Vasilii Bayuskin and A. Shpier, Great Patriotic War, poster no. 11, 1942
The 1942 TASS poster by Vasilii Bayuskin and A. Shpier, titled ‘Great Patriotic War’, serves as a graphic illustration of Order of the Day, No. 55, issued by Stalin on 23 February 1942, the 24th anniversary of the founding of the Red Army. The poster itself appeared in July 1942.
In the order, Stalin discusses the history of the Red Army as the defender of the Soviet people, and emphasises its role in expelling foreign invaders since 1918. The order concludes with several patriotic declarations, the last of which makes up the subtitle of the poster:
Under the banner of Lenin onward to the defeat of the German-fascist invaders!
From the right, a gigantic, determined Stalin in plain greatcoat and characteristic workers’ boots, strides towards the battlefield, right arm outstretched, finger pointing ahead. He is accompanied by a sky full of aircraft.
The poster uses the landscape format to display a number of battle scenes — multiple scenes and a ‘storyboard effect’ are reminiscent of the lubok (traditional Russian popular prints) and a device to which the ROSTA and TASS windows were particularly suited.
TASS window posters were a return to the earlier idea of ROSTA windows, which originated in 1919 as satirical posters that were heavily influenced by the traditional lubok and featured political themes.
In 1919 ROSTA (Russian Telegraph Agency – Российское телеграфное агентство) began publishing newspapers, but chronic shortages of paper led to the idea of pasting short news articles and agitational materials up onto walls and in empty shop windows. The windows drew crowds and the idea expanded from Moscow to the provinces.
On 23 June 1941, Aleksandr Gerasimov, head of the Organising Committee of the Union of Soviet Artists, approved a proposal to create a new propaganda studio in Moscow based on the ROSTA model. The first TASS poster appeared on 27 June 1941.
In the 1942 poster by Bayuskin and Shpier, six battle scenes are featured, each captioned with a quotation from Stalin’s order.
The first shows the birth of the Red Army on 23 February 1918, in the battle against the Germans at Narva and Pskov. Soldiers, sailors and civilians all fight from the trenches to defend the motherland. The caption to the image reads: ‘Young detachments of the Red Army, which entered war for the first time, routed the German invaders at Pskov and Narva on February 23, 1918.’
Immediately beneath this image is another image relating to 1918 in which the Red Army is shown liberating Ukraine and Belarus. The caption to this image states: ‘The Red Army successfully defended our country in the battles with the German invaders in 1918 and drove them beyond the confines of the Ukraine and Byelorussia.’
The top middle picture juxtaposes Great Patriotic War troops in the foreground, with the cavalry of earlier days in the background, all riding forward to engage the enemy. Aircraft appear in the distant sky, accompanying the ground troops. This image is captioned: ‘It is essential that in our country the training of reserves in aid of the front should not be relaxed for a moment. It is essential that ever-new military units should go to the front to forge victory over the bestial enemy.’
Beneath this is an image of Soviet might in the current battle — an array of tanks rolls towards the viewer, while behind them, Soviet industry belches out smoke as it produces the weapons needed for the Front. The image shares a caption with another image that shows all means of transport — road, rail, and river — being ultilised in service of the war effort. The caption reads: ‘It is essential that our industry, particularly our war industry, should work with redoubled energy. It is essential that with every day the front should receive ever more tanks, planes, guns, mortars, machine-guns, rifles, automatic rifles, and ammunition.’
The bottom of the poster is dominated by a large, darker image of contemporary battle, complete with explosions, aerial bombings and troops in action. The scene is dramatic and frenetic, the sky and the earth swirling and breaking apart in the heat of the battle.
It is in this scene that Stalin’s feet are firmly planted. The caption for this image highlights the horrors of war and outlines the task of the Red Army: ‘The Red Army’s task is to liberate our Soviet territory from the German invaders; to liberate from the yoke of the German invaders the citizens of our villages and towns who were free and lived like human beings before the war, but are now oppressed and suffer pillage, ruin and famine; and finally, to liberate our women from that disgrace and outrage to which they are subjected by the German-fascist monsters.’
The whole of the poster, including the figure of Stalin, is bathed in golden light, reinforcing the sanctity of the mission, the iconic nature of the image of Stalin, and the dogmatic nature of his words.
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.