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Gustavs Klutsis

Klutsis and his project for the Higher State Art and Technical workshop exhibition stand  1924-1926

Klutsis and his project for the Higher State Art and Technical workshop exhibition stand 1924-1926

Gustavs Klutsis (Klucis) was one of the most famous Soviet artists from XX century twenties. His brilliant constructivist art and impressive soviet propaganda posters has made a historic legacy. Gustavs Klucis was Latvian, born in Latvia. As many young Latvians he was caught by the First World War and ended up in Revolutionary Russia. He became a passionate communist believing his experimental avant-garde art has place in the new socialist country. He also believed that his propaganda art is in within the lines of the soviet politics and ideology. In the end he became the victim of his own beliefs and was sentenced to death by his own regime. Yet, his art outlived him and is popular today. He is not forgotten in Latvia. This year at the art exhibition hall Arsenal a large collection of his works were displayed. A worldwide known   Latvian artist that has the place in the Latvian history.

Klutsis was born on 4 (16) January 1895 in the Valmiera district Koņu parish. A Latvian family, father Gustavs and Mother Ede. He had two elder brothers Jānis and Ādams, and four sisters Elīze, Ieva, Klāra and the youngest Alvīne. He was baptized in the Rūjiena Lutheran church. On 1905  his father died in accident. Family was left without breadwinner and Gustavs had work in the farming and go to school at winters. On that same year the revolution in Russia broke out and came to Latvia. His brother Jānis took part in the rebellion and was arrested and sentenced 15 years penal prison. No doubt this affected young Gustavs political worldview. From 1909 to 1911 he took studies in the Rūjiena pro-gymnasium.

The Attack. The Latvian Rifleman. 1918

The Attack. The Latvian Rifleman. 1918

Despite desire to study arts, do to the lack of money he came to Valmiera Teachers seminary on 1912. On 1913 he started studies in the Riga City Art School. The director of the school was Vilhelms Purvītis a well known Latvian artist – landscape painter. He attended the school till 1915 when the war came to Riga. He was conscripted in the 9th Latvian Riflemen regiment. Eventually he came to Russia and witnessed the February Revolution and later the October Bolshevik Coup. He joined the Red Latvian Riflemen guard to defend the Bolshevik Government at the Smolny Institute and served as machine gunner. When the Bolshevik government moved to Moscow he was defending the train used by Vladimir Lenin and his henchmen. This closeness to the heart of the Bolshevik revolution boosted his beliefs. He met Lenin at the Kremlin garden and had a talk. When off duty he used to write sketches of him. There in Moscow his artistic carrier had begun. His first work featuring the photo-montage technique was called “The Attack. The Latvian Rifleman” on 1918. Later he employed the photo-montage at full scale.

Painting  from the Dynamic City project.

Painting from the Dynamic City project.

Gustavs Klutsis and Kazimir Malevich on 1933

Gustavs Klutsis and Kazimir Malevich on 1933

But before that he was involved in the supermatism and contructivism. He begun work at the Second Free State Art School (SFSTAS) workshop. It was lead by Kazimir Malevich the author of the revolutionary Black Square painting on  1915.  Malevich soon left the SFSTAS and was replaced by Anthon (Nathan) Pevzner. However, Malevich left impression on Klutsis. Malevich wrote a book about the new artistic systems and connected supermatism with cosmic spaces. His ideas about connection between two cosmic bodies – Earth and Moon that rush trough the space – the possibility of making a new supermatistic satellite that would enter its orbit creating his own new way. With its contacts lost with Earth it can be studied and researched as any new system.  Klutsis got this idea and started working on the Dynamic City project. Kazimir Malevich created The Black Circle painting that was used further by Klutsis as his dynamic cities grew out the circles with skyscrapers and constructive futuristic forms. The paintings involved photo-montage.

Klutsis wife Valentina Kulagina 1920

Klutsis wife Valentina Kulagina 1920

In the winter of 1919 he met his love of the lifetime Valentina Kulagin. A Muscovite artist she accompanied his artistic efforts and stayed faithful until his death. On 1920 he joined the Communist Party and came to Artistic Culture Institute (ACI). He kept his connections with Malevich who was residing in Vitebsk. His art became more constructive and formalistic as he has preoccupied with complicated structures. It went well with Soviet Union in those days when it was a giant laboratory of ideas and structures. He called his art as a experimental laboratory. One of his most interesting constructions where the Radio Operator towers – futuristic weird looking structures. Only few were made and photographed.

Klustis Radio Operator installation project 1922

Klustis Radio Operator installation project 1922

The constructions made by Klutsis

The constructions made by Klutsis

The constructivim soon entered the political posters. Klutsis had no problem of becoming a political agitator – instead he made the posters as art. Photo-montage first regarded only as small artistic element became the core of his posters. First posters including photo-montage came out in 1927. Already recognized as a great artist, his posters became famous within the Union. The avant-garde collages involving workers, soldiers and his idol Lenin as the central figure, the formation of the figures were impressive and mesmerizing. One of the most famous posters the 1928 Gym and Sports dedicated to Sparticide sports with brilliant photo-montage scheme of jumping swimmers was great example of his art.

Sketch for the poster "We dont need hysterical flows, but the calm joining of the iron battalions of the proletariat in to the party" Lenin 1924-1925

Sketch for the poster “We dont need hysterical flows, but the calm joining of the iron battalions of the proletariat in to the party” Lenin 1924-1925

He also designed expressive decorations for the soviet exhibitions in foreign countries. One of them in Belgium was vandalized by far right anti communists. Various expressive avant-garde pavilions and exhibition stands were made and projected during twenties. He also made stage decorations for the satirical theater play “Bourgeoisie Latvia”. He had lost all  connections with his birthplace and regarded it as any other capitalist country. Latvia was no stranger to avant-garde art it had its own modern art society. As  the modern art was condemned by the conservative nationalist Latvians, these artists were mostly leftists. During the twenties and thirties the modern art was often regarded as a communist thing because it challenged the traditional art as much as the communists challenged the capitalist order.

Stage decoration sketch for the satirical play "Bourgeois Latvia"

Stage decoration sketch for the satirical play “Bourgeois Latvia”

At the late twenties the power in the Soviet Union was consolidated by Joseph Stalin. One of his first grand projects to change the country as the introduction of the five year plan. A move to centralize the countries economy by bringing up mass industrialization and collectivize the farming economy.  For such radical and painful moves a influx of a mass propaganda was needed. And that is where Klutsis and his posters came in. The first five year plan was started on 1928. Klutsis worked with the IZGOIZ – the state art publisher. It ordered the posters and censured them. From 1929 to 1937 more than 50 posters made by Klutsis were issued. Working with collage, experimenting with photo equipment he could change the size of the objects, combine the negatives. He looked for the objects and  people in the newspapers, books, took the pictures of himself. With the equipment of XX century thirties he made the poster even better then now with the use of the digital software. His posters featured industrial themes, workers, factories and Lenin himself as the ideological leader. In one 1930 poster Lenin was shown with Stalin, but Lenin still overshadowed rather   obscure looking face of Stalin. With the omnipresent expressive red color combined with the black and white picture the posters showed the dynamism of the five year plan. Complete unity as shown in the Worker and the Worker woman with multiple hands raised up and one large hand. The largest hand belonged to Stalin the – leader. But in reality this was the hand of Klutsis taken for this poster. With his photo technique he changed the size of the had making a impressive poster.

Worker and the Worker woman all to elections! 1930

Worker and the Worker woman all to elections! 1933

Collage of the Klutsis posters

Collage of the Klutsis posters

On October 26 1932 Stalin attended the writers meeting at the  Maxim Gorky residence. He said one of his well known phrases that “the artists are the engineers of the human soul”. It was a signal to increase the propaganda towards the peoples minds to convert them completely to the new Stalinist order. Stalin was no longer a mere shadow of the Lenin in the Klutsis posters, he was the grand figure of everything. Stalin was walking with the workers a thing he would never do in reality. The USSR was called as the strike brigade of the worldwide proletariat. Red banner raised above the red globe was the ambition of Klutsis and Stalin himself. A grandiose poster showing gigantic serious Stalin overseeing the factories with the slogan “The Victory of Socialism in our country is achieved! The Fundament of the Socialist Economy has been made!” The god like figure of Stalin filled with strife and anger showed him just as the way he wanted to look like. Other poster sketch showing Stalin smiling with the pipe in his mouth was never released. Stalin was to be feared not loved. As the Stalin’s favorite author Machiavelli had once formulated – leader should be feared in order to be loved. But the Stalin was not the only communist god. In the Soviet Holy Trinity there is three gods – Lenin, Stalin and Karl Marx the prophet of the socialist revolution. And in the poster of 1933 Karl Marx is overlooking the entire planet with a masses of proletarians. Behind a landscape of broken factories the slogan says “The goal of the Union is the destruction of the Bourgeois” It was indeed the Stalin’s policy after the socialism in one county was achieved the Soviet Union will bring the socialism worldwide. In other 1933 poster the armed proletarians are united under red flags of Marx, Engels, Lenin and Stalin. Klutsis was still romanticized by the October revolution his scenes with fighting workers were still in line with the Lenin and Trotsky ideas. But it was not according with Stalin’s conception – the worldwide socialist revolution was to be achieved with tanks and bombers.

1935 Klutsis poster- Glory to Red Army

1935 Klutsis poster- Glory to Red Army

On 1935 Klutsis made one his most famous posters- Glory to the Red Army! Gigantic Stalin and Commander in Chief General Voroshilov overlooks the  parade of tanks in the Red Square. Together with bombers the might of the Red Army was shown in scale. The intention to start a new world war was clearly seen. Another 1932 picture shows the Soviet youth with guns behind the masses of marching army towards the victory. Two young soviet boys showing concrete faces, but girl in the middle smiles. A rather naive smile, these people few years later will fight in the front lines. But there is one thing we should notice in the 1935 poster. It no longer features photo-montage, instead all the figures are drawn. Drawn realistically. Onward from 1935 the new soviet art style was the “socialist realism”. It had no place for the expresionism, avant-guarde, and especially formalism. The formalists were condemned. The new realist was actually a neoclassicism. A kind of art enjoyed by Adolf Hitler who himself once made realistic paintings. Nazis condemned the modernist art. Their posters were grandiose but realistic. Stalin in many ways impressed by the Nazi Germany also followed suit. It is no wonder many soviet posters have so much in common with the Nazi posters. It was the same reactionary conservative art style calling for complete unification of the society and the world domination. It was the art of complete totalitarianism a totalitarianism that will destroy Klutsis.

Klutsis again remembered his Latvian roots.  Before his relations with the Latvian Soviet diaspora was rather awkward. Now the socialist realism demanded to show the life’s of the ordinary soviet citizens, also nationalities. He joined Latvian cultural society “Prometejs” (Prometheus). By their orders he to the Latvian settlements in Russia and Ukraine and depict the Latvian soviet citizens. The shock workers or stahanovians as they were called and the landscapes. All of them were painted in the realistic way. His photo-montage posters were no longer needed. On 1936 he also tasked to research the Latvian signs and traditional arts. However, there was no good sources for this task. In order to create ethnographic album for the Latvians in the Soviet Union, Klutsis used the ladies journal Zeltene (Lass) from Latvia. Klutsis was not interested in the national value of the Latvian signs of symbols he was interested in their form and precision. He however, made a large research work.  In his free time he made paintings of buildings and landscapes.

On 1937 he was in Paris, France for a few weeks. He attended the International Contemporary Art and Technic Exhibition. His task was to guide to creation of the photo exhibit in one of the Soviet pavilion halls. All the best Soviet artists were gathered there to show the might of the Soviet art. He was still needed, but not for long. Stalin was directing his country towards the great war. Massive repressions towards the old elite of communists from the days of the October revolution were issued in full scale. Latvians were considered as spies of the capitalist Latvia, in his war against the capitalist world they could no longer be trusted. Stalin ordered the extermination of the Latvian communists and public personalities – like Klutsis. He was too well known and no longer regarded as a genius artist. On January 17 1938 he was arrested as a member of a fascist Latvian nationalists. A accusation unimaginable for still passionate communist Klutsis. On February 26 by the protocol No. 128 of the February 11 issued by the Peoples Commissar of the Interior Affairs he shot at the Butovo polygon near Moscow. Butovo became the graveyard of thousands of Latvians killed by the Great Purge.

Gustavs Klutsis arrest picture January 1938

Gustavs Klutsis arrest picture January 1938

His wife Valentina Kulagina and son Edvards were spared. Only in 1989 Edvards found out what happened with his father. He was erased from the Soviet history for decades. Then on 1959 in Riga the deputy director of the Latvian and Russian Art Museum (now Latvian National Art Museum) Artūrs Eglītis wanted to bring Klutsis paintings to Latvia. It was the time when the Red Latvian Riflemen were again included in the Soviet propaganda. Without  mentioning what happened to them in 1937-1938 it was accepted to display the Soviet Latvian art. Together with Klutsis, the works of Aleksandrs Drēviņs, Kārlis Veidemanis, Voldemārs Andersons,  Vilhelm Jabub and Paul Irbītis were displayed for the first time in decades. After the end of the exhibit the Klutsis wife Valentina Kulagina presented the museum with of more than 350 Klutsis works. Also the Latvian SSR Ministry of Culture bought tens of more of his works and his personal archive. The Latvian and Russian Arts Museum and the Revolution Museum (now War Museum) got hold of enormous collection of Klutsis work. He was again remembered in other parts of the world and after 1991 Latvian National Art Museum displayed his works at the guest exhibits.    His works were also displayed in Soviet Union. Novadays Klutsis works are popular object of the Soviet art and history.  The 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics opening ceremony featured references to Klutsis propaganda works.

Gustavs Klutsis was one of the best artists in the Soviet Union. A true example in the constructivism and photo-montage. Unfortunately his communist beliefs did not live up the politics of Joseph Stalin. No doubt Klutsis would follow Stalin’s change of politics with greatest enthusiasm if the chance have been given. Instead he was shot along with other common minded Latvians betrayed by their beloved leader. But, his art has outlived his short life and preserved a never ending legacy of one of the most known Latvian born artists.

Selected Sources:

Derkusova, Iveta, Tsantsanoglou, Maria, Yates, Steve. (2014) Gustavs, Klutsis. Anatomy of an Experiment. Riga. Latvian National Arts Museum.

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If War Comes Tomorrow 1938 Soviet Movie that predicted the World War II

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On 1938 whole Europe was worried about possible second full scale war. Hitlers troops had already marched into Austria and later Czechoslovakia. Meanwhile in Soviet Union the saw again the possibility to trigger new Worldwide Socialist revolution. According to Stalin’s understanding there were two ways of how do it – first drag the capitalist countries against each other in a full scale war, but don’t take part in it until the most favorable moment.  Other way was to provoke the enemy to attack USSR and then defeat the enemy in their own territory. And that is how it was shown movie made in 1938 called If the War Comes Tomorrow (Если завтра война). The movie quickly became long forgotten after Molotov-Ribbentrop pact and later after the war. However, the movie has been fully preserved and available to us all in here

The movie was directed by Efim Dzigan. He made Stalinist style propaganda movies like We from Kronstatd (1936) and the First Cavalry (1941). However, If the War Comes tomorrow was his most famous work of propaganda art. One of the main features of this movie was the main theme song of the same name composed by Vasily Lebedev-Kumach. Later he wrote the legendary song “The Holy War”.

It the War comes tomorrow lacked same artistic and dramatic depth as Sergei Eisenstein movie “Alexander Nevsky” that also had very similar message- he who comes to Russia with spear dies from spear. Dzigan movie characters were shown as simple and brave soviet citizens fully loyal to the Soviet power and the leader Stalin. In fact the movie had no in depth characters in whole. Dramatic dialogs were only needed to illustrate the massive battle scenes that took great part in this movie.

The movie plot starts in the New Year anniversary in Moscow. Since the Christmas was officially removed from the holiday list, the New Yer celebrations became widely popular. A dialog between two retired males about their children in the Red Army is shown. One brags about his four sons who are in the Red Army tank force and forms a family tank crew, other talks about his daughter in the army, who is also a wife of the border guards commander. Occasionally the propaganda voice talks about the great Soviet achievements and  large tall structure that proves the Soviet greatness. It could be that this large structure was the intended Palace of Soviets a gigantic 415 m structure that would became the tallest building in the world. The construction was begun on 1937, but the war canceled this grandiose plans. Right now its foundations have been turned in to worlds largest swimming pool.  But, then the propaganda voice alarms everyone about the uneasy situation in the border areas caused by foreign powers and the growing fascist threat”.

Movie then switches to USSR border areas in the night before the dawn. A enemy troops speaking in German gathers up the forces for the attack. Their symbol is swastika however its displayed different than official Nazi Germany symbol. One of their officers have a mustache just like Adolf Hitler, although the toothbrush mustache was quite popular among many before the WWII the occasional movie viewer would understand what the movie is trying to show. However, the “Fascist’ soldiers whose country and nationality is not shown, but speaks in German looks more like WWI British or French soldiers. A another message – the Soviet enemy is not just “Fascists” but also capitalists. Enemy uses an outdated TS-18 (MC-1) tank that was also the very first Soviet built tank.

The "Fascist" invader symbol

The “Fascist” invader symbol

On 1938 the Soviet Union had no border with Germany or any other “Fascist” country. So according to this movie at least Poland was no longer existent in this war. For many Soviet citizens who were unaware of the European geography or political situation this might be a missed spot. But, from our perspective this detail is pretty important. The fate of Poland was long decided in the Kremlin.

Enemy soldier with peculiar mustache

Enemy soldier with peculiar mustache

The enemy is striving for a surprise attack however, Soviets aware of the alarming situation have sent reinforcements. And so the first attempt of the border crossing fails – the Fascist infantry lead by Hitler like captain is forced to retreat. The enemy attempt on crossing the border is shown in pretty vague WWI tactic style in heavy contrast to later massive Soviet attack shown in the movie. When the land attack fails, Fascists sends bombers to Minsk and Kiev. According to research made by historian Mark Solonin Stalin had planned to make fake bombing raids on his own cities, to justify his attack on Germany. To fight the enemy aircraft, Soviets sends their fighters. After the enemy bombers are destroyed, S0viet Pe-8 bombers takes flight to bomb the enemy airfields. Pe-8 was one of the heaviest long range bombers of those times. It could reach Berlin and even London. Interesting that the leading pilot of the bomber squad is called “Gromov” Interesting that the Soviet plan for aggression against Germany made in May 15 1941 is also called “Grom” (Thunder).  Actually this name went well with the people of those times, since the idea of fast and decisive strike was very popular both in Germany and USSR. The Soviet concept of the “deep operations” was published in book by N Shpanov “First Strike”.

Soviet bomber squad leader Gromov

Soviet bomber squad leader Gromov

Soviets issue a full mobilization. A grandiose parade is gathered in the Red Square. This parade actually took place on May 1 1938 with the presence of Stalin and the chief commander Voroshilov Millions are rushing to join the Red Army including 12 old boy and the old man seen in the movie opening. He wants to support his four sons who are already in the army. Many woman joins too. Then movie switches to Uzbekistan, Georgia, Ukraine and other Soviet republics that also joins the  fight. And then the most interesting thing happens: a large movie comment appears declaring that “From the Black Sea, to the Arctic  from the Baltics to the Pacific Ocean millions of sons joins the fight”. The Baltic States were still independent from USSR on 1938. So we suppose that the fate of the Baltic States was also decided in this movie.

From the Black Sea to

“From the Black Sea, to the Arctic  from the Baltics to the Pacific Ocean millions of sons joins the fight

Movie then goes back to battlefield showing grandiose scenes of the Fascist attack and the Soviet counter attack. The enemy uses a French Renault FT-1 tanks. They get easily beaten. In return Soviets sends a horde of the BT-7 tanks. BT-7 was one of the fastest tanks of those times. According to some authors, this tanks were only good for the Western roads and therefore were  only used for aggressive purposes.  After the German invasion on 1941 large part of these tanks were made useless, destroyed and abandoned. Here the tanks are shown in their best – in fast speed they escape the enemy cannon fire and break their lines. In one of those tanks all four brothers mentioned earlier attacks. Its quite true that until 1941 the German tanks were quite lighter than the Soviet tanks. After meeting heavier Soviet counterparts Germans switched to more heavier models.

Soviet main battle tank BT-7 attacks

Soviet main battle tank BT-7 attacks

The desperate enemy uses chemical weapons to stop the Soviets. Chemical weapons were never used by the Nazi Germany at least in the battlefields. This movie still was in the spirit of the WWI when chemical weapons were occasionally used. However, Soviets have gas masks and all the necessary equipment to survive a gas attack. Under the white smoke they gather up their attack fore.

Enemy gas attack

Enemy gas attack

Fascists sends reinforcements and that is where the Soviet paratroopers comes in. With the help of the Pe-8 bombers they land behind the enemy lines and ambushes the fascist reinforcements.   The enemy staff is alarmed that the paratroopers are near their positions. The Soviet paratroopers were not just an empty brag. Actually the Soviet Union had a force of 1 million of them. Since the paratroopers were almost impossible to use in the defensive actions it was obvious that their sole purpose was  to penetrate the enemy from behind. In the movie showed how it should be done.

Soviet paratroopers takes of from Pe-8 bomber

Soviet paratroopers takes of from Pe-8 bomber

Soviets accompanied by tanks, aircraft and even  cavalry starts a massive attack. Enemy is routing in panic. Cavalry lead by Marshal Budyonni chases them, Fascists sends they own cavalry resulting a bloody battle. Already after the Polish campaign it was clear that the cavalry is useless in this new kind of warfare.

Then something that the Soviets had long desired happens in the main Fascist capital. The “proletariat” the workers starts marching under the red banner. Police and army (interesting that soldiers shown there have a Nazi style helmets while soldiers shown in the front line have a British style helmets) fires at the crowd a desperate battle for red flag erupts. In the end the crowds march in the streets with the Soviet flag. That was according to long time Soviet belief made by Lenin, that the world war will cause a socialist uprising in the capitalist centers before the Soviet tanks reach them.

Proletarians takes over the streets

Proletarians takes over the streets

And the Soviet tanks are marching in masses accompanied by grandiose hordes of bombers. Captured Fascist generals are watching this with the fear and disbelief. In the end the massive hordes of the Red Army is shown. The slogan reads “The First attack of the enemy has been beaten. In such way the war might start that would lead to the destruction of the capitalist world” And the song plays warning that there is no such force to destroy the Soviet Union.

The movie failed to prove its point. Despite the enormous resources gathered by the Red Army, on 1941 Germans managed to advance all the way to Moscow. Red Army needed not two days to beat of the enemy aggression, but four years. But in therms of destruction of Poland and the Baltic States the movie was right. Poland and the Baltic states were in between Germany and USSR. Only way to attack Soviet Union or Soviet Union to attack Germany was to remove these buffer states. And that was done by signing the Molotov – Ribbentrop pact on August 23 1939. But, the main movie slogan the destruction of the capitalist order left unfulfilled.

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The Evolution of the Soviet Victory Day Celebration. The Cult of the Great Victory

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All Soviet and Russian Federation Medals for anniversary of the Great Victory from 1965 to 2010

Tomorrow on the streets of Moscow and other capital cities of the former Soviet Union a large military parade will be held commemorating the Soviet victory over Nazi Germany in May 9 1945. In Riga, Latvia there are no military parades just a large celebration at the Monument of Victory. Latvian Russian political movements have used this date for their political goals. For last four years the Riga city council has been led by the Russian party Harmony Center that has done a great deal of politicizing this celebration. There are similarities with the March 16 commemoration day of the Latvian SS Legion. While March 16 is  the main mythical date for Latvian nationalists and May 9 is an important date for all who still live with the soviet conciseness. The May 9 Soviet Victory day is artificially made celebration based on Soviet propaganda that made the cult of the Great Victory. Yet in first years after the war nor the soviet people nor the Stalin himself really believed that the victory over Nazi Germany needs to be celebrated.

Despite the fact that Soviet General  Ivan Susloparov had actually signed the capitulation agreement on May 7 at Reims, France that came to power in May 8, Stalin was dissatisfied with this and demanded to make another act of capitulation in Berlin. Because of these Soviets regarded the May 9 as the official end of the World War II.

The soviet Union explained the victory as the superiority of the communist system and the political and the moral unity of the Soviet people with Stalin in the lead. As the radio announced the victory the streets of Moscow rejoiced in celebration. With singing and fireworks from 1000 cannons the May 9 was celebrated with great joy. But, for many is was just sign of relief that the war killed over that more than 26 million Soviet people. In Germany and Poland the repressions and massacre against the German civilians continued for many months. In Latvia the Courland was still under the German control and last shots were fired there.

The Victory parade in Moscow took place on June 24 1945. It was intended that Stalin himself would enter the Red Square on horseback. However, during the practice Stalin fell off the horse and decided to hand him over to Marshal Zhukov. So it was Zhukov who entered the parade. For years this fact has circulated among the historiography and was mentioned even by prominent western historians. While there is a high possibility that Stalin never even took part in the practice as the whole story was made up. For the Cavalry Colonel S. N. Maslov who allegedly choose the horse for Stalin was sentenced in War Tribunal at Germany for 10 years. So he could not choose the horse for Stalin. More significantly this presumably false story was included in Zhukov memoirs. Zhukov memoirs have many false stories many of them not written by himself. So in reality Stalin simply did not want to participate in the parade because he did not consider the outcome of the World War II as truly victorious.

When one American diplomat told Stalin about how grateful for him must be to know that Soviet troops are marching in Berlin, Stalin replied:” Tsar Alexander reached Paris.” There is also another similar quote from Stalin: “This war is not as in the past; whoever occupies a territory also imposes on it his own social system. Everyone imposes his own system as far as his army can reach. It cannot be otherwise. If now there is not a communist government in Paris, this is only because Russia has no an army which can reach Paris in 1945.” This is a well known phrase, but most people only pay attention to the first part of the quote about how far the army goes is how far the soviet power goes. It’s true that communist governments were established in every country that was reached by the Soviet army. But, it seems even the whole Eastern Europe was not enough for him as he wanted to establish a communist government in Paris. The main goal for Stalin and the whole Soviet Union before the WWII was the Worldwide Socialist Revolution. Stalin saw WWII as the clash between Nazis and Capitalist forces, where the Soviet Union at the most advantageous moment could make the most decisive strike. As we know that his plan backfired when Germany attacked the Soviet Union first. Berlin was not enough for Stalin, he wanted Paris and maybe even London or Washington. That is why he did not take any direct part in the parade. Even if there was any incident with the horse it was used as a good excuse not to take part in the parade that was shameful for him.

It was also June 24 when Stalin significantly changed the main accents in the Soviet ideology. In the victory ball Stalin made a toast for the well being of the Russian nation, since it was the greatest of the Soviet nations and deserves the main recognition for her bravery in the war. Ethnic Georgian Stalin unleashed the Russian nationalism at the full scale. All talks of internationalism were forgotten, Russian nation now declared as the main nation in the USSR. On 1943 the old Soviet anthem Internationale was replaced with more patriotic and nationalistic anthem praising the Russian nation. Stalin had acknowledged that his quest for international Soviet republic had failed so he instead restored the traditions of the old Russian Empire.

On June 23 1945 a decree was issued to demobilize older soldiers. Complete demobilization was finished in 1948. About 8,5  million soldiers with them 3,8 invalids went back home. 2, 6 million of invalids were completely unable to regain health and find a new job. 2 million Soviet prisoners of war went home as traitors and cowards. 67% of them had to go through filtration camps for the Soviet power was suspicious if they collaborated with the Germans.

During the last years of Stalin’s rule until 1953, no major celebrations for the Victory day ever took place. Despite the official ideology praised the veterans, they got little attention from the state.  Stalin was afraid from the military elite and in coming years discharged most war generals like Zhukov from top posts. The social payments  for veterans and money for receiving awards were reduced.  No celebrations or holidays took place on May 9.

After the death of Stalin in 1953, his successor Nikita Khrushchev seek to remove Stalin from the soviet historical memory. The campaign to disclose the Stalinist cult was underway and Soviet propaganda now accused Stalin of great losses of 1941 and too much trust on Hitler. However, the main myth of the peaceful policy of the Soviet Union before the WWII remained intact and was improved. Also Nikita Khrushchev had not abandoned the idea of the worldwide socialist revolution. He wanted to achieve with the economical and technical supremacy of the Soviet Union. His plans of outmatching the United States generally failed in 1962 during the Cuban missile crisis. However, for many years his propaganda of the great future reached by space race and technology shadowed the WWII memories.

On 1965 Khrushchev was replaced by Leonid Brezhnev. Brezhnev understood that reaching the worldwide Soviet supremacy was impossible; instead his policy was to keep the Soviet system stable for many years to come. In such situation a new festivity that would keep the peoples minds busy was needed. So in 26 April 1965 the May 9 was made as an official holiday. Before that official holidays were May 1 and November 7 the October Revolution day. Many books were published, awards and special coins were made, and special monuments were made. The cities that suffered heavy battles were named as the “Hero towns”.

Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev introduced the Soviet Victory day celebrations

Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev introduced the Soviet Victory day celebrations

Leonid Brezhnev formed his own ideology of the Great Victory. The victory was international and the role of the Soviet Army was crucial in the WWII. The victory meant the Soviet supremacy over Nazi and the capitalist system. Also Brezhnev now called all major nations of the USSR including Latvians as the “infinite heroes”.  Also one of the main points was the commemoration and the worship of the war veterans and the war generation. For the cause for what they fought was infinite.

On May 9 1965 an epic, never before seen parade took part in Moscow. After celebrating 20 years of victory such parades were taken every year. The Victory Day became the main argument of legitimacy for the Soviet regime. The Great victory was the main reason for the revolution and the building of communism. The Brezhnev view of history was close to the Stalinist version of history. War films were made in masses. The main basis of WWII history was no longer the war but the victory. The dark side of the war: the great losses of the 1941-1942, GULAG, Stalin’s aggression’s before 1941, punishment battalions, the Vlasov Army and the Soviet War crimes was diminished by the myth of the Great Victory. This myth halted the Khrushchev policies for anti-Stalinist, and slowed down calls for democracy. With that the Stalinist terror was also partly justified. There was also another prosaic explanation for this new policy. Brezhnev really liked orders and medals and like to receive them and award others. So such festivity was needed for mass awarding of medals and orders. Brezhnev even got himself awarded with the highest award the Order of Victory that he did not deserve in any way.

The monument of Mother Russia in Volgograd (Stalingrad) one of the distinctive sites of the Victory cult

The monument of Mother Russia in Volgograd (Stalingrad) one of the distinctive sites of the Victory cult

Since then the Victory day celebrations have been routine for the Soviet people. Forgotten veterans now enjoyed social privileges. Veterans and war invalids became a special social group. As the years vent the privileges expanded marking the feeling of social injustice among many. This also made many to became a fake veteran. This people made up their birth dates and biography to get the medals and social status.

In 1985 the Victory Day was still celebrated as usual. In 1990 the common policy was more revisionist, mentioning Stalinist crimes, Molotov-Ribbentrop pact. In a social survey in Leningrad 60,8 % people agreed that the Soviet Union had begun a bloody war of conquer. Only 20% disagreed. The myth had collapsed as the Soviet power was now held responsible for the great war losses.

After the complete collapse of the USSR the revision of WWII history continued. However, many still believed that the common people during the Stalin’s era where good and honored and got nothing to with Stalinist crimes. Russian democratic regime canceled the official commemoration of the Soviet past. However, the social difficulties in  Russia the failure of the transformation to capitalist system made communist slogans to reborn again. People again looked for an iron hand to fix their problems and Stalin again was praised in many surveys. The Boris Yeltsin government failed to introduce the Russian society with ideas of national unity and the “Russian Idea”. The problem with the Great Victory was that the Stalinist crimes did not allow to use it in democratic propaganda.

The war veterans united in unions and committees.  In 1995 there were 2,4 million surviving war veterans. Yeltsin celebrated the 50 years of victory in 1995 to boost his re-election campaign. Also because of the war in Chechnya the boost for army was needed. The parade in the Red Square was restored. A Medal of Zhukov was introduced. Yeltsin had given up his desires for democracy and again introduced May 9 as the tool to unify the nation. And it worked because of large mass appraisal. The editor of the newspaper Nezavisimaja Gazeta Vitaly Tretyakov called the May 9 as the “unofficial commemoration day of the Soviet Union”.

The traumatic decade of the nighties made many think that the Soviet Union was not so bad, that the greedy statesman was the blame for its collapse. The memories for “good and stable” Brezhnev years again made the Victory day cult rise again. The new president Vladimir Putin sought to restore the good image of Stalin and KGB. And since the Putins reign just as the Brezhnev reign begun with high rise of oil prices that returned stability, the old ways were good again. Also the attitude towards the war in Chechnya also changed from negative to positive.

A new attribute to the May 9 Victory cult was the “George Ribbon”. Taken from the Czarist time ribbon of the Order of St Georgy, the black and orange ribbon became the symbol of the national solidarity. In Czarist times the use of the colors of the St George was only for nobles and awarded officers. The simple mass use of these colors is a degradation of old tradition. On 2005 the celebrations in Moscow hit new heights with massive parades and use of aircraft and rockets. Since the war veterans are slowly depleting in numbers, many think that the Victory day is a day of nostalgic solidarity and commemoration of the great soviet past. As the years pass by the understanding of the WWII events have significantly changed. The young generation is sometimes more fanatical than the old veterans who really faced the war. The biased image of the WWII made by movies, TV documentaries and computer games are causing for young generation to misinterpret the history. The neo-soviet propaganda in Russia is growing. As the Putin’s regime is facing difficulties the pattern of Stalinist revision is making its way. Even if there are great numbers of liberal and educated young Russians, large numbers of Russian youth still worships the victory cult. Even worse a relative number of people who rejects both no-sovietism and liberalism turns to radical nationalism or even Nazism.

Putinist Era propaganda poster for Victory day "I remember I take pride"

Putinist Era propaganda poster for Victory day “I remember I take pride”

In Latvia the May 9, has evolved as the day of protest and day of nostalgia. For some its the way of remembering the Soviet past, for others its a sign of protest against the Latvian democratic system. The Harmony center has failed to enter the government by its own fault for years and uses the Victory day to lure the voters. The movement to remove the Liberation monument where the celebration is held has been active for years. Calls for not using the WWII as a political tool and commemorate the victims on all sides on May 8 has been met with little support.

In the conclusion it must be said that the Soviet Victory day on May 9, was made as the tool of mass control. The struggling Soviet regime was searching for common sign of the Soviet collective identity and found it in the May 9. The main leader of the WW2 Soviet victory Stalin himself did not even want to celebrate his own victory. The cult of the Great Victory was made by people who had small or no experience in war and was made as the only uniting thing for the whole nation. Today as the Russian Federation is struggling to let go of the Soviet past and it has no uniting factor of its own; the Victory day continues to be the main event. It’s a matter of the new generation to finally let go the Stalinist grip and move into the new era.

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