Putin and Stalin: A Return to Soviet Propaganda?

We have decided to investigate the types of propaganda used by Vladimir Putin and compare it to the use and types of propaganda in Soviet Russia used by Joseph Stalin. Both Putin and Stalin portray themselves as strong leaders and as a saviour to Russia from the west through the publication of posters and photographs depicting this, as well as the publication of articles directed against the west. Although Putin uses similar types of propaganda to Stalin such as photographs that depict him as a strong leader, he also has the benefit of modern technology. This allows the production of such videos as ‘One Like Putin’ (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zk_VszbZa_s ) which idolises Putin and promotes him both as desirable to women and as a role model to men.
The propaganda used in the modern day by Putin is strongly resonant of the Soviet propaganda used by Stalin. It is intended to highlight a strong, masculine image. This effort was mostly successful with regards to Stalin however; the effect is mainly the opposite for Putin in the modern day world. Within Russia this style of propaganda may still be considered impressive – the same cannot be said for Western impressions. Certain pieces of propaganda in particular have been mocked by the West. Perceptions of Putin are not positively affected by the image he presents of himself. Instead of looking like a strong leader he is, to the West, an object of satire.

Putin_Horse_jpg_w300h298Recent Russian propaganda has served to highlight the difference between Eastern and Western press. Released in an attempt to convey strength and power, the image of Putin riding a horse was mocked by western media and it could be suggested that because of propaganda stunts such as this he lost dignity. Previously compared to ‘Soviet – Style propaganda’ the admittedly staged image was taken on a trip to Siberia, with the Russian press invited to document the events of the visit. One of many images distributed through modern media, it is evident that Putin and his government are trying to display the leader of Russia in the best light possible, yet manages to achieve the opposite.


Stalin and Putin in their photographic propaganda both are attempting to portray the image of themselves asstalin leaders. Stalin is conveying an image of him being a protector, and the protector of the people of Russia whereas Putin is asserting an image of masculinity and strength. Putin’s attempt at propaganda has been compared to that of the Soviet style, as it focuses entirely on them and creates a heroic or even god-like image. Often referred to as a ‘cult of personality’, Soviet and Russian propaganda attempts to create an idealised image of these people. Stalin’s propaganda is hand drawn and therefore has nostalgic connotations. Putin’s, however, has been photographed and released online – this is the result of modern technology, as Putin is able to distribute these images more effectively and widely than Stalin would have been able to.

spacepictureWhilst Putin and Stalin differ in their approaches to propaganda, both attempt to compete with or criticise the Western world. For example, in defence of the ban on ‘homosexual propaganda’, Putin falsely states that homosexuality is still illegal in some states in America in order to present the United States as hypocritical in their condemnation of the ban. Similarly, the Soviet poster below was released during the ‘space race’ with the US, before America reached the moon, and sought to highlight the superiority of the USSR in its caption ‘Fatherland! […] Glory to the science, glory to the labour! Glory to the Soviet regime!’. In the aforementioned cases, Putin makes a more critical retaliation to the West whereas the poster from Stalin’s era seeks to show Soviet superiority rather than to highlight mutual shortcomings. However, Stalin himself also makes an, albeit less direct, ideological criticism of the West in his text ‘What do the Capitalists want’ in which he blames capitalist society for all of the problems Russia faced as a consequence of the First World War.

In summary, despite Putin’s benefit of modern technology the propaganda used by both Putin and Stalin is similar in the message that they are both trying to portray. Further evidence of this can be seen in Putin’s recent attempts to assert control over the Crimea. Putin’s actions can be compared to the expansionist ideology of the Soviet Union with Putin’s claim that ‘Russia cannot ignore calls for help in this matter and it acts accordingly, in full compliance with the international law.’ Irrespective of similarities of Soviet and modern Russian propaganda it is important to note that Putin’s actions have become more expansionist and imperialist, striking similarities with previous Soviet foreign policy. Recent events in Ukraine have provided the west with speculation of the rebuilding of the USSR- even commentators in the east have concurred. Yatsenyuk the president of Ukraine stated that “The biggest disaster of this century would be the restoration of the Soviet Union.” It appears that the modern leader of Russia is emulating his Soviet predecessor.


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