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The Commissar Vanishes
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The Commissar Vanishes

David King

This magnificent volume of pictures doctored, airbrushed and butchered during the grim years of Stalin's rule in the Soviet Union is a true labour of love by David King. A Professor resident in Princeton, Dr King has spent years trawling through both state and private archives in the former USSR to try to get to the bottom of the cult of personality around Stalin that was so intense there could be no other competition for the people's affection.

In time Stalin, a johnny-come-lately to the Russian Communist movement, would wipe out the vast majority of the founding members of the Soviet Union, replacing them with stooges loyal only to him. This lead to many problems for the photo editors as more and more volumes of work had to be withdrawn and changed as the purges cut deeper into Soviet society.

While the overall tone of the book is depressing there are moments to that invoke both amazement - the images of Stalin inserted into key moments of Soviet history, never more than a step from Lenin's side, even when all other evidence points to him being hundreds of miles from the scene - and mirth - the new pencilled in suit an Uzbeck politburo member received when the guy in front of him was wiped out. An engrossing and always fascinating piece of work.

Now you see them...

Now you don't.

Where the hell did...? This photo, taken at the Second anniversary celebrations of the October Revolution in 1919, was dramatically altered to remove those spectators who had since become undesirables. Khalatov (bottom right), Kamenev (top left) and most obviously Trotsky all disappear to leave Lenin looking somewhat lonely.

 

Suits you, Sir. One of the many stills taken from Ten Years of Uzbekistan. Between editions Abel Yenukidze had been expelled from the party. This meant two things, him out of the photo and a new (pencilled in) suit for the guy behind him.

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