This poster is a striking representation of the Soviet view of Finland during the war. Unsympathetic to her claims to independence, to the Soviet Union Finland appeared two-faced. Finland might show a meek side to its allies, but the country bared its teeth to the USSR.


TASS window
Two Faces
12 February 1944
S.N. Kostin
Samuil Marshak
Original dimensions
136cm x 119cm
Collection number
MS 281/1/15

War Context

Historically, Finland had been in a precarious position in regard to the Russian Empire. After WWI, while Russia was coping with the Civil War Finland had asserted her independence and reclaimed territory that Russia had earlier assimilated. On the eve of WWII the Soviet Union sought a buffer to strengthen their north-west territory, and specifically Leningrad. The Winter War, of 1939-40, restored most of her former territory to the Soviet Union.

When Germany planned the invasion of the USSR in 1941, the strategic position of Finland became crucial, and Germany cultivated Finland as a close ally. The USSR was infuriated to have this dangerous neighbour to the North after 1941, when she was at war with Germany. An immediate impulse to this poster may have been the formation of the Narva front by the German forces in Estonia. Finland had been a friend to Estonia.

Artistic Roots

The two-headed monster is a frequently used figure in myth and legend. Here, the contrast is between submission and aggression, between the lamb and the bull with bared teeth. It is a way of representing the complexity of some situations and personalities. In this poster, however, it is highly critical of Finnish policy towards the USSR.


Kostin has captured the immense tug-of-war between these two animals. The tension in the picture is tangible as their bodies strain against each other. This tension is emphasised by the striking colour contrast between the two halves of the image.

Details are also well placed: a chirpy bird on the sheep’s head suggests peace; the blue ribbon holding on the lamb’s cap brings innocence, while the red flowers imply a conciliatory attitude. However, both animals are united by the same uniform cap. To Soviet eyes, there is a dangerous psychosis at work in this monster.


While the image illustrates a fable, Marshak’s verse operates as a moral. His approach reminds spectators of his reputation as a writer for children, a friend of their childhood. His presence validates the fable and lends credibility to this anti-Finnish propaganda.