Unidentified artist, Defence of the USSR, 1938
Beginning in 1938, several posters were published that highlight Stalin’s achievements in the Civil War.
In poster no. 13 from this series, titled ‘Defence of the USSR’, Stalin and Kliment Voroshilov are depicted together as equals in an informal, comradely scene.
Voroshilov was the centre of his own personality cult and was honoured with ‘Voroshilov rations for the army’, and the ‘Voroshilov Marksman’s Prize’, as well as featuring on trading cards with other Soviet leaders.
Voroshilov’s birthday was celebrated in elaborate fashion, with Stalin giving a famous speech, and he was the subject of a historical book published by English author Dennis Wheately in October 1937 — Red eagle: the story of the Russian Revolution and of Klementy Efremovitch Voroshilov, marshal and commissar for defence of the Union of Socialist Soviet Republics.
In poster no. 13, Stalin wears his unadorned, military-style tunic as head of the Party and the nation, while Voroshilov in full uniform is clearly a military leader. They are depicted as standing for peace, and as defenders of the world against fascism.
The poster text consists of Stalin’s words on the need for preparedness and defence, which follow two quotes from Lenin on the same theme.
Famous cartoonist Boris Efimov’s sketch at the bottom left of the poster depicts the huge fist of the NKVD (The People’s Commissariat for Internal Affairs/Secret Police) crushing a monstrous but small enemy while Lev Trotskii and Adolf Hitler cower together in the corner.
Trostkii has now been transformed from the creator and champion of the Red Army into its enemy, in league with Germany.
Scenes of military parades on Red Square, and a sky full of aircraft illustrate Soviet might and preparedness as Europe moves closer to the brink of war.
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.