Unknown artist, ‘The foreign policy of the Soviet Union is clear and explicit’, 1940.
This poster by an unidentified artist was published during the era of the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact in which the USSR attempted to avoid entry into the Second World War. In 1940, the rest of Europe had been at war for one year, and the USSR was still using the time bought by the pact to try to increase its arsenal and expand the armed forces.
The poster has for its caption a substantial text quoted from Stalin’s speech of 10 March 1939. The text stresses that the Soviet Union offers ‘moral’ support to the workers of all countries, and the final words state specifically that the foreign policy of the Soviet Union aligns it with countries who are not interested in breaching the peace.
The text is extensive, and stresses both the desire for peace, but readiness for war if the USSR’s sovereignty is violated. It reads as follows:
“The foreign policy of the Soviet Union is clear and explicit.
This landscape format poster is a colourful offering in this otherwise black, white and red era, with Stalin at a podium in the foreground, papers in hand, seemingly at the beginning or end of his speech, and a crowd of multinational citizens, many in national dress, walking up behind him.
The crowd comprises people of all ages, including children, and they come from all walks of life. A child holds aloft a red balloon, while on the left this action is paralleled by the raising of a red flag from the open turret of a tank. The gesture is one of salute, but is akin to the gesture of truce or surrender, which is usually made with a white flag. The tank is motionless and the personnel exposed — they are prepared, but are not heading off to war.
The background is a colourful and busy tribute to Soviet achievement — tractors, lorries and harvesters are busy in the lush green fields, smoke plumes out of the factories in the distance, aircraft fly in formation in the blue sky, and buildings at the side highlight the end results of successful construction.
The poster was published by Izostat, the All-union institute of pictorial statistics of Soviet construction and economy. Izostat was set up in 1931 to train Soviet designers and technicians in the effective use of pictorial statistics, particularly as an instrument for propaganda and agitation. The institute was closed in 1940.
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.