construction.
No other part of the body can be seen in the crowd, the hand itself symbolises the socialist worker.
This poster is a forerunner of other posters in which Stalin’s portrait is carried in a parade. Here, it is very much in the manner of a workers’ demonstration or celebratory parade.
Later, Stalin’s portrait was often carried on a pole or held aloft in such a way as to suggest the carrying of an icon in a religious procession.
Scenes behind Stalin depict arenas of Soviet achievement: the establishment of an airforce (an achievement of Stalin’s own that he did not have to share with Lenin); industrial and agricultural construction; the construction of the Dnieper Dam, the Belomor-Baltic Canal, Magnitogorsk; electrification of the nation; and improvements in communication technology.
The text on the banners carried by the workers reads:
Long live the Leninist VKP(b) [the Communist Party]
Forward to new victories!
The Red Army is the stronghold of the world
Implementation of the plan
Making the collective farms prosperous and bigger
Harvest more crops
In 1934, the Congress of Victors – the Seventeenth Party Congress of the All-Union Communist Party (Bolsheviks) – had just declared the full achievement of socialism. Progression to the next and highest stage, that of communism, was just commencing.
The name ‘Congress of Victors’ celebrated the success of the First Five-Year Plan and of the policy of collectivisation of agriculture. Stalin was elected as General Secretary of the Party and power became increasingly centred around his own person, rather than through more inclusive policies of the entire Politburo.
One-hundred-and-thirty-nine members and candidate members of the Central Committee were elected at the Seventeenth Party Congress in 1934. By 1940, 98 of these people had been killed.
Unidentified artist, Only one thing is now needed for the collective farmers to become prosperous …, 1934
This simple poster by an unidentified artist in 1934 is typical of many posters of the time and focuses on the delivery of information to the general public, and the generation of a propaganda message in the face of damaging rumours.
The full text of the poster reads:
“Only one thing is now needed for the collective farmers to become prosperous, namely – to work in the collective farms conscientiously, to make proper use of the tractors and machines, to make proper use of the draught cattle, to cultivate the land properly and to take care of the collective-farm property..” /Stalin/
The quotation is taken from the speech by Stalin delivered at the First All-Union Congress of Collective Farm Shock Brigadiers on February 19, 1933 and published in the newspaper Pravda.
Stalin begins the speech in modest fashion by stating that he was not intending to speak at this function because previous speakers have said all that needed to be said. However, he proceeds to deliver a long speech in which he develops an extended argument that both defends and lauds the process of collectivisation.
Stalin demonstrates that the unpopular path of forced agricultural collectivisation is the only correct path for Soviet progress and the freedom of labourers and peasants and outlines what has been achieved to date and what is planned in the next two to three years.
He finishes with a lengthy section of miscellaneous remarks in which he:
In this letter, the Bezenchuk farmers praise the great leaders of the nation and describe their own achievements as modest. Stalin takes time to ‘correct this error’ and to hail their achievements appropriately:
“Perhaps they made the mistake out of modesty. But the mistake does not cease to be a mistake for all that. The times have passed when leaders were regarded as the only makers of history, while the workers and peasants were not taken into account. The destinies of nations and of states are now determined, not only by leaders, but primarily and mainly by the vast masses of the working people. The workers and the peasants, who without fuss and noise are building factories and mills, constructing mines and railways, building collective farms and state farms, creating all the values of life, feeding and clothing the whole world—they are the real heroes and the creators of the new life. Apparently, our Bezenchuk comrades have forgotten this.”
Perhaps in response to Stalin’s published speech, during a visit by Czechoslovakian factory workers to the kolkhozes of the Bezenchuk Equipment and Tractor Station at the end of June 1933, an individual farmer handed the visitors a written statement:
“I am an individual farmer and will not join the kolkhoz, even though the village Soviet [local authority] threatens me with violence and deportation. I tell the village Soviet: kill me but I will not join the kolkhoz. Please, understand our situation, life is very hard, the village Soviet confiscates everything [that is harvested] and is forcing [me] out of my house. If I told all my grievances, I would run out of paper.”
This poster was published the following year in 1934. The text, which refers the viewer to a published speech which, it is assumed, they have all read, is accompanied by a simple greyscale image of Stalin.
This portrait appeared on several similar informational posters of the time and shows Stalin looking directly at the viewer, as if he were speaking personally.
The terrible irony and -perhaps- impetus for this celebratory conference and speech is the shocking famine that occurred between 1929 and 1934 in the countryside as a result of collectivisation policies.
The leadership were well aware of the extent of the famine and had received numerous secret reports, beginning in 1929, outlining what was happening in the countryside.
The Russian State Archives provide numerous (now declassified) examples of reports, including telegrams addressed directly to Viacheslav Molotov, that detail the impact of the famine, famine-related disease, and contain requests for permission to access grain stores to prevent starvation.
One such report from the Lower Volga region summarised the data that had been collected by March 20th, 1933.
Prepared by the Secret Operations department of the territorial representative of the OGPU [Joint Main Political Directorate] of the USSR, it makes chilling reading.
It outlines the impact of food shortages in 33 districts and 110 collective farms, noting that inflated government quotas and confiscation of seed reserves are major contributing factors:
1) More than 700 cases of hydropsy [oedema due to starvation] (230 in the Volga German Autonomous Republic).
Another report, titled ‘Regarding cannibalism and murders with the intent of cannibalism’, dated March 31, 1933, documents cases of cannibalism, selling of human flesh on markets, and murders with such intent in Kazakhstan and the North Caucasus region (Central Archive of the Federal Security Service of the Russian Federation. Fond 2, Record Series 11, File 56, Pages 8–10).
An encrypted telegram dated July 5th, 1933 to Joseph Stalin and Viacheslav Molotov from the regional authorities of the Bashkir Autonomous Republic regarding famine in Bashkiria makes an appeal for a food loan:
“The situation with bread in several districts is extremely grave, mass famine is observed, including military families, there are cases of deaths due to famine, eating of corpses of dead animals.
The margin of this document contains a handwritten note: “in favour – J. St[alin]”
(Russian State Archive of Socio-Political History. Fond 558, Record Series 11, File 64, Page 37.)
* The collective farmers of the area served by the Bezenchuk Machine and Tractor Station of the Middle-Volga territory (now Kuibyshev Region) sent a letter to Stalin, which was published in Pravda, No. 28, January 29, 1933.
Vlasob’, During the war the Red Army personnel became a professional army. They learned how to defeat the enemy with a certain view of its strengths and weaknesses, as required by modern military science, 1943
Vlasob’ (Власобь), During the war the Red Army personnel became a professional army. They learned how to defeat the enemy with a certain view of its strengths and weaknesses, as required by modern military science (В ходе войны Красная Армиа стала кадровой армией. Она научилась бить врага наверняка с учетом его слабых и сильных сторон, как этого требует современная военная наука), 1943, (text in Russian and Azerbaijani)
The use of a disembodied Stalin figure in the sky is a continuation of themes from the previous year and of inspirational images of Lenin, leading the troops from the great beyond.
In this 1943 poster by Vlasob’, Stalin is solid to the waist, then vaporises above the troops. He is the calm and determined motionless centre around which a flurry of purposeful activity takes place – aircraft diving, unstoppable tanks and troops surging forward with ready weapons to trample the Nazi banner, which already lies crumples on the ground.
The text, in Russian and Azerbaijani, is from Stalin’s Order of the Day, No. 95, dated 23 February 1943 – the day of the Soviet victory in Stalingrad. It shows increasing confidence in ultimate victory:
‘During the war the Red Army personnel became a professional army. They learned how to defeat the enemy with a certain view of its strengths and weaknesses, as required by modern military science.’
In this order Stalin describes the reversal of fortunes in the war, but warns against complacency, quoting Lenin:
‘The first thing is not to be carried away by victory and not to get conceited; the second thing is to consolidate one’s victory; the third thing is to finish off the enemy.’
Stalin praises the Red Army for its battle victories, for defending peace and friendship, and for protecting construction.The order ends with the words:
Long live our great Motherland!
The poster was published in Baku, Azerbaijan in a comparatively small edition of 5000.
Viktor Koretskii, The Soviet people are full of gratitude and love for dear STALIN – the great organizer of our victory, 1945
In 1945, after victory in the Great Patriotic War (Second World War), Stalin’s role as hero and saviour of the nation was explicitly promoted in propaganda posters in the USSR.
Koretskii revisited his highly successful poster of 1943, made some notable alterations, and re-released it with a new caption just three days after the German surrender:
‘The Soviet people are full of gratitude and love for dear STALIN — the great organiser of our victory’.
The basic composition of the 1945 poster remains the same as that of 1943 — a young boy hangs an icon of Stalin on the wall of the family home.
However, the scene witnessed through the window has changed. Previously there was a scene of soldiers departing after making the village safe.
In 1945, this has been replaced with a lush and blossoming orchard.
The icon of Stalin that the boy hangs has also changed. The humble, unassuming Stalin in his habitual tunic, the Stalin uncertain of ultimate victory in 1943, has been replaced with a portrait by Boris Karpov (well-known for his portraits of Stalin) of Stalin in his marshal’s regalia. Stalin looks stiff and proud – very military – and does not look at the viewer.
The word ‘rodnomu’ in the text does not have a precise translation in English. It is a term of endearment that suggests a familial or kin relationship with the person addressed. The use of this word continues the association of Stalin as the father of the Soviet peoples, while the marshal’s uniform and the association of Stalin with victory facilitate the development of the Warrior archetype in Stalinist propaganda.
Unidentified artist, led by Stalin – forward!, 1942
In 1942, as the USSR struggled against the German invasion during the Great Patriotic war, Goskinoizdat (Госкиноиздат: Государственное издательство кинематографической литературы – The State Publishing House of Cinematographic Literature) published a poster by an unidentified artist in an edition of 10,000 on cheap, flimsy paper.
Perhaps this poster was part of the general mobilisation of the arts community behind the war effort.
In this poster, the bust of Stalin occupies a motionless centre ground around which war preparations take place. Defenders of the USSR sprout from Stalin’s chest, and include nurses and partisans, as well as personnel of the armed forces. They stand on guard, with weapons raised and at the ready.
In the background is evidence of Soviet industrialisation, and row upon row of tanks. To the left a tank is ready to fire, while to the right banners fly.
The only touch of colour in the black-and-white photomontage poster are the two banners at the top, displaying the red star and the hammer and sickle, and the text box at the base.
The text reads ‘Led by Stalin – forward!’ and the implication is that the forces of the USSR are united in an impenetrable front, the foundation of which is Stalin himself.
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