Viktor Koretskii, Beloved Stalin is the people’s joy!, 1949
1949 was the year of Stalin’s massive official 70th birthday celebrations, and this poster by Viktor Koretskii shows him being greeted and applauded by a sea of festive people crowding into Red Square. The Soviet masses bear flowers, and carry banners and portraits of Lenin and Stalin – significantly, there are two portraits of Lenin in the crowd, but three of Stalin.
Stalin stands on the tribune on top of Lenin’s Mausoleum, which raises him above and separates him from the crowd. While each member of the crowd gazes at him, Stalin makes eye contact with no-one.
Although Stalin may appear to be acknowledging the applause of the crowd by applauding them as well, he does not actually engage with his audience, looking above and beyond them. It is unclear precisely what he is applauding … perhaps joining in with the crowd to applaud himself.
The presence of flowers and children in the crowd is reminiscent of posters thanking Stalin for providing a happy childhood and this poster appears to belong to a long-standing genre of posters that depict the reciprocal obligation between the leader and the citizens. This genre includes posters that:
However, closer examination of both textual and visual cues within the posters reveals the one-sidedness of the relationship and this poster ultimately reinforces the notion of Stalin as the bestower of all bounty and the source of all achievements. The caption removes any possible ambiguity: ‘Beloved Stalin is the people’s joy!’
Citizens can never hope to reciprocate these gifts adequately in any tangible manner, having only their eternal gratitude and well-crafted birthday gifts to offer, and thus remain in a condition of permanent indebtedness to their leader.
The text on the banner on the building opposite Stalin reads: “Hail to our great homeland – the stronghold of friendship and glory for the peoples of our country!”
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.