Konstantin Cheprakov, So – greetings, Stalin, and live for a hundred years…, 1939
The 1939 Uzbek poster, ‘So — greetings, Stalin, and live for a hundred years …’ by Konstantin Cheprakov, dates from the immediate prewar era in which Stalin’s munificence extended beyond the borders of Russia and out to all the nationalities and states of the Soviet Union.
Uzbekistan is one of the many countries that at that time made up the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. This poster illustrates the gratitude to Stalin of the Uzbek people for the building of the 270-kilometre-long Great Fergana Canal to irrigate the cotton fields, and thus create cotton independence for the Soviet Union.
Stalin is surrounded by a flowing multitude of Uzbek peasants bearing flowers and displaying the fruits of their irrigated fields. Stalin gives and receives congratulations to Vyacheslav Molotov who, due to his position in the composition and the distinctive colour of his clothing, occupies centre stage.
Interestingly, Molotov is also the centre of light in the poster, with a subdued Stalin in muted tones placed off in the shadows to the right.
Despite Stalin’s reluctance to assume the limelight in the visual component of the poster, the text of the poster in both Russian and Uzbek) — ‘So — greetings, Stalin, and live for a hundred years, shine like the sun, live for victory! And lead us on the way to victory! Accept the country’s joyous greetings!’ — makes it clear to whom the Uzbek people owe their gratitude for the canal which is to be their lifeblood.
In fact, Stalin is responsible for more than just water for the crops, he also provides the sunshine. Molotov takes centre stage because Stalin allows him to do so, a manifestation of Stalin’s modesty and humility.
The text makes clear that all of the illustrated bounty is due to the blessing bestowed by Stalin. By appearing to be a spontaneous outpouring of gratitude from the hearts of the people, both the image and the text illustrate the correct relationship between the leaders and the people.
Sadly, the construction of the Great Fergana Canal ultimately precipitated the desiccation of the Aral Sea, a huge ecological and environmental disaster with lasting implications.
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.