Naum Karpovskii, Long live the Komsomol generation! Stalin., 1948.
At a time at which Stalin was being lauded and celebrated as the saviour of the USSR, this 1948 poster by Naum Karpovskii depicts a flesh-and-blood Stalin as a man of the people. In ‘Long live the Komsomol generation’ Stalin is surrounded by smiling people, pressed right up against him, some of them even higher than him in the picture plane.
The landscape format of the poster suggests an equality of the people depicted, rather than a hierarchy, and in this poster it is only the huge stone head of Lenin that sits above all others.
Rather than the flattened, airbrushed appearance of Stalin’s face as seen in posters such as that by Denisov and Pravdin of the same year, Stalin’s face shows as many dimples, lines and shadows as those of the people around him.
The publication of the poster coincides with the 30th anniversary of the founding of the Komsomol. Komsomol membership was open to those aged between 14 and 28 years of age, although higher functionaries could be older and, apart from providing an educational arena for the instillation of Bolshevik values, Komsomol members were often mobilised as mobile work brigades to make up for shortfalls or complete special tasks.
The simple text of the poster is a quote from Stalin’s speech to the Leninist Young Communist League on the day of the tenth anniversary of the Komsomol, printed in Pravda on 28th October, 1928.*
In this poster Stalin combines the warrior and father archetype. On the one hand, he inspires young people to join the Soviet Armed Forces, but is also encouraging of those in industry and agriculture, the continuing battlefront. Industrial work such as mining appears to be the domain of men, while women work in agriculture, or look pretty and present flowers.
However, in 1948 Soviet propaganda was already emphasising the need for young people to gain technical and scientific skills, and to work smarter rather than harder. Thus, this poster can also be read as a celebration of the past, with Stalin, first among equals, surrounded by the characters who built the Soviet Union.
* IV Stalin. ‘Leninist Young Communist League: Welcome to the day of the tenth anniversary of the Komsomol,’ Pravda № 252, October 28, 1928 accessed at http://www.marxists.org/russkij/stalin/t11/t11_24.htm.
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.