Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Here comes the Red Army!

Glory! Glory! Glory to the Soviet Armed Forces!

Belskij L, Potapov V, 1977

This is a nice poster, created and printed to commemorate the 60 anniversary of Soviet Armed Forces, which were originated as the Red Army in 1917 by the special decree of Vladimir Lenin. The Red Army’s main task was to stop Russian participation in WW1 as this conflict was too much of a burden for the young Soviet republic. Another objective was to fight the opposing White forces which stood for restoration of monarchy. Also domestic affairs were far from quiet, so preservation of order in the country was essential.

All those things were not easy to do, and I should admit, that not all the missions were accomplished properly. Nevertheless, after WW1 the Red Army was getting new ammunition and proper training, its ranks being reinforced with universal conscription.

During the pre-war years Joseph Stalin was executing his brothers-in-arms of the revolution period on suspicion that those talented and popular figures could rival his power. Marshal Mikhail Tukhachevsky was one of those victims.

During the World War Two Russian Army showed its courage and self-sacrifice leaving more than 7 mln. of soldiers on battlefields. Nevertheless, the victory was won, albeit at a price too high.

During Cold War Red Army (also named Soviet Army by that time) was used to strengthen Soviet presence in the world, by taking part in Hungarian Revolution, Czechoslovakia invasion, Vietnam and Cambodia’s wars and finally the Afghanistan conflict.

Also after the WW2 new weaponry was entering service, including nuclear weapons, supersonic jetfighters and transcontinental missiles, calling for highly trained specialists. Before the collapse of Soviet Union military service was comfortable and prestige occupation in the Soviet Union.

Things changed, when old ideology died, leaving the empty space in minds and no change in pockets. And it took years to replace skilled specialists, who left the service for better living. This reconstruction process goes ever since.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Russian Cosmonautics - hippie-style!

12 April — the day of cosmonautics
Fekljaev V. N.

Note this nice poster, devoted to the Soviet Cosmonautics day – the April 12, which goes back to 1961 when Yuri Gagarin became the first human being in space. This event was a result of Russian technological leap, partly caused by the Cold War confrontation and the intention of Soviet people to become the most technologically advanced country in the world. Not only numerous resources were invested in the Soviet Cosmic project, but also the best minds well brought up with help of free higher education.

The poster approximately dates back to late seventies. This is a fine example of Soviet idea adaptation. Despite censorship, new trends managed to leak out and reach soviet artists minds: here we can see the influence of pop-art pioneer Andy Warhal and the palette derived from 60s-hippie style and early Beatles record covers.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Young and Beautiful Red Cross Lady!

Join the society of the Red Cross and the Red Crescent!
Koretskij V. B., 1947

The International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement is an international humanitarian movement whose stated mission is to protect human life, health, and alleviate human suffering across the world.

In Russia the history of IRC goes back to 1854, when Grand Duchess Elena Pavlovna of Russia established a nurse community in Saint Petersburg – the capital of Russian Empire.

Later the original IRC split into several independent organizations, which shared the name, common basic principles and objectives.

In Russia IRC was performing well by providing aid during armed conflicts, disasters and major accidents, including Russo-Turkish War (1877–1878), plague and diphtheria epidemics, famine of 1891, Russo-Japanese War (1904-1905) and WW1.

After the October Revolution of 1917 Bolsheviks abolished almost all foreign noncommercial social organizations, suspecting them of spying against young Soviet regime. However, IRC remained although its property had been nationalized by state.

Of course, under a communist dictatorship like USSR no organization could separate itself from the principal intentions and ideology of the society, so IRC in Russia was busy building first soviet medical airplane, organizing first-aid study groups for communists, fighting epidemics.

During the WWII more than 790 000 of medical personnel was trained, 1 700 000 liters of donor blood sent to battle-fronts. This was a substantial help to Soviet war-medical services.

The poster above is a fine example of Socialist realism art, which main purpose is to present communist ideas in realistic manner. In this very case it did attract attention to a very positive and health-giving movement - the International Red Cross Society.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Fly high, the red plane!

“He who’s strong in the air, is strong full stop“

Deni V. N., Dolgorukov N. A., 1938

This is a quote by Kliment Voroshilov, who was appointed Marshal of the Soviet Union in 1935. This was a period of industrialization with thousands of heavy industry sites being built across Soviet Union. By 1938 the high probability of world war was evident for Joseph Stalin, although he was not sure about the exact adversaries. Nevertheless defensive potential was increasing at a surprising pace: military R&D facilities were constantly developing new means of destruction, tanks, submarines and explosives. And soviet people were working 6-7 days a week, 10-12 hours a day to make those designs a reality.

Special attention was paid to the airforce too. During 1939-1940 Russian army received about 15 000 of various airplanes, albeit of not very modern design. Unfortunately during the first days of the War, unexpected German aero-strikes destroyed a great many of airplanes right on the airfields near the border of the country – before they could ever take off. This was one of the causes why Russians had to retreat during the first years of War.

Only in 1943 the Red Army got hold of new advanced airplanes, which could fight German Messerschmitts on equal terms. These were Yak-3, MiG-5, La-5 models, manufactured by several Soviet factories. The turning point of the war was reached in 1944, Russians along with allied French, English and American forces launched full scale counteroffensive and finally got into Berlin – the capital of the Third Reich. The war was won, it was high time to rebuild the Europe in ruins.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

A spectre is haunting Europe - the spectre of Communism

“A spectre is haunting Europe - the spectre of Communism”
Scherbakov V., 1920

“A spectre is haunting Europe - the spectre of Communism” - this is the first phrase from The Manifesto of the Communist Party – the document of almost extreme magnitude for the history of 20th century. It was written in 1848 by German theorists Friedrich Engels and Karl Marx. The book was suppressed in Russia but there were a number of illegal editions during the 1880s.

This document gave theoretical grounds to communist revolution of 1917. Lenin (pictured on the poster above) - the leader of bolshevics- based the ideology of his party mainly on this very work, declaring abolition of property on land and means of production.

During the revolution of the 1917 working class managed to overthrow the bourgeois social state, declaring the society without classes. The state belonged to the people in general and nobody in particular. This ideology ruled the country for the next 70 years.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Let's accomplish the plan of great deeds!
Klutsis G., 1930

Industrialization in Russia took off in 1929. It was based on a 5 year plan, which implied building of more than 1500 of industrial sites: factories, powerstations, mines, refineries. This was an ambitious plan, which was made even more impossible to carry out because of Joseph Stalin’s call out: “Five year plan in four years!” Nevertheless, the industrialization proved to be extremely successful with heavy industry output to increase 3 times in only 4 years. The zero-level unemployment level was reached in 1930. And although the first Five year plan was not implemented fully in time, during the second one Soviet Union surpassed all world countries except the USA in gross industry output. The country was turning from agriculture to industry as the main source of its power and wealth.

This poster was created by Gustav Klutsis - a pioneering photographer and major member of the Constructivist avant-garde in the early 20th century. He was one of the apologists of photomontage technique, he managed to bring to an impressive level.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

We welcome the Day of the Soviet Railworker! 1957, image from Princeton University Library.

Railroads are everything for a country as big as Russia. Currently Russian Federation has an area of 17 mln. square km. This is almost twice as big as Canada or China or the USA. So, advanced means of transportation , which are capable of transporting large quantities of goods between 85 federal subjects (states) and 14 neighboring countries were absolutely essential both now and always.

In the nineteenth century Russia being an agricultural country managed to create its first steam locomotive only in the thirties – almost thirty years later than England. The first commercial railway line took off in 1851, it linked two major Russian cities – imperial capital Saint-Petersburg and Moscow, covering 800 hundred km.

Later Russian railroad development was carried out at fast pace as the monarchy considered railroads to be a perfect way of increasing the defense potential of the country. During the First and Second world wars Russian railways suffered great losses of more than 60% of its rail network.

After the WWII the tracks were rebuilt and reached 150 000 km. of length. Now Russian railroad network is approximately 87 000 km. being the second largest in the world after the USA with its 250 000 km of tracks in operation. This double cut in length was caused by the soviet republics declaring independence during the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 and privatizing rails on their land.

In the Soviet times railways were the main means of transportation, with thousands of people working in the industry. And they had their own professional holiday – the Soviet Railworker's day. The poster above dates 1957 and commemorates the valuable contribution of Russian railworkers to the economical and social raise of the country after the war.

Friday, July 20, 2007

The C.P.S.U. — the vanguard of the perestroika

The Communist Party of the Soviet Union was the ruling political party in the Soviet Union. It emerged in 1912 as the Bolshevik faction of the Russian Social-Democratic Labor Party. C.P.S.U. started the October Revolution, which led to the establishment of a communist state in Russia. The party was dissolved in 1991, at the time of the break-up of the Soviet Union.

This poster was designed in the 80s. It welcomes the decisions made during the 27th C.P.S.U. convention. The history of Russia was spinning rapidly at that time, probably being tired of 18 very quiet years of Brezhnev’s ruling called “Stagnation”. In 1982 the General Secretary of the Party - Leonid Brezhnev died at the age of 76. He was replaced by Yuri Andropov, who passed away only after 15 months of being the head of C.P.S.U. Then Konstantin Chernenko came to power, but also died soon – after 13 months. All those deaths were not deliberate. The government officials were just too old – Chernenko 73, Andropov 70.

In 1985 Mikhail Sergeyevich Gorbachev was elected – he was considered to be a «young» politician, being only 55. In 1986 the 27th C.P.S.U. convention was opened. During this event Gorbachev announced several paramount decisions. One of them was that the Soviet economy was stalled and that reorganization was needed. This was called “perestroika” – “restructuring”, and was enthusiastically welcomed by the people. However the economical measures taken involved complete destruction of old economical relations, illegal privatizing of state property and waves of corruption and crime. It took more than 15 years for the country to cure itself.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

We make friends, we create!
And we maintain peace in space!

On 12 April 1961 Yuri Gagarin became the first man to travel to space and the first to orbit the Earth. This was a major breakthrough for the human kind and significant achievement for the Soviet Union, which managed to create such an advanced technological and industrial project in only 15 years after the devastating World War II.

In the seventies the Cold War was in full swing, with Soviet Union and United States of America investing numerous resources in their space programs. We all owe something to that confrontation, because fundamental research and experimental works of the decade finally resulted in development of civil microelectronics, supersonic avionics, polymeric chemistry and other scientific fields. Amazing, but even the Cold War has advantages…

This space race was not only about world prestige and scientific discoveries. Both Soviet and American military authorities were dreaming about space domination. Nuclear Deterrence Theory was preventing the strike and space could give key advantage over potential adversary. In 1983 Ronald Reagan proposed Strategic Defense Initiative project, which implied deployment of ground and space-based stations, with a purpose of protection in case of a nuclear missile attack. The project was soon nicknamed “Star Wars” because of its futuristic elements, including space lasers, rail guns and kinetic warheads – things technologically improbable even in the modern times. But SDI's main design flaw was its intricacy, which resulted in certain unreliability. Nevertheless the surveillance part of the project proved to be quite useful and despite the overall flop of the SDI, is now being implemented as a part of National Missile Defense Program.

By that time Soviet Union was developing its own space defense system, with more than 20 small space stations equipped with surveillance equipment and counter strike missiles. The information about is highly classified, reportedly this system is still operational.

The poster above proclaims the official Soviet attitude to SDI – Soviet Union stands for Peace and United States calls for war. The idea is being illustrated with Yuri Gagarin and white dove – an international peace symbol. Its wings are covered with flags of Eastern Block Countries - the allies of Soviet Union. These countries were either annexed after WWII or were supported economically in exchange for loyalty and adherence to communist ideology. Eastern Block collapsed in the nineties due to disintegration processes in the Soviet Union and its defeat in Cold War.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Let's build up! 1947
V.B. Koretskij

After the World War II the Soviet Union was celebrating the glorious victory over Nazi aggressors. Motherland was saved and the spirits were elevated. But the war wounds were hard to heal - the country was scathed, the factories, which were built during the industrialization of the 30s were partially destroyed. Those which remained, had been transported to the safe areas, and were very hard to get back to normal operation. Moreover all Soviet industries had been working for victory during the last 5 years and had to be set up to make civil goods and not tanks and munitions.
Soldiers were coming back home to find buildings demolished by bombs, houses burned down to ashes and roads with pavement torn apart by tank tracks. During the War 70 thousand of cities and towns were ruined across Soviet Union. And due to enormous causalities there were not enough strong men to recover. However Soviet people were facing the future with optimism - regular shortages (even famine in several parts of the country) and poor housing were still a lot better then muddy trenches and constant fear of death.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Let's build a zeppelin fleet for Lenin!

This poster was released in 1931 after the Airforce Ministry of Soviet Union (Osoaviahim) declared plans to build a fleet of 7+ huge zeppelins. This was inspired by 230m German LZ 127 Graf Zeppelin airship which landed in Moscow in 1930 after its long-range voyage around the world. Zeppelins were considered to be very advanced means of transportation, mainly because of its huge payload compared to small airplanes of the era. So a promotion compaign started: workers, factories, kolkhozy - all were to collect funds for the fleet. The fleet was to be named after Lenin (1870-1924), whose cult of personality was propagated at that time. Joint efforts paid off well - more than 25 mln of rubles were collected, resulting in building of several small experimental zeppelins and 4 big ones, which in 1932-1937 were transporting loads all over the country. However, rapid development of fast airplanes which proved to be an excellent weapon against sluggish zeppelins, condemned the project. The country was on the brink of war, Nazi Germany was declaring plans to invade Russia. The country needed more airplanes, battle tanks, war ships and cannonry. The Second World War was about to erupt.

Get the hard copy of this poster here!

Monday, July 16, 2007

Beat the Whites with the red wedge, 1920

Beat the Whites with the red wedge, 1920
L.M. Lisitsky

Russian Civil War started in 1917 after the Bolsheviks seized power during the Russian October Revolution. At the moment Russian Empire was suffering internal contradictions and consequences of exhausting participation in World War 1. So when Russian Tzar Nicholas II was abducted the country split into two waging camps - Reds (Communists) and Whites (Monarchists). White was the color of the Russian Royal Family. The four-year war was bitter: it devastated the country economy and brought the young communist regime on the verge of destruction. Only fierce means like requisition of food from farmers and massive repressions allowed Bolsheviks to retain power.
Right after the Revolution Bolsheviks started altering all aspects of life - abolishing everything bourgeous and putting forward things for working class. One of the popular trends was Russian avant garde - a movement, which complemented well with the radical communist ideology.
The poster above is a masterpiece of the era. It was created by by El Lissitzky - one of the most notable artists, who took advantage of exploring the boundaries of art in that troubled time.

Get the hard copy of this poster here!

Friday, July 13, 2007

Socially Dangerous, year unknown.
Alcohol addiction has always been a disaster in the Soviet Union. Tzar Petr the Great (1672-1725) who gave a powerful start to Russian trade and technological development also brought heavy drinking habits in culture. In the soviet period after the WW2 the overwhelming majority of Russians were socially protected with free education, medical services, fixed wages. But many of them could hardly self-actualize themselves due to total prohibition of private business. Alcohol became a joy and relief for many of them, resulting in low labor performance. So, various means of anti-alcohol propaganda came to life: theater plays,
local organizations, posters. "Soberness" Magazine even published works by alcoholics, including "Moskva-Petushki" a poem by Venedikt Erofeev - unrecognized writer, who had great influence on the pre-perestroika society.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

We strike the false shockworkers, 1931
Shockworkers are superproductive workers during the industrialization period of the Soviet Union History (1928-1932). Shockworkers were part of the Stakhanovite movement - an enthusiastic promotion campaign which was named after Aleksei Stakhanov, who had mined 102 tons of coal in less than 6 hours (reportedly, this was a PR-event). Nevertheless, the industrialization proved to be very successful, resulting in Russia becoming an industrial power.

Get the hard copy of this poster here!