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October 1999

Jury Rigged

A photo collection of Stalinist-era Soviet leaders shows at the Gasteig.

Jury rigged Joseph Stalin was one of the cruelest dictators in world history. Under his rule in the former Soviet Union millions of people were senselessly executed. As average citizens, their names and faces were soon forgotten. During the 1930s, Stalin’s power-hungry demeanor ensured that no one would be safe from his wrath. Some of the most important communist officials, especially former friends of Lenin, were prosecuted by the state. After the “trials” they were sentenced to death as “enemies” of the Soviet Union. These officials, unlike their civilian counterparts, were captured on film — on photographs that document their very existence. Some of the pictures show Stalin sidled up with those he later condemned to death. Upon viewing the photographs, a furious Stalin ordered a special department to edit his opponents out of every photo they could find. No one, he declared, should see him together with enemies of the Soviet Union. Fortunately, many such photographs were never discovered by Stalin’s henchmen, thus leaving many unaltered examples in circulation. David King, former Art Director of the Sunday Times, has been collecting the unedited images for 30 years. Originally sparked by an interest to compare the originals with their manipulated cousins, he now owns one of the largest collections of original photographs from the Stalin era. These pictures, as well as the Stalin-ordered forgeries, can be seen in Munich, in the foyer of Gasteig, Rosenheimerstrasse 5, until October 10. <<< sst

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