Monday, October 29, 2007

Keep in revolutionary step!

Keep in revolutionary step!
V. Zhabsky, 1975

This is a poster from the seventies – and to my mind this is not the best graphical work of soviet poster heritage. But it is
certainly worth mentioning because of its distinctive style.

The slogan says: “Keep in revolutionary step!” This is a quote from The Twelve (1918) poem by Alexander Blok (1880-1921) – one of the best poets of Russia, known by his outstanding talent and innovative poetic styles. The poem continues:

Keep in revolutionary step!
The restless enemy in on alert!
Comrade, hold the rifle tight, don’t fear!
Let’s send a bullet in the Saint Russia!
Moth-eaten, backward, fatassed!

The poem was one of the first poetic responses to the October Revolution of 1917. Here is an extract from Wikipedia: “The poem describes the march of twelve Bolshevik soldiers (likened to the Twelve Apostles) through the streets of revolutionary Petrograd, with a fierce winter blizzard raging around them. The mood of the Twelve as conveyed by the poem oscillates from base and even sadistic aggression towards everything perceived bourgeois and counter-revolutionary, to strict discipline and sense of "revolutionary duty" [] In the last stanza of the poem, most controversially, a figure of Christ is seen in the snowstorm, heading the march of the Twelve.

The Twelve, with its "mood-creating sounds, polyphonic rhythms, and harsh, slangy language" (as the Encyclopedia Britannica termed it), promptly alienated Blok from a mass of his admirers. Accusations ranged from appallingly bad taste to servility before the new Bolshevik authorities and betraying his former ideals. On the other hand, most Bolsheviks scorned Blok's mysticism and asceticism and especially the mention of Christ”.

Indeed the poem was a shock when published. Although it did depict the revolutionary mood of the 1917 perfectly well, the Bolsheviks forced the author to replace the word Christ with a similar sounding Russian “Sailor” – thus killing the undertones. Nevertheless many of the words from The Twelve became popular catchphrases – like the one on this poster.

Another reference to the poem is the mosaic on the poster which is inlayed with an image of a Russian sailor with a Kalashnikov in his hands. The background has three revolutionary symbols – the Red Star, Hammer and Sickle and cruiser Aurora, which gave signal to the successful assault on the Winter Palace (residence of the Russian tsars), which was to be the last episode of the October Revolution.

Buy battle cruiser posters at