Elena Mel’nikova, Best friend of children. Glory to Great Stalin!, 1951
Stalin’s special relationship with the Young Pioneers is illustrated in the 1951 poster, ‘The Best Friend of Children. Glory to great Stalin!,’ by well-known artist Elena Mel’nikova. Mel’nikova was a Russian and Soviet Avant-garde painter, graphic artist and illustrator.
The text emphasises the friendly nature of the relationship between Stalin and the young Pioneers and, uncharacteristically for posters involving Stalin and children, makes no reference to Stalin as a ‘father.’ There is no interaction between the children and the image of Stalin: Stalin looks out into the distance, while the children all have their backs turned to him.
Stalin appears in this poster as a giant portrait hanging behind the unified, obedient children, who salute and wave flags and appear to be engaged in an oath-taking ceremony.
The Soviet regime bound children to Stalin by the taking of oaths of allegiance and duty at initiation ceremonies into the Pioneers and Komsomol, and posters such as this one reinforced the sense of obligation the children owed their leader.
On either side of Stalin are graphic depictions of birch trees. The birch is the national tree of Russia and a symbol of new beginnings.
It is interesting to note that this is one of the relatively few posters of this era in which Stalin does not appear in military uniform. Neither the warrior nor the father archetype is being emphasised here.
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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