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History, Myth, and Memory: A Biography of a Stalin Portrait

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image of Russian History

During the troublous post-war and post-Soviet periods, the iconography of Stalin has served as a powerful interpreter of the past. Since World War II, portraits and attendant mass reproductions of the notorious Soviet leader have conveyed a historical memory that fused the triumphalist mythology of the Second World War and the cult of Stalin. Appropriated for political, national, nostalgic and commercial purposes, these iconic vehicles have functioned as integral “vectors of memory” in times of political change. In that vein, this article traces the remarkably dynamic and influential life of Aleksandr Laktionov's Portrait of I. V. Stalin (1949) in order to illuminate how its meaning and use, past and present, reflects and refracts the political landscape that deploys it.


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