At the outbreak of WWII both Germany and Russia were still largely rural economies relying on the horse for transport and agriculture. Other European countries had mechanised their agriculture and consequently their military forces between the two world wars. The examples of war horses in the poster collection are mostly Russian. German horses are rarely seen except in caricature as in this poster.
After her great loss of mechanised transport in the early stages of the war, Russia increased her cavalry forces to defend Moscow. This rather poor specimen of a horse can therefore only be German.
In the winter of 1943-1944 the Germans were losing their hold on the River Dnieper in Ukraine. Depicting Hitler as a spraddled mare, unable to pull its load any longer, reflected Russian hopes that the tide of the war was turning.
Germany and Russia were among the nations with the highest number of horses at the outbreak of WWII. Horses were a canny choice for the Windows. They made their mark with the Russian public, still used to valuing them in everyday life, especially in the countryside. However, the hardy Russian horses were also invaluable for crossing the harsh terrain of the Soviet Union during battles.
This poster has clear links to the lubok or popular print, for its use of animals, its humour and appeal to popular taste. It is both serious and comic. It commemorates a war event, while illustrating a well-known proverb.
The Kukryniksy collective provided here one of their kinder caricatures of Hitler, although they still play on his foolishness. The image also genders him as a female through the horse being identified as a mare. Her dapples are swastikas, and she decorates her tail with a red, beribboned one too.
The frantic bird fluttering in alarm caricatures Hitler’s propaganda minister, Goebbels. Elsewhere in the posters he is depicted as a monkey.
The illustration relates to the proverb quoted by A. C Scherbakov (First Secretary of the Moscow Regional Party Committee) in a speech in January 1944: ‘If the mare cannot stand upright, then not even the cart’s shafts can support it’. He was suggesting that the Germans were too weak to maintain their planned positions in Ukraine.