Soviet Art & The Art of Propaganda
Soviet propaganda posters are an artform that is distinctive, bold and often confronting; such were their success that their style and imagery was replicated all throughout the socialist world, and in places like China and North Korea the effect of Soviet propaganda art is very clear.
Take for instance the poster above; it’s littered with clever short hands to show the strength of the Soviet worker in refusing a deceptive offer from the Americans. The famous poster was made at the time of the Marshall Plan (1948), when the US was offering Europe (including the USSR) aid, and development. The Soviets, fearing that the US was slying their way into their sphere of influence refused all aid, branding the Marshall Plan as a way for the US to expand its military power into the Soviet Union.
The poster itself is interesting, if you look closely at the flag in the background you can see that it’s written not in Russian but French, showing to the population of the USSR that there was international support for their doctrine, and that it was spreading.
Secondly, contrast the two main figures, the first the American (presumably George Marshall, the designer of the Marshall plan) is portly to say the least, hunching over and in the dress of the bourgeoisie. Compare him to the second figure, the noble, and honest Soviet worker pushing aside the money for higher ideals.
This style of art, often with bright pop-art colours and cartoon imagery of violence or the strength of the nameless individual spread throughout the world. The poster above, from North Korea, reflects the Soviet influence. Similar in style to much of Soviet propaganda posters, the image shows a gigantic North Korean soldier crushing Capitol Hill. The potency of the image is clear.
Then take for instance this poster; it shows a Chinese farmer holding Mao’s little Red Book on a bright red tractor, on a seamless golden landscape. The imagery is clear, yet, heavily stylized.
All in all Soviet Propaganda art (or more accurately socialist propaganda art) is an interesting study in how these governments wished to portray themselves to their citizenry and the outside world. And the pictures themselves are often oddly powerful and beautiful.