Stalin Suffering the Children March 18, 2012Posted by Beachcombing in : Contemporary , trackback
This image of Uncle Joe with a young girl understandably became famous. It shows the softer side of one of the most prolific murderers of all time: something useful in a society that was based on a cult of said murderer. And interestingly this is not just a chance photographic moment: the kind that make bastards into saints or saints into bastards. There is an accompanying film reel that shows Stalin as the mother’s dream: even Beachcombing found himself wishing that his children had a ‘Granddad’ like this next door…
The back story behind the photograph – taken the Kremlin, 26 June 1936 and afterwards published on the front page of Pravda – is both extraordinary and all too depressingly predictable. The six-year-old girl was Engelsina (‘Gelya’ for short) Markizova and she was the daughter of Ardan Markizova, the second secretary of the Buryat Mongol Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic with special responsibilities for agriculture. And Ardan was married to Dominica Markizova, Gelya’s mother.
Naturally, it didn’t finish well for any of them: run ins with Stalin rarely did. Ardan was arrested a year after this photograph was taken with several other members of the secretariat of the Republic and shot ‘as a Japanese spy’: Beach suspects that the rather unimaginative Soviet interrogators had this suggested to them by his oriental face. Dominica was killed in a car accident in mysterious circumstances. As one of Beach’s sources notes – David King, The Commissar Vanishes (153) – ‘so mysterious that the case was never investigated by the authorities’. Then just as if to underline Stalin’s life-giving aura the individual in the background, Yerbanov (the head of the Buryat Mongol Soviet) was also offed in 1937. He had, it is needless to say, offed a number of people on Stalin’s behalf so let’s save the tears for Gelya.
Gelya herself got lucky (ahem) and went to Moscow where she lived with an aunt and changed her surname. It would be interesting to know if she made it through to adulthood: drbeachcombing AT yahoo DOT com. But even if the child was thankfully forgotten by the benevolent Soviet authorities: the image could not be, it was just too useful, too effective, too good a lie. It appeared in a multitude of different forms in newspapers, kindergartens, pioneer camps and even as a sculpture at Stalinskaya Metro Station: and they call gold a noble metal…
There is probably a rich seam to mine here of evil leaders pictured with innocent children.
18 March 2012: Wade writes in with this youtube link to an interview with the elderly Gelya (she made it!: go to 4.50). Merv writes, meanwhile, ‘Geyla survived into adulthood well into her seventies. (?) She died in 2004 during a trip to Turkey. You can find more information here, you need to do google translate from Dutch.’ Tacitus from Detritus includes this photograph for tyrants with children.Thanks Tacitus, Wade and Merv!!
9 June 2012: KH sends in this classic. Lenin helps with math homework. Thanks!