Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Boris Yefimovich Yefimov ( 1899 - 2008 )

Yefimov 'survived not because of Stalin's generosity of soul, but because his talents as a cartoonist'

Boris Yefimovich Yefimov (Russian: Борис Ефимович Ефимов) (September 28, 1899 or 1900– October 1, 2008) was a Soviet and Russian political cartoonist and propaganda artist best known for his political caricatures of Adolf Hitler and other Nazis produced before and during the Second World War, and was the chief artist of the newspaper Izvestia. During his 70 year career he produced more than 70,000 drawings.

He was born in Kiev as Boris Fridlyand (Friedland), the second son of a Jewish shoemaker. Shortly after his birth, his family moved to Białystok, where he grew up alongside his older brother Mikhail (who became the famous journalist Mikhail Koltsov, killed by Stalin in 1940). During the First World War, his family fled the advancing German armies and returned to Kiev, where he pursued legal studies. He began to express his emotions through caricatures of politicians, the first of which were published in 1919 and circulated in the Kievian Red Army.

From 1920 to 1921, Yefimov designed posters and brochures for the communist organisation Agitprop, finally moving to Moscow after his brother, who worked as an editor for Pravda, offered him a job drawing political cartoons. His artistic talent, directed mainly against the "capitalist west", gained him prominence, and his work started appearing in such titles as Izvestia, Krokodil and Ogonyok, a magazine founded by his brother Mikhail Koltsov (1898–1940). The year 1924 saw the publication of his first book, Political Cartoons (Russian: Политические карикатуры, Politicheskiye Karikatury), which included a foreword by Leon Trotsky, a risky move considering Stalin's antipathy. It therefore met with initial disapproval from the publisher, Yuri Steklov, who would later pay with his life for not having Trotsky's words removed. As the 1920s waned, Yefimov managed to avoid Stalin's wrath by portraying Trotsky as a traitor and fascist, despite their friendship.
Following the war, he traveled to the Nuremberg Trials with the task of caricaturizing the Nazi defendants. He was then ordered to poke fun at the Western powers in what was transforming into the Cold War. He went on to become the chief editor at Agitprop, and cooperated with Pravda until the 1980s. He published an autobiography, Moi Vek, for his centennial, and resided in Moscow.
He received USSR State Prizes in 1950 and 1951 and was named People's Painter of the USSR in 1967.
In a 2005 interview with Russian TV, Yefimov recalled his experiences in Petrograd during the Russian Revolution, admitting that he had changed his real name in order to dissimulate his Jewish origins.
On September 28, 2007, his 108th birthday, he was appointed to a post of the chief artist of the Izvestia newspaper. In 2008, Yefimov was still working, primarily writing memoirs and drawing friendly cartoons. Also, he was active in public life: he acted at whatever possible memorials and anniversary meetings, soirees and actions there were.
He died in Moscow on 1 October 2008 only three days after his 109th birthday. He was believed to be the oldest living Jew in the world at the time of his death.
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