Regardless of your opinion about communism or the Soviet Union you have to admit one thing: those guys knew how to create some major league art. My fascination with Soviet posters goes way back and I’m certainly not alone in this. The market for collecting Soviet posters has never waned and today if you intend to purchase any authentic Soviet posters your name had better be Bill Gates. Anyone else and you’d have to go into debt in order to afford them.
The Soviet Constructionist style is unmistakable and startling to look at. Nevertheless, the ability of some to enjoy these posters on a purely aesthetic level is corrupted by their inability to break free of their conditioned response to hate all things having to do with the Soviet Union and communism, especially propaganda. That Soviet posters were intended for use as propaganda cannot be denied; that this automatically means they should be an object of suspicion and hatred is questionable. For instance, in 1957, decades before it became fashionable to see the same sentiment in print in the United States, a Soviet poster was issued carrying this message: “Tobacco is a poison. Quit smoking.” Yes, boys and girls, this was the message that everyone from Joe McCarthy to John Kennedy wanted to keep you from seeing. Talk about your dangerous propaganda! Okay, in all seriousness, many of the messages found on Soviet posters do contain ideas threatening to America, but just as many are concerned with raising awareness about every social issue from literacy to breast examination. (Keep in mind that as recently as the 1980s America was producing Red Dawn, a movie whose message was essentially “If you see a Russian, kill him!”)
I was recently directed to a blog that anyone who enjoys any aspect of Soviet propaganda posters will enjoy. The blog is titled A Soviet Poster a Day and it delivers what it promises. Unlike certain politicians in both parties that I could mention. Alexander Zakharov runs this blog and it is simply not to be missed for any lover of Constructionist art, political propaganda or Soviet history. Literally every day Zakharov adds an entry that contains a large image of a different Soviet poster and offers historical information, including the all-important English translation of that Cyrillic writing. The information that is provided about each of these posters is so detailed and fascinating that if your only level of enjoyment of these posters is their stunning visuals you will soon find yourself enjoying them on a far more expansive level. You may just even, possibly, manage to overcome a century of anti-Communist brainwashing by every aspect of the American culture to come to an appreciation of the fact that in some respects even the despised Soviet Union contained elements of societal progress that far outpaced America’s ability to catch up. And even if you just can’t manage to let yourself admit that the Soviet Union beat the United States to such things as allowing women to vote and sincerely attempting to arrive at a 100% literacy rate, you can ignore the translations and merely sit back and enjoy the absolutely incredible artwork,