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THE COMMISSAR VANISHES by David King

THE COMMISSAR VANISHES

The Falsification of Photographs and Art in Stalin's Russia

By David King

Pub Date: Oct. 30th, 1997
ISBN: 0-8050-5294-1
Publisher: Henry Holt

 The doctoring of photographs didn't begin with the advent of computers in magazine production departments. ``So much falsification took place during the Stalin years that it is possible to tell the story of the Soviet era through retouched photographs,'' writes King. For Joseph Stalin, photo retouching was a technique for controlling public perception and memory. People who vanished in real life--whether banished to the farthest reaches of the Soviet Union or eliminated by the secret police--vanished as well from photos, and even paintings. In many cases they were airbrushed out completely, in others their faces were clumsily blacked out with ink. This creepy visual rewriting of history is documented here by King, who has been collecting such revised images since 1970, when he found Leon Trotsky completely expunged from official Soviet archives. Placing original photos alongside the altered ones, King also explains in lengthy captions who has vanished and why. A disturbing testament to the destruction wrought when a megalomaniac becomes a dictator. (History Book Club selection)