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East vs West: A Comparison of Soviet & American Cold War Posters


As the dust of WWII settled, the uneasy peace between the Western superpowers and the USSR was faltering. Tensions escalated as both sides built ever bigger nuclear arsenals. But, artists weren’t confined to the sidelines. They were fighting an ideological war, using propaganda to win the hearts of their own people and to sway opinions beyond their borders.

Soviet Cold War Propaganda Posters

The three most common themes in Soviet Cold War propaganda posters were to promote the superiority of the socialist system, demonize the United States, and to shore up support for the Soviet state. 

  • Soviet Achievement Propaganda Posters - The Soviet Union sought to present itself as a model socialist state, superior to the United States in science, sports, technology, and culture. Soviet propaganda posters emphasized the successes of the Soviet space program, the achievements of Soviet scientists and artists, and the superiority of the socialist economic system.
  • Anti-American Propaganda Posters - Soviet artists portrayed the United States as an aggressive, imperialist power that sought to dominate the world. Soviet posters frequently depicted racial discrimination, financial crises, and unemployment in the United States, all of which were identified as failings of capitalism. “And you lynch Negroes” was a form of whataboutism, a skeleton in America’s closet whenever the USSR was reproached for their own economic and social failings. 
  • Unity & Fraternity Propaganda Posters - The government sought to present itself as the defender of the socialist cause and called on all citizens to support the state in its struggle against the United States. Soviet propaganda emphasized the importance of patriotism, loyalty to the state, and sacrifice for the common good. 
Anti-communist propaganda posters - Image Credit:

American Cold War Propaganda Posters

The four most common themes in American Cold War propaganda posters were to create anti-communist sentiment, promote American values, justify foreign interventions, and reaffirm the need for increased military spending to ensure national security.

  • Anti-communist Propaganda Posters - The United States saw communism as a threat to its way of life and sought to portray it as an evil ideology that had to be defeated. American propaganda emphasised the dangers of communism, portrayed communist countries as oppressive regimes, and depicted communist leaders as evil dictators.
  • American Values Propaganda Posters - The United States sought to present itself as a beacon of democracy, freedom, and capitalism, in contrast to the repressive, authoritarian Soviet Union. American posters emphasized the achievements of American society, including the American Dream, freedom of speech, and the abundance of almost everything.
  • Foreign Intervention Propaganda Posters - The United States sought to promote its interests around the world and often used propaganda to gain public support for its interventions. American propaganda portrayed the United States as a defender of democracy and freedom, and its interventions as necessary to protect these values.
  • National Security Propaganda Posters - The United States saw itself as the world’s police, the defender of the free world. American propaganda emphasised the importance of national security to protect itself from external threats. This led to an increase in government surveillance, restrictions on civil liberties, and the development of nuclear weapons.

Posters are yesterday’s history. The methods and mediums of modern propaganda have been upgraded with the rise of social media, deep fakes and generative AI. Today, propaganda is more accessible, ubiquitous and even more subtle. Stay sharp Comrade!

Peace & Unity | Russia | 1976£100.00
List of all posters

Further Reading


The Buran: The Soviet Response to NASAs Space Shuttle

On November 15, 1988, the Soviet Union's first reusable space shuttle, the Buran, launched in what is now present-day Kazakhstan. This little-known chapter in the Cold War space race saw the Soviets build their own version of NASA's Space Shuttle to challenge the USA for space supremacy. The Buran, Russian for "blizzard", was once the future of the Soviet space program. But, its first flight was also its last. A year after its launch, the Berlin Wall fell and the USSR collapsed. The space shuttle program was suspended. In 1993, it was canceled altogether.


Not Lovin' It: The Rise and Fall of McDonald's Diplomacy

On a chilly winter’s morning in January 1990, hundreds of Russians lined up as early as 4am to try a McDonald's hamburger. At 10am, the first McDonald's restaurant in the Soviet Union opened its doors in Moscow's Pushkin Square. 32 years later, McDonald's closed all of its 847 stores in Russia and left for good. It was the end of an era and the death of Hamburger Diplomacy.


Soviet Propaganda Posters are Undervalued. Here's Why

Thirty years after the collapse of the Soviet Union, its legacy lives on through propaganda posters. These posters are more than just propaganda; they reflect the cultural narrative and values of the Soviet era, providing a glimpse into the Soviet mindset. Despite their creativity and historical significance, these posters are often undervalued when compared to Western posters from the same time period. Here’s why that’s so.


Decoding the Most Common Symbols Found in Soviet Propaganda

Symbols are a powerful cultural language, used to convey complex ideas with simplicity and elegance. Soviet artists were masters of this language, using symbols in their art to create powerful and evocative images that could be understood at first glance. Their art was not only aesthetically pleasing, but also emotionally resonant, striking a chord with audiences and leaving a lasting impression.
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