Comrade Stalin, Art Director

Boris Yefimov, comrade Stalin’s favorite–and Herr Hilter’s least favorite (see below)–Soviet political cartoonist, died last week at 108. His 1947 cartoon titled “Eisenhower to the Defense” (above) was the first salvo in the Cold War. Stalin ordered Yefimov (born Boris Friland in Kiev, the second son of a Jewish shoemaker) to draw General Dwight D. Eisenhower leading the U.S. Army to the North
Pole, looking for a war. A civilian asks him why the U.S. should fight in such a
peaceful spot and the General answers: “Can’t you see that the Russians are
threatening us?” (Shades of current Alaskan foreign policy, perhaps.)

Yefimov worked all night, drawing a family of peaceful Eskimos around an igloo. “The next afternoon, Stalin rang and demanded the picture
by six in the evening,” Roger Boyes reported recently in the London Times. “Two days later, Yefimov was called in. He was quaking
in his shoes. The likelihood of displeasing Stalin was high: He had been
friends with the archenemy Leon Trotsky, his father was Jewish, and his
brother, [a journalist and] the editor of Ogonyok magazine, had been killed after
falling foul of Stalin. But the cartoon was approved. Stalin scrawled the title in red crayon, ‘Eisenhower
to the Defense.’ He even failed to spot that Yefimov, in the rush to meet
the deadline, had mistakenly put penguins at the North Pole.”

For a fascinating obituary, read Douglas Martin‘s article from yesterday’s New York Times. And don’t miss this Guardian obituary.

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About Steven Heller

Steven Heller is the co-chair of the SVA MFA Designer /Designer as Author + Entrepreneur program, writes frequently for Wired and Design Observer. He is also the author of over 170 books on design and visual culture. He received the 1999 AIGA Medal and is the 2011 recipient of the Smithsonian National Design Award.

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