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Piggy Foxy and the Sword of Revolution

Piggy Foxy and the Sword of Revolution: Bolshevik Self-Portraits

Alexander Vatlin
Larisa Malashenko
Translated by Vadim A. Staklo
Foreword by Simon Sebag Montefiore
Copyright Date: 2006
Published by: Yale University Press
Pages: 224
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  • Book Info
    Piggy Foxy and the Sword of Revolution
    Book Description:

    What did the rulers of the Soviet Union truly think about each other?Piggy Foxy and the Sword of Revolutionprovides a window onto the soul of Bolshevism no other set of materials has ever offered. Sketching on notebook pages, official letterheads, and the margins of draft documents, prominent Soviet leaders in the 1920s and 1930s amused themselves and their colleagues with drawings of one another. Nearly 200 of these informal sketches, only recently uncovered in secret Soviet files are reproduced here. Funny, original, spontaneous, sometimes vicious or grotesque, the drawings and their accompanying notes reveal the relationships and mindsets of the Bolshevik bosses at the time of Stalin's rise to power with blazing immediacy.The album's editors select characteristic drawings by such prominent leaders as Nikolai Bukharin, who depicts himself as "piggy foxy," Valery Mezhlauk, and Stalin himself, whose trademark blue pencil appears on several of the drawings. A number of sketches of unknown authorship are also included. The editors identify the political issues, events, and discussions that inspired the drawings, and they provide biographical information about the people who drew and were drawn. The book opens a rare window on Stalin's inner circle, allowing us access to the powerful men who, despite living in a humorless epoch, developed a special humor of their own.

    eISBN: 978-0-300-13799-6
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Foreword
    (pp. vii-xiv)

    The history of the Bolsheviks during the brutal turbulence of their long revolution, from the seizure of power in October 1917 through the Civil War and collectivization, up to the ritual cannibalism of the Great Terror, is as absurd as it is grim. Its tragedy is made for satire yet defies caricature, for its madness seems beyond humor. Hence the great value of this remarkable collection of cartoons, caricatures, and drawings is that both the artists and the subjects were Bolshevik magnates. Not only most of the subjects but most of the artists too were shot on Josef Stalin’s orders...

  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xv-xvi)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. 1-10)

    The former Central Communist Party archive (now the Russian State Archive of Social and Political History, or RGASPI) contains, in addition to its numerous manuscripts, a collection of drawings produced mainly by the leaders of the Bolshevik Party—using pens, pencils, and paintbrushes—during the interwar period. The sketches were made hurriedly, on notebook pages or the backs and margins of party records. The dates and inscriptions on the drawings indicate that they were mostly produced and shared during Politburo and government sessions, or during plenums of the Central Committee and party congresses. Often a drawing would turn into a...

  6. PART 1 Gallery of Leaders
    (pp. 11-122)

    It is important to remember that the following portraits of Soviet party and state leaders, made in the 1920s and 1930s, were created by amateurs, not professional artists, and were intended only for a narrow circle of comrades. Their historical value is much greater than their artistic quality. This part mostly contains the works of Nikolai Bukharin, Valery Mezhlauk, and Yemelian Yaroslavsky, who sketched these portraits of their colleagues in notebooks and on scrap paper during the working meetings and plenums of the highest party and state bodies.

    As a rule, the amateur artists attempted to closely reproduce the appearance...

  7. PART 2 Comrades and Problems
    (pp. 123-205)

    Struggles for leadership and personal conflicts between politicians are fertile grounds for caricaturists. The fight between Lenin’s heirs for the right to determine the political course of the nation, disguised as the struggle for the Leninist “general line,” attracted the close attention of the cartoonists. Political pluralism in the highest level of the Soviet party had its last hurrah in the late 1920s. Only some of the stormy conflicts of those years resulted from the clash of personal ambitions: at stake was the future of the huge country.

    Most important, the future of the New Economic Policy (NEP) had to...

  8. Index of Drawings by Artist
    (pp. 206-206)
  9. Back Matter
    (pp. 207-208)