The poster is far from being a minor art form in the Soviet Union. From the Revolution on, like the other short-lived arts, it made its appearance felt everywhere. At that time, posters were above all a mean of political propaganda, as is still the case today to a great extent. During the Revolution, their political character was determined by the events themselves, but this was also in keeping with Soviet conception of art. Marx had already implied that there existed a close link between art (superstructure) and economic evolution (infrastructure).
Many Russian thinkers, writers and artists were obsessed with the idea that art must be useful. Lenin went even further: he declared that artists should join forces with the working-classes.
The educational function of art proved of such help to the Revolution, that the soviet government decided to launch an important propaganda plan from 1918 on.
In 1971, one could still read that art’s principal function was to further the ideological development of the personality. No-one was in a better position to fulfil this role than the poster artist, as he was “not only an artist” but was at the same time “a politician and a journalist”, using his pencil and his brush “like weapons”.
During the first years after the Revolution of 1917, poster designers, like artists, were able to undertake this task freely, they were allowed to give free rein to their imagination provided it served the communist ideal.
The poster became a reflection of avant-garde artistic trends. But the totalitarian state quickly restored order in the cultural field, as in all other fields. It became compulsory for artists’ creations to comply with the norms of socialist realism laid down by the First Congress of soviet writers in 1934.
However, the consequences of this “artistic method” differed considerably between posters and paintings. While naturalist realism was favoured by easel-painting, strict stylization was frequently used in posters, nevertheless, both had a common attitude: the “party spirit” (partinost) was the only criterion on which work was based.