'With a Spear our Foe was Defeated, Then We Used a Gun, As Before With Steel we Fought Him, So We Smash Him Where We Spot Him' (1941).

Kukryniksy was the collective pseudonym used by three Russian painters, illustrators and graphic designers who were active from 1924 until the 1980s. They are most renowned for their Soviet propaganda posters, of which their anti-Nazi posters during Hitler's failed invasion of Russia are the most famous nowadays. Kukryniksy also made regular editorial cartoons of a political nature and more innocent illustrations for novels by Russian and foreign authors. The collective was awarded and decorated numerous times throughout their productive career.

Background
The oldest member of Kyukryniksy was Porfiri Nikitich Krylov (22 August 1902 - 15 May 1990) who hailed from Shchelkunovo, Tula. The second member was Mikhail Kupriyanov (21 October 1903- 11 November 1991), born in Tetyushi in the province Kazan, and the third and youngest artist was Nikolai Sokolov (21 July 1903 - 17 April 2000), a citizen from Tsaritsyno, close to Moscow. All three grew up under the Czar and were 15 or 16 years old when the Russian Revolution broke out in 1917. Russia transformed from a monarchy into the first Communist state in the world. In 1922 the three men met each other as students of the Moscovian art and technical school VKhUTEMAS. Two years later, in the same year Vladimir Lenin died and was succeeded by Joseph Stalin, they established their own art collective. The trio named themselves Kyukryniksy, a contamination of their last names. They made numerous landscape, portrait and crowd paintings in a socialist-realist style. From 1933 on, they provided editorial cartoons for the newspaper Pravda. They were house cartoonists in the satirical magazine Krokodil for decades as well. Like all art made in the Soviet Union, their output was state-controlled and intended for propaganda purposes. This meant that the Communist government and common workers were glorified, while capitalism, the Church and royalty were conveniently demonized.

Propaganda posters
Kyukryniksy is best remembered for their propaganda posters. A prime example of their style is 'February 1917-October 1917' (1937), a poster made to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Russian Revolution. The work is a tryptich depicting how the Czar was toppled in 1917, managed to crawl back on his feet for a while, but was eventually brutally crushed by the Red Army. The work is interesting for its use of sequential imagery.


'A Reception Given by the Possessed Commander-in-Chief' (1944).

World War II
In 1938 Russia and Nazi Germany signed the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, which ensured that both countries would stay neutral in each others affairs and wouldn't attack each other during a military conflict. However, in 1941 Hitler broke his promise and invaded Russia. Joseph Stalin was completely caught by surprise, as he was badly prepared for such an attack. However, the Russian army instantly fought back. The ROSTA news agency quickly established a special unit to produce motivational posters and propaganda cartoons. Kukryniksy were among many artists who supported their motherland through anti-Nazi propaganda posters. The team's iconic poster 'We Will Crush and Destroy the Enemy Without Mercy' (1941) was one of the earliest to be mass distributed after Hitler invaded Russia. It depicts Hitler crushing through the Ribbentrop-Molotov pact, but a Red Army soldier points a bayonet to his face. Another famous poster by their hand is 'The Enemy Will Not Escape This Noose' (1942), which shows a severely bruised Hitler in a stranglehold by strong U.S., British and Russian hands. 'Transformation of Fritzes' (1942) also gained fame: it shows Hitler ordering troops to invade Russia, but they freeze into swastikas and eventually graveyard crosses. Another often reproduced poster is 'A Reception Given by the Possessed Commander-in-Chief' (1944). It shows a military officer greeting Hitler, who is standing on his head, while his military hat rests on his behind. The Führer is literally talking from his ass, but it makes no difference to his subordinates.


'Transformation of Fritzes' (1942).

Many of Kyukryniksy's anti-Nazi posters are notable for their use of sequential illustrated narratives. In two panels on the poster '1812-1941' (1941), viewers are reminded that Russia defeated the previous invader Napoleon in 1812, so Hitler will undoubtly follow the same fate during their lifetime. A similar idea is explored in 'With a Spear our Foe was Defeated, Then We Used a Gun, As Before With Steel we Fought Him, So We Smash Him Where We Spot Him' (1941), where invaders of past centuries are all shown running away in humiliation, with the third and final panel depicting the Nazis. In 'We Repay' (1941), a Russian is forced to take off his hat for a Nazi, yet in the next panel he retaliates by decapitating his oppressor with an axe. ' "All Europe" of Hitler and Ribbentrop' (1941) is notable for its text comics format, with rhyming couplets underneath each image. In the first panel, Hitler commands Minister of Foreign Affairs Joachim von Ribbentrop and Minister of Propaganda Joseph Goebbels. In the second he is confronted with a badly prepared Germany army, but when Ribbentrop tells him about it in the third, Hitler won't hear nothing of it.


'We Repay'.

Three posters with sequential images from 1941 all revolve around food. In 'An Anthropophagus-Vegetarian' (1941), Hitler's vegetarianism is mocked. We see him passionately protecting the life of a sheep in the first panel, but having no problem massacring people in the second. The badly nurtured German army is ridiculed in 'The Bait' (1941), where Russian soldiers are able to ambush Nazis by just releasing a group of barnyard animals in front of them. When they try to catch and eat them, they are all shot dead. In 'About Ukrainian Bread and German Belt' (1941) a Nazi officer (presumably Heinrich Himmler) promises a soldier food and victory, though his subordinate is so starved that he surrenders to the Russians in the final panel and is given bread to feast on. Hitler and his cronies are licking their lips in 'Doughnuts and Bruises' (1943), where they glare at doughnuts which represent the locations Caucasus, Africa, Transylvania, the Kuban and Moscow. But in the second panel they are all left with bruises from their failed attempt to devour them.

'Tower-the-Jail' (1942) is an animal fable told in text comics format. Hitler is a wolf, Joseph Goebbels a monkey, Hermann Göring a pig and Heinrich Himmler a mouse. They consider themselves powerful because they manage to invade an animal skull. When confronted with real opposition, namely the Russians, they are all punched out without a flinch. The military training of Geman soldiers is mocked in 'The School-of-the-Brutes Leaving Certificate' (1942) and 'Young Fritz' (1942). Both text comics depict them as dumb simpletons whose "brutality" is merely something to laugh at. Another pathetic soldier is subject in 'Rob Fritz to Pay Iohann' (1943). In three successive panels he tries to repair a railroad, but the Russian artillery is much quicker, blowing him up in the final panel.

By 1944 the Russian army was gradually pushing the Nazis back to Berlin. Kyukryniksy celebrated Hitler's inevitable defeat in several picture stories. The poster 'Two Cauldrons' (1944) depicts the Führer as an empty jar, while a Russian helmet in the next panel is brimful with corpses of beaten Nazi soldiers. The dictator is shown loading a large cannon in 'To and Fro' (1944), but in the second panel his troops are returning home as a bunch of skeletons, all jumping into a mass grave. A very striking cartoon is 'History Along With Geography' (1944) in which Hitler's globe belly of a few years back has turned inside out. The world he once tried to conquer is now a cage jailing him. In the six-panel poster 'Musical Hysteria' (1945), Hitler plays various Nazi officials as his musical instruments until he notices they are broken. He then decides to just swing them around as a club.

Post-war cartoons
In 1945 Kukryniksy were hired as courtroom sketch artists during the Nuremberg trials. While their war cartoons have become the most iconic and often-reproduced in history books, the team kept making other propaganda cartoons during the Cold War. Some of them made use of sequential narrative images.


'Nuclear Bomb' (1983).

Costume designs
In 1929 the team designed costumes and sets for the comedy play 'The Bedbug' by V.V. Maykovsky, which was performed in the Meyerhold Theater.

Book illustrations
They illustrated various novels and plays by Maxim Gorky (1933), 1948-1949), Anton Chekhov, Nikolai Gogol, Ilf and Petrov, Mikhail Saltykov-Shchedrin (1939), Anton Tsjechov (1940-1946) and Miguel de Cervantes' 'Don Quixote'.

Recognition
In 1937 and 1958 the Kyukryniksy team received a golden medal at the World Exhibition. They were named Honorary Artist of the USSR (1942) and were awarded five Stalin Prizes (1942, 1947, 1949, 1950, 1951). After the war, they were decorated in the Order of the Patriotic War (1945), with special medals for bravery (1945) and to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the victory (1975) and the 40th (1985). In 1947 they became members of the Russian Academy of Arts. They additionally received People's Artist of the USSR (1958), Order of Lenin (1962) (1973), the Lenin Prize (1965), Heroes of Socialist Labour (1973), the USSR State Prize (1975, 1982) and the Order of the October Revolution (1983). In 1985 Sokolov was made a honorary citizen of Rybinsk. Krylov was named honorary citizen of Tula in 1986 and, posthumously in 2013, of the entire region Tula.

Death
Porfiry Krylov died in 1990 at age 87. Mikhail Kupriyanov suffered a horrible misfortune in 1977, when his first wife Lydia Kupriyanova became a victim of serial killer Andrei Evseev. He remarried, and passed away in 1991 at age 88. Nikolay Sokolov was the last of the trio to pass away, which he did in 2000 at age 96.


'About Ukrainian bread and German belt'.

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