One Must Work, the Rifle Is Right Here


This propaganda poster from the Russian Civil War of 1919–21 is by Vladimir Lebedev, a prolific Russian painter, book illustrator, and poster and set designer. Lebedev’s compositions are distinguished by simple blocks of color and figures broken down into geometric shapes. This poster depicts a worker holding a saw with a rifle nearby, thus conveying, with minimal line and color, the image of a worker also ready to fight. During the Civil War, the Russian Telegraph Agency (ROSTA) produced many posters that were used to communicate government messages and promote the solidarity of the working class. In the early part of the war, military themes and exposure of the enemies of the young Soviet republic dominated. Content later turned to social and economic reconstruction, with praise for workers and peasants and condemnation of truancy and lack of social consciousness. ROSTA posters were made in Moscow, Petrograd (present-day Saint Petersburg), and other cities. The originals were painted by hand and then reproduced by means of cutout stencils and circulated throughout the country. They were posted at train stations, markets, and shop windows, which became known as ROSTA Windows. Leading avant-garde artists, such as Vladimir Mayakovsky, contributed images and texts. Class enemies were satirized with simple and laconic images while the texts, often in the form of rhymes or slogans, used colloquial phrases imitating working-class lexicon, with puns, slang, and crude expressions. Lebedev, who had studied at the Academy of Arts in Saint Petersburg, worked for the Petrograd branch of ROSTA in 1920–22, where he created more than 500 posters.

Last updated: September 27, 2013