This poster celebrates the persistence of the Red Army in crossing the Carpathian Mountains in the winter of 1944-45. At the same time it is a traditional landscape painting with echoes of earlier Russian works. The handling of the composition captures the wild beauty and remoteness of the region, and is a reminder of the variety of the Russian homeland at that time.The verse refers to a great, 18th century, Russian general, Alexander Suvorov. It recalls the challenges he overcame in the Alps, and bolsters Russian spirits in this last push to victory for the salvation of the Russian land. With the traditional style of the painting, and the reference to Suvorov strong suggestions are made of a Russian, rather than Soviet, heritage.
The Carpathian Mountains stretched across the Red Army’s advance southwards and eastwards towards Germany. They reached the Carpathians in 1944. Crossing them was a feat in itself during the winter of 1944-45. This poster also emphasises the role of horses in the Soviet Military. With horses the Red Army coped with terrains not crossable by modern military machinery. The German army underestimated the importance of horses to the Soviet war campaigns.
Landscape came comparatively late to the Russian painting tradition. At first it was heavily influenced by the models of Italy and France, countries where many Russian artists trained. Only gradually was the countryside of the Russian Empire considered a suitable topic for academic painting. A particular point was made by the group of painters known as the Itinerants, who withdrew from the Academy in 1862 before taking their final exams. Their complaint was that no Russian topics had been included.
Przhetslavskii combines his skills at painting horses with a spectacular landscape. Not only that, his painting breathes of the struggle of horses and men to cross this natural, daunting barrier: he shows sheer drops combined with hairpin bends and treacherous weather conditions. The positioning of the horses reflects the sharpness of the bends, and takes the eye high up into the receding distance at the top of the painting.
Men and horses strain against the terrain, and the implied cold. There are ironies too: the horses are laden with the equipment that more normal transport could not deliver in this difficult terrain. It is noticeable that the only splash of symbolic Soviet red in this work is the standard TASS window number, in the top right corner.
Berendgof’s lines are dedicated to the true grit of the Red Army in accomplishing this crossing. He reminds the Soviet viewers of this poster of Suvorov who said that the soldier is prepared to go even where the mountain deer will not climb. Although Berendgof praises the Red Army, there is little that is specifically Soviet about the ensemble of words and image. In some respects WWII brought a breathing space into Russian culture, away from the insistent Stalinisation of the preceding decade.