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Yevgeny Khaldei - biography

Yevgeny Khaldei (23 March [O.S. 10 March] 1917 –6 October 1997) was a Red Army photographer, best known for his World War II photograph of a Soviet soldier Raising a flag over the Reichstag, in Berlin, capital of the vanquished Nazi Germany (1933–45).


Khaldei was born in a Jewish family in Yuzovka (now Donetsk, Ukraine) and was obsessed with photography since childhood, having built his first childhood camera with his grandmother's eyeglasses. He started working with the Soviet press agency TASS at the age of nineteen as a photographer.

Khaldei was also witness to several pivotal moments in history and is particularly reputed for his photographs during World War II and the Nuremberg Trials. Khaldei worked with the TASS until 1949, when he was fired due to the growing anti-semitism by the Soviet state. For the next ten years, he worked as a private freelance photographer, focusing on scenes from everyday life. In 1959, he got a job again at the newspaper Pravda, where he worked until he was forced to retire in 1970. Even though the flag over the Reichstag is one of his most famous works officials in the Soviet government never published who the photographer was. Khaldei's international fame dates from the fall of the Soviet Union, in 1991.


Khaldei's most renowned photographs were taken when he was a Red Army photographer from 1941 to 1946. Khaldei's photographs emphasised his feelings for the historic moments and his sense of humour. One of the more famous anecdotes was during the Nuremberg Trials, where Hermann Göring was being tried. Khaldei says about the Göring shot:

When we received orders to leave Nuremberg, I asked an American colleague to photograph me with Göring. Göring remembered that, because of me, he had been hit with a club, and hence he always turned his head aside when I came into the courtroom. When he noticed I wanted to get into the picture with him, he put down his hand in front of his face.

While Khaldei frequently staged or manipulated his photographs, he insisted that this was to signify the importance and add strength to a particular event. His work was also admired by the elites of the Soviet Union and he is renowned for creating commissioned portraits for State leaders such as Joseph Stalin, Mikhail Gorbachev and Boris Yeltsin.

Red Army Reichstag photo

Khaldei's most famous photo was of a Soviet Red Army soldier raising a flag above the German Reichstag at the end of World War II: the historic defeat of Nazi Germany in a war that cost the Soviet Union twenty millions lives; the magazine Ogonjok published the photograph on 13 May 1945. The Times identified a similar photograph; an adolescent Red Army soldier, Aleksei Kovalyev, holds the Soviet flag atop the Reichstag, flanked by the soldiers, Abdulkhakim Ismailov and Aleksei Goryachev.

Ismailov's role in the photograph was identified by Kovalyev in a 1995 television documentary. The Russian government honored Ismailov as a Hero of Russia in 1996. The celebrated image is a re-enactment of an earlier flag-raising not photographed (the first men in the Reichstag were not in the photograph). The original flag raising was at 10.40 PM on 30 April 1945 when twenty-three-year old soldier Mikhail Minin climbed the statue to install a flag pole to the Germania's, crown. As that occurred at night, the next day, Nazi soldiers took it down; they were defeated two days later. Finally, on 2 May 1945 photographer Khaldei scaled the Reichstag to take the photograph of two soldiers: Georgian Meliton Kantaria and the Russian Mikhail Yegorov. Later, the photograph was altered to hide evidence of looting (two watches, one on each wrist); later versions contained additional smoke in the sky, and a more visually impressive flag.

Article author: Zipora Galitski
Article tags: biography
The article is about these people:   Yevgeny Khaldei

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