Defending the Revolution at Home: The Soviet Turnip

The Russian Revolution through the Prism of Propaganda
Defending the Revolution at Home: The Soviet Turnip
Analysis of Characters
About the Author

In March 1918, the Bolsheviks signed the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk with the Germans, thus ending their involvement in World War I. To Russia's former allies (Great Britain, France, and the United States), Brest-Litovsk represented betrayal, and the Entente nations tried to overthrow the Bolsheviks in order to reopen an eastern front. Such attempts ingrained in the Bolshevik psyche a sense of capitalist encirclement and international threat. In this cartoon, the propagandist depicts both the enemies of the Revolution and observers within Soviet society as characters within a traditional Russian folktale. The moral of this tale is clear: in the face of the bourgeoisie's efforts to subvert the revolution, the Soviet government illustrates the dangers of naivete and calls for increased vigilance against capitalist threats. Ultimately, however, the cartoonist demonstrates that the the international bourgeoisie will fail, Soviet industrialization will continue apace, and Revolution will emerge victorioius.

Interestingly, Grandfather is depicted as a French capitalist, since the cartoonist calls him Monsieur. Judging by the animals' reactions in the right panel, society doesn't take seriously enough capitalist attempts to uproot the Bolshevik experiment.
Grandpa Capitalist

The Entente's attempts to reverse the Revolution in 1918 conditioned the Bolsheviks to be wary of enemies within their midst. Grandmother is called a counter-revolutionary, which was a general category of political crime used in the 1920s and 1930s. While the animals are surprised at the prospect of counter-revolution, they seem more amused to see "Grandma's" absurd disguise.
Grandma Counter-Revolution
As the cartoon progresses, characters become increasingly incongruous with their role in the folk tale. "Granddaughter" is most obviously not what she purports to be. Her name tag of "Social Appeaser" may refer to the dissatisfaction many Communists felt during the Twenties toward the New Economic Policy's strains of capitalism. As the bourgeois threats to the Revolution accumulate, the animals see them more soberly.
Granddaughter Social Appeaser

In the cartoon's second-to-last panel, the animal observers finally awake to the danger of counter-revolutionary threats with the arrival of the bourgeoisie's' faithful dog, the Saboteur. In 1928, the Soviet government conducted its first industrial show trial, in which experts of the Shakhty coal mines were accused of "wrecking" and sabotage. The animals illustrate the moral: society must be vigilant.

As the Soviet turnip illustrates, bourgeois "survivals" cannot be naively ignored. Society must be vigilant, and the state must purge society of all enemy elements. Attempts to uproot the Soviet turnip ultimately prove to be vain. With labor established on a correct Marxist foundation, industry will grow apace, and Socialism will emerge victorious.
The Soviet Turnip