Commentary

This poster celebrated chaos among the Axis forces as the Red Army regained further territory in spring and summer 1944. Soviet viewers could rejoice as the embattled enemy leader turns against his henchmen, Romania and Hungary. Seeing the rearing, wounded snake with its maw gaping in panic, ordinary citizens grasped the strength of the Soviet advance.

The long narrow dimensions of this Window emphasise the towering presence of Hitler in the Axis forces. Equally though , he has a long way to fall.

Facts

TASS window
956
Title
Deadly Concern
Date created
17 April 1944
Artist
Kukryniksy
Original dimensions
158cm x 85cm
Collection number
MS 281/1/33

War Context

The Eastern Front was moving inexorably south and westwards under Soviet pressure during the winter of 1943-1944 forcing the German forces into withdrawal. The Red Army was retrieving its positions to the west of the River Dnieper, and was finally able to recapture the port of Odessa on 10 April 1944. They were now pressing against the Hungarian and Romanian borders causing Hitler to increase pressure on his Axis partners, Horthy and Antonescu.

By May 1944 the Soviet forces had liberated Sevastopol in the Crimea, and further to the north in Western Ukraine were working their way towards Lviv, which was retaken in July 1944.

Artistic Roots

Represented as a snake, Hitler here follows a long line of caricature utilising one of the darker members of the animal kingdom (see TASS 727; TASS 1211; TASS 1214).

The contemporary reference is made clear by the presence of maps of Romania and Hungary, and by the addition of words to identify the main players, Horthy and Antonescu. This image closely reflects the pattern of the popular print or lubok.

Artist

In this cleverly crafted work, the Kukryniksy make great capital out of the snake’s inherent abilities to squeeze prey to death, or to use sharp, and here potentially bloody, fangs. The positioning of the snake’s head and writhing body turn the maps into something close to a body, and the snake’s coils begin to resemble limbs. Hitler is both snake and man.

The tip of the snake’s tail has been roughly mended, and there is a wound on the topmost coil, suggesting Hitler’s vulnerability. His expression is one of angry harassment which he turns against his ‘friends’. His snake’s body is map-like and dappled with swastikas, implying this loss of territory is a deep body blow. It also suggests Hitler’s desperate need to hang on to Hungary and Romania to protect his own territory. (for a similar use of swatikas, see TASS 906)

Tiny detail adds to the pleasure: the difference between Horthy and Antonescu is palpable. The latter is blind to his fate: he can hardly see because of his hat, and he is featherweight compared to his Hungarian partner.

Writer

The text purports to be from Hitler. He says to Antonescu and Horthy that the situation on the Eastern Front is forcing his attention onto their countries while the title implies his deadly purpose. The Russian uses a phrase meaning ‘to surround with attention’ inspiring the image of the coiled snake.