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Print Collection 18: Early Soviet Posters

Early Soviet Posters — Building the New Citizen

Beginning with their rise to power, the Bolsheviks started on a program of social transformation. The goal was to create a new type of citizen, one who knew how to identify his enemies, emulate his role-models and raise his children with an appropriate view of the world. A public information campaign was necessary to reach the illiterate majority; government agencies commissioned, produced and sent posters into cities and the countryside, hoping to convince millions of people to overthrow, within themselves, the old structures of thought that the Revolution had overthrown externally. This propaganda, "a powerful tool in the reconstruction of the individual in his ideology, way of life and economic activity" (Central Committee, 1931), saturated the Soviet landscape.

The pieces of propaganda in the Collection range from the 1920s to the early 1930s — a period of social and economic makeover. The reconstruction of the individual was especially forceful in rural areas, where the demands of the First Five Year Plan (1928-1932) and Collectivization proved too much for some peasants. In response, propaganda artists attacked the perceived stupidity and pettiness of the rural population and presented it with ideals of socialist behavior — industrial and collective farm workers (kolkhozniki) who gave their utmost to the Five Year Plan. It is this process of defining productive versus destructive behavior, heroes versus enemies, that can be seen in many of the Collection's posters. The remainder of the posters targets families, educating parents about raising their children in a healthy way in order to put a greater distance between the Soviet citizen and the subject of the old regime.

Enemies of the People / People's Heroes / Raising the Next Generation / List of Posters

text by Valeria Tsygankova

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