“The Autocratic System” (1917) by Aleksei Radakov
Reads From The Top:
We reign, we pray for you; we judge you; we guard you; we feed you; AND YOU WORK!
Also by Radakov, “The Illiterate Person is Like a Blind Man, on All Sides Failure and Misfortune Lie in Wait for Him” (1920)
The first one of these paintings come from the very beginning of the Russian Revolution. It displays the class system in Russia during the time period and also explains what each classes’ role is. At the very top you see a tsar topped with a crown, holding obvious power. Below him you see the clergy and then the court systems. Even further down appears to be a militia and then middle class workers giving their scraps to the poor peasants way on the bottom. Every class on the pyramid has the tsar’s royal cape draped over them. What captured my attention most was the lowest class who are all bent over like they are struggling or doing back breaking work. They are bottom of the barrel with no respect or advantage in the world, which brings me to the next painting. The title is a dead give away on the meaning however since it is created by the same artist, I see a connection between the two images. As mentioned in the top cartoon, all the bottom class does is WORK. The lower class never receives education and is ultimately filled with illiterates who have “failure and misfortune” lying in wait for him his whole life. I believe the second picture is very reflective upon the first and both speak to what was going on in Russia at the time. Part of the reason for the Russian Revolution was the extreme poverty among the peasants and the widening gap between the upper and lower classes. Both of these images show the neglect of the peasant class in the early 1900’s.
About the artist: Aleskei Radakov was known for propaganda cartoons, many images and representations of peasant life and illiteracy.
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September 7, 2015 @ 5:19 pm
“What captured my attention most was the lowest class who are all bent over like they are struggling or doing back breaking work.” I didn’t catch that at first glance. Great observation!
September 8, 2015 @ 4:18 pm
You’ve chosen two of my favorite images! I agree that they both speak to conditions in Russia at the time, especially the exploitation of the working classes by the more privileged on the eve of the revolution. The first line of “The Autocratic System” usually includes “over you” – as in “we reign over you” (and pray over you, judge you, etc.). The second image (about the “blindness” of the illiterate) comes from AFTER the revolution, and the overthrow of the estate system Radakov indicts in the first poster. How have the challenges facing the peasants changed? And what might Bolshevik power do to address the problem of illiteracy?