Agitprop (/ˈædʒɪtprɒp/; from Russian: агитпроп, tr. Agitpróp, portmanteau of "agitation" and "propaganda")[1] is political propaganda, especially the communist propaganda used in Soviet Russia, that is spread to the general public through popular media such as literature, plays, pamphlets, films, and other art forms with an explicitly political message.[2]

The term originated in Soviet Russia as a shortened name for the Department for Agitation and Propaganda (отдел агитации и пропаганды, otdel agitatsii i propagandy), which was part of the central and regional committees of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union. The department was later renamed Ideological Department. Typically Russian agitprop explained the policies of the Communist Party and persuaded the general public to share its values and goals. In other contexts, propaganda could mean dissemination of any kind of beneficial knowledge, e.g., of new methods in agriculture. After the October Revolution of 1917, an agitprop train toured the country, with artists and actors performing simple plays and broadcasting propaganda.[3] It had a printing press on board the train to allow posters to be reproduced and thrown out of the windows as it passed through villages.[4]

It gave rise to agitprop theatre, a highly politicized theatre that originated in 1920s Europe and spread to the United States; the plays of Bertolt Brecht are a notable example.[5] Russian agitprop theater was noted for its cardboard characters of perfect virtue and complete evil, and its coarse ridicule.[6] Gradually the term agitprop came to describe any kind of highly politicized art.

Plakat mayakowski gross
Agitprop poster by Vladimir Mayakovsky titled: "Want it? Join"
"1. You want to overcome cold?
2. You want to overcome hunger?
3. You want to eat?
4. You want to drink?
Hasten to join shock brigades of exemplary labor!"


During Russian Civil War agitprop took various forms:

1923 Bolshevik propaganda train
Bolshevik Propaganda Train
  • Censorship of the press: Bolshevik strategy from the beginning was to introduce censorship over the primary medium of information in the former Russian Empire in 1917, the newspaper.[7] Lenin took control of the socialist newspaper Pravda, making it an outlet to spread Bolshevik agitprop, articles, and other media. With the Bolshevik capability to censor and shut down newspapers of opposing or rival factions, Pravda was able to become the dominant source of written information for the population in regions controlled by the Red Army .[8]
Top: Woman, learn to read and write! Bottom: Oh, Mommy! If you were literate, you could help me! A poster by Elizaveta Kruglikova advocating female literacy dating from 1923
  • Oral-agitation networks: The Bolshevik leadership understood that to build a lasting regime, they would need to win the support of the mass population of Russian peasants. To do this, Lenin organized a Communist party that attracted demobilized soldiers and others to become supporters of the Bolshevik ideology, dressed up in uniforms and sent to travel the countryside as agitators to the peasants.[9] The oral-agitation networks established a presence in the isolated rural areas of Russia, expanding Communist power.
  • Agitational trains and ships: To expand the reach of the oral-agitation networks, the Bolsheviks pioneered using modern transportation to reach deeper into Russia. The trains and ships carried agitators armed with leaflets, posters and other various forms of agitprop. Train cars included a garage of motorcycles and cars in order for propaganda materials to reach the rural towns not located near rail lines. The agitational trains expanded the reach of agitators into Eastern Europe, and allowed for the establishment of agitprop stations, consisting of libraries of propaganda material. The trains were also equipped with radios, and their own printing press, so they could report to Moscow the political climate of the given region, and receive instruction on how to custom print propaganda on the spot to better take advantage of the situation.[10]
  • Literacy campaign: The peasant society of Russia in 1917 was largely illiterate making it difficult to reach them through printed agitprop. The People's Commissariat of Enlightenment was established to spearhead the war on illiteracy.[11] Instructors were trained in 1919, and sent to the countryside to create more instructors and expand the operation into a network of literacy centers. New textbooks were created, containing Bolshevik ideology to indoctrinate the newly literate members of Soviet society, and the literacy training in the army was expanded.[12]

See also


  • The Soviet Propaganda Machine, Martin Ebon, McGraw-Hill 1987, ISBN 0-07-018862-9
  • Rusnock, K. A. (2003). "Agitprop". In Millar, James. Encyclopedia of Russian History. Gale Group, Inc. ISBN 0-02-865693-8.
  • Vellikkeel Raghavan (2009). Agitation Propaganda Theatre. Chandigarh: Unistar Books. ISBN 81-7142-917-3.


  1. ^ Leshchenko, Svetlana (December 6, 2015). Modern Russian-English Dictionary. Lulu Press, Inc. p. 7. ISBN 978-1-329-74063-1.
  2. ^ The Editors of Encyclopædia Britannica Article (July 11, 2002). "agitprop". Encyclopædia Britannica. Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc. Retrieved January 29, 2017.
  3. ^ "Agitprop Train". YouTube. 2007-06-15. Retrieved 2009-05-09.
  4. ^ Paul A. Smith, On Political War, p. 124, National Defense University Press, 1989
  5. ^ Richard Bodek (1998) "Proletarian Performance in Weimar Berlin: Agitprop, Chorus, and Brecht", ISBN 1-57113-126-4
  6. ^ Richard Pipes, Russia Under the Bolshevik Regime, p. 303, ISBN 978-0-394-50242-7
  7. ^ Kenez, pp. 5–7
  8. ^ Kenez, pp. 29-31
  9. ^ Kenez, pp. 51-53
  10. ^ Kenez, p. 59.
  11. ^ Kenez, p. 74
  12. ^ Kenez, pp. 77-78


  • Schütz, Gertrud (1988). Kleines Politisches Wörterbuch. Berlin: Dietz Verlag. ISBN 978-3-320-01177-2.
  • Kenez, Peter (November 29, 1985). The Birth of the Propaganda State: Soviet Methods of Mass Mobilization, 1917–1929. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. p. 342. ISBN 978-0-521-31398-8.
  • Ellul, Jacques (1973). Propaganda: The Formation of Men's Attitudes. New York: Vintage Books. p. 320. ISBN 978-0-394-71874-3.
  • Tzu, Sun (1977). Samuel B. Griffith (translator), ed. The Art of War. Oxford University Press. p. 197. ISBN 978-0-19-501476-1.
  • Lasswell, Harold D. (April 15, 1971). Propaganda Technique in World War I. M.I.T. Press. p. 268. ISBN 978-0-262-62018-5.
  • Huxley, Aldous (1958). Brave New World Revisited. New York: Harper & Row.
  • Andrew, Christopher; Mitrokhin, Vasili (September 20, 2005). The World Was Going Our Way: The KGB and the Battle for the Third World. New York: Basic Books. p. 736. ISBN 978-0-465-00311-2.
  • Andrew, Christopher (March 1, 1996). For the President's Eyes Only: Secret Intelligence and the American Presidency from Washington to Bush. New York: HarperPerennial. ISBN 978-0-06-092178-1.
  • Riedel, Bruce (March 15, 2010). The Search for Al Qaeda: Its Leadership, Ideology, and Future (2nd ed.). Washington, D.C.: Brookings Institution Press. ISBN 978-0-8157-0451-5.
  • Clark, Charles E. (2000). Uprooting Otherness: The Literacy Campaign in Nep-Era Russia. Susquehanna University Press.

External links

Abu Nidal (album)

Abu Nidal is an album by Muslimgauze titled after Abu Nidal. This album was dedicated to the PLO. Although the album was only pressed to 12" vinyl, all songs on side B were later included on the CD compilation Coup D'Etat/Abu Nidal. The album was described by Allmusic as "both a fine piece of music and a masterful piece of political agitprop".

Agit-Prop Records

This article refers to the United Kingdom based record label and should not be confused with Agitprop! Records.Agit-Prop Records was an independent record label founded in 1985 by the members of the punk band Chumbawamba.

Agitprop! Records

For Chumbawamba's UK-based record label, see Agit-Prop RecordsAgitprop! Records is a 'revolutionary hardcore and hip hop' independent record label based in Boston, US, founded by Angela Tavares.

One of the label's notable releases is the compilation Stand Up & Fucking Fight For It, its first full-length CD, released in 2002. The recording features queercore bands such as Fagatron, Best Revenge, The Rotten Fruits, Kids like Us and others, and is one of a handful of queercore compilations to be released. Tavares said in the Fanorama zine, "I was 17 or 18 when I came out, and very much into hardcore and punk. It was weird being involved in these two different 'communities' - one that, at times, could be overrun with homophobia and heterosexism, and the other which I could find very little in common with other than that we fucked the same." She said that the compilation was inspired largely by the Outpunk label and its early-90's Outpunk Dance Party, though she added that despite its reputation, Agitprop! is not specifically a "queer" label.

Other early releases included albums and vinyl singles by Ninja Death Squad and Fagatron, and Agitprop! also began issuing records by hip hop artists like Juha and Deep Dickollective.

Agitprop! was initially established as a distro, and continued to distribute other labels' recordings after it began releasing its own. The label is referenced in Homocore, a somewhat definitive guidebook to queercore history.Tavares put Agitprop! on hiatus to focus on fiction writing (which has included "Fast Ones" from the Dennis Cooper anthology, Userlands). In 2007, Agitprop! returned, first by making much of its back-catalogue available through CDBaby. In December 2007, Juha's album The Grooms of God became the first new Agitprop! release since the label was revived.

Agitprop (album)

Agitprop is a 2012 album by the Kalahari Surfers, the recording identity of South African musician Warrick Sony. Agitprop was released on Sjambok Music; it was first played at the Unyazi Festival in Durban in September. Agitprop explores Sony's fears about South Africa in the 2010s becoming a one party state under the African National Congress, and includes a song about chemical warfare scientist Wouter Basson. South African Rolling Stone compared it to the KLF, Sly and Robbie and Pink Floyd, and described its "slow evolution of nuance" towards the "desolately upbeat" "Hostile Takeover". Sony says the album was mostly written on the train while commuting to work; he calls the genre "Voktronic, ... a blend of folktronic, and volkspiele with a dose of electronic experimental dubstoep and experimental rolled up into one fat two blade stereo hit."

Agitprop (disambiguation)

Agitprop was originally an abbreviation for the departments of Agitation and Propaganda in the early Communist Party of the Soviet Union.

Agitprop may also refer to:

Agit-Prop Records, a British record label

Agitprop! Records, an American record label

Agit-prop (band), a Finnish music group

Agitprop (Kalahari Surfers), a 2012 album by the South African musician Warrick Sony

Agitprop, a project founded by artist David White.

Guerrilla theatre

Guerrilla theatre, generally rendered "guerrilla theater" in the US, is a form of guerrilla communication originated in 1965 by the San Francisco Mime Troupe, who, in spirit of the Che Guevara writings from which the term guerrilla is taken, engaged in performances in public places committed to "revolutionary sociopolitical change." The group performances, aimed against the Vietnam war and capitalism, sometimes contained nudity, profanity and taboo subjects that were shocking to some members of the audiences of the time.Guerrilla (Spanish for "little war"), as applied to theatrical events, describes the act of spontaneous, surprise performances in unlikely public spaces to an unsuspecting audience. Typically these performances intend to draw attention to a political/social issue through satire, protest, and carnivalesque techniques. Many of these performances were a direct result of the radical social movements of the late 1960s through mid-1970s. Guerrilla Theater, also referred to as guerrilla performance, has been sometimes related to the agitprop theater of the 1930s, but it is differentiated from agitprop by the inclusion of Dada performance tactics.

Helmut Damerius

Helmut Damerius (December 16, 1905 – September 29, 1985) was a German communist and a member of the Left Column, an agitprop theater group. As the Nazi Party gained in strength, he went into exile in Moscow, only to be arrested in the so-called Hitler Youth Conspiracy and sentenced to a long term in a Soviet prison. After his prison sentence, he was banished to Kazakhstan and was not permitted to move elsewhere. In 1956, he received permission to move to East Germany, where he stayed until his death.

Institute of Red Professors

The Institute of Red Professors of the All-Union Communist Party (Bolsheviks) (Russian: Институ́т кра́сной профессу́ры, ИКП) was an institute of graduate-level education in the Marxist social sciences located in the Orthodox Convent of the Passion, Moscow.

It was founded in February 1921 to address shortage of Marxist professors but only about 25 percent of its graduates continued an academic career; most rather became activists of the Communist Party. At first it was under the jurisdiction of the Central Executive Committee of the Soviet Union and later under the Department for Agitation and Propaganda (Agitprop). The studies lasted four years and students (nicknamed ikapisty) were required to write research papers, which were often published and represented a significant body of Marxist historical research. 236 students completed the course between 1924 and 1929. In 1929, there were 69 teachers at the institute, seven of whom were not members of the Communist Party. Its rectors were Mikhail Pokrovsky (1921–31) and Pavel Yudin (1932–38). The institute was abolished in 1938. The institute was integrated into a system of higher party schools of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union.

Left Column (theater troupe)

The Left Column (German: Kolonne Links) was an agitprop theater troupe during the 1920s and 1930s. The troupe worked in support of the Workers International Relief (WIR). During the Nazi era, some of the group went into exile in the Soviet Union, where some of the members were arrested by the Soviet secret police in the Great Purge and in connection with the Hitler Youth Conspiracy.

Leonte Răutu

Leonte Răutu (until 1945 Lev Nikolayevich (Nicolaievici) Oigenstein; February 28, 1910 – 1993) was a Bessarabian-born Romanian communist activist and propagandist. He was chief ideologist of the Romanian Communist Party ("Workers' Party") during the rule of Gheorghe Gheorghiu-Dej, and one of his country's few high-ranking communists to have studied Marxism from the source. His adventurous youth, with two prison terms served for illegal political activity, culminated in his self-exile to the Soviet Union, where he spent the larger part of World War II. Specializing in agitprop and becoming friends with communist militant Ana Pauker, Răutu made his way back to Romania during the communization process of the late 1940s, and became a feared potentate of the Romanian communist regime. As head of the Communist Party's new Agitprop Section, he devised some of the most controversial cultural policies, and managed to survive Pauker's downfall in 1952.

As Gheorghiu-Dej's assistant, Răutu played a leading part in all the successive avatars of Romanian communism: he was a Stalinist and Zhdanovist before 1955, an anti-revisionist until 1958, and a national communist since. During this long transition, he instigated (and gave a Marxist backing to) the successive campaigns against Gheorghiu-Dej's political adversaries, selectively purged academia of suspected anti-communists, and deposed some of his own supporters. He became widely hated for his perceived lack of scruples, depicted by disgraced communist writers as "the perfect acrobat" or "Malvolio".

Răutu preserved some of his influence after his national communist friend Nicolae Ceaușescu took over the party leadership. He lost his Agitprop prerogatives, but became instead rector of the party's own Ștefan Gheorghiu Academy, and still played a part in defining the official dogmas. He was eventually deposed in 1981, as punishment for his daughter's decision to emigrate. He spent the rest of his life in relative obscurity, witnessing the fall of communism in 1989.

Listings magazine

A listings magazine is a magazine which is largely dedicated to information about the upcoming week's events such as broadcast programming, music, clubs, theatre and film information.

The BBC's Radio Times was the world's first listings magazine when it was founded in 1923 to compete with daily newspapers, which had hitherto fulfilled the role. In 1932, New York's Cue was the first city-specific listings magazine.

With the expansion of broadcast media many others have followed, expanding the format to include columns about media production and personalities, such as TV Hebdo (Québec) in Canada, TV Guide in the US and hundreds of others worldwide. Broadcast guides are normally published either with a Saturday or Sunday newspaper or are published weekly or fortnightly. It has become a highly competitive area of publishing.Other listings magazines have started from a primary base in cultural events, such as Time Out magazine in the UK. Most major cities worldwide have one or many more such publications.

During the politically charged 1970s and 1980s, many of these magazines, in the UK at least, played a progressive role as part of the alternative press and had a reputation for leftward leaning investigative and campaigning journalism. They were some of the first consumer magazines to carry lists of "agitprop" events. City Limits was probably the most outspoken of all UK-based listings magazines but almost all followed Time Out’s lead of including space for lesbian and gay events and clubs. In certain areas of the UK which were previously dominated by the old guard of regional newspapers, which were traditionally more conservative in outlook, this was the first time that gay issues were put on a par with others - this was particularly true of Bristol’s Venue, Southampton’s Due South Magazine, and to a lesser extent Manchester’s City Life where the local press (Manchester Evening News) had been at times at least, a little more tolerant.

Man Equals Man

Man Equals Man (German: Mann ist Mann), or A Man's a Man, is a play by the German modernist playwright Bertolt Brecht. One of Brecht's earlier works, it explores themes of war, human fungibility, and identity. One of the agitprop works inspired by the developments in USSR praising the bolshevik collectivism and replaceability of each member of the collective (along with The Decision and "Verwisch die Spuren").Not only was the play the first to emerge after Brecht's move from Munich to Berlin, but it was also the first to be produced by what came to be known as 'the Brecht collective':

"[T]hat shifting group of friends and collaborators on whom he henceforth depended. As such it mirrored the artistic climate of the middle 1920s, with their attitude of 'Neue Sachlichkeit' (or New Matter-of-Factness), their stressing of the collectivity and downplaying of the individual, and their new cult of Anglo-Saxon imagery and sport. Together the 'collective' would go to fights, not only absorbing their terminology and ethos (which permeates Man Equals Man) but also drawing those conclusions for the theatre as a whole which Brecht set down in his theoretical essay 'Emphasis on Sport' and tried to realise by means of the harsh lighting, the boxing-ring stage and other anti-illusionistic devices that henceforward appeared in his own productions."As with his earlier In the Jungle (1923), which was set in Chicago, Brecht locates the drama in what was for his German audience an exotic setting, British colonial India. Man Equals Man presents the forcible transformation of a civilian, Galy Gay, into the perfect soldier. Using Kiplingesque imagery (as with In the Jungle, though, thanks to Elisabeth Hauptmann's command of English, in a more authentic tone now), Brecht explores personality as something that can be dismantled and reassembled like a machine, in a parable that critic Walter Kerr credited with a "curious foreshadowing of the art of brainwashing." The same characters exist in the short interlude The Elephant Calf.

The play was first staged by two provincial theatres in Düsseldorf and Darmstadt, opening first in the latter on 25 September 1926. This production was directed by Jacob Geis, with set-design by Caspar Neher. Ernst Legal (who was the director of the Landestheater where the play was produced) played Galy Gay.

The play offers an "intermission piece" called "The Elephant Calf". It is a one-act surrealistic farce that has Galy Gay making his return as a baby elephant accused of murdering its mother.

In March 1927 an adaptation of the play was broadcast by Radio Berlin's new drama department, with an introductory note in Der deutsche Rundfunk describing it as "the most powerful and original stage play of our time."

Mikhail Adamovich

Mikhail Mikhailovich Adamovich (1884–1947) was a Russian decorative and monumental painter, and porcelain artist. He is known for his porcelain works with agitprop and Soviet art imagery.

Political theatre

Political theatre is theatre that comments on political and social issues.

ROSTA posters

ROSTA Posters (also known as ROSTA Windows, Russian: Окна РОСТА, ROSTA being an acronym for the Russian Telegraph Agency, the state news agency from 1918 to 1935) were a propagandistic medium of communication used in the Soviet Union to communicate important messages and instill specific beliefs and ideology within the minds of the masses.

The Practical Theatre Company

The Practical Theatre Company was a Chicago-based theatre company founded by Northwestern University students and active throughout the 1980s. Its productions included new plays, satiric agitprop, rock and roll events, and a series of successful improvisational comedy revues. The PTC, whose motto was "Art is Good", is notable for the fact that the entire cast of its 1982 improvisational comedy revue, The Golden 50th Anniversary Jubilee (Brad Hall, Seinfeld star Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Gary Kroeger and Paul Barrosse) was hired by Saturday Night Live.At its peak in the mid-1980s, The Practical Theatre Company operated two theatre spaces: the 42-seat storefront John Lennon Auditorium in Evanston, Illinois and a 150-seat cabaret in Piper's Alley at North & Wells in Chicago. During that period, with its run of hit improvisational revues, the PTC briefly rivaled The Second City as Chicago's leading comedy troupe.

Viktor Deni

Viktor Nikolaevich Denisov (Russian: Виктор Николаевич Денисов), best known by the shortened pseudonym Viktor Deni, (8 March 1893 – 3 August 1946) was a Russian satirist, cartoonist and poster artist. Deni was one of the major agitprop poster artists of the Bolshevist period (1917–1921).

Workers' Youth Theatre

Workers' Youth Theatre, also known as TRAM (the Russian acronym for "Teatr RAbochey Molodyozhi") was a Soviet proletarian youth theatre of the late 1920s and early 1930s. It was established by Mikhail Sokolovsky in a converted cinema on Liteiny Prospekt, Leningrad. The theatre was run as a collective and produced agitprop pieces designed to educate and persuade. The group worked together with the Left Column, a German agitprop group active in Berlin. A number of the group moved to Moscow in 1931. Helmut Damerius led the two groups from 1931 to 1933.Adrian Piotrovsky was the theatre's principle ideologue, and Dmitri Shostakovich composed some incidental music for a number of its productions. By 1930 the theatre was under attack, accused of "formalism" by its critics from among journalists and rival proletarian organizations.

Ștefan Gheorghiu Academy

The Ştefan Gheorghiu Academy (Romanian: Academia Ştefan Gheorghiu, in full: Academia de învăţămînt social-politic Ştefan Gheorghiu de pe lîngă CC al PCR - approx. Ştefan Gheorghiu Academy for Socio-Political Education in Relation to the Central Committee of the Romanian Communist Party) was a university created and used by the Romanian Communist Party (PCR) for training its cadres for executive and agitprop-related functions.

This page is based on a Wikipedia article written by authors (here).
Text is available under the CC BY-SA 3.0 license; additional terms may apply.
Images, videos and audio are available under their respective licenses.