Konstantin Ivanov, Happy New Year, Beloved Stalin!, 1952
Stalin is depicted as an icon in this festive poster from 1952.
Konstantin Ivanov’s Happy New Year, Beloved Stalin! shows Stalin’s portrait being hung as an icon by a young boy at New Year. Stalin wears his Marshal’s uniform and is presented as the great saviour of the Soviet Union.
Unlike earlier posters in which Stalin interacts with children on festive occasions, by 1952 Stalin is present only as an icon portrait at which the child gazes raptly, almost hypnotically, as one prays before an icon.
In contrast to the Viktor Koretskii poster of 1943 in which a child also hangs an iconic image of Stalin on a wall, the child is alone in this poster, without siblings, peers or parents.
Perhaps the child is an orphan. Stalin stands in for the absent father, but here he is a remote presence and his relationship with the child is anything but familiar.
The small portion of the New Year tree that is visible carries red stars as decorations, but none of the other portents of a happy future that are evident in earlier posters featuring New Year trees – aeroplanes, automobiles, etc.
This tree is adorned with tinsel, traditional baubles, a candy cane, a fish and a rabbit – a reference to a time of plenitude and bounty for Soviet citizens. Stalin, the saviour, appears now to be removed from the realm in which he is expected to gift any physical or material objects, to inhabiting a realm in which he is thanked and praised in a manner akin to a god.
The poster highlights Stalin’s talismanic and protective properties.
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.