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Russian cartoonist Boris Yefimov passes at 108

Russian editorial cartoonist Boris Yefimov has passed away at the age of 108. He lived to see the fall of the Tsar, the Russian revolution, two world wars, and the cold war. According to the Telegraph’s obituary, he met or knew most of the prominent revolutionaries including Lenin. During the cold war he used to get phone calls from Stalin who suggested cartoon ideas.

He liked to recall that it was when taking orders from Stalin that his luck came closest to running out: “The phone rang. I picked it up and heard: ‘Please hold the line. Shortly, Comrade Stalin is going to speak with you’.” It was 1947, and the beginning of the Cold War.

Despite serving for decades as a loyal party propagandist on the Moscow newspaper Izvestia, Yefimov was now living in daily fear of telephone calls from the man he had come to call Vozhd (the boss).

Stalin had an empire to run, but it did not stop him intervening in the smallest of issues. 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 â?? the Soviet leader had managed to find time to rewrite the cartoon’s caption.

Read the Telegraph story to learn more about an extraordinary career.

Community Comments

#1 T AB
@ 11:31 am

Stalin. Now there’s a tough editor.

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