Calling All Comrades!

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On June 22, 1941, Nazi troops crossed the border into Soviet Russia -- the first contingent of what would eventually become the largest military operation in history. In the first week of what Adolf Hitler's generals had dubbed "Operation Barbarossa,"  some 600,000 Red Army soldiers were killed, captured, or wounded, and more than 3 million Axis troops had advanced 200 miles into Soviet territory. The Soviet Army, with the help of the unforgiving Russian winter, was eventually successful in turning back the assault, but at tremendous cost -- millions of soldiers and civilians died in battle, and due to starvation or cold.

During the early days of the invasion, as the German advance was making rapid progress, artists and writers gathered in Moscow under the banner of the TASS News Agency to look for a way to boost the rapidly sagging Soviet morale. Their solution was to produce massive posters that vilified the Nazis and lauded the Soviet resistance while commenting on the news of the war effort. Particularly notable for being produced under the totalitarian regime of Soviet Premier Joseph Stalin, their efforts stand out as some of the most striking works of art from World War II.

Discovered in 1997, deep in a storage area in the Art Institute of Chicago, these monumental posters -- some up to 10 feet tall -- are now on display at that museum. The captions below are translations of the posters' text.

Above, a poster reads: "Long live our native, invincible Red Army -- powerful fortress of the peaceful labor of the people of the USSR, faithful guardian of the achievements of the October Socialist Revolution."


LEFT: "Hitler's diplomats are shuttling from one neutral country to another, attempting to make alliances with pro-Hitler elements in those countries, hinting at the possibility of a separate peace either with our government or with our allies. All these ploys of Hitler are destined to failure."

MIDDLE: "Tensions in relations between Romania and Hungary have not eased as of yet, but rather escalated. Transylvania remains a bone of contention between Hungary and Romania. Budapest stares at Bucharest in a very menacing way. It looks as if it's hatching plans to gobble it up one day. But Budapest has been bought out by the German treasury, and it resists losing hope. And caving in to the Romanians, Bucharest clearly wants to add to its territory by grabbing up in one fell swoop the north of Transylvania. The Hungarian cabinet to Bucharest sent a diplomatic protest. But very brazenly Budapest was answered by Bucharest. Thus on the sly, two hungry spiders argue and quarrel in Hitler's jar."

RIGHT: "Hitler: 'The situation on the Eastern Front requires me to surround your countries with my attention.'"


LEFT: "Let the triumphant banner of the great Lenin protect you! Under the banner of Lenin -- onward to victory!"

RIGHT: "Fascist pirates, you have no hope of escaping alive from the guardsmen. When guardsmen meet their enemy, they leave only wreckage in their wake."

e boltai! Collection; Right: Gift of the USSR Society for Cultural Relations with Foreign Countries



"The Moscow Kremlin is wrapped in age-old glory
And shines to all the corners of our land.
By right does our great nation send here
Its most worthy sons and daughters.

And near is the day when streams of light
Will flow from the windows of the Kremlin Palace:
Our hearts will be gladdened by the solemn news
Of a session of the Supreme Soviet."


"Go forward, son, go without tiring!
Avenge your loved ones, liberate the orphans!
Go, son, go: your native land awaits.
And I bless you with my hand."


LEFT: "Are these birds? No, not birds -- they are exploded Fritzes. Their detachment is in shreds - the work of partisans!"

RIGHT: "It is a great day in the Soviet land. The broom of the Red Army has brushed Romanian and German rabble off the Odessa steps."


"Despite Goebbels' reassuring speech, the turmoil of the Nazi camps is growing every day.

What is this? A groan? A cry?
Positively scandalous!
All the buds are drooping
And one has already fallen.

Goebbels the florist.
Is an expert on buds.
But what do you know:
The weather has changed,
And the flowers are withering fast!"



"For the seasoned soldier
The road behind is long;
And the seasoned soldier
Tells his younger brother his tale.

He tells about his labors
And adds, 'Let us carry
Together the banner of honor
To new military victories!'"

RIGHT: "The heroic efforts of the working class further enhance the material base of the Red Army and thereby bring closer the hour of our ultimate victory."


"The German-Fascist bandits are now scrambling to find ways of being delivered from catastrophe. They have once again resorted to a 'total' mobilization at the rear, even though the human resources of Germany are exhausted. (From the order of the Supreme Commander-in-Chief, comrade J. Stalin of February 23, 1944.)"



"Like wild animals, with savage howls
They lunge into a roaring stream.
This is Hitler, row by row,
Chasing the 'Fritzes' toward the East.

Here, every window hides a sniper;
Here, the bushes conceal death;
Here, swallowing the stranger's land
The misled 'Fritzes'
Metamorphose into crosses.

Death to the German swine
Is not some sorcery;
It is the battle triumphant
Of the Soviet Army!"

RIGHT: "Hitler can't sleep. Through the darkness, a skeleton appears to him. Goosebumps rise on his skin. 'Remember, Hitler, Stalingrad! We died there a year ago - soon the same will happen to you!'"


LEFT: "There was a shout near Orel and it echoed in Rome."

RIGHT: "Hail the great organizer and inspirer of the Soviet people's historic victory over German imperialism -- our beloved leader and teacher, comrade STALIN!"



"The fascist villain
Is feverish and trembling
The collective farmer sows
Oats and wheat and rye.

In the fields, under the hot sun
Our harvest will rise up.
But Hitler sowed war,
And he will reap his death."

RIGHT: "It is now a question of clearing the fascist invaders from our entire land and of restoring the state frontiers of the Soviet Union along the entire line from the Black Sea to the Barents Sea. (From the decree of the Supreme Commander, Comrade J. Stalin, May 1, 1944.)"


LEFT: "Gather the Entire Harvest on Schedule!"


"In any weather
The people's chosen
Float in the celestial expanse.
They guard seas and borders,
Fields and villages,
The entire native land...

Brave and courageous
Are the skilled pilots,
The protectors of our heights.
To the air force
Love and care
Is given by the Soviet people."



LEFT: "The fraternal nations made an appointment over the enemy city. From this handshake, Germany will suffer!"


"May this day remain through the ages
The union of friendship, glory and valor!
The Fascist beast is forever turned to ash.
Victory has come! And in her hands
The flags of the free peoples proudly wave.
The world has never seen such victory!
Glory to the heroes! Greetings to the Allies!"


LEFT: "Greetings to the brave sailors of Great Britain and the United States of America, fighting the Fascist pirates!"

MIDDLE: "Three flags, shining brightly, let them fly far and wide! The three powers' alliance and friendship will secure peace over the entire world!"

RIGHT: "The Fascist bosses are making desperate attempts to introduce discord into the camp of the anti-Hitler coalition and thus prolong the war. (From an edict of the Supreme Commander-in-Chief, Comrade J. Stalin, Feb. 23, 1944.)"

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