Commentary

Despite having lost the war, or maybe because of it, a German soldier returns home, loaded with loot. In his hand a watch, a chicken hangs from his arm and on his back he bears heavy bags. The title suggests looting is now ingrained in his character, while the verse states he robs his family but his parents still adore him. They are proud he learned to loot from the Führer.

This soldier provokes the relief from tension that comes with satire but this poster also has satire’s moral undertone. Stealing is wrong, and Russians do not do it. This view of the German withdrawal shows an entertaining rather than violent take on its subject.

Its irony is rather unusual amongst the anti-German propaganda posters.

Facts

TASS window
1132
Title
Force of Habit
Date created
8 January 1945
Artist
Vladimir Lebedev
Writer
Samuil Marshak
Original dimensions
197cm x 86cm
Collection number
MS 281/1/82

War Context

By January 1945, the outcome of the war was becoming clear. The Russian armed forces had ousted the German invaders largely from the Russian homeland. Germany had begun to fear invasion of her own territory. This poster implies that the German army had become laughable. Its dark side is that she was still managing to bleed Russia of her valuable items. Looting also suggests a lack of control on the part of the German leaders.

Artistic Roots

Satire is well embedded in Russian visual art as well as literature. Both are delightfully part of this poster as the image is amplified by the verse. This poster draws on the characteristics of the lubok or popular print (satiric image with story), and on the caricature and satire traditions that had stayed with Russian graphic art in the pre-war period. The dimensions, though, are extraordinary: very long (nearly 2 metres high) and narrow, it presents the soldier as near life size. By this late in the war, the TASS Windows had developed a grandeur and presence all their own.

Artist

Lebedev’s work was marked by a satirical streak, seen in this poster in the echoing between the German soldier’s boots and his teeth; in his overwhelming but unthreatening size; and in the poses of his German parents.

Writer

Marshak’s tale in verse is jaunty, based in popular speech and amusing, but still manages to make its serious point. Hitler’s behaviour in stealing Europe is imitated at a base level by his soldiers. Hitler is not only violent and dangerous, but also morally corrupt. Artist and writer had collaborated before the war when Lebedev had illustrated a collection of Marshak’s poems.