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Posters of the Russian Civil War, 1918-1922

Collection History

The early Soviet posters presented here arrived as two separate collections, donated to the Library some three decades apart. Harold Manchester Fleming (1900-1971), a stock analyst, financial writer, and Wall Street correspondent for the Christian Science Monitor assembled the first collection. After graduating from Harvard College, Fleming served as a field inspector for the American Relief Administration, established after World War I to combat hunger in war-torn Europe. During this time he gathered and shipped home more than a hundred posters of the period. The posters arrived with the donation of his papers to the Library's Manuscripts and Archives Division in the 1970s.

In 2002, Paul S. Hall and Dorothy F. Hall donated 104 Russian and Ukrainian posters dating from 1917-1921 to the Slavic and Baltic Division, effectively doubling the Library's holding of early Soviet posters. The posters had belonged to a Hall relative, Benjamin Blattner (1890-1956), an investigative accountant who served with Governor Thomas E. Dewey and District Attorney Frank S. Hogan combating racketeering and fraud in New York State. Like Fleming, Blattner had worked in famine relief in the early Soviet era, in his case, with the Joint Distribution Committee.

In December 2003, Alex Rabinovich donated thirty-four additional original posters from the Russian Revolution and Civil War further enhancing these holdings; they will eventually join this virtual collection.


The Library's early Soviet posters contain several examples by internationally-recognized graphic artists such as Dmitrii Moor (Orlov), artist and poet Vladimir Maiakovskii (who visited NYPL in 1928), and Viktor Deni (Denisov). The holdings represent one of the largest assemblages of such posters outside of Russia, comparable only to the Hoover Institution in Palo Alto, California, and the Lundell Collection in Uppsala, Sweden.

The graphic artistry encountered in many of these cheaply produced posters has captivated critics and collectors for decades. The visual boldness and departure from established tradition were in themselves statements of how much had changed since the Revolutions of 1917. Artists who had been on the "fringe" before the Revolution moved center stage, and would remain there until the imposition of Socialist Realism under Stalin in the late 1930s.

Related Resources

Baburina, N.I. Rossiia--20. vek: istoriia strany v plakate = Russia--20th Century: History of the Country in Poster. (2000)

Baburina, N.I. Russkii plakat Pervoi mirovoi. (1992)

Baburina, Nina. The Soviet Political Poster, 1917/1980: from the USSR Lenin Library. (1985)

Barkhatova, Elena Valentinovna. Russian Constructivist Posters. (1992)

Bibikova, I. M. et al. Agitmassovoe iskusstvo Sovetskoi Rossii: materialy i dokumenty: agitpoezda i agitparokhody, peredvizhnoi teatr, politicheskii plakat, 1918-1932. (2002) 2v.

Bonnell, Victoria. Iconography of Power: Soviet Political Posters under Lenin and Stalin. (1997)

Waschik, Klaus and Nina Baburina. Werber fur die Utopie: russische Plakatkunst des 20. Jahrhunderts. (2003)

White, Stephen. The Bolshevik Poster. (1988)

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