A Brief History of Soviet Propaganda (2)

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Soviet propagandas can be divided into three periods, which are 1918-1927, before Stalin governed the Soviet Union, 1928-1953 when Stalin governed the Soviet Union, and after 1953 after the death of Stalin. This work mainly focuses on the Stalin period, but brief touches on other two periods.

Soviet or Russian propaganda started during the revolution (1917-1918) and subsequent civil war (1918-1921). After the first year of the Revolution, communist propaganda was designed with short and powerful slogans to persuade people (Lafont, p. 8). During the civil war, the Bolsheviks party demanded that command that the goal o propaganda was to expose the enemy (i.e., white army), established the people’s confidence in victory, and to point out the path of the victory.

At the time, many artists (included cartoon artists) joined in the design of propaganda. The propaganda style prior to 1928 was abstract and complex. The first parcel of Soviet propagandas was designed in 1918 by Apsit Alexander Petrovich (Александр Петрович Апсит). His major work was focused on representing the proletariat, and a call for proletariat to fight against the bourgeoisie. He used metaphorical methods in his design. One of his famous works is The Internationale .

Early posters from communist Soviet Union in the formalist

In which the center monster represents czar surrounded by proletariats who are trying to destroy the monster. Another category of designs used geometrical characters. For example, one famous poster from the in pre 1928 era is Beat the Whites with the Red Wedge which was designed by El Lissitzky in 1920 .

Early posters from communist Soviet Union in the abstract styles

This used geometrical figures to represent the different parties in Russia. The Red army and the White army were the two largest, and the poster intended to show that the Red Army would be the victor (CRESTOCK, pres. 6). However, these abstract designs were later rejected.

 There was another a series of posters called Pocta (Окна) which were designed by Mayakovski. The goal for this a series of poster was to promote a military victory. These posters were also posted on streets.

“Have you registered as a Volunteer?” by D. Moor?-1917

This series was highly admired by Lenin.

“Crushed Poland attack!” (right), between 1920 – 1926

After the civil war, propaganda was more about national politics. Posters were on longer confined to the streets, but instead, most were published in magazines and newspapers. The majority of propaganda was about communist festivals (e.g., Labor Day, etc), Soviet elections people and political actives, the fight against religion, remembering Lenin, admiring Stalin and so on (Ехориа & иоффе  2-3). It was likely due to the lake of a war environment. The design started to become more aesthetic compared with the propaganda designed during the war period. This phenomenon was particular obvious in the period leading to the first Five Year Plan of Stalin. However, this design was considered to match the aesthetics of communism according to Stalin Ехориа & иоффе   4-6).

Lenin died in 1924, and after a series of political rivalries, Stalin became the leader of Soviet Union in December 1927. Stalin started to rule the country according to his own will. He also changed the style of propaganda to reform people’s ideology to match his own ideas. Therefore, Stalin started to criticize the pervasive propaganda design as not realistic, and too formalistic. Hence, the design of propaganda started to transfer from the abstract to the more realistic. The propaganda designed between 1927-1931 were a step in that transformation from abstract to realistic.

“Wkers of the East! Join MOPR” , 1927 (Lafont, p. 52)

However, according to Stalin perspective, the majority of this propaganda was still too formalistic, passive and lacking in communist insight. In particular, he criticized the those images that were most popular between 1929-1930 (Ехориа & иоффе 3-4).

“October” , 1927. (Lafont, p. 55)

Eventually, in March1931, a new propaganda institution was established. It required that all propaganda must be a same type of design. Propaganda must realistically represent the content of the first Five Year Plan – the lives of the Soviet people, international events, and so on. After the new requirement was instituted,, new propaganda was designed. For example, to make propagandas more realistic looking, some artists used real photos.

“At the end of the five-year plan the collectivization of the USSR should be fundamentally complete,”1932. (Lafont, p.62).

However, there were still some propagandas that matched the older styles (i.e., did not match Stalin’s requirement). For example, there were some that were quite abstract.

Example of an abstract poster from c. “There are no better dummies than old suckers…,” 1932 (Lafont, p.63)

Such propaganda was again criticized by Stalin. For example, photos were not allowed because photos would represent the reality, and not the reality according to Stalin. Stalin only wanted to present his ideals – his illusions about himself and the country — rather than the real situation of the country. Therefore, in January 1933, Stalin criticized both the abstract and photos propagandas (Ехориа & иоффе  7), and gave orders to produce only “realistic” propaganda.  After 1933, all Soviet propaganda was confined to just one style. All the propaganda was designed to serve the government of Stalin, to spread communist ideology, and most importantly, to maintain Stalin rule.

After Stalin death, the propaganda gradually changed the design, and reverted to that which was more abstract.

“The 1970 pan-Union census of population”, 1969 (Lafont, p. 221
“May, 1, Peace, Work, 1980s ” (Lafont, 244).

To be countined.


How CCP’s propaganda had developed from Soviet Union (1)-Gnews

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