Between the late 1920s and the early 1950s, one of the most persuasive personality cults of all times saturated Soviet public space with images of Stalin. A torrent of portraits, posters, statues, films, plays, songs, and poems galvanized the Soviet population and inspired leftist activists around the world. In the first book to examine the cultural products and production methods of the Stalin cult, Jan Plamper reconstructs a hidden history linking artists, party patrons, state functionaries, and ultimately Stalin himself in the alchemical project that transformed a pock-marked Georgian into the embodiment of global communism. Departing from interpretations of the Stalin cult as an outgrowth of Russian mysticism or Stalin's psychopathology, Plamper establishes the cult's context within a broader international history of modern personality cults constructed around Napoleon III, Mussolini, Hitler, and Mao. Drawing upon evidence from previously inaccessible Russian archives, Plamper's lavishly illustrated and accessibly written study will appeal to anyone interested in twentieth-century history, visual studies, the politics of representation, dictator biography, socialist realism, and real socialism.
Jan Plamper is Dilthey Fellow at the Max Planck Institute for Human Development in Berlin.
Winner of the 2013 University of Southern California Book Prize in Literary and Cultural Studies sponsored by the Department of Slavic Languages and Literatures at the University of Southern California and awarded annually by the Association for Salvic, East European, and Eurasian Studies for an outstanding monograph published on Russia, Eastern or Eurasia in the fields of literary and cultural studies.
"This special book won't get lost in the sea of books about Stalin. Jan Plamper takes the reader into "the kitchen" of Soviet propaganda where its main dish—the myth of the "beloved leader"—was prepared. Although millions of Soviet citizens never saw Stalin in person, they were certain that they had "seen" him. From this stunningly intelligent study, we learn how and by whom this grand illusion was produced."—Elena Zubkova, Institute of Russian History, Moscow
"This is an excellent book which for the first time, and on a documentary basis, uncovers the mechanisms of the making of Stalin's personality cult in the visual arts."—Vitaly Komar, Artist, New York/Moscow
"This long-awaited, meticulously researched book advances our understanding of how Stalin's image came to exercise such thralldom over Soviet society. Highlighting the importance of visual culture in the Soviet polity, Jan Plamper's generously illustrated study is attentive not only to the visual strategies adopted by the cult artefacts - subjecting them to illuminating visual analysis - but also to the contexts in which they were produced, disseminated, and took on public meanings."--Susan E. Reid, Professor of Russian Visual Culture, University of Sheffield.
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