New Delhi: Five months ahead of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Moscow in May next year to commemorate what is perhaps the greatest demonstration of human will and resolve in the face of immeasurable odds, Russia has already begun celebrations in India to mark the forthcoming 75th anniversary of the victory of the erstwhile Soviet Union over Nazi Germany in 1945. A staggering 27 million Soviet citizens died heroically defending their country from the Nazis. It was hailed as the Great Patriotic War of 1941-1945 that began when Hitler invaded the Soviet Union in June, 1941, and ending when Soviet troops entered Berlin in May, 1945, heralding the defeat of Hitler’s Third Reich.
Russia recently kicked off the celebrations in India at the Russian Centre of Science and Culture (RCSC) in New Delhi with a vintage poster exhibition of the collection from Russia’s State Historical Museum showcasing the posters that boosted the morale of both the Soviet Army and ordinary citizens through the various stages of the war. The mood of the posters also changes from the desperation of 1941-42 when both the Russian capital Moscow and the city of Stalingrad was under grave threat of capture to that of the glimmer of hope and victory when the Germans were on the retreat roughly from 1943 to 45 after the fierce Soviet counter-offensive.
Ludmila Filippova, Chief Coordinator of Culture and Information of the RCSC, said, “The posters serve as a unique historical source, a fine record from the first to the last day of the war. In the Soviet Union, at least 27 million people had been killed (out of a total of 55 million fatalities), while many cities and villages lay in ruins.” She added, “The Great Patriotic War, which started for the Soviets in 1941, united the entire nation and remains a centrepiece of Russia’s consciousness.”
On June 22, 1941, “the first military posters were created, through two days spread on shields, fences and walls of houses”. Victor Koretsky’s poster titled—”Our forces are inexhaustible,” called for the establishment of a people unions or militia movements”. “Severe trials” of the first months of war from the autumn-winter 1941, when the “enemy was close to the capital” (Moscow) and the desperation in the face of the German advance was also reflected in Artist El Lisitcki’s poster of those days titled—”Provide us with more tanks.... “.
But of course, it was the historic Battle of Stalingrad in the winter of 1942 that marked the greatest moment in the war when the tide was reversed. It “marked a turning point during the war and found a brilliant embodiment in Victor ‘s Koretskiy’s ‘Warrior of the Red Army, save us!” poster that “was first printed in the newspaper Pravda on August 5, 1942”.
The “bright image of the liberation warrior” was created by artists during the last years of the war. The most Memorable poster among these in 1944 was the one titled “Let ‘s reach Berlin!” by Leonid Golovanov. That wish came true when Russian troops entered Berlin in May, 1945, following which Hitler committed suicide in his bunker, thus heralding the complete Soviet victory.