Smolny Beyond Borders

A Liberal Arts Initiative

Photography and political repression in Stalin's Russia


Date and Time:

April 23, Tuesday, 19:00 CET

Presentation of the book by Denis Skopin
In collaboration with Reforum Space Berlin

April 23, Tuesday, 19:00

The political situation in Russia is increasingly being compared to the times of Stalinism. How did Soviet citizens live under Stalin? What psychological impact did Stalin’s terror have on those whose relatives and friends were arrested? What happened to family photo albums where photographs of “enemies of the people” were kept?

Philosopher and researcher Denis Skopin will talk about his latest book Defacing the Enemy: Photography and Political Repression in Stalin’s Russia (Routledge, 2022), which explores the phenomenon of removing people declared “enemies of the people” from group photographs in Stalin’s Russia.

The book is based on many years of research in Russian archives and includes 57 photographs of exceptional historical interest: all of these images show signs of editing, such as blackouts, deletions or scratches. Addressing this visual material, Denis Skopin relies on sources from the Stalin era: memoirs, diaries and official documents. He argues that such political iconoclasm should not be confused with either censorship or vandalism. This is a more terrible practice, since in most cases the photographs were damaged by colleagues, friends or even family members of the victim.

The meeting will be of interest to people interested in the history of photography, art history, visual culture, history and politics of Russia.