Russian Propaganda Stamps

Russian stamps of the 1930’s have always fascinated me. They are beautiful and well designed with friendly, internationalist themes and yet they were issued by a vicious regime that was systematically exploiting its citizens and was highly militaristic in orientation. Another aggressive state of this period, Germany, at least was more honest about its goals and had a highly nationalistic stamp issuing policy. In the exaltation of the Volk and the Fatherland its easy to see the factors that led to WWII. But as George Orwell explained so well in Nineteen Eighty-Four, the pathological hypocrisy of the Soviet communist system was without equal in history. Even as he was condemning millions of his own citizens to the Gulag or starvation, Stalin’s stamps show kitschy representations of pacifism and coexistence. My favorite set is Russia #546-550. Here the horrors of war are illustrated in art deco style, almost a cartoonish depiction of the grimness of war. Russia certainly had enough experience with this. From Napoleon’s invasion onwards the Russian defense of their country was always that they could afford to suffer more than their enemies, that they could have millions killed and still win. Perhaps Russia would have had to fight Germany in WWII and that the “eastern Front” and Russia’s 20 million dead were inevitable. But, certainly the sensibility as shown on this set of stamps indicates that Russia at least paid lip service to avoiding war at any cost.

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