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This poster urges the public to join OSOAVIAKHIM, Union of Societies of Assistance to Defence and Aviation-Chemical Construction, which prepared Red Army reserves and used its members' fees to fund new aircraft squadrons and airship flotillas. The poster above (1930) is far less convincing than "Have you enlisted?", a real masterpiece created by D. Moor ten years earlier, during the Civil War:

 I'm sure the artist was inspired by "Your Country Needs You", a 1914 British poster featuring a certain Lord K. Another famous piece of Civil War propaganda, by El Lissitzky, is known to everyone interested in design history:

Spectacular, isn't it? But I doubt that its message ("Beat the Whites With Red Jack") was clear to Red Army soldiers, especially to those who were illiterate.

OK, war is over, now it's time for construction and reconstruction.

A moderately avant-garde poster by A. Samokhvalov says: "Soviets (People's Councils) and Electrification Are the New World's Stand. " More radical approach to propaganda oftem missed the point. A perfect example is this 1929 photocollage by an unknown artist:

Even for a well-educated person whose native tongue is Russian is difficult to get the idea at one short glance. The slogan, long and not exactly exciting, says: "Who are to blame for the street children? (large lettering on top). War, Destruction, Epidemics, White Movement, Organized Crime (small circular inscriptions). Soviet Power Defeated Them All (red inclined lines at right). It Will Defeat This Social Disease Too (large lettering, bottom). " Complicated, isn't it?

Along with Alexander Rodchenko and John Heartfield, Gustav Klutsis was a true grand master of the photomontage who used the technique in most effective way:

This poster (1927) urges Communist activists to use their summer vacations for self-education. Another collage, designed in 1930s, promises to transform Russia into a real Socialist state, reviving an early-20s saying of Lenin:

By the way, 1930 was the "Big Turn" year. NEP ("state capitalism") has been finally abandoned, and the Party openly declared its new goal: intensifying the class struggle. "Stalin's Pipe" by Deni is typical for the period:

Smoke from the pipe is blowing away the enemies: a saboteur, a rich farmer and a businessman.

Collective leadership wasn't erased from official vocabulary but everyone knew who's the leader, standing at the State's steering wheel:

Another poster, featuring Stalin in company of "lesser leaders" - Khruschev (future Prime Minister) and Kaganovich (dubbed "The Iron Commissioner"; he was in charge of transport), has a lot in common with Italian propaganda, with its numerous variations of the "Il Duce and the Masses" theme:

A major difference from the contemporary Italian propaganda is that "the masses" are not faceless. The artist used photographs of the best workers, farmers, etc. - real people, easily recognizable by everyone who has seen them in the newsreels and magazines.

"All the World Will Be Ours!" says this 1935 poster by Zavyalov. "Long Live Our Socialist Motherland!" - declares another poster by Klutsis (three years after the artist will be arrested and executed):

A grim reminder of Great Purges, a call to "eradicate spies and saboteurs, Trotskyte-Bukharinist agents of Fascism" (1937):

1939, annexation of the Eastern part of Poland. Here the Red Army is called, according to Stalin, the "Workers Liberation Army":

A colorful core to increase oil and gas production in 1941:

On June 22, 1941 the USSR has been attacked by Germany. Soviet war posters certainly deserve a special article, and it will appear here in two weeks. Next week, we'll see some examples of pre-war military propaganda. In the meanwhile, there are more posters in our new album (42 images). You're welcome to browse it or to enjoy the slideshow:


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Tags: 1920s, 1930s, art, poster, propaganda, soviet

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Comment by lord_k on May 27, 2011 at 6:55pm

To Leviathan:

but of course they have, Comrade! Anyone who dares to doubt this would be persecuted as a Trotskyte-Bukharinist OVRA agent.

Comment by Leviathan on May 26, 2011 at 1:29pm
I was hoping the translation of the first poster to be "Workers of USSR have it longer"
Comment by Cap'n Tony on May 26, 2011 at 10:57am
Must...crush...capitalism...

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