Vladimir Musinov, Great Stalin is the hope of the world / peace!, 1951
The powerful image of Stalin in Vladimir Musinov’s 1951 poster shows a three-quarter view of the relaxed and friendly vozhd’ in monochrome, set against the brilliant red of the Soviet flag.
The rich red is associated with the Revolution and the Soviet government, with beauty and sacredness in icons, and also with the blood of the sacrifice of Soviet forces in the Great Patriotic War, which by transference is also Stalin’s sacrifice.
Stalin’s sacrifice during the Great Patriotic War was in fact a real sacrifice. Stalin’s son Yakov Djugashvili by his first wife was an artillery lieutenant who on 16 July, 1941 was captured by the Germans during the battle of Smolensk. He did not perform the expected honourable act of committing suicide, and so was imprisoned in a POW camp.
When German Field Marshall Friedrich von Paulus surrendered to the Soviet forces on January 31, 1943 (and also did not commit suicide), the Germans proposed an exchange of prisoners. Stalin refused, stating as his reason that Yakov was not equivalent to a Field Marshall.
When Stalin was asked after the war if the von Paulus story was a myth he replied:
“Not a myth... Just think how many sons ended in camps! Who would swap them for Paulus? Were they worse than Yakov? I had to refuse... What would they have said of me, our millions of Party fathers, if having forgotten about them, I agreed to swapping Yakov? No, I had no right... Otherwise, I’d no longer be “Stalin”... I so pitied Yasha!”
Yakov committed suicide in the POW camp, without having co-operated with the Germans in April 1943.*
The simple poster caption in large font plays on the dual meanings of the Russian word 'mir' as both 'peace' and 'the world'. With the Soviet Union conspicuously heading world peace movements in the 1950s, Stalin was presented in propaganda as the shining hope for peace - world peace, the beacon of hope for the entire world.
In Musinov's poster, Stalin’s eyes actually sparkle with friendship and joy. His approachability is highlighted by the fact that he is not wearing his characteristic marshal’s uniform, just a simple military-style tunic, without epaulettes or braid, and his sole decoration is the star of the Hero of Socialist Labour.
To be portrayed in the marshal’s uniform might have served as a reminder of the recent war and conquest in Eastern Europe. In official parlance, the nations of Eastern Europe had been ‘liberated’ and for this they owed the friendly avuncular figure of Stalin an unpayable debt of gratitude.
Vladimir Musinov was a well-known Soviet photographer who travelled the USSR from Vladivostok to the Arctic to middle Asia, documenting collectivisation and Soviet development. He was one of four Russian photographers who contributed to the March 29, 1943 special edition of LIFE (vol. 14, no. 13) on the USSR.
* S. Sebag Montefiore. Stalin: The Court of the Red Tsar. London, 2003, pp.394-5.
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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