“Laughter’s Weapon and Pandora’s Box: Boris Efimov in the Khrushchev Era”

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  “Laughter’s Weapon and Pandora’s Box: Boris Efimov in the Khrushchev Era”
  r lso by New Academia Publishing I \ Russian History and Culture PASSION AND PERCEPTION: Essays on Russian Culture by Richard Stites, David Goldfrank, ed.  THE RUSSIAN NANNY, REAL AND IMAGINED: History, Culture, Mythology, by Steven A. Grant MOSCOW BELIEVES IN TEARS: Russians and Their Movies, by Louis Menashe IMAGING RUSSIA 2000: Film and Facts, by Anna Lawton BEFORE THE FALL: Soviet Cinema in the Gomachev Years, by Anna Lawton RUSSIAN FUTURISM: A History, by Vladimir Markov ultural abaret ORDS IN REVOLUTION: Russian Futurist Manifestoes 1912-1928 A. Lawton and H. Eagle, eds., trs WE'RE FROM JAZZ: Festschrift in Honor of Nicholas V Galichenko Megan Swift and Serhy Yekelchyk, eds. Russian nd American Essays REMEMBERING UTOPIA: The Culture of Everyday Life in Socialist Yugoslavia, for Richard Stites reda Luthar and Marusa Puiinik, eds. THE SOVIETIZATION OF EASTERN EUROPE: New Perspectives on the Postwar Period, Balazs Apor, Peter Apor and E.A. Rees, eds .. THE INNER ADVERSARY: The Struggle against Philistinism and the Moral Mis sion of the Russian Intelligentsia, by TImo Vihavainen RED ATTACK, WHITE RESISTANCE, by Peter Kenez RED ADVANCE, WHITE DEFEAT, by Peter Kenez ASPECTS OF BALKAN CULTURE, by Jelena Milojkovi6-Djuric Edited by David Goldfrank Fiction nd Pavel Lyssakov THE KIEV KILLINGS, by G. K. George (alias Alfred J. Rieber) TO KILL A TSAR, by G. K. George (alias Alfred J. Rieber) ON THE WAY TO RED SQUARE, by Julieta Almeida Rodrigues Memoirs JOURNEYS THROUGH VANISHING WORLDS, by Abraham Brumberg THROUGH DARK DAYS AND WHITE NIGHTS: Four Decades Observing a Changing Russia, by Naomi F Collins _ NEW ACAOEMI -l P U 8 L t S H I N ~ 1/Vashlngton, DC Read an excerpt at: www.newacademla.com     5 Laughter's Weapon and Pandora's Box: Boris Efimov in the Khrushchev Era by Stephen M. Norris A man forgets whathe wants to forget, but what is real stays with him until he dies. llya Ehrenburg, he haw   This is a story about Soviet propaganda. t involves a cartoonist named Boris Efimov (born in 1900) and his works draWn from 1918 to 1964 More specifically, it is a story about the continued impor-tance of visualizing the enemy in Soviet culture. This part of the story also concerns laughter, the healthy feeling a Soviet citizen en-joyed when he or she mocked their enemies. This is also a story about remembrance, words, and autobiog-raphies. It involves the very same cartoonist, who became a writer around 1960. His writings told his story, that of Soviet propaganda, but also his brother's story. This part of the story concerns death, family trauma, and second lives, for his brother, Mikhail Koftsov, was shot in 1940 during the purges. Told episodically and disjointedly, this story is about the rela-tionship between images and words in the Soviet Union after 1953. t is therefore a story about working and living during the Khrush-chev era. t is also a story that illustrates the extraordinary ways Soviet citizens even famous ones such as Boris Efimov had to play multiple, often paradoxical, roles. Efimov's story reveals these  106 Cultural Cabaret paradoxes, the tensions between image and word, between propaganda and biography (or history), between living his public life and living his family life.   Efimov's Thaw experiences would remain with him, for he continued to produce cartoons and reminiscences right up until his death in 2008 Laughter as it weapon In the first 1962 issue of Voprosy literatury, the venerable Soviet cartoonist Boris Efimov published the following article, entitled "The Weapons of LaUghter [Oruzhie smekha]. Who among us, the workers in literature and art, after the great forum that affirmed a program for our life in the next decades [the 22 00 Party Congress], does not think about how our weapons fiery words, sharp pens, brushes, and chis els can take an active part in the education of people in communist consciousness, to help them quickly remove the power of bourgeois ideology, narrow-mindedness, individualism, and careerism? There is no greater happiness for the artist than the sensation of the authentic connection between his creation and the people's life. Happy is the artist who is capable of expressing the thoughts and expectations of the people not only through pronouncements and declarations, but also in artistic works created in hot pursuit of the events and occurrences in a society's life. This is why the greatest creative satisfaction and even pride is experienced when we the workers of the satirical genre, a warlike genre--destroy and mercilessly expose all that is hostile to the people's interests. Of course, any ideological art is a weapon in which the artist fights for something or against something, defends or rejects some kind of principle. But the militant beginning and the fighting spirit is perhaps above all characteristic of the art of satire. The strength of this eternally living, disruptive genre is in the fact that it draws attention to itself, it appeals not only to a person's reason and aesthetic sense, but also to the humor most people feel. A well-aimed, ingenious satirical drawing can be as powerful and persuasive, as in Laughter's Weapon and Pandora's Box 107 telligible and popular, as some detailed, solid article, since it defines events concretely and because the situations in it are facts translated from the language of logical ideas into the language of visual modes. The entire history of world caricature is filled with the romantic fight of unruly, free laughter and an ineradicable human wit against priests and princes, oppressors and obscurantists. Italian mockery is sharp as a stiletto, French witticisms are elegant, German satire is wicked, although every so often clumsy, the English caricature has a bulldoglike snap, and the well-aimed Russian lubok is mischievous-here, there, and everywhere,' with differences in their national characteristics, fighting laughter delivered destruction on despotism and  obscurantism,.on hypocrisy, stupidity, and corruption. The cradle of the Soviet political caricature was the Leninist Pravda. Specifically, through its initiative the satirical drawing took up the same integral and customary element in the newspaper as an editorial or feuilleton. Beginning in the 1920s, the caricature occupied in Soviet publications a place that had never been occupied in the West. Since that time satire was on the foremost front line of art in all the stages in the history of our state. From the great platform of the Soviet press the political caricature spoke with a firm voice and obtained an unprecedented internal and international resonance, and drew each reader nearer to it, enter ing into his abode, institution, and factory together with a newspaper sheet. Soviet satire was brought up in the militant school of Bolshevik propaganda and continues the best traditions of revolutionary-democratic thought and the national-patriot ic tendencies of Russian realist art. Laughter is one of the strongest tools against everything that became obsolete yet is still held onto by some important wreck of a person, God knows why, which interferes with the beginning of fresh life. Laughter ... above all is no laughing matter," wrote Herzen. Saltykov-Shchedrin thought that satire is perhaps most effective and achieves its  108 ultural abaret goal only when it vividly expresses the author's idea and he clearly indicates what its sting is directed against. Maksim Gorky declared that the caricature is a socially significant and most useful art and referred to the satirical art genre as one that mercilessly reveals and unmasks everything that is hidden from the masses. These high principles should now be widely upheld in our fight for the greatness and sincere beauty of mankind and for its harmonious evolution. Not the inoffensive, unassuming joke, but intelligent, caustic, wicked mockery -this is the soul of political satire and one of the most active and strongest means for our ideological fight. The traditions of worldwide satirical art not only did not lose their force, they acquired particular significance today in our aspirations to help formulate the most important moral principles in the people of a communist society. Art's important mission is clearly indicated in the Program of the KPSS t has a responsibility to reveal everything that prevents our society from moving forward. Per haps this means above all through satirical art? Through what means can works of the satirical genre be most effective? n this sense satire differs little from other art forms and genres in that the level of its skill determines the quality of the product. The artist's task is the tireless improvement of his skill, to search for, invent, and devise new satirical methods and metaphors, new, ingenious caricatures that will speak for themselves his is not easy. The satirical artist must strain his entire imagination in order to avoid repetition and to depict some sort of new caricature that hasn't already appeared many times. Such findings- namely, the bright sparkles of satirical talent and inspiration that accompany each genuine caricaturist--advance the art of political satire, which otherwise could be threatened with the danger of being trampled out. Vladimir Mayakovsky said once that the first person who revealed that two times two is four was a brilliant mathematician and that everyone who very correctly and conscientiously used this calculation thereafter had made no new revelation. Laughter's Weapon and Pandora's Box 109 We have, perhaps, enough caricaturists who persistently repeat in their work this satirical two times two equals four, but as someone correctly noted, art ought to be) unlike arithmetic, more than just algebra. his is why the creative, exacting srcins of our satirical images must be sufficiently strong and full-blooded in order to overcome the uninspired, imitative hack work and instead be the guarantor of new success and progress in Soviet combative, public satire. Right now there are still dark intentions among the enemies of peace and socialism, but our forward march will not be impeded in any way -to negative phenomena, vices, and concrete bearers of evil, the hatred and contempt of the Soviet people for everything rotten and harmful will find its expression in the lashings given by satirical works. n this epoch of the active building of communism it fol- lows for us to be particularly careful and to improve this sharp weapon, to ensure that it is impossible for it to be dulled or to lose its destructive force. Our creations must be filled with patriotic passion, ideological soundness, and high artistic skill, a wealth ofnew forms and methods--with out these basic themes, their deep influence on the thoughts and feelings of th7 people are unthlnkable. 3 Without having to state it explicitly, Efimov was just the man for the renewed effort he advocated. After all, he had been performing the tasks he highlighted from the beginning of the Soviet experiment. Efimov filled his article with the words of the era. Nikita Khrushchev had ended the 22 nd Congress of the Communist Party just a couple of months earlier. Khrushchev had prepared the congress as a means to promote his new program that promised communism would be achieved by 1980. To achieve this aim, Khrushchev asked Party members to wage war against the enemies they all faced. The Congress also adopted The Moral Code of the Builder of Communism, a 12-step program that advocated--among other virtues-love for the socialist motherland and a moral purity among members. These steps are what Efimov evoked when he wrote about the  110 Cultural Cabaret epoch of the active building of communism and the necessity of creating satire with patriotic passion, ideological soundness, and high artistic skill, [and] a wealth of new forms and methods. So- viet propaganda, Efimov was arguing, could help the state reach the dream of communism.   The invocation of the Leninist srcins of Soviet satire also re- flected the times. Efimov's Two times two equals four formula and his reference to the fighting spirit of visual satire that merciless ly mocked the enemy-the weapons of laughter-were his attempt to repackage his Stalin-era attempts to create a communist collective through visual means. n other words, Efimov's 1962 piece asked Soviet readers to continue to indulge in healthy laughter by mocking Soviet enemies, a trait that had long been highlighted as a typically Soviet feeling. The words he used evoked the 1962 So- viet Union in which Efimov lived, but the weapon of laughter had served the Soviet state since its foundation. A special feeling of healthy humor: Boris Efirnov and Soviet pro paganda Efimov's life up to 1953 reads as a near-perfect story of the Soviet experiment. Born Boris Fridliand in 1900 Kiev, his family moved to Bialystok shortly after his birth. When war was declared in 1914 the Fridliands moved away from the front: the parents back to Kiev, the eldest son Mikhail to study in Petrograd, and Boris to Kharkov to continue his secondary education. As a teenager, Boris became a self-taught artist. He fell in love with the Russian lubok the Russian satirical cartoon of the early 20 th Century, and the satirical cartoons published in the German journal Simplicissimus Through his brother, Boris got his big break. Mikhail participated in a number of Petrograd protests and worked for Solntse Rossii. When the State Duma and its Chairman, Mikhail Rodzianko, supported the war aims of the regime and advocated taking the Straits of the Dardanelles, Mikhail asked his brother to draw a cartoon that mocked Rodzianko. It was published in late 1916. Boris moved back to Kiev in late 1917 and spent the dramatic years of the Civil War based there. Because of the threat of antiSemitic attacks, Boris changed his last name to Efimov. His brother changed his to Kol'tsov. Efimov's career as a Bolshevik propagan Laughter'S Weapon and Pandora's Box 111 Boris Efimov and his older (and later executed) brother, Mikhail Kol'tsov. (From the author's archive). dist began when he started publishing cartoons for Ukrainianbased publications in 1918. He began working for the Kiev Red Army press service the following year. His satirical posters and caricatures waged the visual Civil War for the Bolsheviks throughout the Ukrainian frontlines, mocking Denikin's forces and Petliura's nationalists. n 1922 Mikhail encouraged his younger brother to move with him to Moscow and to take part in the building of socialism. Boris accepted. 5 n Moscow, Efimov embarked on one of the most remarkable careers in Soviet history. Soon after his arrival, he was appointed I
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