New Year's poster by Nikolai Kogout (1918).

Nikolai Kogout was a Russian painter who made propaganda posters for the Soviet regime from the 1920s until the 1950s. Some of his designs make use of sequential narratives. He sometimes published under the pseudonym Kog.

Early life and career
Nikolai Nikolaevich Kogout was born in Simbirsk in 1891. Between 1907 and 1913, he studied at the Stroganov Central School of Industrial Art. Five years later the Russian Revolution broke out, transforming Czarist Russia into the first Communist state in the world. Kogout was stationed at the political department of the Red Army, where he stayed until the end of the Russian Civil War in 1920. Between 1920 and 1925 he continued his studies at the VKHUTEMAS, a Soviet state art and technical school.

Propaganda cartoons
Like many Russian artists Kogout became a propaganda artist for the new Soviet regime. In 1918 the Soviet Union established the Russian Telegraph Agency, often shorted to "ROSTA". It was part state news agency, part propaganda production. ROSTA had its own series of stenciled pamphlets under the name Okna Rosta ("Rosta Window"), which often featured satirical propaganda drawings, cartoons and comics with text in captions. Most focused on topical events, unavoidably promoting the Communist regime. Other works were apolitical and offered reliable educational information too. At the time, large parts of Russia hadn't been industrialized yet. Many civilians were uneducated illiterates, vastly unaware of modern-day developments. Easy to comprehend drawings were therefore a useful way to reach and inform the masses about the benefits of modern equipment, basic hygiene, vaccination, health care and learning how to read and write. Apart from Kogout, ROSTA and Okna Rosta ranked artists like Mikhail Cheremnykh, Viktor Deni, Yuliy Ganf, Alexey Komarov, Ivan Maliutin, Vladimir Lebedev, Dmitry Moor,Vladimir Mayakovsky (who often wrote the texts), Amshey Nurenberg, Alexander Rodchenko and Mikhail Volpin among their contributors. Kogout also published in the satirical magazine Bezbozhnik.


'Workers of All Countries Unite' (1920). A Soviet soldier and a Muslim fight back against their oppressors. The first person in black with the wollen cap is Czarist officer Pjotr Wrangel who led the White troops in their attempts to reconquer Russia on the Soviets. Behind him is a stereotypical capitalist, French general Joseph Joffre (who was also involved in fighting back against the Soviets through intervention troops) and yet another capitalist caricature.

Sequential illustrated narratives
Some of Kogout's artwork follow an illustrated sequential narrative, such as 'S Novym Godom!' ('Happy New Year!', 1918), where the glorious achievements of the Red Army that year are celebrated in five separate images, with sentences written underneath, making it a text comic. Equally interesting is 'Workers of All Countries Unite' (1920), aimed at the Central Asian parts of Russia, where the Soviet Union tried to find allies among the Muslim population. The poster shows a Muslim soldier facing a Soviet soldier, while behind him capitalists, monarchists and Czarists try to command him to attack the Soviet. In the next panel, the tables have turned: the Muslim and Soviet join forces to fight capitalists, monarchists and Czarists. To get the message across, the dialogue is written in Arabic script in the Crimean-Tatar language.

In 1928, Kogout made 'Kak vkolachivayut v cheloveka religiyu' ('Methods of Religious Indoctrination', 1928), which shows how a priest misleads people throughout their entire lives, while all their sufferings are never rewarded by anything but false promises about the afterlife. This text comic ran in Bezbozhnik, a satirical magazine known for its biting commentary of religion.

Death
Nikolai Kogout passed away in Moscow in 1959.


Cover illustrations for Bezbozhnik.

Kogout artwork on theridoureport.blogspot.com

Series and books by Nikolai Kogout in stock in the Lambiek Webshop:

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