“In The Commissar Vanishes (1997), King investigated the falsification of Soviet history practiced by the Stalinist regime, as inconvenient figures were excised from photographs and art works. King commented: ‘The physical eradication of Stalin’s political opponents at the hands of the secret police was swiftly followed by their obliteration from all forms of pictorial existence.’
“‘In one notorious example (which appears on the cover of the book), a photograph of Stalin with three other Communist Party leaders (including Sergey Kirov) taken in the mid-1920s is worked over through the years, with all of the other figures eventually disappearing, finally leaving by 1940, in a painting based on the photo, only the gravedigger of the revolution.'” ~ WSWS Arts Editor David Walsh.
David King said of the work:
So much falsification took place during the Stalin years that it is possible to tell the story of the Soviet era through retouched photographs. That is the purpose of this book. The photographs are displayed chronologically, at the time they were taken, rather than when they were doctored. The altered versions are usually shown alongside the originals, or on the following pages. A number of key unfalsified photographs and documents are also included to explain important moments in the story. Paintings, graphics, and other examples of Stalinist hero worship appear, as well. Only the most interesting and varied images from a political, cultural, and of course visual point of view are presented here. New examples of falsification are always coming to light. A photograph might appear strange, as a result of heavy retouching. To find the original might take years—and often does. The search continues.