V. Fedotov, xxv years of the Komsomol, 1943
In attempting to create an all-encompassing image for a leader with a personality cult, it is necessary to incorporate both stereotypical masculine and feminine traits within the leader persona.
In addition to such typically masculine traits as determination, iron will, bold leadership and a warrior demeanour, Stalin was sometimes also given traditionally female characteristics of nurturing, empathy, modesty and gentleness by his propagandists.
A degree of androgeny in leader personas is quite common in personality cults, and is found in the cults of Vladimir Lenin and Mao Zedong. One of the major archetypes associated with Stalin throughout his leadership is that of the father of the nation (otets narodov).
In this 1943 poster by Vladimir Fedotov, Stalin is portrayed on the battlefield (which, incidentally, he never visited) and is referred to as a father and ‘apparent husband of Lenin’ in the poster text. Stalin stands above the Soviet fighters and gazes over the field of battle, binoculars in hand.
Despite Lenin appearing as strong and determined in the poster image, the poster caption, in the form of a verse by Kazimir Lisovskii, sees Lenin take on the maternal qualities of love and nurturing.
Meanwhile, Stalin adopts the role of the father and raises the Komsomol generation – these are not children, but young people of fighting age. The poem reads:
In labour and battle we are stronger
Lenin’s banner is draped protectively over the young fighters, like the veil of the Virgin in Orthodox icons of the Feast of Intercession. It is Lenin’s spirit that is invoked to intercede on behalf of the Red Army troops, while Stalin leads the troops in the earthly realm.
Produced on cheap paper without details of place of publication or size of edition, this curious poster celebrates twenty-five years of the Komsomol, although the poster image itself is about the war effort.
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.