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New exhibition of artistic illustrations infused with political messages that masked untold tragedies
PROPAGANDA AND SLOGANS
The Political Poster in Soviet Ukraine, 1919-1921
October 25, 2013
NEW YORK CITY – Twenty-eight original posters dating back to 1919 are the subject of a survey of early political propaganda generated by the Soviet regime to garner support from Ukrainians as well as to vilify the Ukrainian opposition, which included politicians, military leaders, and even peasants. The exhibition Propaganda and Slogans: The Political Poster in Soviet Ukraine, 1919-1921, curated by Dr. Myroslav Shkandrij, professor of Slavic Studies at the University of Manitoba, demonstrates that the artistic appeal of the posters was as much a part of the propaganda effort as the political message it generated. Twenty-seven of the posters on display were donated to the Museum's permanent collection by Dr. Jurij Rybak and Anna Ortynskyj. A detailed analysis of the collection is included in the accompanying exhibition catalogue. On Saturday, November 2 at 7 p.m., Dr. Shkandrij will be at the Museum to discuss the exhibition: the politics behind the propaganda and their artistic expression. Propaganda and Slogans: The Political Poster in Soviet Ukraine, 1919-1921 will be on view through February 2, 2014.
Exerpt from the catalogue essay by Dr. Myroslav Shkandrij:
Political posters played an important role during the wars that followed the Revolution of 1917 and the end of tsarist rule. In the years 1919-21 the Red Army fought independent Ukraine's forces under Symon Petliura, the Russian White armies under General Anton Denikin, and Polish interventionists under Marshal Josef Pilsudski. Moreover, the entire country seethed with revolts as the peasantry resisted the imposition of Bolshevik rule. The political poster became a weapon in the struggle by providing vivid and immediately comprehensible propaganda on behalf of the Communist Party and Red Army. However, the poster was also a powerful medium of artistic expression. It was admired for its formal qualities and quickly gained an important cultural status, which it retained for the seven decades of Soviet rule. Posters were produced in tens of thousands of copies. They adorned streets and shop windows, and served as backgrounds to numerous political rituals, such as processions and public meetings. The poster was used to reinforce the new state's directives and to convey a positive image of the new regime.
The overarching symbolism of these posters cannot be missed. They tell the story of human emancipation: from foreign intervention, from the bourgeoisie, from capitalism, and from human want. They hold out the promise of a radiant future, signified by the rising sun, the distant perspective, and the bountiful harvest. Peace and prosperity are always the horizon of expectation. The road to this goal, however, requires military strength and personal sacrifices. It is the story of political liberation through struggle.
Propaganda and Slogans is one of three exhibitions at The Ukrainian Museum commemorating the 80th anniversary of the Holodomor, the 1932-33 famine-genocide that killed millions of Ukrainians. Give Up Your Daily Bread… Holodomor: The Totalitarian Solution is an extensive documentary exhibition consisting of photographs prints, documents, government reports, eyewitness accounts, and other archival material detailing virtually every aspect of the tragedy. Evocations, a collection of works by acclaimed artist Lydia Bodnar-Balahutrak, presents thought-provoking interpretations of the Holodomor and other dark periods in Ukraine's history. Give Up Your Daily Bread… Holodomor: The Totalitarian Solution and Evocations, both of which opened on October 20, will be on view through December 29, 2013.
Additional programs in conjunction with the Holodomor exhibitions:
Saturday, October 26, 7:30 p.m.
Concert: "Songs of Truth: The Art of the Kobzari"
Third-generation bandura player and New York Bandura musical director Julian Kytasty will draw on a lifetime of study to present the full spectrum of the kobzar repertoire, a tribute to the art of Ukraine's blind epic singers: ancient epics and laments, humorous burlesques, religious and moralistic songs, sparkling instrumental dance tunes, and songs of social commentary. The concert will be a rare opportunity to experience a tradition largely destroyed in the Holodomor and the Stalinist repressions of the 1930s.
Sunday, October 27, 2013, 2 p.m.
Film: Holodomor. Technology of Genocide
Presentation by Dr. Yuri Shevchuk, Department of Slavic Languages at Columbia University, sponsored by the Ukrainian Film Club of Columbia University. This 2-part documentary (58 min. & 53 min., 2005, Ukraine, Ukr. w/Eng. subtitles; Eng. voice-over and subtitles) is a detailed step-by-step factual account of how the artificial famine of 1932-1933 in Ukraine was conceived, executed, covered up; who its masterminds, perpetrators, and apologists were; and against whom it was directed.
Saturday, November 2, 7 p.m.
Exhibition opening: Propaganda and Slogans: The Political Poster in Soviet Ukraine, 1919-1921
Gallery talk "Poster Politics in Ukraine"
Guest curator, Dr. Myroslav Shkandrij, professor of Slavic Studies at the University of Manitoba, will discuss the exhibition, which is comprised of 28 original posters (27 of these were donated to the Museum's permanent collection by Dr. Jurij Rybak and Anna Ortynskyj), the politics behind the propaganda, and their artistic expression. Following the Revolution of 1917 and the end of tsarist rule, political posters were used to reinforce the new state's directives and to convey a positive image of the new regime. The rhetoric and slogans of Bolshevism appear hollow in light of the collectivization of 1929-31and the famine of 1932-33, which laid waste the country. Hundreds of thousands were deported to Siberia, and millions died. It is ironic, therefore, that the message of these posters is frequently aimed at the Ukrainian peasantry and the requirement that they give up their grain for the revolutionary cause.
Friday, November 15, 7 p.m.
"The Lessons in Animal Farm," a presentation by author Andrea Chalupa about her book Orwell and the Refugees: The Untold Story of Animal Farm (2013). George Orwell's anti-Soviet satire Animal Farm (1945) was not welcome at a time when the West needed Stalin to fight Hitler, and leading intellectuals still believed in the promise of the Russian Revolution. A Ukrainian refugee in 1945, Ihor Ševčenko [Shevchenko] (1922-2010), the eminent Byzantinist and Dumbarton Oaks Professor of Byzantine History and Literature at Harvard University, recognized the Animal Farm's profound meaning, and translated the book into Ukrainian for distribution in the displaced persons camps of post-WWII Germany and Austria. Of the 5,000 copies printed, only 2,000 books were given out; U.S. soldiers, suspecting the books of being anti-Stalin propaganda, confiscated the rest and handed them over to Soviet authorities to be destroyed. As a teenager in the DP camps, Andrea Chalupa's uncle managed to bring a copy of the translated Orwell masterpiece with him when he immigrated to the United States. Her narrative explores the immigrant story from the years of the Holodomor (1932-33) and the Stalinist purges of the 1930's to refugee life and her family's experience in the DP camps during and after the war.
About the Museum
The Ukrainian Museum acquires, preserves, and exhibits articles of artistic or historic
significance to the rich cultural heritage of Ukrainian Americans; its collections include
thousands of items of folk art, fine art, and archival material. At its founding in 1976 by the
Ukrainian National Women’s League of America, the Museum was hailed as one of the finest
achievements of Americans of Ukrainian descent. Since then, and particularly since its move in
2005 to a new, state-of-the-art building in Manhattan’s vibrant East Village, it has become
known as one of the most interesting and dynamic smaller museums in New York City. Each
year, the Museum organizes several exhibitions, publishes bilingual (English/Ukrainian)
catalogues, and presents a wide range of public and educational programs, including concerts,
films, lectures, courses, workshops, and special events.
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