stalin poster of the week 87: *SPECIAL EDITION: 80TH ANNIVERSARY OF THE MOSCOW CANAL* gleb kun, vasilii elkin, and konstantin sobolevskii, greetings to great stalin. the moscow-volga canal is open!, 1937
1937 saw the opening of the Moscow-Volga Canal, which connected the Moscow and Volga rivers and thus gave Moscow access to five seas (the White Sea, Baltic Sea, Caspian Sea, Sea of Azov, and the Black Sea), as well as supplying the water needs of about half the population of Moscow. In 1938, the February issue of USSR in Construction featured a 40-page spread on the construction of the canal.
The 1937 poster, ‘Greetings to Great Stalin. The Moscow-Volga Canal is Open!, by Gleb Kun, Vasilii Nikolaevich Elkin and Konstantin Sobolevskii, announces the opening of the canal for business and features a sleek, elegant graphic design in a striking colour scheme of red, white, black and blue , in which the canal is portrayed as the hub of modern transport.
Aeroplanes, trains, cars, buses and motorcycles feature alongside the canal which provides a waterway for transport of passengers and goods, as well as for recreational activities such as sailing, and strolling along the banks.
While the aircraft, train, and working boats are depicted in subtle greys and whites, passenger vehicles stand out in strong, bold colours, and the eye is particularly drawn to the tiny figure in red on the yacht – the red of her costume picking up the solid band of red on the flag, and the text box at the base of the poster.
Thus, although the poster illustrates the advantages to the State of the industrial and technological achievement, the image draws particular attention to consumer benefits, and promises opportunities for more joyous and abundant life.
In fact, to have access to an automobile or yacht was out of the reach of all but the very top echelon of Stalin’s magnates.
The construction achievement of the canal, which was built by slave labour from the gulags, is laid at the feet of Stalin, both through reference to him in the text, and through the use of his sketched image, which adorns the red flag that comprises almost half the image of the poster.
Stalin’s image on the flag not only hovers god-like above the scene, looking protectively down over the ant-like human activity below, but actually obscures much of the scene.
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.
SPotW61 Babitskii 1944
SPotW62 Pen Varlen 1942
SPotW63 Bayuskin 1942
SPotW64 Belopol'skii 1950
SPotW65 Belopol'skii 1952
SPotW66 Dlugach 1933
SPotW67 Zhitomirskii 1942
SPotW68 Toidze 1949
SPotW69 Mikhailov 1937
SPotW70 Cheprakov 1939
SPotW76 Toidze 1943
SPotW77 Futerfas 1936
SPotW78 Mukhin 1945
SPotW79 Golub' 1948
SPotW80 Karpovskii 1948