This before-and-after poster captures Hitler with his allies Mussolini (Italy), Horthy (Hungary) and Antonescu (Romania). Their anticipatory feasting turns to injury and humiliation. Based on a speech by Stalin in which he forecast that the enemy had planned who would be rewarded (with buns) and who destroyed (with bruises), the poster shows their plans have been sorely thwarted. ‘Buns and bruises’ is the slogan: it rhymes in Russian: pyshki i shishki.
Although not depicted in the poster, Stalin is overwhelmingly present in his words. They dominate, acting as the frame to the whole composition.
Stalin’s speech on 6 November 1943 attacked the territorial expectations of Hitler and his partners, and claimed they had received their true desserts. They were now battered and bruised. The speech and the poster coincided with the liberation of Kiev, and Smolensk had been retaken just 6 weeks before.
The places named in the first picture range wide from Africa to the Caucasus to Moscow. The Allies had retaken North Africa 6 months before. By October 1943 the Red Army had cleared the area of the North Caucasus (Kuban) of Axis troops, in a determined bid to protect Russian oil fields in the region. Stalin had cause to celebrate and make his rhetorical attack on the enemy. His chosen imagery inspired the poster.
The two frames in the poster derive from the 'before-and-after' type of cartoon. This two-for-one provision of images makes the viewing experience a rich one. The spectator is invited to contrast the two frames: the interplay is visual as well as event- and text- related.
Composition and detail drive the impact of this poster. The Axis leaders appear in the same order in the two frames but Hitler is dominant in both. The prizes in the form of little pies or pasties (pirogi) are tantalisingly out of reach to the teeth-baring partners, while only Hitler has a knife and fork. The sugary pink of the background is the colour of dreams. By contrast the spot occupied by the pasties, is starkly empty in the second picture, while the background is an ominous black.
The bruises are obvious, but there is also engaging detail: Mussolini is so badly wounded his head is completely bandaged. His ‘blindness’ towards Hitler is emphasised by the small nose chain attached to Hitler’s little finger. Stalin’s words are allowed to infuse the poster from top to bottom.
The first extract from Stalin’s speech states that Hitler and his cronies had decided how the spoils from their aggression would be divided, who would receive the pies and buns, and who the cuts and bruises. The implications are that Africa would go to Mussolini, the Caucasus and Kuban to Hitler, Transylvania to Antonescu and Horthy, and Moscow to Hitler.
The second extract, centre page, makes clear that all the enemy has received are the cuts and bruises. The title at the bottom echoes Stalin’s words, but is in another voice. Picking words that rhyme with each other shows a wordsmith has been at work but his echo pays homage to Stalin. The Kukryniksy appear mostly to have supplied their own captions for their posters.