And We Will Defeat The Drought!

The Soviets weren’t ever known for their subtlety.  Observe, as evidence, this stunning propaganda poster of Joseph Stalin engaged in a modification of the Russian climate so large that it borders on terraforming.

In the late 1940s, the Soviet government embarked on what they called “The Great Stalin Plan for the Transformation of Nature.”  This plan called for many ambitious ecological manipulation efforts across the USSR’s central plains.  Trees would be planted in massive belts across the steppe, fresh water from the Russian Arctic would be channeled into the semi-arid Soviet heartland, and land that was once useful only for grazing would become a new breadbasket of arable land.  The Soviet scientific community bought into this plan to end Soviet agricultural problems forever, mostly due to the influence of crackpot biologist Trofim Lysenko.  Lysenko deserves as much credit for the development of this plan as he does for its collapse: as millions of trees died due to his misguided theories, Lysenko was ostracized from the Soviet scientific community and his techniques abandoned.

This poster was printed during the heyday of the Great Stalin Plan for the Transformation of Nature.  Stalin, dressed here in a military uniform, calmly smokes his pipe as he draws lines of forests and canals across the Soviet Union, sentencing millions of rubles and trees to elimination with each swipe of his pencil.  In its giant letters, the poster screams “And We Will Defeat The Drought!”  For a larger image, click on the picture above.

Notice the relationship of the man to the map.  Stalin, by way of his power and wisdom, wields total control over nature, and has the power to change entire ecosystems with the quick, calm stroke of a pencil.  Notice also how he towers over the map, looming over the entire nation as he asserts his dictatorial authority.  Even the Earth itself is his subject.   Soviet propaganda frequently included images of communist symbols over or around the Earth, but in this example, Stalin is literally manipulating the surface of the planet to suit his wishes.

Thanks to Claire Pogue for the translation!


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Cartographia is a blog about how we use maps to represent the world around us, and how people interpret maps today and throughout history. Please feel free to send any questions, comments, or recommendations directly to me at

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