SOVIET WAR POSTERS c.1940-1945
The TASS Poster Series from the Hallward Library, University of Nottingham
Nottingham University's Poster Collection and its context 1943-1945
The Soviet posters published here, from originals in the Department of Manuscripts and Special Collections in Nottingham University Library, comprise 129 stencilled posters from the TASS series and 37 printed posters of the period from June 1943 to May 1945. Sixteen of the TASS Windows in the Nottingham collections are not included in the Lenin Library catalogue (nos 727, 850, 869, 930, 931, 980, 982, 1149, 1199, 1242, 1248, 1254, 1257, 1280, 1288, 1289).
The TASS (Telegraphic Agency of the Soviet Union) posters were published by the Soviet publicity agency in the numbered series known as TASS Windows (Okna TASS). More than 1500 different posters were produced in this series during the war up to August 1945. The Nottingham collection of 129 Windows runs from no 641 to no 1300, June 1943 to June 1945. The fullest previous republication of TASS Windows only includes 77 reproductions over the whole period. Only 43 of these are from the period after June 1943 and only 10 of those republished previously are included in this current publication. It therefore gives a fuller and more concentrated insight into the character and themes of this form of publicity at a critical and difficult time in Soviet history and will bring the posters to a wider audience. The 37 posters in Nottingham’s ‘Printed Series’ are only a small selection of Soviet production during the war. But they include examples of the late work of Viktor Deny, as well as younger distinguished poster artists such as Irakly Toidze, Viktor Ivanov and Boris Koretsky. They relate to the same phase of the war as the TASS Windows in the collection, running from March 1943 to February 1945. However, the comments below will mainly relate to the TASS Windows as the most concentrated and distinctive part of the collection.
This period was a distinctive phase of the war and was reflected in the poster art of the time. The German army at Stalingrad had capitulated in February 1943. The tank battle of Kursk in July 1943 marked the last German attempt at a large-scale counter-offensive. The period was therefore one in which the defeat of Germany and her Allies was becoming ever more certain. The enormous difficulties of maintaining the war effort for the Soviet Union remained even as the threat became less direct and obvious. The Red Army reaches the Soviet frontier and moves on beyond its territories to eastern Europe and into Germany. The propaganda of this phase of the war obviously required a different character from that of the earlier defence. Account needed to be taken of the fact that a considerable part of the Soviet population had been under foreign occupation, open to different influences and information for many months and even years. As well as liberation, reconstruction and the forthcoming tasks of peacetime are major themes of this period.
Themes of the TASS Windows of this period are: the inevitable defeat of Germany; the progress of the Soviet army’s victories; Nazi (German) atrocities; Allied solidarity; the collapse of Hitler’s allies; the liberation of nations; attempts by Nazis to escape retribution; the neutrals’ collaboration with Germany, Spain, Switzerland, Argentina; the heroic Soviet people: sailors, cavalrymen, artillery, railwaymen, peasants, pilots; reconstruction.
The following notes are a guide to the posters in the Nottingham collection according to the major artists who produced them and then according to the significant themes. The numbers given are the original TASS Window numbers and not the reference numbers of the Nottingham collection. (The Catalogue supplies both numbers, for ease of identification).
952 ‘It happened on the Dnepr….’
971 ‘The Crimea: the All Union Health Spa….’
973 ‘Patriots of Poland….’
985 ‘The Hour Approaches….’
1112 ‘Noisy success….’
1138 ‘Hitler’s Lackeys to the Bottom….’
Texts: in 952 and 1112 the text is by Cheremnykh’s wife N A Cheremynkh; in 985 the verse is by Demyan Bedny; in 973 the text is from the Party slogans for May Day 1944; others unidentified.
Cheremnykh produced a total of 46 TASS Windows in Moscow during the course of the war. He was evacuated to Biisk in the Altai region at the end of 1941 where he continued to produce Windows often of an instructive character and particularly focused on the everyday problems of the organisation of the rear (Demosfenova, p 140), He returned to Moscow in 1943. His experience with ROSTA is evident even in this selection from the later period. His ‘Patriots of Poland….’ With its six frames showing the activities of the underground opposition in various countries recalls the multi-framed ROSTA Windows. ‘Noisy success….’ in three frames in the ROSTA tradition tells the story of attempts on the lives of Nazi leaders in occupied territories, whose populations have such ‘ardent love’ for them (Nazi car blown up) that ‘they carry them in their arms’ (wounded Nazis carried into ambulance). Similarly ‘It happened on the Dnepr….’ and ‘The Crimea….’ use a double frame to make the points in the first case of the soggy fate of the Germans on both the Dnepr and Dnestr rivers and to contrast the healthy experience of the Crimean spas for the Russians, with their deathly impact on the Germans and Romanians; Hitler being thrown into the water and Antonescu’s arm sinking below the waves, following the clearing of the Crimea in the campaign of April and early May 1944. ‘The Hour approaches….’ in single frame takes the common theme of the animal-like Hitler, here in Beday’s lines ‘the German octopus’, in the shape of a swastika, screaming as allied Soviet, British and French bayonets poke into him. For assessment of Cheremnykh’s work during the war see Demosfenova, pp 140-1.
906 ‘The Hitlerites intend to stand….’
930 ‘Pursui of Manpower Resource in Germany….’
931 ‘An attempt with futile means….’
956 ‘Deadly Concern’
982 ‘Under the blows of the Red Army….’
993 ‘Three Years of War’
1006 ‘I’ll force a Channel Crossing….’
1027 ‘Two Cauldrons’
1079 ‘The Latest Europe’
1109 ‘Krylov’s Money on Goebbels’
Texts: The texts are from authoritative political sources: Stalin, 930, 931, 982; A S Shcherbakov (Head of the Political Department of the Red Army) 906; Krasnaya Zvezda (Red Star: the Red Army newspaper) 1079. The text of 1006 also borrows heavily from Stalin’s language on the Normandy landings (Pravda, 13 June 1944). They also use quotes from Hitler turned against him in 956, 1006; and from the nineteenth century fabulist Krylov in 1109.
The Kukryniksy were the best-known Soviet cartoonists and a sharp satirical approach directed against the hated enemy is distinctive in most of the total of 66 TASS Windows which they produced during the war. Animal motifs feature prominently: the Hitler-faced horse and bird Goebbels (906); Hitler-headed snake (956); the Goebbels monkey (1109). A caricatured Hitler or Goebbels is prominent, except in 931 and 982. ‘An attempt with futile means….’ is interesting as distinctive from the usual Kukryniksy style which gave prominence to caricatures of the Nazi leaders in various forms. Here however the Window is dominated by the huge pillars of a steel bridge across a river prominently displaying the Soviet, British and American flags. Tiny figures (German diplomats) try to saw away at the strong stone pillars. A quote from Stalin’s statement of 23 February 1944 asserts the fascists are attempting to undermine the unity of the alliance. The message of the poster underlines Stalin’s assurance at that time, that they would not be successful. This was an important re-affirmation of the solidarity of the alliance after the Soviet press in January 1944 had made much of the so-called ‘Cairo rumour’ that British and American representatives had met Ribbentrop in Spain.
P P Sokolov-Skalya
817 ‘The Devil take my cart’
857 ‘Hitler’s Criminals will not Escape Retribution’
904 ‘We will Free the Lands….’
939 ‘Secret and Counter-Secret’
946 ‘The Result of Fascist Culture’
991 ‘Patriots of Yugoslavia….’
996-7 ‘Forefathers and Descendants’
1000 ‘Our One Thousandth Blow’
1001 ‘The Liberation of Rome’
1128 ‘Neutral Switzerland’
1139 ‘Beneath the Tropical Skies’
1147 ‘Hitler and ‘Brotherly’ Austria’
1166 ‘Along a Familiar Path’
1214 ‘The Comprehensive Result….’
1236 ‘On the Berlin ’Avenue of Victories’
1245 ‘He has returned in Victory’
1284 ‘Glory to the Railwaymen….’
Texts: Marshak 917, 1001; Demyan Bedny 939, 996-7; Osip Brik 946, 1147; V Lebedev-Kumach 1000, 1128, 1139, 1236; A Mashistov 1166, V Levidova 1284; Alexander Nevsky 904.
The painter Sokolov-Skalya was the most prolific of the TASS Window artists producing a total of 176 posters during the war. He was drawn towards heroic and historical subjects and styles as in ‘We will Free the Lands….’ recalling Aleksander Nevsky’s struggle against the Teutonic Knights and showing his gigantic sword protecting the churches of Novgorod; ‘Patriots of Yugoslavia….’ showing a huge heroic portrait of Tito; ‘Forefathers and Descendants’ showing medieval knights waiting while a blacksmith beats a sword on an anvil and factory workers handing over modern weapons to a Soviet Marshall; ‘Along a Familiar Path’ quotes Suvorov and compares Russian defeats of Prussia in 1760 with defeats of Germany in 1945; ‘He has returned in Victory’ – an elderly moustachioed soldier with Guards insignia greets an older woman under cherry blossom. ‘The Liberation of Rome’ and ’Glory to the Railwaymen’ also typify this heroic style.
But Sokolov-Skalya also tries his hand at the satirical and the grotesque cartoon style as in ‘the Devil take my cart’, ‘Hitler’s Criminals’ (a gigantic Anglo-American-Soviet sword beats a grotesque figure of Hitler amongst the ruins), ‘Our One Thousandth Blow’ (bayonets and pens sticking into a mad, sharp-toothed Hitler, ‘Neutral Switzerland’ (large Swiss cow being milked for arms by Hitler as a pleased bowler-hatted Swiss looks on), ‘Hitler and ‘Brotherly’ Austria’ (sweating Hitler with Goebbels turns the handle of a press squeezing Austria with oozing blood). ‘The Comprehensive Result….’ (ugly German rat amongst bones in burning buildings while another bloodsucks flesh.
V V Lebedev
912 ‘Got captured’
942 ‘A Careless Shot’
1005 ‘With the call ‘Death to the German-Finnish Invaders’….’
1017 ‘Belorussian Landscape’
1132 ‘Force of Habit’
Texts: Mashistov 912; Demyan Beday 1017; Marshak 1132; Pravda 1005
Lebedev produced 40 TASS Windows during the course of the war. He was the most prominent member of the Petrograd ROSTA Windows collective in the Civil War. Three of these TASS Windows are on northern Russian themes (942, 1005, 1017). Two give an image of the Finnish enemy (942, 1005). ‘A careless shot’ is a two frame Window with the Finnish artillery shell marked ‘Rejection’ (of the Soviet proposed armistice terms of April 1944) being returned and explode on themselves. ‘American newspapers’ are quoted to the effect that this is ‘suicide’ for the Finns. ‘With the Call….’ gives a less detached view of the Finnish soldier ‘the wounded Fascist beast’ with his swastika-ed cap and birch-bark shoes and clawed and stretched bloody arms held fast under a Soviet tank. This coincided with Govorov’s attack on the Karelian isthmus, 10 June 1944. ‘Force of Habit’ comments on German looting: a young German ‘Fritz’ returns to his adoring parents loaded with swag, chickens and watches and while his father compliments hiim on how much he resembles the Führer.
N F Denisovskii
980 ‘It’s a Question Now of Clearing the Fascist Invaders….’
1000 ‘Our one Thousandth Blow’
1040 ‘Statesman’ of Contemporary Germany’
1257 ‘The Victory Document’
Texts: Demyan Bedny 909; Stalin 980; Levedev-Kumach 1000, 1243-4; Krasnaya Zvezda 1040.
Denisovsky produced 37 TASS Windows during the war. Most striking of his posters are the following: ‘Derailed’: a dominating Moscow-Leningrad train passes over a viaduct, a diminutive Hitler desperately tries to cling on with his fingers at Chudovo despite explosions beneath him. This celebrates the clearing of the German threat to the railway between the two ciries. ‘Statesman’ of Contemporary Germany’ follows the Soviet capture of Lubin and of the near-by Maidanek extermination camp (23 July 1944) and Konstantin Simonov’s revelation in Pravda (30 July 1944) of the horros of Maidanek, the furst such camp to be liberated. A mad-looking Nazi doctor with white apron and green face is being given orders by Hitler, in a sea of blood and skulls. In total contrast in style and mood is th e’Victory!’ Window showing a huge figure of Victory in a chariot holding the Soviet flag in one hand and allied flags in the other and pulling behind a Nazi gorilla with a rope round its neck and bloody hands. The mixture of the animal and heroic themes fails to do justice to the moment. ‘The Victory Document’ also celebrates allied co-operation. It shows the heads of Zhukov, Eisenhower, Montgomery and Delattre De Tassigny (for the French), and marks the signature in the Berlin Yacht Club on 5 June 1945 of the declaration of the four powers taking over supreme control in Germany, including the division of Berlin. Stalin’s relations with the French were cool and not helped by de Gaulle’s visit in Germany 1944. He had been reluctant to allow the French a share in the occupation of Germany. This was a brief moment of public triumph for Zhukov who was demoted to command of the Odessa military district within two months. Relations between the allies were already by this time hardly so warm as the text and tone of the poster suggest.
S N Kostin
903 ‘Two faces’
951 ‘The Flight of General Manstein’
1007 ‘The Former Ersatz Landowner’
1073 ‘Hitler and his Generals’
1083 ‘ ‘Neutral’ Franco’
1131 ‘Bring the Robbers to Account’
1192 ‘Our Answer’
1198 ‘Inescapable Date’
1235 ‘Long Live the Victory….’
Texts: Marshak 903, 1997; I Petrova 951, 1192; Brik 1073; Lebedev-Kumach 1083; Demyan Bedny 1131, 1198.
Kostin produced 58 TASS Windows during the war. His Windows in this selection on the whole lack the satirical bite of the best war posters. Demosfenova comments that he was ‘not inclined to fantastic hyperbole. Metaphors or buffoonery’. It was rather the silhouette and gesture and the emotional impact of the colours which were typical of Kostin’s work (Demosfenova, p 167). The most powerful here is ‘Two Faces’ of February 1944, showing two-faced Finland as a sheep with his face to the West and a mad dog with bloody teeth facing to the East, as the prospect arose again of the activisation of the Finnish front in Karelia. Otherwise ‘the Flight of General Manstein’ shows a rather characterless figure of Manstein fleeing on an emaciated horse over the Romanian frontier; the point of ‘the Former Ersatz Landowner’ is not made clear: given an estate with 200 peasants near Poltava by Hitler he and his wife now have to flee with nothing more than a bicycle as he begs for help; ‘Hitler and his Generals’ simply shows Hitler examining the empty chairs of generals killed by one means or another as a result of the 20 July 1944 plot and a text suggesting it is time for him to go too; ‘Neutral Franco’ is on the theme of the German leaders escaping to the protection of Spain; ‘Bring the Robbers to Account’ refers to Maidanek and other camps but while the old German soldier in the ruins is grabbed by s Soviet hand ‘to account’, it is the plunder of ‘Gold’ in a boat marked Berlin which is emphasised rather than the murder in the ‘ovens’ mentioned in the text! ‘Our Answer’ is on the theme of the treatment of Societ women evacuated to Germany. In the first frame a well-dressed Bavarian couple raise their stick over a rather unclear female figure pulling a cart; in the second frame Red tanks enter the German town and the couple raise white flags of surrender. ‘Long Live the Victory….’ is distinctive for its celebration of the allied co-operation rather than its originality or impact: the three gigantic flags, the Soviet in front, impale the dying German swastika-shaped eagle.
P A Sarkisiyan
869 ‘Into the Bushes’
950 ‘Exactly according to Order’
1042 ‘Thunder and Lightning’
1114 ‘Rats from a Sinking Ship’
1126 ‘New Year’s Forecast’
1127 ‘Another Blow against Fascism’
1178 ‘Hindenburg and Hitler’
1191 ‘the Last Masquerade’
1211 ‘We will Destroy the Hydra….’
1280 ‘Long Live the Fifth Anniversary of the Latvian….’
1283 ‘In the Dens of Madrid’
Texts: Lebedev-Kumach 1042, 1211, 1283, Demyan Bedny 1114, Zharov 1126; Brik 1178; Mashistov 1259, 1280
Sarkisiyan produced a total of 71 TASS Windows during the war. The most striking of his windows here is ‘New Year’s Forecast’: an old witch Hitler is putting a string of wax into water, a popular way of telling New Year fortunes; it casts a shadow of Hitler in a hangman’s noose on the wall and in the text a frightened Hitler sees 1945 as ‘the year of inevitable reckoning’. The unimaginative ‘Another Blow against Fascism’ celebrates the signing of the Franco-Soviet Treaty on 10 December 1944 at the end of de Gaulle’s visit to Moscow. It shows French and Soviet flags, a handshake and a scroll with the title of the treaty. Stalin did not get on well with de Gaulle as later publication of the minutes of their discussions show and a rather low opinion of him. ‘The Last Masquerade’ warns of German soldiers trying to escape in disguise; a soldier goes into a house in uniform and comes out the other side dressed as a woman. ‘We will destroy the Hydra’ focuses on the Yalta Conference decision (February 1945) to break up the German General Staff – the ‘Hydra’. ‘1941-1945’ is one of the Victory windows (May 1945): a six-frame large Window history of the war – Hitler and tanks invade, a Red rifle butt clouts them under the Kremlin walls, pincers squeeze Germans at Stalingrad, a sword cuts off arms surrounding Leningrad, a bot kicks out Germans from Soviet territory, an arm puts the Red Flag over Berlin. ‘Long Live the Fifth Anniversary.…’ celebrates the anniversary of the incorporation of the Baltic Republics into the USSR: ‘V years’ over map of the Baltic showing the three emblems with exhortation ‘Go forward along the way illuminated by the great Stalin!’ ‘’In the dens of Madrid’ returns to the theme of Spanish protection of ‘German guests… the Gauleiters, Führers, thieves and bandits….’ still in June 1945. The Soviet version for several years was to case some doubt on whether Hitler had actually died in the bunker.
M M Solov’ev
641 ‘Our Alphabet’
965 ‘Victors of the Pre-May Day Competition’
1063 ‘Soviet-Finnish Frontier’
1070 ‘The Baltic is Liberated’
1092 ‘Greetings to the Yugoslav People’
1120 ‘Glory to the Fightin Youth’
1127 ‘Another Blow against Facism’
1173 ‘Königsberg is Taken!’
1200 the National Flag of the Polish State is raised at Gdansk’
1205 ‘In the Direction of Dresden’
1224 ‘Fifty Years since the Invention of the Radio by A S Popov’
1253 ‘Our Friendship has got Stronger….’
1256 ‘Glory to the Soviet Soldier’
Texts: Marshak 641, Mashistov 965, 1173; Levidova 1063, 1256; Lebedev-Kumach 1070, 1253; Zharov 1120, 1224; Fedorov 120; Berendgof 1025.
Solov’ev was the most prolific TASS Window artist after Sokolov-Skalya, with a total of 132 posters during the war. ‘Our Alphabet’ takes up Mayakovsky’s idea for the earlier ROSTA Window group. It was used for a whole alphabet of Windows in July 1941 then taken up again with this poster in January 1843 which was followed by many others in the course of the year, though not in alphabetical order. Here is letter K. Each Russian word of the text, ‘stab …. destroy etc’ begins with the letter K. (In this collection see also the Window by Moa (M A Abramov) no 838 ‘The Red Army Alphabet’ showing liberated towns beginning with R.) ‘Victors of the pre-May Day competition’ (May 1944) celebrates the efforts of the home front to supply the forces: epauletted soldiers and airmen give a certificate to smiling, mainly women, workers against the background of factories. The previously discredited reactionary epaulettes, together with gold braid, had been restored in October 1942 to raise the morale and status of officers. The image of the typical Soviet soldier in poster art simultaneously underwent a change. ‘The Soviet-Finnish frontier’ marks the signing of the armistice between Finland and the Soviet Union (19 September 1944): a Soviet soldier in greatcoat and cap with the green epaulettes of the NKVD frontier guards in a forest area looks at a map with the new frontier. The frontier of 1940 was re-established ‘unapproachable and sacred’. ‘the Baltic is Liberated’ (October 1944) shows emblems of the three Baltic Republics, building of Tallin and Riga and the text in Russian:’ …. the sun has returned again with the Red Army dispersing the gloom and horror of the dark ears ….’ ‘Greetings to the Yugoslav People!’ is a heroic Window showing the agreed joint victorious entry of Tito’s partisans and Soviet forces into Belgrade: partisan forces march in with Soviet tanks to cheering crowds framed by red and gold curtains of the Yugoslav flag with prominent Red Star. The heroic ‘Glory to the fighting Youth!’ celebrates the ‘valiant brave and able’ young soldiers but is not a very impressing tribute to their skills and bravery: a figure of a young Soviet soldier fills the Window as he beats a German with his rifle butt, others in the background shoot fleeing the Germans in the back with automatics.
‘Könisburg is Taken!’ and ‘The National Flag of the Polish State….’ celebrate victories on the Baltic at Könisburg the capital of East Prussia and at Danzig, here given its Polish name of Gdansk. Both show a bay littered sinking ships: ‘The Red Army has hoisted the flag of victory over the post of Danzig’. ‘Fifty Years….’ is one of the few posters not on a war theme and celebrates A S Popov’s role in the invention of radio. The verse gives the impression that Popov’s anniversary is being celebrated all over the world as the unchallenged inventor of radio communication. ‘Our Friendship has got Stronger….’ refers to ‘the friendship of the brother Slav peoples’ as ‘the bulwark of European peace’ (May 1945). The Slav unity theme emerged in Soviet propaganda for a time as the war came towards its close. Artistically the Window displays little imagination showing barely distinguishable brown-coloured soldiers from different Slav states. Solov’ev’s final contribution is ‘Glory to the Soviet Soldier’ a heroic image of the Soviet soldier returning home.
A A Przhetslavsky
1021 ‘Glory to the Belorussian Partisans’
1096 ‘Cavalrymen of the Red Army!’
1115 ‘Sacred Day’
1146 ‘A Blow to the Enemy’s Rear’
1163 ‘Our Forces Developing the Offences….’
1197 ‘In the Carpathian Mountains’
1209 ‘The Fighting Cavalry’
Texts: Mashistov 1021, 1146, 1163; Zharov 1115; Berendgof 1197; Serapionov 1209.
Przhetslavsky produced 41 TASS Windows, all during 1944-5, except for three. He preferred heroic subjects and a painterly style. Cavalry is a common theme as in ‘Glory to the Belorussian Partisans!’ (mounted partisans from the forest chase German infantry: this poster coincides with the offensive beginning on the Belorussian front on 23 June 1944; between 20 and 23 June on the eve of the offensive the partisans numbering 143,000 men had put most of the railways out of action); ‘Cavalrymen of the Red Army!’ (galloping cavalrymen with automatic and Red banner); ‘A Blow to the Enemy’s Rear’ (Cossacks, swords raised on horseback strike at green-uniformed German soldiers in tanks!: reminiscent of the revolutionary pictures of Cossacks attacking civilians!); ‘Sacred Duty’ shows two cavalrymen rescuing a girl and an old man from a dugout amidst a ruined village; ‘Our Foreces Developing the Offensive’ (cavalry with swords raised riding through burning German town); ‘The Fighting Cavalry’ (a cavalryman gallops with sword raised, with tanks, artillery and planes in background). The one Window of Przhetslavsky in the collection not specifically on a cavalry theme is ‘In the Carpathians’. However horses and donkeys figure here also showing the difficulty of crossing the mountains in deep snow. It recalls paintings of the nineteenth century artist Vereschagin of the Russian Army crossing the Shipka Pass in the Russo-Turkish was 1877-8.
Significant themes of the TASS Windows
In mid-1943 there are several striking Windows publicising the Grand Alliance and military efforts of the Soviet Union’s allies. ‘Vittoria?!’ (726: V Aivazyan) marks the capture of the Italian ‘Vittoria’ division in north Africa (June 1943): British soldiers in shorts guard scruffy and dejected Italian prisoners in the desert. Likewise ‘The hour is approaching….’ (a quote from Stalin; 985: artist Cheremnykh), shows American, British and Soviet arrows (the British in the middle) against a black background, spiking a screaming helmeted German wolf. ‘Greetings to the Brave Sailors’ (992: K Vyalov) gives credit to the British and American sailors bringing the convoys to north Russia, quoting a May Day 1944 slogan. British and American convoys are seen through binoculars while supplies are unloaded at the dockside – a recognition of the role of Lend-Lease. ‘the Liberation of Rome; (1001: Sokolov-Skalya) also gives generous credit to allies for the capture of Rome (4 June 1944): the poster is filled with British and American flags on bayonets. Similarly the two-frame ‘The Allied Forces….’ (1014: M M Slov’ev and P P Sarkisyan) marks the Normandy landings: Hitler with sword looks across the Channel against the shawod of Napoleon; British and American troops in landing craft with planes land on the beaches before a frightened Hitler. The text takes its tone from Stalin’s statement in Pravda (13 June 1944) emphasising the achievement of the invasion. ‘Paris is Liberated!’ (1046: V Ladyagin) shows British and American soldiers prominent against the female figure of ‘Liberty’ in the sky as in paintings of the 1830 French revolution. The text does not mention the allies (in the Soviet press the French resistance got most praise for the liberation of Paris). The link is made with the Soviet war effort ‘Paris!’ You hear the cry of the Kremlin: Let’s finish the enemy off in his lair; (Stalin’s figure of speech). Ladyagin’s ‘Let the Three Flags…’ (!300) of June 1945 continues to be hopeful and positive about the future of ‘the alliance and friendship of the three states (which) provides peace throughout the world!’: the poster is filled with the British, American and Soviet flags over the Kremlin, Big Ben and the Empire State Building with three searchlights.
Historical themes are also prominently represented by ‘then and Now’ (841: V Milashevsky): a two-frame Window showing Napoleon’s troops retreating across the frontier in the snow and rather less noble looking German troops also fleeing. A Danilchev’s ‘Nakhimov# (940) also belongs to this category. It celebrates the introduction of the naval Order of Nakhimov (a pre-revolutionary admiral): ‘He was brought up by the Russian state’ and ‘lives in the hearts of the Russian people’. Milashevsky’s ‘Sovie forces….’ (1203) also takes up the historical parallel of the taking of the village of Künersdorf in East Prussia where Russian forces defeated ‘Kaiser’ Frederick II in 1759 and compares the ‘deeds of the Fascist-Prussian’ with those of their forefathers: a Russian solder in a uniform of 1759 and a Soviet soldier together bayonet Germans.
Several Windows are devoted to enemy destruction of cultural monuments. ‘The Result of Fascist Culture’ (946: Sokolov-Skalya) shows Tolstoi’s War and Peace burning, the architect Kazakov’s buildings being destroyed and Repn’s paintings being trampled on. The text and pictures refer only to the Germans though the Repin museum was in Finnish occupied territory. However in ‘Repin and the White-Finnish Savages’ (1032: Shukhmin) the Finns are specifically blamed – ‘the infamous band of gorillas …. enriched by German training …. these savages will learn about the punishments for their crimes and what it means to tujrn the altars of our culture into ruins!’
An entirely distinctive mood is created by ‘Nurse’ (934: F Antonov): a pretty nurse in uniform attends sick soldiers with drink in the field; accompanied by an effusively romantic verse.
Another new theme in early 1944 is ‘Wemcome!’ (936: V Ladyagin): reassuring the population of the re-building of homes for them to return to in the liberated areas: ‘Welcome to the new home. Live in it freely, happily, prosperously!’ Ladyagin’s two-frame (1025) also treats the same theme. ‘Liberated Ukraine gathers in the Harvest!’ contrasts the imprisonment of civilians behind barbed wire under the Germans and the happy peasants looking at the growing corn with a combine harvester in the background. The optimistic and rather premature verse declares ‘The field rustled again with golden wheat so that in our native Soviet land bread was in plenty’. The grain must however have been planed still under German occupation! ‘We will restore….’ (1036: K Vyalov) also treats reconstruction – of the railways – to deliver weapons to the front: a railway bridge is being repaired with wooden supports. Much of the railway destruction however had been carried out by partisans; the Germans during occupation had an interest in restoring it. ‘Fruit and Vegetables’ (1039: V Lyushin) treats the same theme of reconstruction urging the supply of all the best fruit and vegetables. A Plotnov’s ‘Klaipeda Port will be restored’ (1202) emphasises the reconstruction of the Lithuanian port and shows a view of busy Klaipeda, a crane raising building blocks and mines being taken from the sea: ‘the Soviet soldier will be proud….’
The difficult case of the Baltic states is also tackled in ‘Tallin is Liberated’ (1058: V Milashevsky): ‘the Estonian capital – ancient Tallin is liberated forever from the enemy’: a woman in Estonian national dress welcomes a Soviet soldier holding the Estonian emblem with Tallin in the background.
Striking and horrifying on the theme of Nazi atrocities is the one item in the collection by the cartoonist Boris Efimov ‘Philanthropic Hitler’ (1145). It shows a coffin inscribed ‘Maidanek worldwide’: a naked Hitler is chewing blood-soaked bones while Goebbels with his handkerchief to his nose stands amidst the ruins and skulls. The caption quotes Goebbels on Hitler’s ‘love for mankind’.
Many posters make reference to Stalin in their text, but rather few show an image of him. One of these is that of the painter P Shukhmin ‘Long Live….’ (1242) for ‘our beloved leader and teacher Comrade Stalin!’. It shows a smallish bust of Stalin with a red flag and Kremlin tower while searchlights and fireworks fill the centre of the Window. Another example is V Ladyagin’s ‘Our just Cause!….’ (1254) showing a gigantic poster of the victory medal with Stalin’s head on it. Below are the Kremlin walls including a church (but with a western and not Orthodox cross on it!): ‘The medal of a holy and just war….’
An infrequent reference to the working class is in M Mal’tsev’s ‘Long live the heroic working class….’ ?1265). But the image is not a traditional one: a hero officer with his wife and flowers and sailor-suited boy on his shoulder dominates the poster as he waves at civilians, nurses etc, marching past with Red Flags. The heroic end-of-war images are repeated with the pilots and other forces for instance in numbers 1288 and 1289.
D W Spring
Department of History, University of Nottingham