Mikhail Oskarovich Dlugach, 10 years of the civil fleet of the USSR, 10 years of hard Bolshevik struggle and the world’s greatest victories at the aviation front USSR, 1933
Mikhail Oskarovich Dlugach (Михаил Оскарович Длугач), 10 years of the civil fleet of the USSR, 10 years of hard Bolshevik struggle and the world’s greatest victories at the aviation front USSR.(10 лет гражданского воздушного флота СССР – 10 лет упорной большевистской борьбы и крупнейших побед на фронте аэрофикации СССР), 1933
In the early 1930s, a significant genre of poster production emerged that focussed on Soviet achievement, presenting accomplishments in eye-catching format with striking visuals and simple, emphatic text.
This genre had its origins in Lenin’s time and flourished throughout the Stalinist era, from the time of the first Five-Year Plan, right up to Stalin’s death.
One of the early posters that linked Stalin with great Soviet achievements, Mikhail Oskarovich Dlugach’s, ’10 years of the USSR Civilian air fleet’ of 1933, emerges from a time at which facts and figures were still held to have more power than the charisma of the leader.
Stalin, looking ordinary, a little tired, and surprisingly disinterested, is perched in a corner of the poster, above the text which proclaims the celebration of ten years achievement.
It appears as if Stalin’s primary role is to announce the anniversary of the founding of the civilian air fleet and its successes. Claims of success are backed up in scientific fashion with the three graphs near the bottom of the poster, showing the amazing improvements in the spread of the air network, the transport of passengers, and the transport of mail, cargo and baggage over the ten years. Propaganda posters of the 1920s and early 1930s often featured graphs and ‘scientific’ data as evidence of claims of progress.
The centre of the poster is occupied by the large image of a civilian aircraft and a dirigible looming above a silhouetted power plant, which sends out one of two criss-crossing beams of light into the night sky, drawing the eye up to the figure of Stalin.
Electrification had always been associated with Lenin. Light bulbs were known in early Soviet days as ‘Lenin lamps’ – lampochka Lenina – and Lenin saw electrification as a cornerstone of progress towards the new socialist society, his famous slogan:
“Communism is Soviet power plus the electrification of the whole country.”*
In Dlugach’s poster, Lenin’s ghostly and familiar silhouette, in benedictory pose on a pedestal, projects out into the electrical plant and points directly to the dirigible. It is Lenin’s work, commenced 10 years earlier, that made all of this development possible and in 1933, it is the spirit of Lenin who gives his blessing to the enterprises.
As if to make this message totally unambiguous, the second beam of light originates from Lenin’s feet. In 1933, Stalin is still claiming lineage from Lenin and his public identity is still primarily as Lenin’s ‘most able pupil’, the one who carries forth the torch of Lenin’s legacy.
In keeping with the ‘scientific’ and ‘factual’ tone of the poster, Dlugach employs black and white photos, and a subdued but dramatic colour scheme of blacks, reds and dark blues.
The text on the side of the poster reads: 10 years of the civil fleet of the USSR, 10 years of hard Bolshevik struggle and the world’s greatest victories at the aviation front USSR.
The text at the bottom: Your messages go by air to all major destinations as one of the most important means of communication with remote areas and large industrial centres.
The focus is on Soviet achievement, rather than on the personal qualities of Lenin and Stalin. However it is interesting that even a poster that appeals so overtly to the realm of science and fact incorporates mystical and spiritual allusions.
*V. I. Lenin. ‘Our Foreign and Domestic Position and Party Tasks’, Speech Delivered To The Moscow Gubernia Conference Of The R.C.P., November 21, 1920, Collected Works, 4th English Edition, Progress Publishers, Moscow, 1965, Volume 31, pages 408-426.
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.