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Introduction to World War I Propaganda

The definition of propaganda has been debated, for there are many different viewpoints on it. However, it is usually defined as any type of material used in hopes of influencing a community’s thoughts and viewpoints towards one subject. Many different types of propaganda were used in World War I successfully since people only received the information that the government wanted them to know. It twisted the truth and allowed for governmental control of people’s thoughts and viewpoints towards the war. Usually, people supported the war because propaganda allowed them to believe that war was worth fighting for. Some examples include: convincing people to go to war, unification of the nation, conserving food, buying bonds, and more.

Good examples of literary propaganda would be: countries fabricating the total number of deaths, only choosing to report information that is beneficial to them, and even eliminating information completely, all done in order to give the allusion that fighting the war is beneficial when in actuality, it is not. They even used music and postcards to get ideas through towards everyone, as music is universal, and also an important part of the family during that time. Additionally, countries constantly used posters to show superiority against other countries.

Some posters even called for people’s help based on ties they had with another country. They were also used to get people to enlist in combat. Some posters depicted how everyone was a part of the war, how everyone had a responsibility as they called for male and female soldiers, female workers, families to save food so the armies can have food, which is using people’s emotions as the posters stir up feelings of nationalism. The average person has definitely seen the poster of Uncle Sam stating he needs you to join the army and also the poster of a woman revealing her biceps stating we can do it. Propaganda attacked the emotional parts of human beings as women, children, dogs, etc. were used to stir up emotions.

“Lead this people into war, and they’ll forget there was ever such a thing as tolerance. To fight, you must be brutal and ruthless, and the spirit of ruthless brutality will enter into the very fibre of national life, infecting the Congress, the courts, the policeman on the beat, the man in the street.” Woodrow Wilson was a keen user of propaganda, and he used it successfully as he convinced the United States of America to go into World War I. In conclusion, propaganda was heavily and successfully used in World War I in order to manipulate people’s thoughts and feelings towards it.


“First World – Propaganda Posters.” First World – A Multimedia History of World War One. Web. 22 Jan. 2011. <;.

“Propaganda In Wartime – World War I”” Untitled Document. Web. 22 Jan. 2011. <;.

“Propaganda Critic: World War One Demons, Atrocities and Lies.” Propaganda Critic: Index of Site Dedicated to Propaganda Analysis. Web. 22 Jan. 2011. <;.

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Russian Propaganda during WWI

During World War I, a critical part of the German Schlieffen Plan was based on the typical slowness of Russian mobilization. Russia had a large army, but it suffered from low morale, lack of equipment, transportation, and training. And, typical to form, the large but slow Russian army spent weeks rushing its troops to the war front. It did move faster then the Germans had counted for, true, but it was still weeks behind the other European nations, which were already in the blitz of it.

War propaganda was prominent in other European countries, but not seen very often in Russia at the time. Even before World War I had started, reaching back to 1905, Russia had been in turmoil and general strike. The czar was being forced to rapidly cede power to elected officials and the Duma; the people were in a messy riot, with student sitdowns, vandalism of government property, mass strikes and large protests rampart. Russia in the Great War was in the midst of a messy, massive, change.

The largeness of the Russian steamroller ensured that no drafts would be needed to fuel the army, so recruitment posters were never used. Instead, Nicholas II’s government released pamphlets encouraging people to buy government bonds to fund the war. Rates for the loans were standardized at 5 1/2% return per month. As Nicholas II was assassinated and his government destroyed during the revolution in 1917, all of the loans issued defaulted and lost all of their value.

“Buy 5 1/2% bonds – War Bonds for Victory.” The twin-headed eagle was the Russian czar's Imperial standard during WWI, as well as its coat of arms, and still is today. The poster also depicts modern double-barrel artillery (a design that increased weight but decreased recoil) and a covered rack of swords and spears.

“Everything for the War! – Subscribe to the 5 1/2% War Loan.” – Women saw an increasing role in the factory, not just during WWI but through the beginning of the century as well. Here, a peasant worker is depicted machining a cannon bore for the war effort. Because no general draft was instituted, WWI did not mean changes in the sex of the workforce, as it did for other European countries.

Gorodki – The Russian giant is depicted throwing sticks in a giant’s game of land domination. The pegs

he is knocking over are the capitals of opposing nations – including Berlin (Germany), Vienna

(Austria-Hungary), and Kraków (at the time the site of a militaristic Polish rebellion against Russia).

Military defeats and blunders on all levels of the Russian command increased anger in Russian society. Czar Nicholas II made matters worse by assuming personal command of the military in 1917 – he could no longer be assumed innocent of the defeats, and the Russian people lost all faith in him. Seeing an opportunity to take a major power out of the fight, Germany arranged for the return of Vladimir Lenin, a politically motivated dissident that had been exiled from Russia in 1900. Lenin and others, unhappy with the Russian Imperial rule, set up a new Communist Party that, with support from the general populace, quickly escalated to prominence. In the resulting February and October Revolutions, Nicholas II and his family were captured and held prisoner by once-loyal Bolshevik military forces, and eventually grimly executed against a wall in their palace, ending the role of the czar for good.

True to form, following the emplacement of the communists in place of the czar, the Bolsheviks petitioned Germany for a peace treaty to end the “Imperialistic” fighting. The Treaty of Brest-Livest cost Russia a large chunk of its Eastern European territory, but finally brought peace to the embittered nation.

During and preceding the October Revolution, many unofficial pamphlets and other other pieces of propaganda were circulated. Before Lenin came upon the scene, there were distinctive presses by the masses, not to abdicate Nicholas II, but to force him to give up rights to the Duma and elected bodies of the people. Things began to change, however, with involvement in the initially-failing Great War. Nicholas II’s choice of a wife in Princess Alexandra, granddaughter of Queen Victoria, mirrored Louis XVI’s choice of Marie Antoinette in disaster. The Russian people disliked her because she controlled her husband, persuading him to stand firm against the march of democratization, and because she in turn depended on Rasputin for the treatment of her son, Alexis.

Prince Alexis was born with hemophilia, a failure in clotting red blood cells that was not to be treated by even the best doctors on the continent. Rasputin was a mystic who came to the family and, miraculously, was able to cure Alexis of his disease. Despite everyone’s general distaste for the man, whose very name was an insult (meaning “debauched one”), Tsarina Alexandra convinced her husband to allow him to stay, and in fact through Alexandra he was able to control Russian foreign policy as a whole. Much dissent existed on his influence, and he was finally murdered by nobles in 1916.

Last but not least, the terrible losses suffered by the Russians on the front lines in World War I cost families many sons. Morale was lower then it it was even after defeat in the Russo-Japanese War. Although the conditions on the Eastern Front were not as much trench warfare as mobile artillery bombardment and rebukement, Russia ended up losing the most men of any nation in the war.

Rasputin the Puppetmaster – In this famously circulated poster one can see the dissent the Russian people felt for Rasputin. Here he is depicted a malicious puppet master controlling the czar and the tsarina.
During the October Revolution, the newly empowered Soviets circulated large amounts of propaganda posters denouncing dissidents of the “ideal” society, and portraying the common laborer as the keystone of Russia.

World’s October – In this propaganda poster, circulated during the October Revolution, factory

workers and peasants are shown uprising against and throwing out government officials, wealthy nobles, and members of the clergy.

The Soviets would become masters of the art of propaganda by the time of World War II. Following the October Revolution and the declaration of peace, the party and the War Ministry would spend their time cleaning up Russia of any dissenters, and began filtering news and information released to the general public. The years following World War I would see the bringing of Lenin’s young philosophy to ripeness.

Sources Russia In World War I. Cori Ford. Who’s Who in World War I: Nicholas II. Micheal Duffy, 22 August, 2009. Maximum Advantage in Pictures: Propaganda As Art and History. May 31, 2007.

Nicholas V. Raisanovsky and Mark D. Steinberg , A History of Russia: 8th Edition. Oxford University Press, 710 pp. ISBN: 978-0-19-534197-3

David R. Stone, A Military History of Russia: From Ivan the Terrible to the War in Chechnya. Praeger Security International, 259 pp. ISBN: 0-275-98502-4

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British Propaganda. . . Boy, They Sure Needed It!

Britain, in the beginning of the First World War, was incredibly weak. She only possessed a small number of professional troops to send towards the warfront after they entered the war in the August of 1914. Since the British were probably the weakest power to fight in the Western front, it was important for them to search for ways to receive recruits. The British government did not issue drafts to force men into the army or threaten anyone to join by use of deadly force. They found a more subtle way that could increase the number of soldiers they had. In order to urge the British people to fight in the war, the government decided to spread propaganda around like a contagion.

Propaganda by definition is information, ideas, or rumors deliberately spread widely to help or harm a person, group, movement, institution, or nation. In this case, Britain used propaganda to help themselves in order to harm the enemy. They, however, were not the first country to use propaganda. Germany utilized this powerful instrument of persuasion and nationalistic uproar before the British even started. Despite the fact that they began before them, the Germans did not use propaganda for recruitment purposes. Instead, they depicted the enemy, especially the British, in literary and/or vivid images which stirred their populace into a hostile mindset against the enemy, making them feel as if their enemy was composed of monsters, not humans. Britain, however, reciprocated Germany’s propaganda by creating some of their own. They learned much from the German’s style of propaganda and attempted to improve its quality, strengthening its effect on the people. Their ability to convey a clear, precise message to the citizens made British propaganda highly effective; it was so effective that recruitment offices were usually flooded with recruits. M17 was the name of the British propaganda office organized by the government.

There were many different forms that [British] propaganda showed itself in. These forms ranged from one message to another, whether it was in a newspaper article or a poster (the two most common types of propaganda used by the British). Media was one of their strongest motivators. Not only did they try to convince the public to contribute to the war effort, but they also distorted information given to them by the government in order to produce positive attitude towards the government and the British in the war. Visual media and newspapers made both of those goals possible.  Some posters

This was just one of the posters used by the government to gain recruits.

made men who did not volunteer to join the war feel guilty that they turned their backs against their nation’s army. Others motivated the people to contribute money and goods. Women were influenced by these posters to help serve as the replacements of the men in their jobs as they went to war, working in factories and nurses most of the time. Articles were also written to solidify British nationalism and portray the enemy as horrible as they could. These articl

es usually spoke about British success [and enemy failures] in an emphasized way that they blocked out anything that sho

wed the British army in the negative sense. The government supplied the media with these information with rules for them to follow as well. Atrocities that the German army had made and was reported by the British were fuel and ammunition for the newspapers. In one newspaper, the headline flashed “Belgium Child’s Hands Cut Off by Germans”. Others ranted [in a good way] about how the British won in some fights. They did not release any information concerning their future intents or current battle positions nor requested that the newspaper editors include any severe amount of British losses onto any article. Demoralizing the enemy and gaining support from the people were the only goals that the British government had in this propaganda escapade.

With propaganda i

ncorporated into their game plan, their chances in winning the war with their allies increased. Eventually, the United States came in with their own propaganda, demolishing other countries’ propaganda with their powerful sayings. In the end, however, the British would not have dealt agreat blow against their opponents if it were not for the utilization of propaganda.


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German Propaganda

During World War I, propaganda was a very versatile and useful tool of war that helped to enlist millions into the armies. The methods of propaganda ranged from stamps to posters to newspaper reports.

Germany did not have as much propaganda as other countries, yet they still send out posters and news urging men to go to war as well as to buy war bonds. There were also posters used to help comfort and raise morale in German people at home.

An example of a German WWI poster depicting a man protecting his home with the poster saying, “Berliners Protect Your Own Home!”

Though there were more than 8 million Germans lived in America at that time and many were sympathetic towards Germany, but they were still shadowed by the increasingly large amounts of anti-German feelings.

Some examples of Pro-German Propaganda:


A German poster showing German soldiers declaring, “We teach you to run!” at the various personifications of countries such as Russia and France (names in German).

A German poster illustrating the British as cowards where they camouflage their armies and weapons as Churches so that Germans won’t attack them.



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United States Propaganda was pretty useful!

The propaganda poster was used to pursuade people to buy War Bonds.

Although the United States was the last nation to enter World War I on April 2nd, 1917, Americans had no problem getting everyone almost everyone involved. Artists used propaganda posters to motivate Americans, young and old, to contribute to the role of the Untied States in the war.

The thought of glory, fame, and heroism was one of the main motivators for men. Propaganda often hinted signs of heroism, convincing them that after the war was over, they would be known as heroes. If this wasn’t enough to encourage young men to join the army, artists also used women as a motivator. Women were shown as pretty young girls, who beckon the men to join and fight alongside with them. Another way of having men join the army was by depicting the enemy as bloodthirsty monsters by characterizing the monsters with something the enemy would have. Several propaganda posters often displayed pictures of monsters attacking the people of the United States. This enraged American citizens, and provoked them into joining the army.

 Propaganda was also encourage citizens to support the armies. Posters often contained  children smiling and holding a war bond, with certain words like, “Buy a War Bond today”, or, “Support our troupes by buying a War Bond”. War bonds are government-issued savings bonds which were used to fund a war or military activity. If supporters bought more war bonds, the war would be properly funded. Other propaganda  were used to ask for help. Some posters showed the need for supplies. These posters convinced caring citizens to make items, such as clothing, for the soldiers. It also convinced them to grow their own crops, to save the soldiers food. Propaganda also helped provide jobs for unemployed citizens. War required weapons, so propaganda was put up to help speed up the production of weapons. This allowed many opportunities for people.

With the examples provided, we can see that propaganda has played an important role for the United States during World War I.


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