Russian, 1883 – 1946
The Oldest of Gods. c. 1920s
Lithograph printed in color on paper
Gift of Mrs. D. Spencer Byard (Margaret Mather, class of 1933)
Photograph by Stephen Petegorsky
The text accompanying this image, written as an address from Jehova to observant Jewish peasants, is designed to appeal to class identification rather than religious connection by implying that God supports and prefers capitalist Jews. The poster also makes use of a system of “reversals” to mock the sacred and undermine the connection between believers and ritual objects. For example, Jehova’s tallis (prayer shawl) is black with white stripes rather than the traditional white with black stripes and the Commandments in Jehova’s left hand bear the image of the imperial double-headed eagle. It is details such as these and others throughout these posters that show that their creators were well versed in the religions they mocked.
The poster also liberally makes use of crude stereotypes that would instantly speak to anti-Semites, and of tipazh, instantly recognizable “types” such as the black-suited and top-hatted capitalist who appears in many antireligious posters.
I am Jehova, the oldest of gods, and I understand this business better than all these milk sops. I am dried up, like the dollar. I will not start telling you nonsense about peace and love, like my son Christ. I am exclusively concerned with my nation, where each does his own business: capitalists and moneylenders grow richer, and workers work for them. A good Jew will always be wealthy, if he listens to my practical advice. Workers, be pious Jews and work with all your might for the capitalists. If you get it into your head to consort with Goys (infidels), with Christians, Mohammedans, and other workers, and impudently tear a smidge of gold from the hands of my pious capitalist children, then I will damn you, and in the next world I will torment and torment you.