Aleksandr Zhitomirskii, Stalin is the greatness of our era, Stalin is the banner of our victory!, 1942
In his 1941 address on the anniversary of the October Revolution, Stalin cautiously told the military parade that victory was possible in 1942:
‘Some more months, another half year, perhaps a year, and Hitlerite Germany will have to break under the weight of its crimes.’*
Confidence grew cautiously and Stalin sometimes appeared without Lenin in war propaganda posters.
In most cases, where Stalin appears without Lenin, he is in gigantic scale, and only visible from above the chest as in this Red Army poster by Aleksandr Zhitomirskii** in which the picture plane is effectively divided in two.
The top of the poster is dominated by just such a gigantic image of Stalin gazing out at the viewer. Down the right side of the top half of the poster is a red segment that contains the text ‘Stalin is the greatness of our era, Stalin is the banner of our victory!’
The bottom half of the poster shows a photomontage of Soviet tanks rolling through Red Square on parade, soldiers marching on parade and a tank in profile with open turret and crewman in the foreground.
The splash of vibrant red colour on the banner of the tank picks up the red field of the text in the top of the poster. Otherwise, the poster consists of a montage of black-and-white photographs.
Aleksandr Zhitomirskii was a leading political artist and satirist who pioneered photomontage techniques in propaganda work, alongside artists like Gustav Klutsis, Aleksandr Rodchenko and El Lissitzky, and German artist John Heartfield.
During the Great Patriotic War, Zhitomirskii used photomontage techniques as part of a psychological warfare campaign in which leaflets, printed in editions of up to one million, were dropped from planes on German troops, urging them to lay down their arms rather than freeze to death in the long Russian winter at the front. This was was so effective that Joseph Goebbels, Nazi Germany’s Minister of Propaganda, is said to have placed Zhitomirskii on the Third Reich’s list of “most wanted” with the order “to find and to hang.”*** Although, Erika Wolf points out that this latter is just myth.
* I. Stalin, O Velikoi Otechestvennoi voine Sovetskogo Soiuza, 4th edn, Moscow, Gospolitizdat, 1944, p. 36.
** For an excellent book on Aleksandr Zhitomirskii, see Erika Wolf, Aleksandr Zhitomirsky: Photomontage as a Weapon of World War II and the Cold War, 2016
*** See http://www.nailyaalexandergallery.com/russian-photography/alexander-zhitomirsky
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.