The displaced act of violence in this cartoon is typical. The sharp point of the pincer blade is at Hitler’s throat, his face is contorted in fearful expectation. He carries a blown dynamite fuse over his arm and pathetically wields a revolver. Russia is putting on the pressure. The spectator might think, ‘If only...’.
And yet all is not what it seems. The blades also shape the three to mark three years of war. The dates are signposted on the handles. And the pincer movement celebrates the Russian success with this manoeuvre, for example in defeating the Germans at Stalingrad, early in 1943.
Three years on, in 1944, the war was turning in favour of the Russians. They were holding their positions on the Volga, and driving the Germans out. Most importantly, Hitler was beginning to weaken under Soviet pressure.
Violence has long been the prerogative of the cartoon, not simply in Russian culture. Comic books which were becoming popular from the beginning of the twentieth century in America and European countries are full of this kind of physical torture.
Violence has always been part of visual culture, in the lubok (popular print) for example. It was also condoned in such universally performed stories about Punch, or Petrushka in Russian. Violence becomes acceptable when no actual physical contact is involved as in cartoons and puppetry. The other side of the coin is then the encouragement to excess. The intention to inflict pain or death is real enough, but the act remains imaginary.
This poster shows the Kukryniksy at their anti-Hitler best. His pasty, haggard face, his cowering weakness, his trademark moustache and unruly hair make Hitler instantly recognisable. His swastika is slipping and he appears to be losing his footing under Russian pressure.
Created at just above a metre square, the poster places strong emphasis on the pincers’ claws. The use of colour is emphatic. The black background sets off the image, and suggests the dark days are here for the enemy. Use of red in the poster number, the pincer heads , Hitler’s tongue and armband underscores the violence of the wishful, central act. Verbal commentary beyond the title is hardly necessary to this poster’s purpose.