Today I’m taking a look into Soviet Propaganda posters, which were produced mainly during the 1940′s. These posters were produced by a number of artists, most notably by V. V Moayakovsky, M. M. Cheremnykh, V. M. Deni and D.S. Moor. The reason for this research is because of the strong key messages the posters employ, which also take advantage of a few simple bold colours and shapes which drive the message home.
The style is certainly modernist, really bare bones designs. I love the simple powerful use of the solid red, orange, green, grey, black, white. It really makes an impact. Another aspect that appeals to me is the Russian alphabet. Russian is such a foreign looking language that if you made up a few letters no one would really notice (except those who know Russian).
The Russian lettering is rather thick and blocky, not just because of the style of font, but because of the simple unadorned shape of the letters. Unlike Japanese or Chinese, there are no delicate lines in the characters. Instead they are hard and angular. The Russian alphabet is therefore very good for turning into shapes as a design element, and probably a large part of why these modernist propaganda posters look so powerful and really drive their message home.
Propaganda posters were used as weapons in several wars, including the October revolution and Civil War, and ominous messages were attached to the bottom of posters warning that whoever tried to take them down would be committing a counter-revolutionary act. It is unclear whether it was actually illegal to take them down or not, but I think with corruption and fear mongering, even if it weren’t illegal anyone branded a counter-revolutionary would be in big trouble, much like during the communist reign of Mao in China.
The posters were erected in war struck zones to propagate messages as a psychological weapon, while the red army used physical weapons to fight the same ideological war. They were posted up on everything, from massive towering billboards, to any spare space on a wall walking down the street. The messages were everywhere, but from what I have researched it seems that mostly print media was employed (unlike Nazi Germany which employed a wide range of media including film). The purpose of most of the posters was to encourage citizens to enlist in the army, or at least adopt the same values of freedom and justice.
Other posters aimed to degrade the US, using such tactics as deliberately making Americans appear like inhuman, diseased animals, and the Russians portrayed as handsome models. This is an interesting technique, and demonstrates the importance of caricature in building and supporting prejudices against certain groups of people. It is an interesting technique that can be used in visual art (with proper ethics taken into account of course, I don’t believe encouraging prejudice is a good thing). Caricature here at least has been used to exaggerate the less desirable qualities of a character – the sinister eyes and pose, the sharp elongated nose like a crows beak, and the rolls of fat and balding head. Caricature really is an unflattering technique, there is no form of caricature that really compliments anyone (except perhaps oversexualised caricature but that’s not really complimentary). And we can see that here. The handsome Russian is not a caricature, he is portrayed as accurately as possible as a normal human being.
Refs: http://www.theguardian.com/world/gallery/2014/jun/09/soviet-propaganda-art-posters-in-pictures and http://www.sovietposters.com