The article focuses on Aleksei Mikhailovich Kremkov (1898-1948), graduate of the St. Petersburg Naval Corps, who received his military education—and baptism of fire—during the First World War and Civil War, and who, in emigration, worked as caricaturist in France and USA under the pseudonym Alex Gard. Gard collaborated with The New York Herald Tribune and many other serials, his cartoons graced the walls of the prestigious Sardi’s Restaurant in New York, and he published several albums of caricatures (including skits on military service, the Russian ballet, and the cream of America’s theater and cinema bohemia in the 1930s and 1940s). True, his cartoons brought tears to many an eye, but they also inspired people to understand themselves better and even to bolster self-confidence. Little has been written about Gard and biographical data are often contradictory. This article publishes vintage photographs and inscriptions, including a drawing from the collection of the author, whose great-uncle—the Russian ballet dancer in exile—Dimitri Rostoff (D.N. Kulchitsky), was one of Gard’s closest friends.
The subject of this article is the evolution of Soviet political caricature as reflected in the work of artist Boris Efimov. The article focuses on the post-revolutionary period of Efimov’s career up to the eve of World War II, with particular attention to changes in his work following Stalin’s consolidation of dictatorial power by the early 1930s. While examining the nature of several key political caricatures by Efimov of the 1920s and 1930s, the article also considers the political context and circumstances surrounding Efimov’s work, especially the dramatic reversal of the official Communist Party attitude toward one of the Revolution’s principal leaders and heroes, Lev Trotsky. Based mainly on testimony in Efimov’s later memoirs, as well as two contemporaneous reviews of Efimov’s work by Trotsky and critic Viacheslav Polonsky, the article aims to demonstrate how political expediency compelled Efimov, who had received the support and patronage of these two influential figures, to alter both the content and style of his political caricatures for the purpose of attacking new imaginary enemies in Stalin’s Russia.
Caricature became entrenched as a common form of social commentary in Russian visual culture in the latter half of the nineteenth century. Four prominent humor magazines: Iskra (Spark, 1859–1873), Budil’nik (Alarm Clock, 1865–1918), Strekoza (Dragonfly, 1875–1908), and Oskolki (Splinters, 1881–1916) promoted caricatures and built success largely on the public’s appetite for them. The editors and staff of these humor magazines made caricature a ready and effective tool of social criticism and helped develop a critical public familiar enough with the form to appreciate it. The rather gentle caricature of the early period and its benign social criticism established a foundation for a harsher partisan form of caricature as political advocacy during the revolution of 1905–1906.
Postcards, long used to mark significant occasions in the lives of individuals, were deployed in early 1917 to herald wholesale change in the life of the nation. Following the downfall of the Tsar, censorship was nominally abolished and amid a fast developing market economy, many different publishers sought to take advantage, both to profit and to persuade. Within days of Nicholas II’s abdication, postcards carrying revolutionary imagery were being offered in shops and kiosks, and within a few months, a wide range of different photographic, artistic, and satirical cards had also become available. This article focuses on commercially produced caricature postcards, adopting a broad remit to examine both anti-tsarist images satirizing the Imperial Family, and artist-drawn cards commemorating and critiquing the February Revolution. To this end, it has two main aims; first, to analyze the role of postcards as a political bridge between contemporary events and the Russian population; and second, to examine the key part played by private and commercial publishers in disseminating a broadly liberal interpretation of revolutionary events in the months after the Tsar’s overthrow.
“Copying Cartoons” examines a set of albums used by Aleksandr Avgustovich Frolovskii (1867–1942). In the 1930s, Frolovskii, a retired math teacher, purchased the albums and used them to redraw political caricatures published in newspapers such as Pravda (Truth) and Izvestiia (The News) and journals such as Krokodil (Crocodile). Frolovskii was particularly drawn to the works of Boris Efimov, the principal political caricaturist for Izvestiia, and redrew over 100 of Efimov’s cartoons. Frolovskii’s albums, as this chapter argues, serve as both a visual history of the Stalin era and a record of what it meant to be “Soviet” during the Great Purges.
Oskar Schmerling (1863–1938) was a Tbilisi-based artist best known for his illustrations and caricatures in Armenian, Azeri, Georgian, and Russian-language satirical periodicals during the Russian Empire’s post-1905 “press boom.” His work provided a powerful visual component to hotly debated issues of the day, including language policy, ethnic conflict, educational reform, religious practices, Russian cultural and political hegemony, and more. In this article we analyze Schmerling’s use of two satirical personae—the titular devil from the Georgian journal eshmakis matrakhi (Devil’s Whip) and the mullah from the Azeri journal Molla Näsräddin—in light of the diverse cultural and religious communities that comprised his readership and intellectual milieu. Drawing from scholarship on trickster figures in oral, print, and performative genres around the world, we investigate the ways Schmerling used the personae of the devil and the mullah to simultaneously represent the world from more than one perspective, and to speak to communities with varying political agendas in the midst of a collapsing empire. We argue that Schmerling’s work reveals cross-cultural artistic and intellectual connections that contributed to significant political and cultural change in the South Caucasus, culminating in revolutionary activity and the rise of nationalist movements.
This research traces the evolution and transformation of the metaphor of the “Imperial Step,” which signifies the expansionist ambitions of Russia’s Imperial, Soviet and Post-Soviet rulers from Catherine the Great to Vladimir Putin as expressed in caricatures and satirical cartoons appearing predominantly in Britain, France, and Germany. Following in chronological order, each section is devoted to the discussion of a pertinent example of the Imperial Step beginning with late 18th century British caricature satirizing Catherine the Great in the context of her “Greek Project” and concluding with a contemporary caricature with Putin as the principal protagonist.