Boris Efimov’s Early Soviet Drawings and the Hazards of Political Caricature

In: Experiment
James Goodwin Associate Professor of Russian Studies, University of Florida Gainesville, FL USA

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The subject of this article is the evolution of Soviet political caricature as reflected in the work of artist Boris Efimov. The article focuses on the post-revolutionary period of Efimov’s career up to the eve of World War II, with particular attention to changes in his work following Stalin’s consolidation of dictatorial power by the early 1930s. While examining the nature of several key political caricatures by Efimov of the 1920s and 1930s, the article also considers the political context and circumstances surrounding Efimov’s work, especially the dramatic reversal of the official Communist Party attitude toward one of the Revolution’s principal leaders and heroes, Lev Trotsky. Based mainly on testimony in Efimov’s later memoirs, as well as two contemporaneous reviews of Efimov’s work by Trotsky and critic Viacheslav Polonsky, the article aims to demonstrate how political expediency compelled Efimov, who had received the support and patronage of these two influential figures, to alter both the content and style of his political caricatures for the purpose of attacking new imaginary enemies in Stalin’s Russia.

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