Unknown artist, Komsomol political education system mid-Volga organisation VLKSM for 1930-31, 1931
Stalin gained control of the Politburo at the Fifteenth Party Congress on 18 December 1927 demonstrating that not only had he been a close companion and confidant of Lenin, but that he had always supported Lenin’s political positions and was a devoted adherent to his dogma.
In his interview with the German author Emil Ludwig, Stalin stated modestly:
“As for myself, I am just a pupil of Lenin’s, and the aim of my life is to be a worthy pupil of his.”*
The first appearances of Stalin with Lenin in a poster occur in the year 1930. This poster by an unknown artist was published in Samara** by the Propaganda Department and Theoretical Studies Regional Committee of Middle-Volga Komsomol.
The poster promotes the value of political education. Lenin and Stalin appear outlined in a sacral red Bolshevik aura on either side of the poster, although as a full-length figure, Lenin is larger and therefore more prominent than the smaller bust of Stalin.
Both Lenin and Stalin are quoted, along with Engels, and their authoritative texts are depicted around the page. Circles containing text may reference the underground ‘circles in which Stalin and the other Old Bolsheviks cut their ideological teeth as they fomented revolution.
These circles, which Stalin joined while he was still in the seminary in Tiflis, circulated illegal literature of a political and ideological nature. They were places of lively and often heated discussion and morphed into the secret cells that actively sought to undermine the tsarist regime.
The larger text on the posters is in the form of recognisable catchy slogans:
Achieve the five-year plan in four years.
This poster is typical of posters of the very early 1930s in which a great deal of text is reproduced and there is an assumption that people will spend a lot of time examining the poster.
Later posters capitalised on the strength of the medium by presenting shorter and punchier captions with arresting images, able to be taken in quickly as people bustled about their daily activities.
* J. V. Stalin, ‘Talk With the German Author Emil Ludwig’, December 13, 1931, Transl. by Hari Kumar, J.V. Stalin, Works, 13, (Moscow, Foreign Languages Publishing House, 1955), pp. 106-25, http://www.marxists.org/reference/archive/stalin/works/1931/dec/13.htm.
** From 1935 to 1991 Samara became known as Kuibyshev.
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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