Can You Guess What This Soviet Poster Is Trying To Tell You?

«Вредители льна.» Внизу: «Плодитесь, размножайтесь и наполняйте землю.»
Dmitrii Moor, “The Flax Pests.” On the bottom: “Be fruitful, multiply and replenish the earth.” P-05, Print Collection 18: Early Soviet Posters.

Early Soviet posters aimed to end the Old Regime in every way, and that included religion. The poster above is a part of the collection of 48 Soviet propaganda posters from the 1920s and 1930s. This fascinating collection includes anti-religious and anti-capitalist messages, as well as instructional posters on the new ways of Soviet childcare and parenting. Many of them explicitly criticized the clergy, blaming them for clouding the minds of the masses with distracting messages.

«Паси овца моя.» Dmitrii Moor, “Herd my sheep.” P-07, Print Collection 18: Early Soviet Posters.

The previous version of the finding aid for this collection included a note for Poster #5 (P-05), the first image in this post, describing it as “Image of God creating pests.” However, it is unlikely that this man was meant to be God. It was not common for Soviet posters to do so, since according to Soviet communism, there was no God. So any form of religion and faith was depicted as the clergy or figures that that religion itself used, like Jesus, the Holy Spirit, and angels. Sometimes propaganda portrayed it as Jesus riding on a tank, see the image below.

«Мирные намерения Господа Нашего Иисуса Христа. » На перьях написано: «Мир!!»
Внизу на газетах написано: «Форвертс, Тайм, руль, Письмо Зиновьева..» Dmitrii Moor, “Peaceful Intentions of Our Lord Christ.” On the feathers, it says, “Peace!!” On the bottom, the newspapers say, “Time, Forwards, Rule, The Zinoviev letter…” P-03, Print Collection 18: Early Soviet Posters.

So considering that the majority of the posters in this collection condemned Orthodox Christianity specifically, could the man from Poster 5 be a priest? Do the insects represent enemies of the people or God’s punishment? Or does the poster literally refer to bad harvests? Most of the time these posters portray religious authorities as conniving, as opposed to this whimsical-looking man. Or could it be God in general? Bezbozhnik newspaper sometimes portrayed a somewhat similar-looking man as God. Could this be a scene from some religious text or does this deal with collectivization? Share your thoughts with us!

Some Things About Joseph Eyer

In 1974, a doctoral student at the Penn Biology Department named Joseph (Joe) Eyer was in the process of crossing disciplinary borders in his scholarly work on social causes and health effects of stress. His research reflected an eclectic fusion of natural and social sciences. However, it is his unpublished personal essay (Jeremy Brecher collection of Joseph Eyer papers, Box 2, Folder 8, “Some Things About Myself,” undated) during his time in graduate school that leaves one in awe of the uniquely reflective nature of this individual. Below you may see a graph of Eyer’s life, in which the vertical axes represent “up” or as he identifies it with enthusiasm, attraction, fulfillment versus “down” or frustration, anger, depression. This graph is a perfect illustration of how he used his natural sciences background to reflect on the personal.

His essay gives a glimpse into his childhood, his struggles with mourning and mental health. In this writing, Eyer provides the reader with a multi-faceted perspective on his parents, in particular, how their genders and political beliefs affected their lives. He certainly also tried to provide a complex picture of his life, particularly, as he navigated his depressive and manic episodes. He mentions a learning curve of how he dealt with his bipolar disorder, how he used to resort to anger and passive-aggressive behavior when interacting with others. He writes that it required courage to strive to be alive and open. This desire to persevere seems to have inspired a series of his fascinating academic works, which tackled how socio-economic conditions affected one’s health, as well as his creative writing and poetry.  The Jeremy Brecher collection of Joseph Eyer papers includes published and unpublished works on a wide range of topics, from infant mortality to the effects of capitalism on one’s health, as well dozens of letters between him and his colleagues and friends.