Although Hitler is in the centre, there is a focus in this poster on his allies, Mannerheim, Antonescu and Horthy. They are named in the poster to avoid any confusion about who they could be. Mannerheim is poised like a toad; snail-like and chained up, Antonescu tries to crawl out a window; and Horthy aims to slither away like a lizard but he is chained too. There is even an upside-down torso with legs waving helplessly in the air (Bulgaria?).
United by the Swastika, they are also trapped by it when it crashes down under the Soviet sword. The implication is that smashing the Axis will be no easy task, but Soviet power will overcome all obstacles.
Responding to a statement from Stalin’s own office, and therefore with a kudos of its own, this poster shows the imminent downfall of Hitler’s power base in the summer of 1944. It was to be followed by the successful campaign to liberate Belorussia (Belarus)from the enemy. Dated 1 May it was perhaps intended to raise Russian spirits in celebration of May Day itself.
The war posters all depend on a combination of text and image, which encourages the use of words within the visual design itself. The presence of words is traceable to the lubok (popular print) and to the ROSTA windows, but also became a feature of avant-garde art in the Revolutionary period. Words very rarely featured in traditional painting, except as titles.
Swords have an association with justice and righteousness, and red ones have special political significance in Soviet terms. The implied aggression of the Soviets is vindicated, but note the size of the red hand, suggesting the internal power of the Soviet state is also heavily present.
This gem of a poster is from the Kukryniksy. The presentation of the Axis leaders is a masterpiece of subtle comic invention. Hitler is instantly recognisable, his allies become reptiles crawling out of the debris, or crushed by it. Small as they are each figure has recognisable features as well as its reptile other self. The mighty Soviet sword dominates the design, and smashes a solid, brick built base.