Propaganda disseminated by the Soviet Union saturated Russian daily life and was vigorously enforced by the government. During the Stalin era, those who deviated from the dictates of official propaganda were forced to work in labor camps or executed.
While these Draconian punishments lessened somewhat after Stalin, they still remained extreme. Any who did not subscribe to the government's ideology stood to suffer "corrective" psychiatry, denial of work, prison and/or the loss of citizenship.
With Soviet Union propaganda omnipresent, no one could claim ignorance to the ideology, especially when it was propagated through:
1. Schools & Youth Organizations
There's no more efficient way to shape the minds of the next generation than in the classroom. Schools across the country had political shrines, marches, songs and pledges of allegiance dedicated to Soviet leadership.
Young Pioneers, a national youth group organization for children ages 10 to 15, taught members to fight the enemies of socialism. Although membership to the organization was neither mandatory nor automatic, almost all children in the Soviet Union belonged to it.
Primarily a tactic to reach the illiterate, radio receivers were placed in communal places where the poor gathered to hear news.
Also geared towards the illiterate, posters used bold, simple designs depicting national prosperity and the Red Army's grand triumphs.
4. Cinema & Propaganda Trains
Whenever war was imminent, the Soviet government used propaganda films to prepare and inspire the populace, but they weren't just shown in theaters. For citizens without the means to pay for theater admission, films and newsreels were shown on the walls of subway stations and propaganda trains.
Propaganda trains were outfitted with printing presses, portable cinemas, radios and lecturers to inform, entertain and influence on demand.
5. Meetings & Lectures
A duller method, meetings and lectures made the masses feel important and well informed. They instilled solidarity, kept people up-to-date on news and provided instruction on the proper way of life.
Under Stalin, cultural bureaucracy and censorship suffocated the art world. Works were highly regulated and could only portray one clear, unambiguous message. Popular propagandist imagery at the time drew on heroic realism and focused on national ideals. Strength, health, happiness and busy industrial and agricultural scenes were the typical themes.
Immediately after coming to power, the Communist Party suppressed all newspapers that opposed them and kept unfavorable stories from being published, especially crimes against humanity i.e. massacres, famines and nuclear disasters occurring on Russian soil.
In the wake of the Russian Revolution, libraries were purged, "deviant" writers and scholars were deported and pre-publication censorship was instated with the nationalization of printing presses and publishing houses. The censorship of books wasn't as stringent as the newspapers, however, a fair amount of their material was either edited out or completely destroyed.
9. Agitprop Theatre
Sometimes brought to the masses via propaganda train, agitprop theatre featured simple stage plays with cookie-cutter characters of good and evil, which were used to indoctrinate one of two sentiments – support for the government or hatred towards its enemies.
It was impossible for the Russian people to tune out propagandist noise during the Soviet Union era. It was quite literally everywhere.
If you haven't already, listen to our latest episode about Leon Trotsky on Remarkable Lives. Tragic Deaths. The Marxist revolutionary and politician was closely tied to the formation of the Soviet Union and became tangled in a power struggle with Joseph Stalin – a struggle he lost, ultimately leading to his exile and murder.
Remarkable Lives. Tragic Deaths, a Parcast Network podcast series, examines the lives and tragic deaths of people who changed history and influenced pop culture.