The Union of Worker and Peasant


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. The image here promotes the brotherhood of peasants and workers and may have addressed a topical issue at a time when workers lost jobs and fled to the country leading to tensions between these two groups. In this composition, the worker stands slightly behind and in friendly and protective gesture puts his arm around the peasant. 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