Extent socialist realism helped consolidate stalin’s power 1934 to 1945 Essay

Stalin thus took on the archetypal personas of “ Father”",“Teacher” and “Warrior.” Through prior beliefs and personal experience as children and parents themselves, the image of Stalin as father and teacher would have conveyed to the masses both authority and benevolence as well as the notion of a reciprocal relationship of rights and obligations. This was expressed best pictorially through the posters of happy, healthy children beaming with joy and expressing their gratitude for their happy childhood to the man responsible, their national father, Stalin. [Fig 7] Propaganda posters were also now being used to cement Stalin’s image in the mind’s of the proletariat as the leader responsible for all of the new socialist construction taking place [Fig 4], the inspiration for successes in exploration, and the only person able to identify and purge enemies[Fig 5 and 6].

Socialist realism propaganda themes were also seen in film. Stalin had always seen the modern technology of film as a vital cog in his control over the visual arts and by extension the hearts and minds of the masses. He felt that it should be “taken into our own hands” and that it was “the most important means of mass propaganda”15

The fact that Soviet films were commissioned and meticulously censored by the authorities meant that popular film was essentially a vehicle for government manipulation; becoming calculated propaganda campaigns that corresponded with the recognized needs of the party. Gunther believes that during the 1930’s and 40’s it most effectively developed Soviet myths – most importantly the myth of the “Great Family” that was so fundamental to the Stalin era16 Ibid- not yet included. This was evident in “The Lullaby”, directed by Dziga Vertov in 1937. Although he originally wrote a script attacking the historical exploitation (particularly the sexual exploitation) of women, his original vision was altered almost beyond recognition during the course of production by the authorities.17 In the end, Lullaby ended up being principally about children and the “paternal care” offered to all Soviet citizens by the state, as personified by Stalin. Vertov explained that the woman rocking the cradle in the film changes from a Ukrainian to a Russian and then an Uzbek in order to give the character a universality – she became “everyman”18 With over 100 different nationalities living within Soviet borders, the centralized government sought a new visual genre that could unite its diverse people – it found this in film. The image of the woman being a meld of many ethnic groups in Lullaby would have been a very important propaganda tool as the Russification of the “Empire” was not always smooth. A device like this would have made these minority ethnic groups feel part of the great and ideal Soviet nuclear family; consolidating Stalin's grip over these disparate territories.

Posters and films such as these made the populace feel “protected” and “loved” leading to a sense of obedience and obligation as to how they should think and behave towards their leaders, especially Stalin. This helped to keep the masses passive and acquiescent which was crucial to Stalin’s maintenance of power. Stalin had replaced the “opiate” of religion with the “opiate” of his cult of personality. Over time happy childhood posters began to give way to ones where Stalin was portrayed more like a mythical or iconic figure; Russian Orthodox icons being a significant influence on the development of Soviet poster art.19 In Viktor Koretskii’s 1943 ‘On the joyous day of liberation …’ a portrait of Stalin is hung on the wall like an icon. The child is also treating the portrait as if it were a portrait of his own father who was probably away fighting in the Great Patriotic War.( The personality cult of Stalin in Soviet posters, 1929 - 1953 : archetypes, inventions and fabrications /Anita Pisch.http://press-files.anu.edu.au/downloads/press/n2129/html/imprint.xhtml?referer=2129&page=2#) This would have helped in the overall image of Stalin as “God Like”: omniscient, all powerful and all seeing, something that would have become very significant to his control over the population and consolidation of power during the terror of the Great Purge from 1936 to 1938. As Steinbeck so eloquently wrote after his visit to Russia in 1947: “Everything in the Soviet Union takes place under the fixed stare of the plaster, bronze, drawn or embroidered eye of Stalin … . He is everywhere, he sees everything …”20

It wasn’t only the visual arts that were increasingly called upon to reinforce Soviet rhetoric and collective identity, architecture was also used as a method to visually represent Socialist Realism. Vladimir Paperny stated; “the power takes an interest in architecture as the practical tool to bind the population and as a spatial expression of the new centralized system of values”.21

Centralisation of architectural work under VseKoKhudozhnik saw an increase in collective and brigade work, particularly in the areas of public sculpture, public space design and major architectural designs like the All-Union agricultural exhibition (VSKhV). This grand project set out to reinforce Soviet rhetoric and collective identity by proving the success of the collective-farm movement and presenting the image of Soviet abundance and well-being through architecture. Barren land on the outskirts of Moscow was turned into an idealised model of the future of the U.S.S.R with 250 buildings including 32 industrial pavilions, 20 palaces of the Soviet Republics, a greenhouse of subtropical crops and exemplary farm buildings to name a few. It was an astounding piece of propagandist architecture which was ready for opening in 1937, but which Stalin himself postponed because he felt the structures too modest. The new architects created architecture with sculptures, garlands, spires and pinnacles to celebrate collectivisation, their lavishness more to Stalin’s taste. Competitions among collective farms and individual farmers resulted in the winners being rewarded with trips to the Exhibition. These visitors from remote villages were amazed by what they saw, and many returned to their homes singing the praises of a Communist future, convinced by what they had seen.22 The Exhibition had therefore become an ideological broadcaster for Stalin and the communist leadership, fulfilling its function within the Socialist Realist concept and consolidating belief in Stalin’s leadership by the populous.

The 1937 Soviet Pavilion in Paris and afterwards The above All-Union agricultural exhibition (VSKhV) housed the magnificent propaganda statue of the Worker and Kolkhoz Woman, featuring the gigantic figures of a man and woman holding together the communist symbol of the hammer and sickle. The monumental sculpture was erected to symbolize the eternal union of the working class and peasantry in Soviet Russia. This monumental piece of art was originally placed atop the 35 meter tall Soviet pavilion at the International Exposition in Paris in 1937. As this was the first time the U.S.S.R. had been invited to such an exposition Stalin was very eager to impress the world with this visually imposing manifestation of Socialist Realism. The pavilion’s creation was not only an artistic event, but also a political landmark becoming one of the most important examples of Soviet Socialist Realism in architectural and sculptural form. Frank Lloyd Wright deemed the Soviet pavilion to have been "the most successful and dramatic exhibition building at the Paris fair." Thus this piece of architecture, dominated by this visually imposing sculpture, had secured Russia’s and by extension Stalin’s place as a world leader in the eyes of not only his own citizens but the world.

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