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The poster was central to Lenin's vision of political transformation, and also the easiest way to convey his message to a largely illiterate population which did not care for paintings and monuments. By the year 1918, the new government began to print and distribute posters. "Alexander Apsit was the first great Bolshevik poster artist who developed many distinct Soviet symbols" (Foss; Lapides: The Bolshevik Era). In 1919, the Literary-Publishing Department was established by the Bolshevik government; this new department was made up of brilliant cartoonists and artists such as Dimitri Moor and Viktor Deni. The New Economic Policy was the era between 1921 and 1927 when propaganda was aimed at post-war realities such as famine, discontent and freedom. The country was at peace but the economy had collapsed under the enormous weight of the war. Lenin introduced the New Economic Policy which favoured some private enterprises which eventually flourished. It was during this period that Russian experienced its "roaring twenties," an era dominated by experimentation in all fields, including the arts where the Constructivist movement was predominant. Also, it was during this era that artists became interested in contributing to the construction of a new communist society. The First and Second Five-Year Plans represented Stalin's project to turn Russia into a fully communist industrialized power. Mobilization was the main theme during the First Five-Year Plan. The first step was Stalin's decree in 1932 that all art must conform to "Socialist Realism" which meant that art would serve as a vehicle for the Communist values, and that all artistic experiments would end. State propaganda was now strictly controlled and relied on strident posters which seemed to be everywhere the common man went. The main artist of this period was Gustav Klutsis whose task was to visually translate the glorification of the plan. To this aim, he employed simple colours with dynamic composition and bold typography. The Second Plan can be summed up as an attempt to strongly react in the face of the Nazis. Posters of this period featured the infallible leader, Stalin whose image appeared everywhere. This was the era of Stalin's purge first within the Party, then the army which resulted in the annihilation, either physical or social, of those who were not in favor of it. The last period examined in this section of the paper is the Great Patriotic War which lasted from 1939 to 1945. This era was synonymous to a revival of the Bolshevik poster's symbolism which now focused on the issue of patriotism. The themes illustrated by the posters were meant to act as a reaction to the growing Nazi threat that required patriotic appeals in the Soviet Union. In fact, the themes of communism and class struggle became rather secondary in the face of a strong revival of great pre-Soviet heroes.
Stalin's rise to power meant he needed to develop a strong visual representation. Anti-religion propaganda had led to the destruction of religion, and the Russian people needed new icons. Stalin filled this void by instilling the "cult of Lenin" which later led to the construction of his own personality cult. Stalin transformed visual culture both in terms of its facade and its message. Visual arts became the main component of communist propaganda in the Soviet Union. The new themes became a coherent and well-constructed message glorifying communist ideals. The realistic form only helped the cause in the sense that it made art far more approachable and unproblematic. Because it was easy to understand it was also appealing to the masses which enhanced its message and thus its ideological strength by offering its audience more than a replica of reality, but the visualization of a new world, a new social order and consequently, a new man.
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Read, Herbert. "The Freedom of the Artist." To Hell with Culture: And Other Essays on Art and Society. London: Routledge, 2002: 112-125.
Socialist Realism." Virtual Museum of Political Art. http://members.telering.at/pat/soc.htm
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