Ivanov, K. & El’tsufen, M., Pioneer – an example to all children!, 1952
Stalin presides symbolically over an award ceremony for young achievers in a 1952 poster by K. Ivanov and M. El’tsufen: ‘Pioneer – an example to all children!’
A young pioneer is presented with an award certificate for achievement by a mature man who appears to hold authority on behalf of Stalin. A mature woman and a young woman watch keenly in the background.
The poster itself resembles an award certificate, with an image in a gilt-edged text box above golden text, framed by images of celebratory trumpets, drums, and red flags.
The lovely young girl in her spotless white pinafore and Pioneer scarf is meek and obedient. With her orderly demeanour and upturned gaze, she serves as an example to both children and adults of the correct attitude to display toward authority in the Soviet regime.
Stalin, as portrayed in the icon portrait, does not look down protectively over his charges, but up and out of the picture plane, to something beyond time and place that only he can see.
Other posters of the early 1950s reflect a preoccupation with the mission of ‘world peace’ and Stalin as the bearer of the gift of Communism to other nations. Stalin is almost always portrayed as looking up and beyond, and it is perhaps this vision of universal peace and equality of all mankind that captures his attention and drags it away from local events.
The portrait used in this poster (and many other posters of this era) is taken from a painting by P. Nazarov and N. Gerediuk and was released by Iskusstvo in 1953 (the year of Stalin's death) in an edition of 30,000.
Such portraits, hung in public offices and buildings, function similarly to portraits of the monarch in buildings like post offices, schools, and courts of law. The invoked presence of the remote presiding authority authenticates and legitimates the proceedings.
Stalin, the tsar/god exercises remote control across his realm. However he no longer watches over all aspects of Soviet life – the minutiae of everyday existence are no longer his concern. His vision is lofty and other-worldly.
In many ways, Stalin has already been apotheosised, like the long-dead Lenin whose spirit and legacy inspires and guides. Stalin, the architect and builder of Communism, has been fashioned as the creator of this utopian society. His presence, both literally and as an image in propaganda posters, has become increasingly that of a spiritual force.
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.