Thursday, October 20, 2011

TASS poster by Nikolai Fedorovich Denisovskii: "A 'Statesman' of Contemporary Germany" August 25, 1944

This past weekend I went to the Art Institute's "Windows on the War" exhibit on Soviet propaganda posters from WWII. It's a huge collection (someone said it took over a year to curate) which encompasses every stage of the Soviets' involvement in the war, from the Axis invasion of Russia to the downfall of Berlin to the signing of peace treaties at the end of the war. At every step of the way, illustrators working for TASS churned out all sorts of posters to bolster public morale, dehumanize the Axis powers, or encourage viewers to do specific things, such as enlisting in the army, refraining from gossip, and--for German-occupied nations--committing sabotage of infrastructure.

In working to dehumanize their enemies and establish Soviet Russia's superior morality, TASS artists often depicted Germans as sickly or beastly fiends, with blue skin or long nails. Sometimes they had these Germans ravaging a pure-looking, comely young maiden to accentuate the Nazis' depravity. In a different poster, a Nazi medic is shown shooting a wounded comrade to avoid having to treat him. While such a scenario was probably based off of only hearsay, the one shown in here was from a very real discovery near the end of the war, which vindicated much of what the Soviets had been saying about the morality of their enemies. This poster was done in reaction to the liberation of Nazi concentration camps, and focuses very intently on the blood that is on the Germans' hands. The large disembodied hands of whoever is giving the subject a medal, and the solid white reflection and grim expression of the man very clearly detach and dehumanize these two characters as two cogs in a brutal machine.

(Above is the photo I took with my dinky cameraphone. Below is a good-quality image I found by uploading the former to Google's reverse image search. This page is what came up.)


  1. War posters are always made to dehumanize the enemy. The eerie color and the size of the German solider makes its the actions of the Nazi's more twisted. It not only makes them seem not human, but as if the Nazi's were not from this planet.

  2. The dark sky is a nice touch to the eeriness of this piece. Without it I don't believe that the piece would have been as successful.