In the spring of 1942, an anonymous editorial in Literature and Art entitled "Artist-Agitator" proposed that artists might contribute materially to national defense: "A living Bolshevik word," Pravda recently wrote, "is a part of the Red Army's military equipment alongside tanks and airplanes. We should take care of it and love it no less than our rifles or guns." We can easily use these words when we talk about art agitation. Like a living word, a visual image provides a powerful form of ideological ammunition for teaching the masses. An image created by a masterful hand has the power to embody people's feelings and thoughts. It reverberates in the heart of every honest man, strengthens his faith in himself [and] in his people, and inspires him to fight the enemy heroically.
Such rousing rhetoric proved to be popular among artists and writers contributing to the Soviet wartime propaganda effort. The following year, for example, TASS Artistic Director Pavel Sokolov-Skalia declared, "My weapon is the three hundred posters I created during the war." Self-referential images of artists and writers wielding the tools of their trade as weapons were relatively rare, however, as they undermined the effectiveness of propaganda by pointing to the tendentious means by which it was constructed. More typically, such images aimed to expose the fabricated nature of enemy propaganda.
Nikolai Fedorovich Denisovskii. Our One-Thousandth Blow, June 5, 1944. Gift of the USSR Society for Cultural Relations with Foreign Countries, 2010.82.