The Russian Peace
During the final year of World War I, authorities in Italy and in other combatant countries were deeply alarmed by the Bolshevik Revolution and Russia’s withdrawal from the war. They worried that defeatism would spread among their own war-weary populations, leading to a slackening of the war effort. The authorities responded both with repressive measures aimed at countering “Red” subversion and with propaganda urging their people to fight on to victory. Entitled La Pace Russa (The Russian peace), this poster refers to the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk, the treaty signed on March 3, 1918, by the government of Soviet Russia and the Central Powers. In exchange for peace, the Russians were forced to cede to Germany, Austria, and Turkey territories that had been part of the Russian Empire for centuries. The poster portrays a man tied to a plow, forced to furrow the soil filled with skulls. He is threatened by bayonets wielded by the German conquerors, whose faces and bodies are not shown. The choice for the Italian people, the poster clearly suggests, is between continuing the fight and accepting an intolerable state of forced servitude. The poster was produced in Bergamo for distribution in the “war zone,” the part of northern Italy bordering Austria-Hungary where most of the fighting in which Italy was involved took place and where the authorities were especially sensitive to the danger of antiwar sentiment inspired by the Russian Revolution. The striking illustration is by Silvio Canevari (1893‒1931), an Italian artist best known for his work during peacetime as a sculptor. Canevari produced a companion poster on the same theme entitled La Pace Tedesca (The German peace).
Italian Institute of Graphic Arts, Bergamo, Italy
Title in Original Language
La pace russa
Type of Item
1 print (poster) : lithograph, color ; 200 x 157 centimeters
- Thomas Row, “Mobilizing the Nation: Italian Propaganda in the Great War,” Journal of Decorative and Propaganda Arts, Volume 24, Design, Culture, Identity (Miami Beach, FL: Florida International University Board of Trustees on behalf of The Wolfsonian-FIU, 2002).
- Vanda Wilcox, Morale and the Italian Army During the First World War (Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 2016).
Last updated: November 14, 2017