Agit-prop is an organisation that the Soviet Communist Party started in 1920 to control and promote the ideological conditioning of the masses. The term is now used to describe any form of culture with a clear political goal.
Origins of Agitprop
Agitprop art (or the art of agitation) was used to manipulate ideological beliefs, specifically to spread the ideals of Communism in Russia in the period immediately following the 1917 revolution. The term ‘agitprop’ (an abbreviation for agitation propaganda: ‘agitational propaganda’) was first used shortly after the Revolution, and the Communist Party established the Department of Agitation and Propaganda in 1920.
Agitprop art has taken on many forms, ranging from spectacular theatre performances (such as the re-enactment of the Winter Palace storm, performed in Petrograd in 1920 with a cast of 10,000) to the design of sweet wrappers.
One of the most remarkable expressions of agitprop in the visual arts was the decoration of ‘agit-boats’ and ‘agit-trains,’ in which Alexandra Exter played a leading role. These trains were conceived as educational and publicity vehicles to take the Revolution to the farthest corners of Russia. The trains usually had a film carriage showing Lenin’s or Trotsky’s films, and they were also well-stocked with Revolutionary Manifestos, pamphlets and leaflets.
Initially, they spread the knowledge of the Revolution to far-flung towns and villages, but later they were used as propaganda vehicles and sent out to cheer the cause of the Red Army on the Civil War front. Some of the trains painted by Exter and her pupils bore the striking images of the Revolution and the resounding slogans of its leaders. In contrast, others were covered in Suprematist compositions, giving the carriages a festive and somewhat fantastic appearance.’
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