Soviet Propaganda and Mass Media

Soviet Propaganda and Mass Media

Primary Materials


Analysis is an essential step in the research process. Getting down to the meat of your sources
to determine their individual significance with what you are striving to answer filters out the
nonessential material from the essential. Several means of analysis exist, varying on preference and case
by case, but a common goal is achieved in the end by all forms. By deconstructing my primary sources I
hope to find the central point of each and with that to answer my research proposal question.

Internal Memorandum from the Glavlit

The first primary source under scrutiny comes from Yale University’s website and contains an
article of extreme significance regarding the Soviet Union Glavlit. Before discussing this significance, the
Glavlit was one of the main Soviet Censorship bureaus during the Communist party reign and can be
accounted for many of the mass censoring of material available to the Soviet people. That being
defined, the article in particular is an internal memorandum from the Soviet Union dated 1936
concerning the works of the Glavlit, thusly identifying its worthy importance to answering my research
question in respect to surveillance thus far. The article focuses on the critiquing the Glavlit and its staff
for several reasons but its importance lay in its references to acts of censorship throughout the Soviet Union.

Glavlit Internal Memorandum

Soviet Propaganda Posters

Moving to the next primary source, Soviet Propaganda posters, through which we can see
Communist propaganda in its finest form as well as dissect the messages being published. One of the
most recognized Soviet Propaganda posters Dmitry Moor’s “Have you enlisted in the Red Army yet?”
exhibits a perfect chance for understanding a core aspect of Soviet Propaganda. The duty to the
Motherland and the commonwealth was a very common message amongst the propaganda posters of
the Soviet Union. In this particular one we see a Red Army soldier standing almost over the audience
pointing to the audience with interrogative intentions. The message “Have you enlisted in the Red Army
yet?” questions the audience’s loyalty and duty to the commonwealth. The man in the poster is seen in
complete red uniform, holding a rifle, standing in front of a factory which clearly represents industry and
thus the message is targeting the industrial workers. The poster was a success during the October
Revolution because we can see the audience perceived this message and rallied to its calling to support
the revolution. Similar posters were published throughout cities to keep the minds of the masses
preoccupied with the zeal and pride of the Soviet Union while keeping those who knew better wary of dissent.

The posters of Soviet propaganda were found spread throughout cities across the country with
the intent of rallying to a cause, brainwashing its audience, or foreboding terrible consequences for
disagreement. The strategic placing of these posters in cities was done due to the fact that the majority
of the country lived in these urban environments and was generally targeted at this audience. Due to
the fact that most Soviet cities were heavily industrialized the majority of the populace found industrial
jobs as occupation and thus the propaganda was targeted at the workers. Messages that portrayed
workers with power and equality were most commonly used to persuade audiences of their continuous
contribution to the commonwealth which kept the Soviet cog turning for decades. Many slogans and
images were used to convey other messages as well, including rallying to war or reporting traitors which
kept the populace under control in a docile state by means of fear of death or ignorance.

Soviet Propaganda Posters

The Hammer and Sickle

Lastly, the Hammer and Sickle, as a symbol, is the most commonly acknowledged and
recognized symbol associated with the Soviet Union and rightfully so. Used mostly to rally citizens and
remind them of the ideals of communism, the hammer and sickle is used in poster, television, literature,
and several other forms of propaganda used by the Communist party during its reign. A symbol of the
revolution, the hammer and sickle is almost always seen in front of a red background with red being of
significance representing the revolution’s tone. The choice of red was a tactical one due to its history
with the Russian people in representing the rebirth of Christ the Communist party intended to convey
the same message of rebirth for their nation, an ironic connection none the less. The hammer in the
symbol represents the industrial workers while the sickle represents the agricultural workers of the
Soviet Union, a tactical decision to target the peasant with the communist message. The message of
equality through commonwealth to achieve utopia appealed greatly to the peasants of imperial Russia,
an already poor country, who lived in troubling conditions under a seemingly uncaring royal family. This
symbol was used as a constant reminder of the Revolution and the Communist ideals to the people of
Russia, to those who believed it inspired and to those who knew better it threatened, and lastly to the
rest of the world.

The Hammer and Sickle


In summary, these primary sources provide an answer to my question with many details and
facts to pick and choose. The Glavlit claims responsibility for suppression and then removal of ideas
while poster propaganda, and other forms, and the Hammer and Sickle fill the minds with ideas. At the
same time these symbols of totalitarian governance continuously threaten those who disagree with
their message successfully suppressing even more any form of different thinking that may over throw
the Communist party. With this combined mix of idea suppression, replacement, and dominance it’s
only logical that the Soviet Union could maintain a vice grip on the people of Russia for so long.

So What?

Throughout history wars have been fought for a myriad of reasons, but one fact remains evident throughout them all; the prospect that each side usually retains little understanding of the situation in the eyes of the enemy’s citizen is a fascinating recurrence. Many American generations experienced this recurrence, living in a time when we were “…better dead than red…” and “capitalist pigs” in the eyes of the enemy, and then one had to question “Who was the enemy?” Was it the poor peasant boy from the Urals or perhaps the corrupt Politburo official getting his unfair share of the common wealth? Amplify this by a conflict that never had a true battle, a stage never set if you will, with actors prepped and ready to deliver a message to an audience they’ve never seen before, but have only preconceptions of intimidating faces darting around their minds. The actors’ only comfort is what they’ve memorized for so very long and thus held to be self evident truths without thinking otherwise. It is important to provide closure on such a massive conflict of ethical and political differences; otherwise we believe what we are told regardless of fact and never truly know our enemies and thus never understand what they thought of us. In the end, the generations who believed all “commies” were communists because that’s how they wanted it to be and never understood the reason they believed what they did need to be informed for their sakes as humans.
Through the actions of the Communist party we see the brainwashing of the Soviet people in an unrivaled display. The “actors”, again if you will, memorized lines written directly by the Glavlit organization and produced for the world audience by the Communist party. The props to surround the actors to better plunge them into the lie that was the Communist utopian farce used to blind their people into submission. Finally, at the center of the Soviet Stage hangs the Hammer and Sickle, the jewel of the Revolution, to remind the actors of their complete dedication to what their ancestors and therefore they themselves have dedicated their lives to. As Herman Ermolaev states in his gripping detail Censorship in Soviet Literature “[The Communist Party], however, viewed freedom of expression as a direct threat and to their ideology and dictatorship.”
I intend to put the audience in the shoes of the communist citizen and review the lies fed to them by the communist party in order to show the audience why they thought the way they did about the West. By researching the effects of propaganda and censorship on independent idea creation of the average Soviet citizen I hope to further add to the research conversation regarding Russian culture under the Communist party, but take it from the citizen’s aspect to better the knowledge of my subject. The audience must know why these things happened and to understand the why we must obsess on the how.

Chris Weis

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