Commentary

The prints in the Nottingham collection reflect the same themes and styles as in the TASS windows. On the whole they demonstrate that the themes of the windows were based in widely-held perceptions. Idealised and religious frameworks were common for home-front topics and comic book caricature for depictions of the enemy. Added verse is rarer, but captions still guide the viewer.

The prints were produced mechanically, in large print runs up to 50,000 as this one. Consequently, the images tend to be slicker and of course more consistent, as they were not reproduced by hand. To some they may appear comparatively lifeless (see A Family Thanking Stalin), but an exception is the print Avenge your People's Pain!, by the same artist as above, and pulsing with determination and grief.

Facts

Printed poster
50,000 copies
Title
You have Returned Life to Us!
Date created
14 January 1944
Artist
Viktor Ivanov
Original dimensions
86.5cm x 62.5cm
Collection number
MS 281/2/10

War Context

The date of this poster, mid January 1944, is two months after the liberation of Kiev in November 1943, and anticipates by two weeks the raising of the siege of Leningrad on 27 January 1944. The Germans were preparing to leave the city earlier in January as the Soviets surrounded the area and drove them out.

This poster both celebrates and anticipates further victories for the Red Army. Not only successful in the North, the soviets were pressing on into Ukraine towards further success. They liberated Odessa in April.

Artistic Roots

This poster draws on the ideal heroes of socialist realism, on religious iconography and political propaganda. The format of the political poster from the 1930s was well known to Russian viewers: larger-than-life, athletic figures dominate the frame and are there to be admired.

Equally, though, the soldier’s face beams modestly and his pose is reminiscent of the saints and prophets of icons, and the girl recalls the virgin. Finally, the flag of victory, atop the tall ruined building, makes the soldier and the girl appear even larger. The spectator is being asked to emulate and to give thanks for the defence of the homeland.

Artist

Viktor Ivanov combines three separate influences in this propagandistic work. His figures are heroic but the young soldier dominates the image. The girl is grateful and admiring as she reaches up to kiss him while he is reserved, slightly surprised (see his left hand) at her impulsive gesture. The composition places the spectator in the position of looking up at these figures.

However, his pose and his pilgrim’s staff imply that this soldier has completed a sacred mission. The title reads ‘You have given us back our life’, a powerful echo of Christ’s words. In becoming a saviour-figure the Russian soldier reverses the accepted view of himself as a righteous but bloody killer in defence of his country. In her shawl the young woman is reminiscent of the Virgin.

The flag claims territory in the name of soviet power and is reflected in the red of the soldier’s badge and in the words below. In this caption, and through the young soldier, the state here claims the powers of religion (see also The Russians have always beaten the Prussians; and Glory to the Mother Heroine)