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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

BOOKWORM: Cartoons To Build A Socialist Paradise




My next two columns will be devoted to autobiographies, since in April, two very famous Muscovites published their memoirs.


Other than their places of residence, they could hardly be more different: One is 49, the other is twice that age. One is very anti-Soviet and anti-communist, the other belongs to an extinct type of Bolshevik, those who made the October Revolution and actively participated in building the Soviet superpower.


This column is about the latter -- Boris Yefimov (n? Fridland). He was born in Kiev in 1900, a shoemaker's son who became the leading political cartoonist in the country. At 98, he is still an active public figure.


Yefimov began drawing early, and published his first cartoon in the glossy Solntse Rossii (Sun of Russia) monthly in 1916, while still in high school. He has now been doing cartoons for 82 years.


At age 19, Boris Yefimov was a junior assistant to the editorial director at the political department of the Ukrainian War Ministry, and at 20, he was promoted to director of visual propaganda for Southern Russia at what is now known as TASS. At 22, he moved to Moscow and worked as a staff cartoonist at the daily newspapers Pravda and Izvestia, as well as the weeklies Ogonyok and Krokodil.


Yefimov published his first book -- naturally, a collection of political cartoons -- in the mid-1920s, with a forward by his admirer Leon Trotsky. Stalin personally instructed him about the topics for his cartoons and edited them with his own pen.


An active member of the cultural establishment, Yefimov knew everybody, and everybody knew him. The great Soviet poet Vladimir Mayakovsky even wrote a poem about him.


He had a brother two years older who became the most famous journalist in the prewar Soviet Union under the name Mikhail Koltsov. Koltsov and his wife were executed as enemies of the state, and rehabilitated in the 1950s.


While Yefimov acknowledges that Stalin and his gang were guilty of horrendous crimes, he absolves the regime itself. The Soviet state was characterized by "unquestionably enormous achievements in science, culture and the arts."


Yefimov is a member of the Academy of Arts, with all of the highest decorations of the USSR, including three Orders of Lenin. He became a Hero of Socialist Labor at age 90, just before the collapse of Soviet socialism.


I'm a bookworm, so my favorite detail in the book is that the author made by hand a multicolor dustcover for every book that he has in his private library.


Yefimov's book, Moi Vek ("My Age"), is published by Agraf. It is a 320-page hardcover, illustrated with photos and cartoons, and sells for 30 rubles ($5).