Through propaganda and educative posters, Soviet iconography permeated into Russian society with relative ease. Lenin is the one who takes the responsibility of creating the first truly propaganda machine, the fate of Communism depended on keeping people close to the party and with a high enough morale to face all the shortcomings that came with building socialism. Artists from all-over the land participated in this field, giving many excellent examples of posters that transcended the boundaries of political tools and became works of art in their own right. The basic philosophy was to make various subjects appealing to the mases, they didn’t necessarily have to be simple, but universal. They needed to make war seem heroic and working the fields as relaxing as a stroll in the park, with young and blond Russian women happily waiting for their working men while they take care of the kids or, even better, working beside them.
Six main eras have been identified in the development in the field of propaganda posters:
1. the Bolshevik Era (1917-1921) – key features are the revolutionary fervor with a strong emphasis on symbolism, more than 3500 poster designs were created.
2. the New Economic Policy (1921-1927) – key features are the Avant-garde Constructivism Style and a feeling of slightly more freedom even if faced with famine and discontent.
3. the first two “five year plans” – key features: Stalin wanted to industrialize Russia as fast as possible with an emphasis on heavy industry; in the first part of the period, photo-montage was used.
4. the Great Patriotic War, or World War 2 (1939-1945) – key features of the period are the revival of the Bolshevik style.
5. the Cold War (1946-1984) – key features are the use of Social Realism and posters promoting peace.
6. Perestroika (1984-1991)
Posters began to cover all areas of social and private life, from culture to work, from politics to war, they were the “bibles” of common soviet people, or at least this was the idea. Some of the more well known artists and designers are Alexander Apsit, who created the famous hammer and sickle symbol and the red star, Irakili Toridze knwon for his “Motherland is calling”, Victor Karetsky, Victor Ivanov, N. Treschenko, Victor Govorkov, M. Heifitz, etc.
Two possible directions from which we will continue in future articles are the similarities with political posters from National Socialist Germany and the other being advertising posters mainly from the United States and consumerist society.
For now however let’s look at some examples.