Commentary

This poster makes the point that the Red Army in all its divisions is in hot and vigorous pursuit of a retreating enemy. It coincides with the intense campaign to drive the enemy out and chase them back to Berlin.

Przhetslavskii has captured the ferocity of the struggle, not simply in pitting horse against tank, but in the rearing horse and rider, and the others racing to join him. This warscape captures the dust and fear of battle, but also clearly shows that the Russian spirit, surviving in the cavalry, will ensure victory.

Facts

TASS window
1146
Title
Striking the Enemy in the Rear
Date created
26 January 1945
Artist
A.A. Przhetslavskii
Writer
A.I. Mashistov
Original dimensions
130cm x 110cm
Collection number
MS 281/1/87

War Context

This window dates from the middle of the 1944-45 winter when Russian forces were focused on the rear of the enemy as they drove them out, and forced their way towards Berlin. The battles were hard fought. The Russian view was that the enemy situation was desperate as the next window chronologically (TASS 1147) demonstrates. Created on 29th January, it shows Hitler desperately squeezing Austria for more support.

The Russians are shown relying on more traditional methods of fighting. Horses pitched against tanks represent desperate methods. Russia had lost a great deal of her mechanised transport by this point in the war. The horse strategy, however, draws the enemy soldiers outside their tank and they become easy targets.

Artistic Roots

This image and other work by the artist A.A. Przhetslavskii suggest he was an expert at traditional battle scenes. Horses in motion were his speciality (see TASS 1115; TASS 1163). Images of this poster type with their reliance on landscape and the presentation of movement link the windows into the rich painterly traditions, here the realistic and the military, which had developed in Russia before the revolution.

Artist

Przhetslavskii has captured the striking contrast between the heroism of the soviet cavalrymen and the palpable fear of the enemy soldiers. The failure of their armour-plated tank to protect them makes them soft targets for the combination of man and horse. The composition of this action painting draws the viewer’s eye towards the horse strength gathering in the distance. There is one cavalryman to each enemy soldier.

The contrast between the two sides is enhanced by the artist’s use of colour and weighting in his composition. The lower left foreground, where the enemy cower, is dark and busy. It contrasts directly with the lightening sky and space beyond. This background serves as an appropriately inspiring one to the cavalrymen, their cloaks flying medieval fashion, as they charge into the battle.

Writer

The verse celebrates the valour of the cavalry while also emphasising the difference between their speed and agility and the heavy tank. Despite its armour plating, the tank cannot protect the enemy soldiers against the Russian sabre.

Mashistov’s opening is banal: the Russian means the tank was ‘just going along’. The last four lines, however, have an echoing ‘a’ sound in their final syllables, suggesting a raised rhetorical tone in praise of the Russian soldiers.