Pen Varlen, The path to our glory is immutable – Fascism will die! The enemy will fall! We were inspired by the great Lenin – the great Stalin leads us in battle!, 1942
Pen Varlen (Пен Варлен), The path to our glory is immutable – Fascism will die! The enemy will fall! We were inspired by the great Lenin – the great Stalin leads us in battle! (Путь нашей славы неизменен – Фашизм погибнет ! Враг падет! Нас вдохновил ВЕЛИКИЙ ЛЕНИН – ВЕЛИКИЙ СТАЛИН в бой ведет!), 1942
A striking Uzbek poster featuring Lenin and Stalin, Pen Varlen’s 1942 ‘The path to our glory is immutable — Fascism will die! …’, shows an infinite wedge of Soviet peoples surging forward to take on the enemy. The huge mass moves as one body and consists not only of military personnel, but also of nurses and civilians of a variety of ethnicities.
This wedge may reference the famous abstract poster of 1919 by El Lissitzky ‘Beat the whites with the red wedge’, a piece of Bolshevik propaganda used during the Civil War.
In the 1942 poster, the sky is dominated by the huge diagonal field of a sweeping red banner, with hammer and sickle thrusting forward, and behind it the sketched figure of Stalin is shadowed by the ghostly white silhouette of Lenin.
The sketch of Stalin has distinguishing features, tone and depth; however, he does not occupy the same space as the Soviet citizens. Stalin inhabits the world of the banner and simply disappears below the waist.
Stalin’s right arm is flung out, the hand extended to indicate the way forward to victory, palm open almost as if it is he who provides the momentum for the people below. Stalin appears on a giant scale and dwarfs the silhouette of the Kremlin.
The spirit of Lenin appears as Stalin’s shadow, almost morphing them into the same person, and is even larger than Stalin.
While Lenin’s pose is almost exactly that of Stalin, the same upthrust jaw and outstretched arm, Stalin’s left arm hangs at his side whereas Lenin’s is bent and held high against his body. While Lenin’s coattail flaps, Stalin’s clothing is orderly and undisturbed.
These minor variances highlight the difference in rhetorical style between the two men — Lenin speaking urgently, leaning forward, moving his body; Stalin calm and still — and also the fact that, while Lenin was on his way to socialism, Stalin has already arrived.
The full text of the poster reads:
‘he way to our glory is immutable — fascism will die! The enemy will fall! We were inspired by the great Lenin — the great Stalin leads us in battle!’
The caption names Lenin as the inspiration for both Stalin and the Soviet people, although it is Stalin who now leads the battle, bridging the spiritual and corporeal worlds.
Kliment Voroshilov, who had committed serious errors as marshal of the Soviet Union during the Russo–Finnish War of 1940, has disappeared from war propaganda.
Pen Varlen (1916-1990) was a Goryeoin, a Korean born in Russia, outside the Korean national border when Korea lost its sovereignty. In addition to his contributions to Soviet art, he also established the foundations of North Korean art.
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.