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October 1, 2008

Boris Efimovich Efimov, 1900-2008


Famed Soviet and Russian cartoonist Boris Efimovich Efimov, called "Stalin's personal cartoonist," died in Moscow earlier this morning. Efimov gained fame as a propaganda artist that delivered withering portrayals of Adolf Hitler and other Nazi leaders during World War II. He would enjoy a long career as a newspaper artist, primarily with Pravda, but also with the national newspaper Izvestia. Efimov had accepted a position with Izvestia in 2007. Efimov turned 108 on Sunday, and was recognized as Russia's oldest Jew at the time of his passing.

Efimov was born in Kiev as Boris Fridlyand, and changed his name like many cartoonists would in the States: in order to conceal his Jewish origins. His family moved to Bialystok and then back again during the German advancement of World War I. Although he'd cartooned since the age of five, Efimov began to cartoon with greater passion during WWI, mostly out of frustration felt during the country's massive political upheaval. He had an almost immediate skill with caricature.

Efimov would move to Moscow after the war to take on a position offered at Pravda by an older brother. His politically-charged cartoons became popular enough he was widely published and in 1924 released his first book. One anecdote told about Efimov's early career is that an introduction to his first collection contained an editorial by Leon Trotsky, and that this was what eventually led to publisher Yuri Steklov's death. Another is that he was asked during the Nuremberg Trials to switch subjects from Nazi to decadent Westerners.

Between those stories came the long Second World War, and Efimov's scabrous depictions of German political and military leaders. Joseph Stalin was rumored to have personally directed some of Efimov's work. They were published and in the leaflets dropped on German soldiers asking that they surrender.

His brother would later suffer at the hands of one of Stalin's 1950's political purges, and in recent years Efimov did several pictures critical of the longtime Soviet leader. Efimov won several state awards in the 1950s and 1960s, including a gold medal of the Academy of Arts.
posted 8:15 am PST | Permalink

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