Stalin’s Boy (1899-2008)

October 2nd, 2008

Boris Yefimov, Russia’s leading political cartoonist of the 20th century, made it to the ripe age of 109. Yesterday’s Daily Telegraph obit explains that Yefimov lived through revolution, civil war, genocide, two world wars, the Cold War, and the death of both his wives.

That Joseph Stalin ordered the execution of Yefimov’s brother–a journalist immemorialized as Karkov in For Whom the Bell Tolls–only makes cartoonist Yefimov’s later treatment by Stalin that much more galling:

        “The head of the Communist Party saw political caricatures as an effective form of       propaganda, and would often phone up newspaper offices suggesting themes for cartoons.

The previous day he had requested a picture ridiculing the American military build-up in the Arctic. But Yefimov had not yet started it. “A few seconds later, I heard that familiar voice. He did not greet me but got straight to the point. ‘The cartoon we spoke to you about yesterday, I’d like to see it by six o’clock today.’ It was already 3:30. I thought to myself: ‘I’m dead.’ To do all that remained in two and a half hours was impossible.”

Yefimov somehow finished the artwork, just as the messenger boy was arriving to pick it up. But a couple of days later, when he was summoned in to party headquarters, there was a further surprise in store – the Soviet leader had managed to find time to rewrite the cartoon’s caption.”

I take back every self-pitying comment I’ve ever made about working for The Man.