sitting on the edge of the sandbox, biting my tongue

September 14, 2013

In Honor of Conception Day in Russia: 70 Years of Combatting Demographic Decline

Filed under: Russia, Soviet Union — Tags: , , — edge of the sandbox @ 9:42 am

Glory to the Mother Heroine! by the seminal Russian poster artist Nina Vatolina.  It was created at some point in late 1940’s or 1950’s.  Lest a giddy feminist be deceived by the heroine’s androgynous glory (the face, the shoulders, the arms), this is not a work of art designed to subvert patriarchy: This mythic mother’s eldest sons are already a soldier and a sailor

This iconic Mother Heroine is an artifact of the decade following WWII.  Over 25 million Soviets died in that war, and after the Allied victory, the birth rate was stagnant.  Those worker bees had to come from somewhere.  In 1944 the honorary title of Mother Heroine was established by the Supreme Soviets.  Mothers with 10 or more children were awarded a medal and state pensions.

In the 70’s and 80’s, when I was growing up, documentaries about such mothers were on TV from time to time.  My thought was that, of course, in a country as large as ours somebody is going to have 10 kids.  But in my grandma’s opinion if such mother heroines existed at all, they were alcoholics who had kids to qualify for pensions and then turned around and neglected them.  No reasonable woman, she said, would have more than two in this day and age.  And to many families two kids were a luxury.  Mother Heroine was a target of sarcasm.

The worker bee situation

The chart above indicates that the current uptake in birth coincides with peak fertility years of those born during the modest uptake of the 1980’s.  A more careful study will show that babies are most plentiful in Muslim regions, and that the European part of the country is practically barren.

Much had been said about the post-Soviet demographic collapse, but it was a comparable plunge in the 1960’s that took the country to low fertility levels.  At some point in the late 1950’s Russia’s subjects decided to stop bringing new life into this world (I’m sure it can be somehow attributed to homosexual propaganda corrupting minors), and that attitude has proven to have remarkable staying power.  It’s not all doom and gloom, though.  This post-Soviet hot mama is infinitely more pleasant than the handsome Slavic Fraulein of the 1950’s.

Your country needs your heroic achievements. Every minute 3 new people are born in Russia

As you can see, a Russian women look particularly fetching after birthing triplets.  Unlike the post-war mother heroine, this girl next door does not appear to have a particularly broad neck and shoulders.  I suspect the advertizes couldn’t determine what kind of arms she’s supposed to have, so they obscured them with babies.  She didn’t gain too much fat in her middle, but her breasts are nothing if not appealing.  The viewer can see the seam on her bra pointing right to the nipple area.  Although she looks ostensibly European, an Asian chick could project themselves into this unassuming babe.

She’s less ambitious than the Stalinist prototype (three, not ten children), but less of a comrade, too.  Unlike her Stalinist predecessor, she radiates no knowledge of moral certitudes.  After the whole Soviet fiasco, Russians grew weary of moral certitudes — unless they get to lecture somebody in a New York Times op-ed.  One can see this new incarnation of Mother Russia put her children to bed, and then brush her luscious hair and join a group of close friends for vodka and pickles.  Unlike Vatolina, the ad agency that produced this poster didn’t set out to create a seminal work of art; their ambition is to be relatable to women and attractive to men.  But outside of Russia their natility propaganda is laughable.



  1. Yeah I like the old propaganda better. The new stuff is too cheesy to inspire anyone. But it sounds like the old stuff didn’t work either. What good is an inspiring work of art when one is busy living in a reality too harsh to thrive in?

    Comment by nooneofanyimport — September 18, 2013 @ 11:56 am

    • Well, the 50’s poster looked pretty cheesy to us in the 80’s. It is indisputably a better work of art, however. There is a resurgence of interest in socialist realism in Russia today because so much of it is just so well executed, and once people don’t have to deal with the message directly, it just looks different. It’s easy to explain away the message: Soviet artists associated themselves with the party one way or another, but artists are generally sell outs.
      I think the 50’s poster is an archetypal mother. The contemporary one is just a hot chick with photoshopped babes. there is nothing motherly about her.

      Comment by edge of the sandbox — September 19, 2013 @ 10:21 pm

      • So in the eighties, did you run into the old propaganda often? still being used, or in your history books or what?

        good point about the contemporary photo.

        Comment by nooneofanyimport — September 20, 2013 @ 10:24 am

        • The style of that poster looks very mid-century Soviet Union. I don’t recall seeing that particular poster, but we’d have something like happy peasants and workers or profiles of the leaders, scenes of WW2 fighting and slice of life in our textbooks. There was also in the 80’s a new interest in very early Soviet propaganda and early 20th century Russian and Soviet modernism. Modernism fell out of favor with Stalin in favor of socialist “realism”. Most of socialist realism is impressionism style-wise. Go figure.

          Comment by edge of the sandbox — September 21, 2013 @ 6:15 pm

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URI

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Blog at

%d bloggers like this: