M. Solomyanii, Excellent study will please the leader!, 1952 (in Ukrainian)
After the Second World War, known as the Great Patriotic War in the USSR, the Soviet Union set about rebuilding its territories after the terrible devastation of people and property.
However, unlike the early years of Soviet construction, the emphasis moved from amazing feats of manual labour, such as those executed by the shock workers (udarniki) and Stakhanovites, to mechanisation and technical expertise. Thus, there was a drive for education, especially in engineering and the sciences, but always within the context of the science of Marxism-Leninism.
This 1952 Ukrainian poster, published by Mistetstvo in Kiev in the Ukrainian language, in an edition of 60,000, encourages youth to study hard in order to please the national leader, Comrade Stalin (who, interestingly, is not mentioned by name here).
The young girl, in pinafore and red Pioneer scarf, is totally engrossed in her lesson, writing in a large, even script. The text from which she studies features a portrait of Stalin, and is likely a volume of the great idealogue’s writings on Marxist-Leninist thought.
Neither Lenin, nor his voluminous writings, are anywhere to be seen in this poster. Stalin has surpassed the great Soviet genius to become a guiding philosopher in his own right. With victory in the war and more than two decades of leadership behind him, Stalin no longer needs to appeal to the legitimising presence of Lenin.
The Stalin textbook is propped up by a stack of books on the desk, partially obscuring a globe, and shelves of books sit behind the girl. The new Soviet citizen is well-educated across a variety of academic fields, and also aware of wider global issues, especially those pertaining to peace.
The colour scheme of the poster is in stark contrast to the bold reds and strong outlines of earlier rallying posters. Pastel shades, soft outlines and a painterly surface emphasise that this is an era of peace and abundance, and that the Soviet future is in the safe hands of serious and dedicated children like the child in the poster.
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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