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SOVIET WAR POSTERS c.1940-1945

The TASS Poster Series from the Hallward Library, University of Nottingham

Publisher's Note

“An important visual contribution, graphic, colourful and imaginative, this microfiche edition provides a most useful insight into economic and social conditions in the war years.”
Dr Stephen White
University of Glasgow
Author of The Bolshevik Poster (Yale, 1988)

“The TASS Window posters were significant as they were produced from stencils so that they could quickly respond to the news of the moment as compared to the printed poster. Dozens of prominent Soviet painters, artists, cartoonists, writers and poets participated in this work which imitated the ROSTA posters of the Civil War period. They were produced in very limited editions of a maximum of 1500. The current edition is the largest number of TASS Windows to be published in a single collection and includes items of which there is no record even in the Lenin Library catalogue of TASS Windows.”
Dr Derek W Spring
Consultant Editor
University of Nottingham

Visually stunning and extremely scarce, the complete Nottingham University Collection of 129 hand-painted TASS Windows are published in this microform edition for the first time, together with a further 37 printed posters from the same period. As Dr Spring has commented, this is the largest number of TASS Windows ever to be published in a single collection. Only 10 have been published before and 16 items do not appear in the Lenin Library Catalogue.

Many of the Posters are extremely large (often as big as 2m by 1.3m) and in need of preservation. Originally produced by stencils in short runs of about 600 copies each the posters combined graphic power with didactic text to convey the political messages of those in power. As a result of their size and their public propaganda use, it is inevitable that many of the posters displayed were destroyed. The large Nottingham University Library Collection was saved as a result of the far-sighted collecting interests of Professor Vivian de Sola Pinto who gathered them together for preservation at the end of the Second World War.

The Posters combine artistic, literary, historical and political interest and will encourage inter-disciplinary research. They are a prime resource for Soviet Studies.

The Posters illuminate social and political conditions and cover many significant themes such as:

  • The Role of Women
  • Arctic Convoys
  • The Great Fatherland
  • Switzerland
  • Anti-Fascism
  • The Finnish Campaign
  • Allied Unity
  • Spain

The collection illustrates the themes and tone of the Soviet propaganda effort from the turning point of the war at Stalingrad to the final victory in Berlin. Amongst distinctive features are the appeal to Russian patriotism and the historical tradition of repelling Napoleon and other invaders; the effort to maintain the war effort and commitment as the war passed from Soviet territory into Eastern Europe in 1944; the positive image of the western allies and their military campaigns; vengeance for Nazi atrocities; apprehensions about neutral countries protecting fleeing Nazis; the heroic efforts of the Soviet armies; and the dependable, fatherly image of Stalin.

It is interesting to note how swiftly run the tides of change. Zhukov is praised exuberantly immediately before his fall from grace in 1946 and British and American forces are constantly depicted as heroes before their post-war transition to enemies of the people.

The visual image was all important because the majority of the Russian people were still illiterate or only semi-literate at the end of the War. As a result, the finest artists, cartoonists and writers were brought together to create this unique art form, designed to impassion the people and encourage them to make sacrifices for the good of their country. Each poster was created within 24 hours, allowing the government to respond quickly to current events – similar to the use of modern newscasts.

Leading artists represented include F V Antonov, Mikhail Cheremnykh, N F Denisovsky, Viktor Deny, Viktor Ivanov, Boris Karetsky, the Kukryniksy cartoonists, V V Lebedev, P M Shukmin, P P Sokolov-Skalya, M M Solov’ev and Irakly Toidze.

Leading authors represented include Demyan Bedny – the proletarian poet, V I Lebedev-Kumach, Samuel Marshak, and Vladimir Mayakarsky.

Technical Details and Note on Arrangement

Our microform publications are prepared and produced in accordance with recommended and established guide-lines for the production of microforms of superior quality. These conform to the recommendations of the standard guides to good microforming and micropublishing practice.

The size and condition of the posters urged the case for a preservation copy to be made, but also created difficulties for microfilming which we have tried to overcome. Whilst fiche were thought to be easier for many scholars and students to use, the increased frame size of 35mm microfilm offered greater image resolution. Whilst colour microfilm offered the prospect of capturing the bright colours that are so much a part of the overall impact of the originals, it was recognised that the expected archival life of colour microfilm is only 20-50 years, whereas the expected archival life of polyester-based black and white film is 400-500 years (the expected archival life of optical disks is only 2-10 years). As such, it was decided that we would create a high-quality, polyester-based, 35mm silver-halide, black and white microfilm of all of the posters, as well as complete colour microfilm and black and white microfiche versions. All three are provided to purchasers of the collection together with the detailed guide to the posters project.

Where necessary , the posters have been filmed in sections so that the detail of the original is not lost and the reduction ratio employed does not exceed the maximum ratio permitted. In the microfilm version, this means that the top half of the poster is followed by the bottom half in the next frame. Posters are filmed in quarters on only five occasions, in which case the top left segment is followed by the top right , bottom left and bottom right segments. All sections have been filmed with an overlap to ensure that no details are missed and in many instances a middle section has also been filmed so that the ideas expressed on the poster are not crudely divided but are captured within the frame. In the fiche version, the grids have been planned so that the posters regain their original appearance. That is, instead of the images reading from left to right across the microfiche, the images should be read from top to bottom. Where posters have been filmed in quarters, the to left and bottom left images appear at the top of one column of the fiche and the top right and the bottom right images appear at the top of the next column so that they adjoin. White blanks have been inserted in the columns beneath so that this arrangement is made clear. No two or three section poster has been split between columns.

It is hoped that this arrangement will help scholars to use the material to the greatest advantage, whilst also enabling the posters to gain the maximum preservation benefit.

The most responsible care has been exercised in the filming of this unique collection and every effort has been made to meet the standards established by the Association for Information and Image Management (AIIM) and the American National Standards Institute (ANSI).

Acknowledgements


Thanks are due to Dorothy Johnston and her colleagues in the Department of Manuscripts and Special Collections at the University of Nottingham for preparing the detailed listing of the posters included in the collection and to Derek Spring of the History Department of the University of Nottingham for his valuable historical introduction to the collection and for his advice. Subsequent dating of the posters in the collection revealed that all are from the 1943-1945 period, but it was felt that alterations to the title of the project at a late stage was undesirable.

Finally thanks are due to the expert microfilmers of Micromedia, based in Keele, Staffordshire and to Bert Laarman and his colleagues at Microformat Systems, based in Lisse in the Netherlands.

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