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OBITUARIES : Boris Yefimov, 1900 - 2008

Cartoonist lampooned Soviet Union's enemies

October 02, 2008|From Times Staff and Wire Reports

MOSCOW — Celebrated political cartoonist Boris Yefimov, who drew brutally satirical images of the Soviet Union's foes in the service of Josef Stalin, died Wednesday. He was 108.

Yefimov's death was given wide coverage on Russian state television. No cause was given.

His cartoons spanned virtually the entire history of the Communist state, from shortly after the 1917 revolution to the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991.

Among his most memorable drawings was one showing a wretched-looking Hitler, who is said to have ordered Yefimov shot if the Nazis captured Moscow during World War II. Instead, Yefimov was sent after the war to the Nuremberg trials to draw the Nazis as they faced justice.

Yefimov also turned his pen against the United States. His Cold War drawings portrayed Uncle Sam and American leaders as warmongers and money-grubbing capitalists.

In his later years, he told the story of Stalin personally ordering him in 1947 to draw U.S. Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower arriving with a large army to claim the North Pole. Stalin made his own corrections to the cartoon, in red crayon.

Yefimov acknowledged ambivalence about his role as Stalin's helper, but he expressed great pride in his historic role.

"As for Stalin's relationship to me, I can't complain," Yefimov told The Times in 2000.

"I received two Stalin prizes. In those days, that was no trifle. . . . He was a villain. He murdered many innocent people. A dreadful man! But still, a certain human logic wins out. He is also the person who granted me my life, my freedom, my work."

Yefimov's birthday was Sunday. He was born in 1900 in Kiev, the second son of a Jewish shoemaker. He grew up in what is now Poland before returning to Ukraine during World War I.

He worked as a secretary in the military publishing department for the Bolshevik regime before learning to draw cartoons.


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