1939. [Kharkiv]: Ditvidav TsK LKSMU, 1939. Oblong folio (31 × 41 cm). Original blue buckram portfolio, tooled and embossed, with inset photograph to front board; twelve leaves of autolithographs to rectos, including the title leaf. Light bruising to lower spine; else very good.
First and only edition of this set of eleven lithographed portraits of Stalin with children, capturing both the cult of personality of the Soviet leader and the so-called “cult of childhood” in Soviet society, as it was developing in the 1930s. The collected portraits depict Stalin receiving honors and accolades from children who are by turns presenting him with flowers, receiving his autograph, discussing his work in a reading group. Each portrait was completed in Socialist realist style by artists associated with the Kharkov Art Institute. As observed by Catriona Kelly in her book on Russian childhood, from the mid-1930s onwards, all “commitment to childrens’ autonomy was abandoned: the model child was now without question one who was obedient and grateful to adults for their guidance…Thus children became models for adult behavior in their utter devotion to the Soviet dictator” (Children’s World: Growing Up in Russia, 1890–1991, p. 93).
Some of these portraits were printed from famous press photographs of the leader, most strikingly the image of Stalin receiving flowers from the Buriat girl Gelya [Engelsina] Markizova taken in 1936. The image went “viral” and served as a basis for artworks and sculptures of the leader with the little girl, until Gelya’s father, Ardan Markizov, a representative of People’s Commissar of Agriculture in the remote Buryat-Mongol Autonomous Republic in Siberia, was arrested in 1937. Accused of spying for Japan, he was executed in 1938. In an effort to erase Gelya’s name, all subsequent images of Gelya were re-attributed as images of Mamlakat Nakhangova, a famous Pioneer from Tajikistan who founded the Shock worker movement among Pioneer youth at the age of 11. Mamlakat’s photograph with the leader was also readily reproduced, and an autolithograph from the photographs is included here. This is likely the last publication in which both girls are both represented with Stalin in their individual portraits and proper name attributions. Another notable image of Stalin cradling his young daughter, Svetlana Alilueva was done by Gavril Pustovoit (1900–1947), a Ukrainian graphic artist and illustrator. During WWII, Pustovoit worked as a frontline artist. For his naturalistic and gruesome depictions of Stalingrad he was arrested in 1942, accused of “anti-Soviet activities” and sentenced to 10 years of hard labor, with his works, such as the one in this collection, subsequently suppressed. Other artists include O. Rubanov, S. Besedina, Daitsa Ji, A. Devnianin, M. Zhevago, V. Kasiian, V. Kriukov, V. Mironenko, V. Nevskii, E. Solov’ev, M. Khazanovskii. One of 1500 copies printed. Not in KVK or OCLC.$1500. Book ID: P6330