Nina Vatolina, Glory to the great friend of children!, 1952
This 1952 poster by renowned poster artist Nina Vatolina employs serene pastel tones and lush foliage to represent the advent of the imminent communist utopia.
Stalin appears grandfatherly with a protective hand supporting the young boy as he stands atop a podium. The symbolism is obvious and works on a few levels.
In one sense, Stalin, now in his 70s and only a year away from death, is passing the baton to the new generation - those born after the war in a time of comparative peace.
In another, the child is symbolic of the fledgling communist regime, joyously taking its place in the world with a promise of peace and abundance in the future. The child is identifiably Russian and, with his little red flag aloft, leads the union of republics into the future.
In contrast to the 1930s when Stalin was often pictured with female children (passive and grateful), the children taking the USSR into the future are male.
As a symbolic grandfather, Stalin moves away from the role of father of the nation and occupies the niche formerly held by 'Grandpa Lenin'. Stalin has thus moved beyond the role of disciple and occupies the role of master, an equivalent status to the deified Lenin.
Both Stalin and the child wear white. This symbolises purity and clarity, but Stalin is also dressed in his Marshal's uniform, emphasising his role as the saviour of the nation in the Great Patriotic War. On his chest, Stalin wears the Gold Star Medal, awarded to heroes of the Soviet Union for exceptional feats in combat.
The Spassky tower in the background soars into a benign blue sky. The hands on the clock are visible and show that it is late morning. Two aspects of this depiction of the Spassky tower are slightly unusual.
The top of the tower with its familiar red star is out of the picture frame. The Spassky tower usually functions in posters as something of a Bolshevik place of worship, the star paralleling the Christian cross.
And the crenellated walls of the Kremlin are visible close behind Stalin and the child. The Kremlin is being depicted here as a protective fortress, enclosing the pair in a lush and verdant garden that is safe, but separated from, the outside world.
Nina Vatolina created hundreds of posters over a long and illustrious career. Many were created in partnership with her husband, Nikolai Denisov, who was the son of legendary graphic artist Viktor Deni. Vatolina frequently dealt with themes related to Soviet childhood, although she was also responsible for some of the most iconic war posters during the Great Patriotic War.
She had two solo exhibitions of her work in 1957 and 1968, and died in Moscow in 2002.
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.
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