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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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