Iraklii Toidze, Long live the V.K.P.(b) – the party of Lenin-Stalin, inspirer and organiser of our great victories!, 1946
This 1946 poster by Georgian-born Iraklii Toidze, produced the year after the end of the Great Patriotic War, credits the hyphenated Lenin-Stalin Party with the war victory.
Stalin’s victory in the war has made him worthy of co-identity with the great founding figure of Lenin, and Stalin takes equal place beside Lenin both visually and in the poster text. In fact, visually, Lenin is behind Stalin.
The poster is laden with sacred overtones.
It is dominated by the figure of the Rodina, wielding a huge banner with the cameo images of Lenin and Stalin in profile enclosed in a gold medallion, and a bunch of flowers — symbol of fertility, abundance and celebration.
The Rodina is the embodiment of the Russian motherland, now expanded to include all the territories of the USSR. The Rodina probably derives from the old Slavic goddess Mokosh, who was the protective goddess of women, childbirth, weaving, spinning and sheep.
The Rodina in the poster is serene and maternal with an ample bosom and wide hips. She is also like the Virgin in the icon, her banner serving the same protective function as the Virgin’s veil, whilst also reconfiguring her as the mother of the revolutionary Bolshevik Party.
Behind the Rodina, the background consists purely of rays of light and the colour scheme, rich reds and golds, is reminiscent of the icon.
The text at the base of the poster reads ‘Long live the V.K.P.(b) — the party of Lenin– Stalin, inspirer and organiser of our great victories!’
P. Lukhtein, Glory to great Stalin!, 1951
In the very last few years of Stalin’s life, his image was treated like an icon less frequently than in the immediate postwar years, except in posters published in some of the constituent republics.
Estonian Izdatelstvo published a poster by Lukhtein, which would have been commonplace in Moscow and Leningrad just a few years hence, but which now contrasts sharply in style with the contemporaneous posters from Russia.
A black-and-white portrait of Stalin in Marshal’s uniform is enclosed in an oval mandorla on a red field that is bordered by an elaborate folk motif of stylised crops and the Soviet state emblem at the top. Underneath Stalin’s portrait, in huge gold letters, is written ‘Glory to great Stalin!’
Estonia was one of the Baltic States reabsorbed into the USSR after the Great Patriotic War, as part of the carving up of Europe between the Allies. Much work was needed to sell the cult of Stalin to the largely unwilling population.
The continuation of production of this type of poster in the Baltic states and some of the other outlying republics of the USSR, when it had virtually been discontinued in posters produced in Moscow and Leningrad, suggests that the propagandists may have felt that the work of building a personality cult for Stalin was largely completed in the central regions.
Unknown artist, Printing should grow by leaps and bounds, this is the sharpest and the strongest weapon of our party. Stalin., 1950
This charming Uzbek poster was published in Tashkent by Uzbek Poligraf in a small edition of 3000 in 1950.
Its publication coincides with an increasing impetus for literacy and secondary and vocational training for professional specialisation in Uzbekistan from 1950 onward.
Literacy at a primary level had been steadily growing since the 1920s and rapidly accelerated after about 1932.
From 1946, Uzbekistan embarked on a massive cultural program of language and literary training in the Uzbek language – 46% of the books published were textbooks or children’s books (see William Kenneth Medlin, William Marion Cave, Finley Carpentier, Education and Development in Central Asia: A Case Study on Social Change in Uzbekistan, 1971).
In this poster, publishing is seen as a means of disseminating propaganda and spreading the values, beliefs and ideology of the Communist Party. The poster shows several generations of Uzbeks, possibly all one family, reading a variety of newspapers that are specifically aimed at their demographic.
The white-haired gentleman reads Eastern Pravda, a serious newspaper pitched at an educated reader. Stalin and Lenin are portrayed on the cover in profile in a similar manner to their appearances on banners in posters. Stalin, in military collar, is the man of action. Lenin, in white collar and tie, is the man of words. Lenin now sits in Stalin’s shadow.
The greying gentleman on his left reads Red Uzbekistan with a visionary Stalin in military uniform on the cover.
The married couple discuss a copy of Young Leninist together, the woman wearing traditional Uzbek headgear, a suit jacket, and a medal – most likely an award for Communist labour.
The young blond woman reads the Uzbek Komsomol newspaper while the children read Lenin’s Spark.
The poster caption, ‘Printing should grow by leaps and bounds, this is the sharpest and the strongest weapon of our party’, is a quote from Stalin, taken from a final word on the organisational report of the Central Committee at the XII Congress of the RCP (b) 19 April 1923.
Stalin poster of the week 52 (SPotW52) SPECIAL ANNIVERSARY EDITION: 100th Anniversary of the October Revolution and 1st Anniversary of SPotW
Gustav Klutsis, October to the world, 1932
I would like to thank all my friends and loyal readers for sticking with me through the first year of stalin poster of the week. It has been a great year and there are plenty more to come!
One of the ways in which Stalin sought to strengthen legitimacy for his leadership throughout its entirety was to establish himself as a successor, disciple, and interpreter of Lenin. In 1932, Stalin was still in the early years of leadership, his power consolidated but not yet totally secure – in fact, he faced a leadership challenge of sorts in 1934.
Lenin had been the charismatic leader of the Party until his death in 1924. In the years following Lenin’s death, the personality cult of Lenin became a vehicle to power and legitimacy for any candidate who could successfully prove his indisputable lineage to the deified Lenin.
One of the primary ways in which Stalin publicly illustrated his closeness to Lenin, was by ensuring that his image was visually linked with that of Lenin. A large number of political posters that feature the image of Stalin, juxtapose this image with the image of Lenin.
Stalin’s propaganda apparatus went as far as cutting and pasting photographs and commissioning paintings showing Stalin and Lenin together on historical occasions when they had not, in fact, been together at all in order to promote this idea of Stalin’s lineage. Stalin was also sometimes depicted in fake historical scenes as standing, speaking and pointing while Lenin listens.
The appeal to an established lineage is a phenomenon that occurs throughout the history of charismatic leadership. By depicting Stalin as Lenin’s legitimate successor, a case was made for him to partake of Lenin’s charismatic authority.
This was important because Stalin and the Bolshevik Party had neither traditional grounds on which to claim the right to rule, such as those of the monarchy, nor rational and legal grounds – those conferred by processes of democratic election or other legally prescribed means for choosing leaders.
Thus Stalin had to be presented as both an endorsed disciple of Lenin, and a capable leader in his own right. This 1932 poster by renowned photomontage poster artist Gustav Klutsis achieves both of these aims.
First, Lenin is depicted with arm outstretched, pointing the way forward to the future and educating the young Stalin, whilst also indicating the evidence of Soviet achievements thus far, as displayed below. The suggestion is that Lenin speaks, while Stalin listens, and it was to be a few more years before propaganda depicted Stalin as having equal status with Lenin.
Second, Stalin is depicted as a junior co-leader of the October Revolution of 1917, building the myth of Stalin’s centrality to the success of the October coup.
The caption of the poster ‘October to the world’ highlights this association, whilst also stressing a primary goal of Soviet socialism in its early years – the extension of the revolution to the rest of the world. With Lenin dead, it was Stalin who was called upon to see world revolution through to its inevitable Marxist end.
Within the non-realist iconography of Russian Orthodox imagery and distinctly Russian traditions like the lubok (political broadsheets with mass distribution), the importance of figures is often indicated by their relative size. Here, Stalin and Lenin are titans, dwarfing the masses and scenes of Soviet construction beneath them.
Disturbingly prescient, Stalin’s left foot appears to have crushed some of the regimented and uniformed masses.
While it is unclear whether Klutsis, who was deeply devoted to Lenin, had any subversive intentions, it must be noted that he was arrested in the purges in 1937, and secretly shot in February 1938.
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