FORMER SOVIET UNION
CIRCA 1930
PHOTOGRAPHER UNKNOWN

REPRESENTATION: 
The original image shows Nikolai Yezhov, chief of the Soviet secret police walking alongside Joseph Stalin and a third official. 

REALITY:
After presiding over mass arrests and executions during the Great Purge (1936-38), Yezhov became a victim himself. He was arrested, confessed under torture to a range of anti-Soviet activity, and was executed in 1940. By the beginning of World War II, his status within the Soviet Union became that of a political unperson. Among art historians, he has the nickname “The Vanishing Commissar” because after his execution, his likeness was retouched out of an official press photo. He is among the best-known examples of the Soviet press making someone who had fallen out of favor “disappear.”

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