“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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