Vladimir Kozlinsky’s cover of this edition of Prozhektor is a sensational fusion of elements characterising the artistic, political and social currents of the day. The powerful figure of Lenin shows the way forward towards socialism. The photograph of him is taken from below, to reinforce his dominance over the viewer. The typical red and black avant-garde colours start as greys and tints at the foot of the page and gradually increase to deep hues to offset the smoke pouring forth from the chimneys. There is dynamism in the movement of the train in the foreground and the water rushing through the hydro-electric power station. The people are mere ants, dwarfed by the magnificence of Leninist progress.
Kozlinsky (1891-1967) was a classically trained painter and engraver who became a true graphic artist of the period. He specialised in political posters, engravings, illustrations and covers for magazines. He worked on the ROSTA windows made famous by Mayakovsky and collaborated with him on ‘Heroes and Victims of the Revolution’. In later years he worked as a scenery painter in theatres.
Five years ago – the Death of Illich
On the 21st. of January 1924, Vladimir Illich Lenin died. The man died – who founded our party, built it year after year, ran it under Tsarist attacks, taught and tempered it in the savage struggle with the traitors of the working masses – the half-hearted, the hesitators and deserters. The man died – under whose warrior-like leadership our Party, shrouded in the smoke of gunpowder, hoisted the red banner all over the country, boldly resisting enemies, confirming the strong supremacy of the working class in the formerly Tsarist Russia. Not since Marx has the history of the great liberating movement of the proletariat put forward such a gigantic figure as our calm leader, teacher and friend. Everything truly great and heroic in the proletarian – a fearless mind, an iron, unbending, steadfast, and all-conquering willpower, a sacred hatred – a lifelong hatred, of slavery and oppression, a revolutionary passion that can move mountains, an endless belief in the creative force of the masses, massive organisational genius – all this found its wonderful confluence in Lenin, whose name became the symbol of the new world from West to East, from North to South.
It was decided that Lenin’s brain must be removed from his body and then dissected and studied in order to identify the undoubted physical signs of his genius. Pages 12 and 13 of this Death of Lenin Anniversary issue of Prozhektor are devoted to reporting on this delightful subject.
The writer states that human brains can weigh anything from 1kg up to 2.22kg. He then goes on to give a list of weights of brains of famous dead individuals. Various rather doubtful scientific results are put forward as evidence that Lenin’s brain did indeed differ from that of a normal human. In fact, the scientists discovered something else highly valuable and much-used in the future – the way to give the leadership the impression that progress is being made in a given field, thus insuring long-term, secure and well-paid jobs for themselves. The report here covers the published findings in 1929. No further report was made until 1967 – 38 years of scientific research yielding no significant results.
The institute founded for the study exists to the present day – it is called the Brain Research Department of the Research Centre of Neurology. They still have Lenin’s brain, cut into over 30,000 slices.
Children against Priests and Kulaks
Excerpts from publications of the era concerning the political activity of children always make the blood run ice cold. The articles were not aimed at the young ones – but to persuade the parents that the children answer to a different, stronger authority.
An angry parent might tell off some kids putting up posters – like graffiti in modern times – but in those days the graffiti were state-sponsored and positively baiting the parents to become involved in a fight they could not win.
The images show children drawing and placing posters in their village, saying that the ‘Priest must leave’ and there is ‘No place in the Soviet for Kulaks’.
The political masters – in this case, the editors of the magazine, Bukharin and Shmidt, were devoid of conscience. The prevailing attitude was to exploit young citizens as unpaid ‘policemen’ to watch and report on the activities of the older generation. Further evidence of this practice can be found here.
Perhaps the supporters of Bukharin would like to argue convincingly as to the real (not against charges actually brought) innocence of this latter-day ‘saint’.
A Toy Mausoleum
To further illustrate the point above, here we see a charming scene – young boys wearing mock Red Cavalry caps, with a portrait of Lenin on the wall and the slogan: ‘Lenin Loved Children’. The caption reads ‘Little Octobrists’ building Lenin’s mausoleum from blocks’
PROZHEKTOR magazine – general
Along with Ogonek (1923- ) and Krasnaya Niva (1923–31), Prozhektor (Searchlight) (1923–35) was one of the new ‘Thin illustrated magazines’ appearing after the Civil War in the USSR. The leading editor was Nikolai Bukharin, who was editor of Pravda until his removal in 1929. Prozhektor was a supplement to Pravda. At its inception it was the only colour journal in the country. It published ‘newsworthy’ in-depth articles, stories, poems, literary criticism, etc. – a broad subject range. A new edition was on sale once a week but then difficulties in 1930 due to the ‘shortage of paper in the USSR’ meant that it appeared less frequently. This signalled the start of Stalin’s ever-tighter grip on every aspect of Soviet life. By that time, Bukharin was under suspicion. Later Prozhektor appeared twice per month. Prozhektor is an excellent view of the cultural tendencies of the time – striking avant-garde photographic images interlaced with subjective political aspiration. It’s stark visual and direct journalistic approaches make it an invaluable relic of its era. Of the three editors of this edition, Bukharin, Slepkov and Schmidt, two (Bukharin and Schmidt) were shot after Stalin’s orders, in 1938 and 1950 respectively. What happened to Slepkov (his name means ‘son of the blind man’) is so far unknown to us. We have more items available concerning Bukharin – an article in Ogonek and the official volume of his trial transcript.