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Behind the Poster: The Story of International Women's Day

Posters like this one thanking women workers for their service to the creation of a Socialist utopia weren’t just lip-service. From its founding days, the Soviet Union recognised the power of women. After-all, they were the ones who kickstarted the Russian Revolution. 

Bread and Peace

On the 8th of March 1917, female factory workers in Petrograd - now called Saint Petersburg - held a mass strike. Their demands were simple: peace and bread. A worsening economy and repeated failures on the battlefields of World War I meant both peace and bread were in short supply. Word of the protest quickly spread from factory to factory, and became an insurrection. 

Czar Nicholas had survived a revolution in 1905. This time, he didn’t have the support of the Russian people. He ordered soldiers to suppress the protests. Many refused and joined the protesters instead. Less than a week later, he abdicated his throne to his brother, who refused to accept it.

Margaret Bourke-White’s photograph of agricultural workers in the fields of the Soviet Union, 1941

Recognising Women’s Role in the Russian Revolution

After the czar’s abdication, the new Communist state became the first government of a major power to grant women the right to vote. Lenin took it one step further and declared March 8th Women's Day, and an official Soviet holiday.

The Russian revolution was the catalyst for the celebration of women internationally. Other countries began to celebrate their own Women’s Day, and in 1975, the United Nations declared March 8th International Women’s Day. Eager to disassociate the holiday from its Socialist origins, the UN assembly noted that it was to be observed “on any day of the year by member states, in accordance with their historical and national traditions.” Shop our Women themed posters below or explore the collection here.

Night at Karlstejn | Poland | 1974£350.00
A Rock-Style Tragedy | Lithuania | 1989£250.00
Early Cancer is Treatable | Lithuania | 1980£500.00
List of all posters

Further Reading

architecture

Armenia’s Modernist Masterpiece: Lake Sevan Writers Retreat

In the 1930s, the Writers’ Union of the Armenian Soviet Socialist Republic commissioned a writer's retreat to be built on Sevan Island. Around the time that the retreat first opened to writers, Sevan Island was in the middle of a dramatic transformation. The Soviet state was diverting water from Lake Sevan to irrigate the Ararat plain and generate hydroelectric power. Over the next two decades, the lake’s water level fell by around 20 metres, and Sevan Island became a peninsula.

art

Bulldozer Exhibition: The Degenerate Art of the USSR

On September 15, 1974, a group of twenty Soviet nonconformist artists gathered in a vacant lot in an urban forest on the outskirts of Moscow. But the authorities were ready. Almost immediately, more than 100 policemen armed with batons, three bulldozers, and a truck with a water cannon began to break up the exhibition. It was mayhem. Artists desperately tried to save their artworks as they were chased by authorities.

culture

Samantha Smith: The 10 Year Old Girl Who Became an Icon for Peace

The pressure was building. As the world stood on the sidelines at the height of the Cold War, both superpowers battled for ideological supremacy, each backed by their growing arsenal of nuclear weapons. Tensions kept rising.

architecture

Soviet Status Symbols: The Unique Balconies of the USSR

In Ukraine, there are balconies shaped like ship hulls and castles. DIY renovations extend over the streets below, each decorated in a unique style representative of their owner’s identity and requirements.

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