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The Independent Culture
Now you see them, now you don't. These pictures show the doctoring of an original photograph (top left) of four men in Leningrad in 1926: Nikolai Antipov, Stalin, Sergei Kirov and Nikolai Shvernik. In the next version (top right), published in 1940, Antipov and the chandelier have both been purged. The next (bottom left), reproduced in a 1949 biography of Stalin, has painstakingly deleted Shvernik. The final, grandiose version shows Stalin standing entirely alone.

David King's richly fascinating The Commissar Vanishes: The Falsification of Photographs and Art in Stalin's Russia (Canongate pounds 25) includes pillars that move, faces that dematerialise and even buildings whose facades magically transmute - not to mention the sometimes hilarious pretence that Trotsky never existed. Mostly, it shows the sad catalogue of all the "disappeared" of Stalin's purges. Literally thousands of people were constantly employed in this special form of updating records. An intriguing text accompanies the photographs.

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