Superimposing the word “Father” onto Stalin was meant to undermine Russia’s priests, also called “Father” and to suggest the church and Stalin were one in the same. Stalin’s cult of personality operated under the guise of convergence: every event, every celebration, every tradition and every holiday was infused with something recognizable from the past along with Stalin’s image. The desired result was always to hold Stalin up and repress everything else.
For a short while, the press engaged in another tactic. Honing in on his universal qualities, they tried to demonstrate a connection between him and the common Russian citizen. After the Second World War, this lessened. Stalin took a giant step back from center stage and information and messages from Stalin became minimal in their format: a telegram, a paper receipt, a candid photograph were offered to the public.
Although Stalin was portrayed as one of the “everyday people,” he and the organizers of his administration were engaged in the “Great Purge“. From 1934-1939 the colossal campaign raged inside the country. Its primary purpose was to repress groups that were considered a threat to Stalin’s leadership. This included any figure or groups that might be critical of the way Stalin led Russia. Many academics, along with opposition political parties, were classified (with a Bolshevik-sounding label) as “enemies of the working class.” Millions were executed, exiled, or imprisoned.
An additional cult of personality tactic was generated by artists. Musicians, poets, writers, and painters were encouraged to show their admiration for Stalin. Statues of him began popping up all over Russia. One statue sat him side-by-side with Tsar Alexander III, although Stalin was not a towering figure, standing around 5’5″ tall. Throughout the 1930s, private homes installed “Stalin rooms,” spaces dedicated to the leader where his image hung. The cult of personality encouraged villages, town, and cities to rename themselves as an homage to Stalin.
Not surprisingly, distortion of reality reached a sociopathic state, and the decision was made to rewrite historic events. Namely, the 1917 Revolution was rewritten in order to embellish the role Stalin played. In the new version, Stalin took Lenin’s place as second in command. Making decisions to alter the past required more than rewriting history. To conceal the truth, the Stalin cult-making machine faced the daunting task of ridding its expansive empire of the evidence that told the truth.
In reality, this task generated a society shrouded in tense fear. Widespread censorship, investigations, imprisonment, spying, and general mistrust were the primary results of the campaign. Stalin’s desire to sweep the empire from its roots made every person a suspect of sabotage. Anyone with a memory of what happened the day before was forced to feign another truth. Every now and again, a film or book would slip through the censorship council. Russian artists learned to adopt covert ways of expressing the reality of the nation were living in without pointing at it directly. The schizophrenic state of Stalin cast a cold, dark shadow over Soviet society until his death in 1953.