Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Never step back!

Motherland is calling!
Irakli Toidze, 1941

This is undoubtedly the most significant graphical work of the twentieth century Russia – “The Motherland is Calling!” poster.

It was created in July 1941 during the first days of Great Patriotic War between Nazi Gemany and Soviet Union. Since then the poster has been printed millions of times becoming the ultimate symbol of Russian liberation fight. It also influenced many aspects of Soviet live, inspiring artists and sculptors to design memorials like “The Motherland” – an 85 meter 8 000 ton sculpture (Google map).

The poster was created by Irakli Toidze, who was one of the most famous socialist realism artists of the time, personally noted by Joseph Stalin. In the early thirties he portrayed him on a large painting “Joseph Stalin is reciting a poem by Shota Rustavelly “The Knight in the Panther's Skin”, which became a nice contribution to the Stalin’s cult of personality.

Irakli created “The Motherland is Calling!” on the spot. After hearing radio-announcement his wife Tamara rushed into the studio, crying out “War!” Irakli asked her to freeze and stay still. Her distinctive posture is now on the poster.

Tamara says: “When the War was declared, I got mortally feared for my children. I ran into Irakli’s studio… I should have had such a face, that Irakli commanded to stop where I was – and immediately got down to sketching”.

Alexander Toidze, their son: “Woman’s image on the poster has been generalized in many ways. My mother was stunningly beautiful, so father simplified it, made it intimate and comprehensible for everyone”.

Joseph Stalin knew all too well that propaganda was vitally important for boosting morale of the soviet troops. He was personally ratifying every graphical work, every theatrical play and song released in the country. Upon seeing the “The Motherland is Calling!” poster, he immediately ordered printing of 5 thousand of copies and sending them to every commandant’s office and recruiting station in the Soviet Union.

And the poster is magnetic indeed. This is the mother of every soldier standing in front of the bayonet wall, ready to lead her children into the liberating battle. Soldiers were holding cards with “The Motherland” in his chest pockets along with the photos of their families and their Communist Party Membership cards. When retreating, they often took the posters with them, protecting from the enemy like military flags. After the War this poster was frequently displayed in official places near images of Lenin and Stalin.

The document in Mother-land’s hand is the Soviet military oath (1939-1947). Every soldier had to swear allegiance to the nation, Soviet Motherland and Workers’ and Peasants’ Government. They were swearing to protect the country, whatever the cost. And millions of Soviet people did have to pay with their lives for that.