V. Reshetnikov, Glory to Lenin, glory to Stalin, glory to great October!, 1952
This 1952 poster of Stalin was published in a small edition of 3000 by Latgosizdat, the Latvian State Publishing House, one year before Stalin's death.
Resplendent in his marshal's uniform, Stalin sports the Gold Star Medal. Established in 1939, the medal was awarded to 'heroes' of the Soviet Union (formerly awarded the Order of Lenin and a special certificate).
Behind Stalin is the banner of Lenin. The heads of the two are merged (making a Lenin-Stalin) as they both gaze to the viewer's right - the direction of the future.
So visionary is Stalin that he seems oblivious to the crowds behind him, who hail him in greeting and wave bunches of flowers in the air. The crowds line the City Canal, which was the site of the declaration of Latvian independence in 1918.
The banner on the gate has a double meaning: Stalin is the world/Stalin is peace. The poster coincides with the time at which Stalin was striving to be seen as the leader of the world peace movement.
1952 was also the time at which the so-called Latvian cultural wars erupted. After the 19th CPSU Congress and the 12th Latvian Communist Party Congress in September 1952, culture became the battleground for the question of nationalism versus internationalism among the Latvian communists.
The culture wars hinged around the question of whether Latvia's allegiance was nationalist in nature, a form of 'national communism, or to the Soviet Union.* The situation was exacerbated for the Latvian leadership by the fact that their attempts at recruiting the populace were largely unsuccessful.
The setting of the poster on the City Canal is, perhaps, a perfunctory nod to the nationalist sentiments of many of the Latvian communists. However, the poster depicts the Latvian people as being firmly behind Stalin and Lenin - the Bolshevik/Soviet model of communism, which will ultimately lead the world to peace.
*For more on this, see an interesting chapter on 'Sovietization, Russification, and Nationalism in Post-war Latvia' by William D. Prigge in the book The Baltic States under Stalinist Rule, edited by Olaf Mertelsmann.
Boris Mukhin, Long live the leader of the Soviet people - great Stalin!, 1947
This 'personality cult' poster of Stalin from 1947 is unusual for its time in that Stalin is depicted in his old-style 'Lenin suit', rather than military attire, and without insignia of rank.
Neither the image nor the text make reference to Stalin's role as the great and victorious warrior during the Great Patriotic War (Second World War).
Instead, a softer portrait of a greying Stalin is used. This portrait was painted by Paraskovia Pilipivna Deputatova, a Russian artist who also studied at the Kiev Art Institute between 1944 and 1946, when this portrait was created for Ukrainian publishing house Mistetstvo and reproduced in 1946 in an edition of 25,000, captioned by Stalin's name.
In Mukhin's poster, Stalin is framed in the sacred colours of the religious icon and socialism, red and gold, with perhaps only an oblique reference to past victories in the wreath beneath him.
The sixteen flags surrounding Stalin refer to the sixteen republics of the USSR in 1947:
Armenia, Azerbaijan, Byelorussia, Estonia, Georgia, Karelo-Finnish Soviet Socialist Republic, Kazakhstan, Kirghizia, Latvia, Lithuania, Moldavia, Russian SFSR, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Ukraine, and Uzbekistan.
Visually, the poster is reminiscent of the candidate posters of Stalin that appeared in election years. Indeed, 1947 was an election year for the Supreme Soviets of the Soviet Union's constituent republics.
However, this poster was published in the Russian language in Moscow and Leningrad, in a fairly large edition of 300,000 and it is difficult to determine if it served any specific propaganda function.
The poster artist, Boris Mukhin, was a well-known graphic artist, painter and theatre artist who was active in the All-Union Art Exhibition in Moscow in 1949.
Vladislav Pravdin, It is our blessing..., 1949
Vladislav Pravdin (Правдин, В.), It is our blessing that in the trying years of the war the Red Army and the Soviet people were led forward by the wise and tested leader of the Soviet Union the great Stalin. (это наше счастье, что в трудные годы войны Красную Армию и советский народ вел вперед мудрый и испытанный вождь Советского Союза – Великий Сталин.), 1949
By 1949, victory in the Great Patriotic War (Second World War) was sometimes attributed almost solely to Stalin, both in the news media, and in propaganda.
Marshal Georgi Zhukov had gained enormous popularity for his role in the war victory, and on the first Victory Day stood side by side with Stalin on the Lenin Mausoleum to receive the gratitude and adulation of the pressing crowds. However, by 1948, Marshal Zhukov had completely disappeared from the public eye.
In Vladislav Pravdin’s 1949 poster, Stalin stands at attention amid a backdrop of billowing flags and ribbons, and gazes out of the picture frame to the future which his wisdom and brilliance have brought to the Soviet people.
The three medal ribbons flowing over Stalin’s right shoulder are the Order of Lenin (red and gold), the Order of the Red Banner (red and white) and the Order of Suvorov, 1st Class (yellow and green).
The Order of Lenin was the highest civilian honour that could be bestowed on a citizen although, after the war, it was also given to those who had performed 25 years of conspicuous military service.
The Order of the Red Banner was the first Soviet military decoration, established during the Civil War in 1918.
The Order of Suvorov, 1st Class, was created in 1942, named in honour of Russian Field Marshal Count Aleksandr Suvorov. The 1st Class order was given to army commanders for exceptional leadership of combat operations.
Together, these three ribbons identify Stalin as having demonstrated extraordinary military prowess from the time of the Civil War, right through the Great Patriotic War, and continuing to the present day of the poster in 1949.
The lengthy caption to the poster leaves no doubt as to who is responsible for leading the people safely through the war to victory:
It is our blessing that during the hard years of war the Red Army and the Soviet people were guided into the future by the wise and experienced leader of the Soviet Union – Great Stalin
The text of the poster, taken from Vyacheslav Molotov’s speech on the 28th Anniversary of the Great October Socialist Revolution, 1945, makes reference to the hardship of the war, but does not tie this hardship specifically to the people, nor thank them for their sacrifices.
Instead, it is the people who must thank the great warrior Stalin for guiding them into the future. This gratitude assumes an almost spiritual dimension as Stalin is described as a ‘blessing’ for the people.
*SPECIAL EDITION 101st ANNIVERSARY OF THE OCTOBER REVOLUTION and 2nd ANNIVERSARY OF THIS BLOG* Viktor Deni and Nikolai Dolgorukov, 1917 1934 raise higher the banner of Lenin – it carries us to victory!, 1934
Two years on and many more to come. Thanks to all our readers returning every week.
All of notable graphic artist Viktor Deni’s poster work is recognisable due to its use of outline sketches rather than photographic or painted material, as are his collaborations with Nikolai Dolgorukov. The 1934 poster ‘1917 1934 Raise higher the banner of Lenin – it carries us to victory!’ shows Lenin as belonging to the past, while Stalin belongs to the here and now.
A giant Lenin in the top left of the poster points the way forward, his hand reaching into the sky, which is filled with Soviet aircraft. Beneath Lenin is the Winter Palace with soldiers standing guard next to a large, antiquated cannon. Thus Lenin is associated with the October Revolution of 1917 and is credited with visionary foresight, foreseeing the industrial socialist future.
Beneath this is the poster caption with the years 1917 indicating the left half of the poster and 1934 leading to the right.
The right side of the poster is dominated by the figure of Stalin and a backdrop of massive industrialisation and construction. He smiles contentedly from behind a podium.
Beneath Stalin is a celebratory crowd carrying large red banners. The banner on the left reads ‘Long live the invincible Leninist party,’ while the one leading to the right is not wholly legible but is dedicated to a celebration of Stalin.
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