Soviet Political Cartoonist Yefimov Dead at 108

APYefimov, 2002
Boris Yefimov, an eminent Soviet political cartoonist who once personally took Josef Stalin's orders on how to depict U.S. General Dwight Eisenhower, died in Moscow on Wednesday, just two days after President Dmitry Medvedev congratulated him on his 108th birthday.

Yefimov, born Fridland in Kiev in 1900, published his first cartoon, a caricature mocking the White Army General Anton Denikin in 1918, after his elder brother, journalist Mikhail Koltsov, suggested that he start drawing.

From 1922, Yefimov regularly published his cartoons in Pravda and Izvestia newspapers and in the satirical magazine Krokodil. Curiously, Yefimov's latest job was with Izvestia: On his 107th birthday, he was appointed the newspaper's chief artist.

Yefimov succeeded in drawing enemies of the Soviet state -- first, the top German Nazi officials and particularly Adolf Hitler, whom he drew with a swastika under a sharp nose, and then, during the Cold War, portraying American and British politicians as plump villains with sagging cheeks.

The Soviet government sent him as a special war correspondent to the Nuremberg trials, where Yefimov sketched the Nazi leaders while standing in front of their cages.

In several interviews given in recent years, Yefimov expressed admiration for Stalin as a political genius unmatched by any of the modern Russian leaders but said he dreaded him as the tyrant who ordered the prosecution of his brother Mikhail, who was shot in prison in 1940 for Trotskyism.

Yefimov -- who said he used to walk Moscow's streets at night to avoid arrest by Stalin's agents, who usually came for people after dark -- often recalled a phone call from Stalin in 1947 that left him in a cold sweat.

Stalin asked him to draw Eisenhower arriving at the North Pole with a large army and saying Russians were threatening the United States. Yefimov kept this sketch, on which Stalin left his remarks written in red pencil.

After the fall of the Soviet Union, Yefimov lamented that "political cartooning doesn't exist anymore."

"You always honestly and steadfastly defended the interests of our country and its citizens," Medvedev said in a telegram congratulating Yefimov on his 108th birthday on Sept. 28.