K.V. Zotov, We’re growing up under Lenin and Stalin’s banner!, 1934
In the early years of Stalin’s rule, he often appeared as an overseer of socialist development and progress, his image appearing in a corner of a poster about factory work, or alongside graphic depictions of Soviet progress.
In the case of ‘We’re growing up under Lenin and Stalin’s banner!’ of 1934 by K.V. Zotov, Stalin and Lenin oversee the upbringing of Soviet toddlers. Lenin, in the left corner, is the sacred and revered inspiration for this important work, while Stalin on the right is the interpreter of Lenin’s words, the one who translates Lenin’s doctrine into action.
Between Lenin and Stalin is an indistinct graphic that mimics the statistical posters popular at that time in which the great feats of socialist progress are outlined in documentary fashion.
Beneath the graphic, toddlers play in a nursery with toy trucks, building blocks and construction sets, pre-empting their future careers as builders of the socialist state.
Interestingly, the children are all male. The only female in the poster is the childcare worker who looks over the children with devoted attention, her red scarf tied behind her neck – the symbol of the female Soviet worker.
In the foreground, three young boys of varied ethnicities beam out at the viewer. One wears a small Lenin badge on his jumper, and another holds an alphabet block with A for ‘Aviatsiya’ – Aviation – a desirable career path and one in which the Soviets were to set over 60 world records in the next few years.
Stalin, as the interpreter of Lenin’s teachings, is quoted beneath his own image:
“Let’s bring up a new generation; hard-working, healthy and cheerful and capable of elevating the power of the Soviet country to the height it deserves.”
In this early stage of Stalinist propaganda, Stalin is not portrayed as a fatherly figure and does not engage with the children. He is the conscientious leader with the master plan for bringing Lenin’s dream to fruition.
Within two years, Stalin’s image in propaganda was to undergo a dramatic transformation as a symbolic persona was created for him that incorporated key mythic universal archetypes and saw him depicted as the father of the nation.
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.