Flattering Soviet cartoon of N.I. Yezhov

Copyright © 1998 by Hugo S. Cunningham
first posted 971201
minor update 001229

This cartoon dates from N.I. Yezhov's incumbency as NKVD (secret police) chief during the height of Stalin's Great Purge (1936-38).

The caption below, "Yezhov's gloves of steel," is a friendly (or else ...) pun off Yezhov's surname, a common one, derived from the word for "hedgehog." A Russian idiom, "derzhat' [kogo-nibud'] v ezhovyx rukavicax" (literally, "to grip [someone] in hedgehog gloves") means "to deal harshly with" or "rule with an iron hand."

The cartoonist was Boris Efimov, a well-known survivor.

The reptilian creature being squeezed to death in Yezhov's hand has three human heads, caricatures of Trotsky (in exile), as well as Bukharin and Rykov, forced to "confess" to being murderers and fascist agents at a 1938 Moscow show trial. The tail of the creature ends in a swastika.

Yezhov's actual height was only 154 cm, about 5' 1".

Scan provided courtesy of Raoul Xemblinosky.

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