Branding the Fascist Invaders

ivandurakov's picture

I visited Russia in 1999, and noticed frequent monuments to the Great Patriotic War (WW2). They are often small and can be found anywhere. Almost all of them with any reference to the invading fascists or the defense against them used the same general, black sans "chisel-face" that reminds me of a heavy Neutraface (especially the "4"). I wish I had taken more pictures of them, but that was still in the days of film. The style would seem to invoke a sense of strength and heavy armor.

Here's one I did take, at St. Isaac's Cathederal in Peterburg. The caption is "This is evidence of one of the 148478 shells fired by the fascists on Leningrad in 1941-44":

I found a few more images on the web. Here are a couple from the war monument at Murmansk. The caption is roughly "To the defenders of the Soviet polar region". If you look closely, you can see that the word "Soviet" (СОВЕСТКОГО) in the middle appears to have been modified-in to replace some other word, probably erasing Stalin or something:

Here's another Murmansk monument. The caption is hard to make out but something like "In memory of the fighters and builders of Murmansk [something]" and of course the usual "1941-45":

I found a picture of a Polish monument also, differs somewhat but conveys the same general sense perhaps. I'm not sure what the symbol on the top is:

Here is one from Treptower Park, Berlin. The caption is "Patriotic War":

... but compare to the Berlin "polynational" monument, I believe at the same park, apparently for more "external" consumption. The English and Russian captions read the same:

The use of memorials and seemingly-related "cult of the Soviet war dead" is discussed a bit in Geographical Review:

I'm neither designer, advertiser, nor professional propagandist, but I see a pattern here. Any additional insights anyone may wish to share would be appreciated.

paragraph's picture

The symbol on the Polish monument to the Warsaw Uprising is ‘Fighting Poland’, see:

Ray Larabie's picture

The first image looks a bit like Meloriac. I guess they came to similar conclusions when trying to make a very bold geometric font.

Here's some info on the Star Wars logo which many believe was based on a fascist font but wasn't (read all the comments).

Jan's picture

... with a minimalist directive from George Lucas: that he wanted “something very fascist” ...
Man, the 70's sure were weird. Was disco a fascist thing then too?

And so, when George described what he wanted, I returned to the office and used what I reckoned to be the most “fascist” typeface I could think of as reference: Helvetica Black.
Did they mention that in the movie? Must have missed that.

paragraph's picture

Oops, boys, I think we are looking at monuments of people opposing the Fascists (however belatedly, from the Polish and Czech point of view): perhaps Totalitarian or Stalinist but not Fascist lettering here ... the 30’s and 40’s were much weirder than the 70’s.

ivandurakov's picture

Paragraph is correct. You can view this as the Soviets branding their opposition, or branding opposition to their opposition... Philosophically and in terms of propaganda methods and styles, there appears to be little actual difference between either side, it's simply our totalitarians versus your totalitarians.

ivandurakov's picture

Meloriac would be close to target except for that capital E.

dezcom's picture

I love the heavy one! I have fought the heavy sans battle a few times and greatly admire this solution.


Justin_Ch's picture

I'm interested in how long after the war these monuments were made. Obviously they weren't made immediately after so we aren't necessarily looking at the lettering styles that opposed fascism at the time it was invading these countries

I visit Poland a lot as my partner is from there and I see a lot of similar monumental lettering still being done on recent gravestones in cemeteries. This photo was from a month ago and I think the stone was only a few years old. (Not a great photo as it was trimmed from the edge of what I was actually focusing on.)

Thanks for that link to the Warsaw Uprising badges, paragraph!

paragraph's picture

You’re welcome, Justin. The shapes of the heavy-wide-solid sans could relate to the promoted self-image of the Soviets at the time, with the main idea of being the defenders rather than the aggressors (never mind Poland, Finland and the Baltic states), and solid and dependable rather than fickle and opportunistic (switching sides in WW1, the Ribbentrop–Molotov Pact, etc.).

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