What is agitprop? It’s a term you may have heard before, but couldn’t be blamed for forgetting. But fear not, we’re going to define agitprop by breaking down an “agitprop definition” with examples, from theater, print, and digital news. By the end, you’ll know what agitprop is, and why it’s accrued renewed popularity in the world today.

Agit Prop Introduction

First, let’s define agitprop

In the early 20th-century — particularly in the years towards the tail-end and aftermath of World War I — Russian underwent a period of radical transformation, effectively uprooting its monarchical government in favor of socialism. 

How did they do it? Well, that’s a question too complicated to wholly answer here. But one way is through the use of “agitprop.” Agitprop was an effective tool for penetrating the hearts and minds of the people. 

Here’s an example, demonstrating (in poster form) that the cold and hungry should join the Shock Brigades to be supplied with ample food and drink:

What is Agitprop Agit Prop Poster by Vladimir Mayakovsky Inciting People to Join the Shock Brigades

What is Agitprop?  •  Agit Prop Poster by Vladimir Mayakovsky Brigades

Posters/visual art were especially effective at influencing the hearts and minds of the illiterate percentage of the people. Remember, literacy rates were much lower in 1917. However, Vladimir Lenin’s What is to Be Done? was an enormously influential text for agitprop, laying the groundwork for what would become agitprop art, agitprop theater, and agit-trains; which traveled throughout the country spreading ideology through the mechanisms of oration and text.

Lenin Headshot StudioBinder

“A basic condition for the necessary expansion of political agitation is the organisation of comprehensive political exposure.”

– Vladimir Lenin

But what is agitprop? Let’s formally break down the term with an agitprop definition!


What is agitprop?

Agitprop is a communication form that seeks to influence people through the intentional, urgent dissemination of ideas. The word is a portmanteau of "agitation propaganda." Ontologically, agitprop is traced back to the Communist Party of the Soviet Union’s Department for Agitation and Propaganda, however, the communication form is still widely used today.

Types of Agitprop:

  • Theater
  • Rhetoric
  • Visual Art
  • Literature

Agitprop Meaning

What does agitprop mean?

Agitprop may have begun with the Russian Revolution, but in the many years since, it’s taken on a life of its own. For example, in 2016, The Brooklyn Museum featured an exhibit on agitprop. It sought to apply the portmanteau’s tenets to “connect contemporary art devoted to social change with historic moments in creative activism, highlighting activities that seek to motivate broad and diverse publics.”

What is Agitprop?  •  Agit-Prop at Brooklyn Museum

As the agitprop definition suggests… it is meant to influence people through the intentional, urgent dissemination of ideas.

It doesn’t matter whether or not those ideas are “good” or “bad.” Agitprop is merely a tool meant to invoke change. 

Up Next

What is Negative Connotation?

Agitprop is a term that largely carries a negative connotation. But what is negative connotation? In our next article, we’ll explain what negative connotation is, with examples from Peter Pan, Knives Out, and more. By the end, you’ll know what negative connotation is, and how to effectively use it in writing and everyday life!

Up Next: Negative Connotation Definition & Examples →
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  • Chris Heckmann is a Professor of Media & Communication at Roger Williams University and graduate of UCLA’s Cinema & Media Studies Master of Arts program. When he’s not writing or teaching, he’s probably playing video games (or thinking about the next great Boston sports trade).

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