Timeline: Chronology of the TASS Studio
This chronology outlines the historical and artistic context of the TASS poster studio from 1941 to 1946.
Nazi Germany invades the Soviet Union. On this, the first day of the war, the Organizing Committee of the Union of Soviet Artists (SKh SSSR) convenes in its exhibition hall on Kuznetskii Most. It decides to open a poster studio modeled on the ROSTA Window studio.
Artists Mikhail Cheremnykh, Vladimir Denisovskii, and Pavel Sokolov-Skalia visit Aleksandr Gerasimov, head of SKh SSSR, to gain approval for this project.
Gerasimov receives official support and approval from Kliment Voroshilov, the peoples’ commissar of defense of the Soviet Union. Iakov Khavinson, executive director of the TASS News Agency, is told to incorporate the studio into his organization. The workshop is given the official title “Editorial Office – Studio for the production of ‘TASS Window’ military defense posters.”
There are already ninety-two staff members at the newly created TASS Window studio, including stencil cutters, font painters, and gluers.
The TASS studio initiates production with TASS 1, The Fascist Took the Route through Prut, by Cheremnykh, with text by the Litbrigade, a collection of Soviet authors. It is the first stenciled TASS poster. On the same day, the first TASS painting is issued – TASS 2, Remember!, by Sergei Kostin, with text by the Litbrigade.
Reports of the posters reach the United States. Erskine Caldwell first writes about the TASS posters in the New York–based daily PM, exclaiming that “striking posters have appeared almost overnight.”
Late June–early July
Photographer Margaret Bourke-White visits the TASS studio and photographs the artists at work. This studio visit is part of a trip made with her husband, Caldwell, to the Soviet Union between March 20 and September 23.
TASS 68, A Major Historical and Politically Significant Agreement, is produced to honor the British-Soviet alliance. This poster is reproduced later this year in Great Britain as a lithographic print with English text.
July 17–October 27
Ralph Ingersoll, American writer and editor of PM, visits the Soviet Union.
TASS 159, Dangerously Ill, is published. It is the first poster reflecting American participation in the war effort.
The Museum of Modern Art, New York, receives its first shipment of TASS posters, accompanied by two bas-relief posters by Dmitrii Moor, from the All-Union Society for Cultural Relations with Foreign Countries (VOKS).
German forces launch Operation Typhoon, an offensive designed to capture Moscow before winter. Government employees begin an evacuation to Kuibyshev (Samara), a large Russian city nearly 600 miles southeast of Moscow, which will serve as a provisional capital of the Soviet Union until summer 1943.
PM publishes an image of a TASS poster for the first time: TASS 240, Eloquent Text, by Moa, with text by Vasilii Lebedev-Kumach.
SKh SSSR issues a mandatory order for the relocation of thirty-five Moscow-based personnel to Kuibyshev, including many of the artists and writers associated with TASS.
The TASS News Agency administration orders the Moscow studio to be abandoned, with operations moved to Kuibyshev.
Sokolov-Skalia, who did not leave Moscow for Kuibyshev, reopens the Moscow TASS editorial office. Aleksei Mashistov is appointed literary editor, and Iosif Feoklistov becomes production manager.
The American artist and activist Rockwell Kent receives a shipment of TASS posters. Customs forms indicate that there were three packages of posters in the delivery, one of which contained five posters.
1942Having abandoned window-paintings, the TASS studio begins experimenting with new media. Film director Iurii Znamenskii and engineer Aleksei Markov successfully design a new type of machine for TASS light bulletins called an autoscope. This machine consists of an automatic projector and a daylight screen. The autoscope will be successfully tested in March during the TASS exhibition at the State Historical Museum in Moscow.
The evacuation to Kuibyshev ends, and the official TASS office is relocated to Moscow.
A major TASS editorial meeting with Khavinson takes place. Its purpose is to determine ways to streamline the artistic, administrative, and production techniques of the TASS studio in order to create increased quantities of more effective posters.
In response to criticism of the posters’ literary quality, the presidium of the Writers’ Union recalls popular poets Samuil Marshak and Dem’ian Bednyi from the East, where they had been evacuated, to work at the TASS studio.
The TASS studio formally establishes a light department, which is intended to issue twenty-five light bulletins a month. These are written and designed by the TASS editorial staff.
The State Historical Museum in Moscow mounts an exhibition of TASS posters.
Nikolai Radlov, a prolific TASS artist, writes to Kent, “We are happy that a second front is becoming something real and that we artists in Russia, as well as our colleagues in the United States and Great Britain are contributing our share to the great cause of the struggle of the freedom loving people against Nazi tyranny.”
VOKS ships the first installment of TASS posters to the Art Institute of Chicago.
Nikolai Sadchikov, the head of Glavlit, appoints I. Fedorov to serve as the official state censor for the TASS editorial office.
1943November 4, 1943–January 2, 1944
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, holds an exhibition entitled The Soviet Artist in War, in which twenty-five TASS posters are included.
1944Poet Osip Brik responds to criticism of TASS posters’ aesthetic quality in the essay “Painting Went out into the Streets.” Brik argues that TASS posters’ strength lies in “the profound agitational persuasiveness of the text and the image.”
Wages at the TASS Studio are cut by fifteen percent in order to compensate for overspending. The TASS News Agency blames the studio’s huge workforce, while the editorial office blames the agency for approving increasingly complicated designs.
The third anniversary of the TASS studio is commemorated with TASS 1000, Our One Thousandth Blow.
1945The TASS light department is closed.
Georgii Aleksandrov, head of the Central Committee’s Department of Agitation and Propaganda, signals a change in political direction in an article in Pravda. TASS poster themes become less brutal and hateful, especially in relation to the German people.
Nazi Germany capitulates.
The Declaration Regarding the Defeat of Germany and the Assumption of Supreme Authority by Allied Powers is signed in Berlin.
The fourth anniversary of the TASS studio is commemorated with TASS 1255, Four Years of TASS Windows, by Cheremnykh, with text by his wife, Nina.
The TASS editorial board is officially dissolved. Posters produced after this date (TASS 1445 through 1485) are published by Iskusstvo.
The last TASS poster – TASS 1485, He Who Wants the Industry of the Country to Become Even More Powerful and Sophisticated – is published.