Tuesday, December 18, 2007

The Lies Machine

Lies Machine Gun (TASS Window #625)
Kukryniksy, Lebedev-Kumach, 1942

In a man to man fight, the winner is he who has one more round in his magazine.
Erwin Rommel

No matter the actions,
Killer Hitler can’t hide his failures,
At Rzhev and Stalingrad.
To deceive people
He invented the “Lies Machine Gun”.
Which volleys lies nonstop.
The Machine talks nonsense at full speed,
But still cannot suppress the truth
As it is the truth that bellows at river Don,
And it can be heard on Volga too.
In Africa the truth is rumbling.
The “Lies Machine Gun” fires in vain.


This is a perfect example of the WW2 propaganda poster created by Kukryniksy. The poster shows Hitler, who fires a “Lies Machine”, resembling a machine gun. The device is actually a cartoon of Joseph Goebbels – the Nazi minister of Propaganda. The poster’s verses oppose the newspapers fired by this Lies Machine Gun against the cannonade of artillery at the last battles won by the Soviets. Battles of Rzhev (January 8, 1942—March 22, 1943) were a series of offensives aimed at eliminating the threat to Moscow. They were also named "Rzhev meat grinder" for the huge losses. The Stalingrad Battle (August 19, 1942 - February 2, 1943) was the turning point of World War II in the European Theater. Stalingrad was situated on the river Volga, and the river Don was one of fighting points during its siege. Africa is mentioned as despite the commander’s talent of Erwin Rommel Germans suffered significant losses at Gazala and Tobruk there.

Still although in 1942 the situation at battlefronts improved, the war was yet to win, both in Africa and Europe.

Buy the WW2 posters at allposters!


Thursday, December 13, 2007

You play to win the game

USSR is a mighty sports power!
B. Reshetnikov, 1962

Serious sport has nothing to do with fair play. It is bound up with hatred, jealousy, boastfulness, disregard for all rules and sadistic pleasure in witnessing violence: in other words it is war minus the shooting.

George Orwell, Collected Essays


After the WW2 the attitude to sport in USSR changed greatly. Before the War training was about building a better citizen and soldier. Now it became professional. The Cold War was at full swing and Stalin considered sport achievements as a perfect way to show the advantages and power of the communist state. The pressure was hard – to take part in the international competitions abroad the Sports Committee Head Romanov had to submit an application with the names of the athletes and personally guarantee their perfect results.

In 1952 the USSR first took part in the Olympic Games, held in Finland, Helsinki. The debut was lost – Soviet Union took home 71 medals (22 Gold) less then the USA’s 76 medals (40 Gold). Next year Stalin died, but the hatched of sports war was dug up already. Next Games (Melbourne, Australia, 1956) were won by USSR - 98 (USSR) to 74 (USA) overall medal score; 37 to 32 Gold medal score. The 1960 Games in Rome, Italy strengthened Soviet victorious reputation as the overall medal count was 103 to 71 and 43 to 34 in Gold count. The superiority was significant, - for instance, soviet gymnasts won 15 of 16 possible medals in women's gymnastics. The Games in 1964 were lost; the competition between the USSR and the USA continued, but the early sixties were always considered to be the golden era of Soviet sport.

The poster above shows a giant man, whose face was painted in a way to resemble the Olympic Torch. His hair is waving like fire. On his chest there are large letters saying “USSR”. The background is composed of the golden medals won in several sports disciplines: skis, weight-lifting, running and rowing. The slogan and the very dominating curve of the image add to the slogan at the bottom: “A Mighty Sports Power!”


Buy these sports posters at allposters!

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Stuff that matters

Staff makes absolutely all the difference. Stalin
G. Klutsis, 1935


This is a quote from the speech delivered by Joseph Stalin for the military academies graduates in the Grand Kremlin Palace on the 4th of May 1935. During this event he also uttered another famous phrase: “This is the people, who are the most valuable asset”.

Like may other well known quotes this one has several meanings. First of all the thirties were a time of the Great Purge, when Stalin was getting rid of all his political rivals and of those, who might be untrustworthy. Due to these ruthless measures a great many of Soviet people were arrested, convicted and eliminated. Yes, the staff did matter: people should have been absolutely loyal to Stalin.

Another thing was obvious enough: the country was right in the middle of the Second Five Year Plan and the rapid industrial development required as many specialists as possible. The country was craving for skilled labor force.

Finally, this poster was a part of the Stalin’s Personality Cult which started in 1929, after the Stalin’s fiftieth birthday. Actually it was Stalin who was the most valuable asset of the Soviet Union and the one, who was absolutely impeccable.

Buy Stalin posters at allposters.com:

Monday, December 10, 2007

Silence is gold

Keep your mouth shut!
N. Vatolina, N. Denisov, 1941

The energetic verse says the following:

Keep your eyes open.
These days
Even the walls have ears.
Chatter and gossip

Go hand in hand with
Treason.

This is one of the most famous posters of the WW2. It was created by Nina Vatolina, a Soviet poster artist. After the break of War Vatolina along with other artists started making artworks, which covered the most acute topics both of battle front and home front. This one was aimed at increasing vigilance. It shows a working woman in kerchief, who holds her finger to lips, which is a gesture for silence. The face pictured had a real prototype, who turned out to be Vatolina’s neighbor. Her sons were at battle-front, so her stare did have a certain attitude.

The verse was written by Samuil Marshak – a Soviet poet, who is most known as the author of numerous fairy tales and poems for children. During the War he was busy writing satire and pamphlets as well as collaborating with various poster artists, including Kukriniksy (see their posters). Also, during his life Marshak did brilliant translations of Robert Burns, William Shakespeare, William Wordsworth, John Keats, Alan Milne and Rudyard Kipling.

Nowadays this poster has a new life as it turns out to be quite popular in Russia and abroad. In the era of strict corporate policies and constant privacy infringement “Keep your mouth shut” slogan does make sense, you know.

Buy this very poster at allposters here!

Thursday, December 6, 2007

The perfect citizen

Smoke cigarettes
I. Rosanov, S. Sakharov, 1950

Just smoke cigarettes. No brand advertized whatsoever. This was because in the Soviet times all the factories were controlled by the ministries, which were specifying the amount of goods to produce. So to meet the goals (fulfill the plan, sent down by the Party) the ministries were issuing orders to the factories and works to make quantities of, say, cigarettes for a certain amount of money. The factories were producing them, utilizing the suppliers (which were in tern coordinated by the same ministries) and paying with the money from ministries. The stores were to sell these goods at fixed prices. A planned economy that is. The only thing not set in the equation was the client. This year he needs more shoes, next time the interest is driven to hats. The planned economy is too sluggish to follow the trends, and moreover it cannot follow the demand, resulting in constant shortages.

This very poster advertises cigarettes as a product. The reason for this is that the majority of the Soviet citizens were smoking homegrown low-quality tobacco (makhorka). The ministry of Food Industry (GlavTabak) – mentioned in the right top corner of this poster, had set increase of cigarettes’ production as their goal in the Five Year Plan, so to increase the demand for the expensive smoking products (and cigarettes were high-priced compared to makhorka) this poster was published.

The man on the poster is a Russian version of a Marlboro Man. He symbolizes the best personal qualities needed after the war. This is a Soviet engineer or a scientist: young, educated and handsome as well – this is an advertizing poster after all. The country was deep in the Cold War and the only way to win it was to advance technically and industrially. For the next ten years this is the scientist who is the positive protagonist of the Soviet culture.


Get the tabacco posters at allposters:

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Marching into eternity

To Defend USSR
V. Kulagina, 1930

This striking poster was created by Valentina Kulagina, who was one of the most expressive woman poster artists of the first half of the 20th century. She was married to Gustav Klutsis (see his posters) - another representative of Vkhutemas-artist generation.

This very poster has a strong influence of suprematism, an art movement originated by Kazimir Malevich. The giant red figures of soviet soldiers in budenovkas (military cap) are marching with their shouldered rifles. The slogan is simple and motivating: “To Defend USSR”. The poster space is multidimensional, with three color areas contrasting. The distorted cubist perspective of the factories in the left bottom corner adds another dimension. The idea behind is that both factories and the Red Army add to the defense potential of the country. The workers are transforming into determined soldiers as they are marching away from their workplaces. And the white airplane silhouettes fly through as if there are no barriers for them whatsoever.

What a mind-blowing work of art it is.

Buy this very poster here:

CCCP Russian Propaganda Poster




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Monday, December 3, 2007

Homo Homini...

A man is a friend, comrade and brother to a man!
B. Soloviev, 1962

This cheerful poster goes back to 1961. During the XXII Convention of Communist Party of the Soviet Union the Moral Codex of Communist Builder was adopted. This was a significant event, as the previous XXI Convention declared that socialism had been finally built in the Soviet Union. Now the new program was approved, with the new main goal of building communism. The deadline was set at 1980, and there were numerous tasks to complete, including the material and technical bases required for becoming the world number one in production of goods and the quality of life of the citizens. The other features of communist society yet to be implemented were the communist self-government and the advanced personality of soviet communists. The qualities needed for the latter were specified in the 12 points of the “Moral Codex of Communist Builder”.

Some of the points say: “Adherence to communism, devotion to the socialists Motherland and the socialist countries” (1), “Constructive and productive work for the society: the one who does not work – does not eat (2), “Mutual respect in family life, care of children” (7), “Irreconcilability to unfairness, laziness, lies, careerism, money-grubbing”(10), “Intolerance to the enemies of communism, peace and people’s freedom” (11).

This poster illustrates the point six of the Codex, which says: “Humane relations and mutual respect among people: a man is a friend, comrade and brother to a man!”

In Russian “A man is a friend…” sounds really ironical, as it resembles the famous Latin proverb “Homo Homini Lupus Est”, written by Plautus, meaning “A man is a wolf to a man”. English philosopher Thomas Hobbes popularized it in his Leviathan, mentioning that before creation of government everybody was at war with everybody, hence “Homo Homini Lupus Est”.

Check beautiful Soviet Posters at Allposters:

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind

Glory to the explorers of space!
A. Leonov, A. Sokolov, 1971

This is a remarkable poster, a result of collaboration between an artist Andrey Sokolov and a Soviet cosmonaut Alexey Leonov, who did the painting for this poster.

In 1965 he and Pavel Belyaev were launched on board of Voskhod-2 spaceship. During the flight Leonov became the first person to walk in space. The whole event took 12 minutes of being in open space, and was followed by an accident as due to spacesuit inflation Leonov couldn’t get into the airlock. He managed to keep cool and opened a valve, which drained some of the pressure, allowing him to get inside. Another accident happened at the landing – an automatic space orientation system failed, so they had to get back on manual controls. The landing was safe enough, although the touchdown happened in a far and uninhabited place in taiga - 180 km north of Perm. Due to severe weather conditions the cosmonauts had to spend two days there before being rescued. After this flight Leonov and Belyaev received the highest Soviet award – Hero of the Soviet Union for their personal courage.

Later in 1975 Leonov became the commander of the first joint flight of the US and Soviet Space Programs – the Apollo-Soyuz test project.

The space ship on the painting looks like a Soyuz 7K-OK spaceship. It is flying towards the space station, orbiting the Earth. The painting depicts the romantic intention popular among the soviet people – that all the promising results and space records combined with the very advanced socialist system would very soon pave wave to space for everybody. Why wouldn’t there be apple trees on Mars by 2015?

The Anniversary post!

This is the hundredth soviet poster covered in the blog so far. A kind of a small anniversary, it is. Four and a half month ago on July 12 I published the first poster “We strike the false shockworkers”. Since then many things happened: A Soviet Poster a Day was featured in “Beyond the Beyond” blog by Bruce Sterling on Wired, “The Daily Dish” by Andrew Sullivan, BoingBoing, “Blogs of Note” here on Blogger. I gave interviews to Yahoo.picks and Le Monde – one of the biggest newspapers in France. The blog turned out to be the second most popular English-speaking blog in Top-100 blogs about Russia with a Technorati rating of 534 (so far). Hurray!

I would like to say thanks for coming to everybody, I really appreciate your interest in Soviet art, your valuable comments and support. Thanks again! And there are hundreds of beautiful Soviet posters yet to cover. So it’s going to be fun! ;)


Check the astonishingly beautiful space images at allposters!

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Work is the curse of the drinking classes

Let’s thrash it!
V. Deni, 1930

This is a beautiful anti-alcohol poster created by Victor Deni – who was one of the brightest soviet poster artists of the first half of the century.

The poster shows a Red Worker standing in front of steaming factory pipes. He is about to smash a big bottle of alcohol. The giant hammer has words “The Cultural Revolution” written on. Unlike the Chinese Cultural Revolution of the sixties, which was a political struggle, the Soviet Cultural Revolution implied elimination of illiteracy, foundation of educational system, changing of private and social life of the citizens, development of science, literature and art under the supervision of the Party. Of course alcohol was considered to be the enemy of these reforms.

Below there are verses by Demian Bedny, who was one of the most noted poets of the Soviet times:

You, there, don’t trifle with booze
D’rather thrash it
Culturally,
Roughly,

Powerfully, wrathfully,
Smash daily,
At your every step,
Give no rest to the enemy.

An impressive artwork, indeed.

Check Alcohol Posters at Allposters:

Monday, November 26, 2007

Leningrad is calling up

Leningrad is calling up
Unknown artist, 1930

The telegraph tape stuck to the poster says (note the absence of punctuation marks):

ATTENTION EVERYBODY
THE WORKERS OF LENINGRAD FACTORIES
FULFILL THE FIVE YEAR PLAN ON
MAIN PRODUCTS
IN THREE YEARS
PROLETARIAT OF THE UNION
FOLLOW THE CITY OF LENIN

The background of the poster is occupied by the silhouette of Lenin with his famous gesture, showing the way to the bright future. He stands behind a massive red factory building; its workers standing in front of it, with their hands rose as if they are openly voting for the message on the tape.

Saint Petersburg was capital of the Russian Empire for more than two hundred years (1712-1728, 1732-1918). In 1914 it was named Petrograd, as Saint Petersburg sounded too German. In 1917 it became the heart of Bolshevik’s uprising during which the city workers assaulted the Winter Palace (the Tsars’ residence). The city's proximity to anti-Soviet armies forced Vladimir Lenin to move his government to Moscow on March 5, 1918. Three days after Lenin’s death Petrograd was renamed Leningrad and remained until 1991, when the original name was restored to kill its connotation with the Soviet times.

Check masterpieces from Hermitage (Saint Petersburg), the biggest museum of Russia:

Friday, November 23, 2007

There and back

To The West!
Ivanov V.S., 1943

Our strength consists in our speed and in our brutality. Genghis Khan led millions of women and children to slaughter—with premeditation and a happy heart. History sees in him solely the founder of a state. It’s a matter of indifference to me what a weak western European civilization will say about me. I have issued the command—and I’ll have anybody who utters but one word of criticism executed by a firing squad—that our war aim does not consist in reaching certain lines, but in the physical destruction of the enemy. Accordingly, I have placed my death-head formation in readiness—for the present only in the East—with orders to them to send to death mercilessly and without compassion, men, women, and children of Polish derivation and language. Only thus shall we gain the living space (Lebensraum) which we need. Who, after all, speaks to-day of the annihilation of the Armenians?

The “Armenian quote” from a speech by Adolf Hitler to Wehrmacht commanders at his Obersalzberg home on August 22, 1939, a week before the German invasion of Poland.

Drang Nach Osten (German “Drive towards the East”) is a conception of German expansion on the eastern lands. The idea goes back to the campaigns of Charles the Great. The term was widely used in 19th century by the German intellectuals. But only in the 20th century it matured in the works of Karl Ernst Haushofer – a German geopolitician, who laid grounds for the expansionist policies of Nazi Germany. Drang Nach Osten was an essential part of Lebensraum (or living space), needed for the growth of the German population, so that to create a Greater Germany. This living space should have been found in the East where the traditional inhabitants of Russia, Poland, Ukraine and other Slavic states had to be exterminated.

The poster shows a sign with Drang Nach Osten slogan, nailed to the tree by the Germans during their offensive. After fighting the Soviet territory back a Russian soldier knocks it down by the rifle butt. In the background Soviet fighters attack and artillery men fire field-guns. The Battle of Kursk (July 4 – July 20, 1943) heroically won by the Red Army led to massive counteroffensive. So the slogan on the poster forms exact antithesis to the Drang Nach Osten saying: “To The West!”

Check WW2 posters at allposters!

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Dramatic Transformation

Transformation of fritzes (The TASS Window №640)
Kukriniksy, 1942

The poster verse says:

These are not the animals with wild howl
Crossing stormy river flow.
This is Hitler kicking
Troops eastward.

Here where all the windows are loop-holes,
And the bushes hide death,
Here after tasting the foreign ground,
The fooled fritzes
Transform into grave crosses.

And this death of German bastards
Have no magic whatsoever.

This is military triumph of
The Red Army

This poster is a great example of Okna “TASS” art. These series of posters drawn always on acute topics, were created during the WW2 by Kukriniksy – a group of three brilliant cartoonists.

The poster shows German lines marching under direct command of Hitler and transforming into swastikas and then into white birch grave crosses. This poster is a very significant artwork of the War as this is the first time German soldiers (pejoratively nicknamed “Fritzes”) are portrayed as being fooled by its rulers – namely Hitler. The first row of soldiers is archly pictured with red noses and in cowardly poses, but certainly not evil. The second row has undergone partial transformation in swastikas. The final transformation is death in a form of grave crosses. Such separation of the ordinary executors and organizers became possible when in the beginning of 1942 Soviet Army performed successful counteroffensive - the Battle of Moscow. This operation eliminated the direct threat to the Russian capital, made the blitzkrieg impossible and strengthened Soviet confidence in final Victory.

Check the tank images at allposters:

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

A bigger pack

Smoke cigarettes “The Pack”
M. Bulanov, 1927

A tobacco advertizing poster from the NEP era. The slogan says:

Smoke cigarettes “The Pack”
[Available] Nowhere but in Mosselprom

The poster advertizes cigarettes named as simple as “The Pack”. The poster shows “The Pack” stationed on a gun carriage, forming a cannon with multiple barrels – the cigarettes themselves. This goes back to the popular vanity show of the times – a human cannon ball. The cannon has just fired a shot, and there is a smiling man riding a flying “papirosa” (a cigarette without a filter). He is dressed in a typical store clerk clothes – “kosovorotka” or Russian shirt, “kartuz” or peaked cap and jack boots. The store clerks responsible for the wholesale purchase were the target audience, as there was a Mosselprom building pictured in the background there. The poster was bright and energetic enough to attract attention to the cigarettes with such an ordinary name – “The Pack”.

Check the vintage cigarettes here:

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Man's power

Man’s power – to help the woman!
A . Rudkovich, 1970

Carrying on with the woman’s subject. Here is a nice social poster of the seventies devoted to elimination of spongers and parasites not only in the economy, but in private life of Soviet people as well. The forefront of the poster is occupied by a shadow image of a tiny woman bent under the housekeeping workload: the perambulator and a big bag with some food and goods in it. Actually, the times of deficit were never far away, and in the seventies Soviet people had to spend lots of time standing in queues after work. So working full time, nursing a baby and getting food for the family all in one day was a hard occupation indeed.

On the contrast the background shows a healthy and strong hand of a man, who is holding nothing but a standard domino bone, which is apparently very light. In the Soviet times dominoes were extremely popular – it was a game of ordinary working folk. The chess were too complicated, cards were usually gambling, and therefore played on bets giving it a criminal flavor, backgammon was played mainly by the Easterners – so dominoes ruled the yards near the newly built Khruschev’s blocks-of-flats, later named Khruscheby (“Khruschev” and “truschebi” (slums) merged together), factories at lunch times, and all other places, where Soviet men could cease working without aftermath. Homes were such places as well, so a great majority of women were heavily overworked compared to men. Obvious inequality, it is. And the socialism was declaring that both men and women were equal. Hence this poster.

Check these beautiful woman photos:

Monday, November 19, 2007

We bring fear to the bourgeoisie!

Worker and peasant women – all should go to the polls!
N. Valerianov, 1925

The poster says:

Worker and peasant women – all should go to the polls!
Gather under the Red Banner along with men,
We bring fear to the bourgeoisie!

Women in traditional peasant sarafans and workers blouses march in passionate pace crushing and throwing back the landlord or factory owner. This poster from the twenties shows the typical image of a fat capitalist in waistcoat, top hat and chain-watch. Later it will be reproduced many times in children books, on posters and in other various types of propaganda.

The election system of the Soviet times looked democratic, but of course was far from it. People were electing Working People’s Deputies on all levels – including the Supreme Soviet of the USSR on the basis of universal, direct and equal suffrage by secret ballot. But the elections were formal and non-competitive, all the candidates were previously approved by their superiors in the Party. However, the very election procedure was considered to be the perfect opportunity for propaganda and in this very case education as before the Revolution women hadn’t have the right to vote, and the majority of them were illiterate.

Check the vintage woman posters at allposters!

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Everything for the Victory


Everything for the Victory
Women of USSR for the Front
A. Kokorekin, 1942

It were not only the Soviet Soldiers who were the heroes of the Great Patriotic War. 15 mln of Soviet women were accomplishing a great labor feat on the home front. The evacuation which implied moving of 500 of factories and works from Moscow alone required a tremendous amount of labor force. As all the males were joining the Red Army women and children were operating machines on the factories. More than 374 thousand of housewives returned to the industry. By October 1941 45% of all workers in the Soviet Union were women.

The poster shows a determined woman in workers’ coveralls with a slide gauge in her pocket. Her hand leans on a general purpose aircraft bomb FAB-250 (250 is its mass in kg). The background has rows of smaller bombs FAB-100 ready for dispatch to the front. The aircraft bomb has a red star painted on – this goes back to the war tradition, when the workers painted encouraging notes for the soldiers on the arms they send to the battlefield. In this case this is just a Red Star.

Check the bomb images at allposters:

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

It’s the Hero’s heart who fights the fight

Glory to heroes of Brest Fortress
O. Savostjuk, B. Uspenskiy, 1969

This is a poster created to commemorate the great defense of Brest, performed by Soviet soldiers in 1941. The poster shows a soldier holding a RPG-40 antitank grenade ready to make a throw. The contrast red and black image along with the slogans form the Red Star. The slogans go clockwise starting from 9 o’clock: “I swear”, “Viva Motherland”, “No step backward”, “Never retreat from the fortress” and finally “Death to fascism”.

Brest Fortress was actually attacked two times – in 1939, being a Polish fortress, it was assaulted by German general Guderian, who according to the secret protocols of Molotov-Ribbentrop pact signed by Nazi Germany and Soviet Union was partitioning Poland. Later that year, Brest Fortress was given to Soviet Union according to that pact.

On June 22, 1941 the fortress and the city of Brest was attacked by Nazi Germany at the beginning of the surprise war – this was its second and the most famous siege. According to Operation Barbarossa (blitzkrieg or flash war) Brest Fortress was to be taken by 12 o’clock the first day the war broke out. But German generals, who had been planning the operation, certainly underestimated the devotion of Russian soldiers, who managed to defend the fortress for almost a whole month – surrounded and not knowing that the front line had been moved hundreds of kilometers deep into the Soviet territory. Finally, the defendants perished, and became one of the icons of Soviet WW2 Heroic Propaganda. Upon getting into the demolished fortress Nazis found writing on the part of the wall which said: “I die but never surrender. Farwell, Motherland. 20th of July, 1941”.

Check the beautiful fortress images at allposters!

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

I'm so crazy I don't know this isn't possible

Let's conquer the virgin blue!
V. Gorlenko, 1964

Sometimes the ideas for Soviet Posters seem to be quite hilarious. Take this one from the sixties. It shows a great number of ducklings, who carry slogans which say: “Let’s conquer the virgin blue!” They are proceeding from a giant egg, moving in a horde like soviet workers at an October demonstration. Their main goal according to the slogans is to live and increase its weight on the water.

In reality lots of soviet young people were cultivating the virgin soils which were considered to be the main source of extensive development of agriculture. At that time lots of “advanced” means were tested like planting of maize corn everywhere including areas near the polar circle, general breeding of rabbits or in this very case the duck farms building, which was considered to be a perfect way of getting plenty of cheap meat for the people.

Needless to say that all the efforts were in vain: the corn didn’t seem to grow according to forecasts, and moreover Soviet people were not eager to choose it instead of wheat bread. The rabbits and ducks although breeding well and fast were prone to epidemics and required lots of food to grow. These were some of the failures in agricultural development which lead to Khrushchev’s forced retirement in 1964.

Check the duck posters at allposters:

Monday, November 12, 2007

Long Live the World October

Long Live the World October
G. Klutsis, 1933

The International Communist Revolution was an idea by Karl Marx mentioned in his Communist Manifesto. He thought that the class struggle would wipe the borders and all workers and peasants would finally live happily in a classless communist society.

The idea of Revolutionary War, which would lead to International Communist Revolution, was based on the assumption that the communists of Russia would be helping their mates abroad to start the fight with world imperialism. At first the plan was as follows: Soviets were suggesting the democratic peace treaty which would end the WW1 to all the parties, and in case it had been turned down the war would have to become Revolutionary War, leading to establishing of communist regimes in Europe.

However, when the peace treaty proposal was rejected by every country except Germany (it agreed to start negotiations), Lenin was to start the War. But he didn't as the army was in poor shape and the economy was collapsing. Certainly Bolsheviks would have lost recently acquired power, as both the workers and peasants would have turned against them in case of another armed conflict, when so many internal problems had yet to be settled.

So despite the opposing Bolsheviks headed by Buharin, the idea of World Communist Revolution had to be postponed.

This poster goes back to 1930, when the chance to spark the Revolution was certainly slipped. However Soviet Union was supporting local communist parties abroad, which were united under Comintern.

The brilliant poster by Gustav Klutsis (who was one of the victims of the Great Purge of the later thirties) shows the Earth with several workers standing with Red Flags in their hands. The Earth image and the workers’ figures are photomontage. Also, the Earth is part map, part another photograph showing the heads of workers at a march. The standing figures represent various countries – holding flags with the slogan “Long Live the World October” written in different languages including hieroglyphs, meaning that the October Revolution would happen no only in Russia, but in all other counties of the world.

Get the astonishingly beautiful Earth space images below:

Saturday, November 10, 2007

From Russia with Love

Intourist. Transsiberian express
M. Litvak, 1930

Here is a great example of the advertising posters of the thirties. This one is aimed at foreign audience as it is promoting the Transsiberian Express journey.

The poster shows a curved surface of the Earth with symbols of Moscow and Beijing shown: to the left there are Kremlin towers and a dome of Saint Basil's Cathedral. Moscow is the starting point of the Transsiberian Railway. Its four routes nowadays lead to Vladivostok – the largest of the Eastern Russian Cities (6430 km from Moscow), to North Korea, Mongolia and China arriving at Beijing. On the poster this is signified by the Chinese pagoda and Shinto shrine gate – torii, meaning that this is also an easy way to get to Japan.

The poster is very dynamic – the train is moving fast through the red star gate, gate to the communist Russia. The header sais: “Transsiberian Express! The shortest way from Europe to the Far East”. The footer goes: “Intourist. Moscow. Hotel Metropol. The tickets in all major travelling agencies of the West”. Intourist was the official state travel agency of Soviet Union, founded in 1929, after the Soviet Union had been recognized by the majority of the Western States.

The cars have signs, which prove the high class of the long journey – the train has sleeping cars and dining cars as well. Below the train there are the names of the cities like Berlin, Moscow and finally Beijing. The Earth also has the price tag displayed. The first class 12 day journey costs 250 USD – which was quite a reasonable price bearing in mind the Great Depression of 1929.

But why German is the language of the poster? The thing was that according to the Treaty of Versailles Germany’s rights had been significantly derogated, especially in terms of weapons development and manufacturing. So Germany was looking for partners who could help it restore its military potential after the loss of WW1. In contravention to the Treaty Junkers (a German aircraft builder) was assembling its plains near Moscow and Krupp was building artillery works in the Central Asia. By 1929 Soviet Union had agreements with 27 German companies.

And in return the young Soviet Union, who was in bad need for modern technologies on its way to becoming an industrial power, received perfect training for its specialists. German professionals could have ample wages if travelled to Russia and shared their experience.

Purchase the trains art prints at allposters!

Thursday, November 8, 2007

The way machine sees us

The Eleventh
V. Stenberg, A. Stenberg, 1928

Laughing Man: You could put it like that, I suppose. "I am the machine that reveals the world to you as only I alone am able to see it"

Motoko: Dziga Vertov. He was a Russian film maker, wasn't he?

Ghost In The Shell: Stand Alone Complex - Japanese cyberpunk anime television show


This a movie poster, which announces the famous documentary by Dziga Vertov. His actual name was Denis Kaufman, and he was one of the founders and main theorists of news-reel and documentary shooting.

This documentary was released in 1928, and was called “The Eleventh”, meaning the eleventh year after the October Revolution. Its main idea was to show the progress the young soviet state had achieved. The man on the poster is a grotesque image of Dziga Vertov himself. His eyeglasses reflect the agricultural and industrial machinery. This is an illustration of one of his main theories – that a true documentary is not about mere snap-shooting of life, but instead it is about life, run through the eyes of the observer, whoever he is - or whatever it is. Unlike other documentaries of that time this principle implied the distinctive presence of the protagonist in the movie, although he might not be shown directly or it might not be human at all.

This was a silent black and white documentary. But the cut was done in a way that illustrated the sounds of the machinery and other things shown. This was a staggering technique for the twenties and it did earn Dziga Vertov a wide international acclaim.

This constructivist poster done by Stenberg brothers is a masterpiece itself. The bold type on the left side says the name of the film: “The Eleventh”. Every eyeglass has also this name inscribed in. To the right there are the credits: “Author-Director Dziga Vertov Chief Cameraman Kaufman”. The Chief Cameraman Kaufman was Dziga Vertov’s brother – Mikhail, who was also a noted film maker. There was also another brilliant cinematographer in this family: the third brother Boris, together with parents, moved to Poland after the Revolution. In 1954 he won Oscar and Golden Globe for the first American feature film On the Waterfront, but he never had a chance to meet his brothers after 1917.

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Wednesday, November 7, 2007

You say you wanna revolution

90th Anniversary of the October Revolution
Bukheevy, 2007

Don't you know it's gonna be all right
all right, all right
Revolution by John Lennon, The Beatles

Today is the 90th Anniversary of the October Revolution. This was a milestone event in the history of Russia, and of course there were hundreds of posters created to commemorate and outline its features and consequences. Later I’ll be featuring them here.

But today I would like to show a poster which is definitely not a Soviet artwork. The style is different, and the release date also speaks for itself – this is a modern poster of the year 2007.

This poster is almost unartful, it has got very simple typographics, but, boy, has it got the idea!

The background is a modern Flag of Russia. It consists of three color fields – the white, the blue and the red. According to Wikipedia there are several meanings of these colors. The Flag may reflect the Russian social system under the monarchy: white represents God, blue the Tsar and red the peasants. Another very common interpretation is the association of colors with the main parts of the Russian Empire: white thus represents Belarus ("White Russia"), blue Ukraine (or Malorossia, "Little Russia"), and red "Great Russia". Note that Belarus and Ukraine are independent countries now (Before the Revolution they were part of the Russian Empire and later part of the Soviet Union). Back to the Flag. A different interpretation associates white with the bright future (where the color itself is associated with brightness, while its placement at the top - with future); blue with clouded present, and red with bloody past. These versions are not commonly known to everybody nowadays, and it is only the association between the red color and the Soviet Red Flag, which is recognized by majority of Russians.

So the authors add Hammer and Sickle to the red field turning it into a small Red Flag of the Soviet Union, symbolizing that although modern Russia does not resemble the old times, it still has the the 74 soviet years embedded into its history. The foundation of the economy, the superpower heritage (although acquired through numerous losses and hardships), the great Victory – and most importantly the lives of fathers and mothers, grandfathers and grandmothers – all this goes back to the Soviet times. Which were originated from the October Revolution of 1917.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

From the craddle

“Soviet Posters in France” Art Exhibition
A. Yakushin, 1974


In Russian a poster is called “плакат”, or placard. The word itself originates from the verb “plaquer” – to stick, or to glue in French.

France played the main role in development of poster styles in the 19th century. Such outstanding artists as Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec were creating posters which had much more art than advertising, ideology or communication in them.

In the Soviet Union this high-quality approach to posters was brought to the new level. The posters were on the forefront of official art. And of course the Government was using them to promote communism values and Soviet style abroad.

The poster above is announcing the Exhibition of Soviet Posters, which took place in Paris, France in November 1974-January 1975. The venue was the biggest art gallery and museum in the world – The Louvre.

The poster which promotes poster exhibition should have been of the highest graphical quality. And it was indeed. The graphics are laconic, symbolical and brilliant: the Red Star forms the flat background, blending together with a three dimensional image of Hammer and Sickle. Hammer and Sickle is aimed upward as if being held by The Worker and Kolhoz Woman sculpture, thus adding emotion and movement to the artwork. Note the hatching and the shades of the Hammer and Sickle – they are in perfect line with the geometrical simplicity of the red pentagram.

Buy these vintage French posters at allposters here!

Friday, November 2, 2007

The people's Army

Workers' and Peasants' Red Army
15 anniversary Art Exhibition
A. Deyneka, 1933

From wild forest to the British seas - Red Army is the mightiest!"
One of the famous revolutionary marches of the Civil War

This is an art exhibition poster devoted to the Soviet Red Army. The exhibits included paintings, graphics, sculpture, textile works related to the events the Red Army took part into – the Civil War, World War 1, Soviet-Polish War.

The Council of People's Commissars set up the Red Army by a Decree on January 28, 1918. In the 1918 the Red Army was quite democratic. The Army was based on the Red Guards which consisted of workers. At that time anybody could enlist, so the army contingent soon got very diverse. The discipline was weak and the orders were carried out according to its “Revolutionary significance”. The very idea of army hierarchy and strict obedience was considered to be bourgeois, and therefore contradicted with Communism.

All this did not help to fight the enemies of the Soviet Union, so in short time the original tsar’s army system was restored. Many of the pre-revolution military specialists were drafted to make the Russian Army a professional and effective force.

After coping with the most acute problems like intervention of Entente and offensives of the Whites, the ranks were combed-out thoroughly, leaving only the representatives of Workers’ and Peasants’ classes in the Red Army. Being a military man signified one’s political loyalty and devotion to communist ideals. The Soviet Union was a state of Workers and Peasants, so the Red Army was the people’s army.

The poster above was created by Alexander Deyneka – a brilliant and impressive artist. He was famous of his patriotic and battle-paintings. Here is one of his masterpieces named “Defense of Sevastopol”.

On this Red Army poster he pictured two soldier’s heads in helmets. The style is simple, and the face expressions are plain. They are determined and open, truly men of the people.

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Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Monumental Power!

Moscow is the capital of the USSR
El Lissitzky, 1940

What an absolutely brilliant poster it is! It was created by El Lissitzky, who was one of the originators of Suprematism movement along with Kazimir Malevich. Lissitzky’s genius was versatile, as during his life time he managed to work and explore the boundaries of art in graphics design, photography, architecture, typographics using a wide range of techniques and methods. Here is his “Beat the Whites with Red Wedge” masterpiece.

This very poster has a quotation of Vyacheslav Molotov – one of the leading soviet politicians and diplomats of the Stalin era. He managed to live through repressions of the thirties, late forties and fifties and was dismissed from Politburo only in 1957, four years after Stalin’s death. He is most known for the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact signed between Soviet Union and Germany in 1939, which not only declared non-aggression between the two countries, but also contained the secret protocols, which stipulated division of several independent countries of Latvia, Lithuania, Poland and Romania between Soviet Union and Germany.

Despite the Pact, Soviet Union was quite aware of the Nazi Germany’s plans to invade the country – after crushing France and invading Denmark and Norway the attack on the Soviets was obvious.

So the quote says: “Look how peacefully the five point stars of Kremlin glow! Look how far its clear light shines!
…But in case of armed assault on the Soviet Union the offender will experience not only all the iron might of our self-defense but also the power of ruby stars, which glare well beyond the boundaries of our Motherland”.

The photomontage poster shows a Kremlin panorama with the accented Red Stars on its towers. The perspective has nothing to do with the real map of Moscow. Marching people are holding red stars and Stalin’s pictures. The foreground is occupied by a giant statue of a man holding a red star in a heroic gesture.

This is a statue from the Soviet Union’s exposition at the New York World's Fair of 1939-1940. Russian pavilion and the statue at the entrance was designed by Boris Iofan – a Soviet architect, who was most known for his project of Palace of Soviets – an enormous building, which was to be erected at the place of Cathedral of Christ the Savior, demolished by Bolsheviks.

All the symbols on the poster make sense – the Red stars, being the symbol of Communism, are embedded into the heart of Soviet Union, which is Moscow. They belong here, but the proud Soviets are carrying their light abroad – and the statue, which for two years had been displayed in New York at the Fair, signifies it. All celebrates the greatness of the Soviet Union.

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Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Nowhere but in Mosselprom!


Nowhere but in Mosselprom
A. Rodchenko, V. Mayakovsky, 1925

This is one of the most significant Soviet advertising posters ever. This is a result of a collaboration between Vladimir Maykovsky – who was the most noted poet of the twenties, and Alexander Rodchenko – one of the founders of Constructivism movement. Together they created many works for Mosselprom, including not only graphics and slogans, but also advertising concepts along with promotion techniques unique for the time.

Mosselprom was a huge trust, which united flour-grinding, confectionary, chocolate, beer and tobacco factories. It was situated in a big house (pictured on the poster), which was one of the highest buildings in Moscow. The eleven-storey building was constructed before the revolution, but a part of it collapsed in 1913 due to flaws in building technology. The Bolsheviks restored it completely and gave it to Mosselprom. The administration of the trust occupied the upper floors, and the warehouses took the basement and the lower floors. The entrance to the wholesale warehouses was at the back.

By 1925 Mayakovsky was writing slogans for a great deal of Mosselprom’s products and Mosselprom itself. “Nowhere but in Mosselprom” phrase was brilliant, as many products were scare, so every customer knew where to look for in the first place. Mayakovsky and Rodchenko didn’t stop with that. They created the design for the Mosselprom building. This was a great idea, because all the shop owners were coming to wholesale depot in the building and saw the impressive artwork there. This was not an ordinary building graphics – the slogans and the color patterns were functional and attractive at the same time utilizing the building structure to make the impression. The products were grouped to form catchphrases thus making them better for memorizing like: “Beer-water” (meaning soda water), “Yeast-cigarettes”, “With Yeast – growing by leaps and bounds”, “Cigarettes – light smoke”, “Milk and beer “Stomach friend” and some others. The bright building remained for the next 10 years. Mosselprom was dismissed in 1937 and the building became an ordinary block-of-flats. Amazingly, in 1997 the original graphics were completely restored. Here are a couple of pictures: the front, the back – one and two.

The conception of making an advertising campaign which was absolutely functional on the one hand, and implied as many means of advertising as available on the other, was mind-blowing. Every part of it was carefully thought of, which was a great difference from the common advertising practice of the time. The result is evident: a great many of the Mosselprom slogans are well known ever since although Mosselprom and its brands vanished long ago.

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