This is a history of the Soviet Union from Stalin’s presidence to his death. In it, I present to you a chronological reconstruction of the events of the Soviet society in the period from Stalin himself to his death. I do not pretend that I have left out all the events that I believe to be false and do not fit into the framework of authenticity. I have narrated the events as they occurred, but without any comment, because I believe it is worthless to add your own interpretation to the historical process, which has gone beyond you.

In the mid-1930s, an unknown photographer hired by the Soviet government was sent to Shanghai to take pictures of Shanghai’s most important buildings. The result was the Shanghai Album, a series of images that are unique in the history of photography. The photographer was Lev Kvasnikov, who was one of Stalin’s photographers. After he took the photos, Stalin’s propaganda machine erased Kvasnikov’s name from the album.

The Soviet Union’s brutal purges of its citizens and political enemies took a huge toll on the country’s history and culture. In the late 1930s, Joseph Stalin began instituting a wide-ranging policy of “de-kulakisation” to root out the “rootless kulaks” in the country. These people, whose families had been in the countryside for generations, were singled out for their supposed “enrichment” and were often executed. For those who escaped the snare of the Gulag, Stalin’s regime still made it nearly impossible to write down their experiences. This led to a loss of critical perspectives on the country’s past, and to a distortion of its history.

What do Instagram influencers have in common with Joseph Stalin? The beautifully flawless complexion of the Soviet leader appears incongruous with 20th century Russian living at first look.

Which raises the question of whether Stalin was the “father” of Photoshop.

In his book The Commissar Vanishes: The Falsification of Photographs and Art in Stalin’s Russia, David King writes, “Photographic retouchers in Soviet Russia spent lengthy hours smoothing off the flaws of defective complexions.”

The Soviet premier had a team of picture retouchers at his disposal as he rose to power to assist him smooth up his pockmarked complexion, which was the result of smallpox as a child.

From Blurring Imperfections to Falsifying Reality — How Stalin Made the Truth Disappear Through Photoshop In April 1937, Kliment Voroshilov, Vyacheslav Molotov, Joseph Stalin, and Nikolai Yezhov walked along the Moscow-Volga Canal. Yezhov was later removed from the original photograph. (Photo courtesy of AFP/Getty Images)

In a widely circulated photograph taken in 1922, Stalin took photoshopping to new heights in his portrait with Vladimir Lenin, the Bolshevik Revolution’s leader and the USSR’s founder. Stalin appears to be the successor apparent, based on their cordial demeanor.

The shot has been substantially altered in reality. “Retouchers smoothed Stalin’s pockmarked skin, lengthened his shriveled left arm, and boosted his stature so that Lenin appears to recede benignly,” according to the Met Museum. Lenin condemned Stalin as “intolerably harsh and capricious” in a letter composed around the time the photograph was taken, and advocated that he be removed from his post as the Communist Party’s secretary general.”

During the 1930s, retouching evolved from a relatively harmless process of erasing facial flaws to a terrible practice of distorting reality.

Those who ran afoul of Stalin in the latter years of his presidency were simply removed.

From Blurring Imperfections to Falsifying Reality — How Stalin Made the Truth Disappear Through Photoshop In 1920, Lenin gave a speech to Red Army soldiers on their way to the Polish front. On the steps to the right, behind him, are Leon Trotsky and Lev Borisovich Kamenev. Later, the two were airbrushed out. (Getty Images/Universal History Archive)

During Stalin’s “Great Purge,” millions of innocent people died, including many in his inner circle. Not only were those men slain, but they were also erased from the Soviet photographic record. Throughout Stalin’s tenure, leaders like Leon Trotsky and Lev Borisovich Kamenev were wiped out of photographs.

During the height of the Great Purge, from 1936 to 1938, Nikolai Yezhov, the chief of the Soviet security police (NKVD), was, like Maximilien Robespierre, a victim of the systematic terror he helped to provoke. Yezhov was photographed with Stalin along the banks of the Moscow-Volga Canal in April 1937, but after his execution in February 1940, he was removed from the original photograph.   

According to King, the systematic erasing and fabrication efforts during the Stalin years mean that “it is conceivable to recount the tale of the Soviet era using edited images.”

Like Milan Kundera’s frightening warnings in The Book of Laughter and Forgetting, which are reflected again in Hannah Arendt’s 1967 essay Between Past and Future: 

Factual truth has a very limited chance of surviving the onslaught of power; it is always in risk of being maneuvered out of the world, not just for a time, but maybe forever. Facts and events are infinitely more fragile than axioms, discoveries, theories — even the most wildly speculative ones — produced by the human mind; they occur in the field of the ever-changing affairs of men, in which nothing is more permanent than the admittedly relative permanence of the human mind’s structure; they occur in the field of the ever-changing affairs of men, in which nothing is more permanent than the admittedly relative permanence of the human mind’s structure. Once they’ve gone missing, there’s no way to get them back.

Although it’s one of the most overused Photoshop features, the History brush can be used to add a layer of “falsification” to any image. It’s a simple tool but one that has been used by artists, politicians, and other purveyors of propaganda for centuries.. Read more about the water commissar and let us know what you think.

This article broadly covered the following related topics:

  • stalin photoshop
  • stalin pictures
  • photos of stalin
  • stalin’s henchmen
  • stalin height
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