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Soviet Union photograph collection

Identifier: 2019-006-h-r

Content Description

The Soviet Union Photograph Collection contains photos from three prominent Russian photographers Yevgeny Khaldei, Georgi Zelma, and Emmanuel Evzerikhin. For numerous days, these Jewish photographers documented the harsh scenes of World War II. In this collection majority of the photograph capture the Eastern Front of the Second World War.


  • 1936 - 1948

Conditions Governing Access

This collection is open for research use.

Biographical / Historical

The war on the Eastern Front, known as the “Great Patriotic War,” was the scene of the largest military confrontation in the Second World War. From June 1941 to May 1945, the two principle powers Germany and the Soviet Union, along with their respective allies engaged unprecedented military action. Over the four years of combat, more than four-hundred Soviet Union and German division fought in a series of operations along the front that extended more than 1,000 miles. Historians have said the Eastern Front was the most prevalent and bloodiest theatre of the Second World War. The Soviet Union’s Red Army reached over ten-million military deaths; an estimated civilian deaths range from fourteen to seventeen million casualties. The massive scale of warfare on the Eastern Front is almost unimaginable, and practically impossible to photograph. The Soviet Union sent professional photographers as war correspondents to the frontline to capture the horrors of the Eastern Front. The collection is comprised of three prominent Soviet Union photographers Yevgeni Khaldei, Georgi Zelma, and Emmanuil Evzerkhin.

Yevgeni Khaldei (1917-1997) was a Soviet Union war photographer who took the prominent photograph of Red Army soldiers during the Second World War. Khaldei was born on March 10, 1917, into a Jewish family, the youngest of six children in Donbass, Ukraine. He experienced the terrors of the Russian Revolution when he lost his mother during a pogrom on March 13, 1918, when a bullet fired by an anti-Jewish gunman passed through his side and into his mother, killing her.

Khaldei had a difficult childhood; at eleven, he worked cleaning steam engines. He left school at the age of twelve and began to work in a steel factory. This is where he discovered his passion for photography. Khaldei created a crude box camera from his deceased Grandmother’s eyeglasses and he tested the camera by taking portraits of his sisters. At the age of fifteen, his photographs started to appear in a local paper, the Socialist Donbass. The paper would show off Khaldei’s portrayals the local miners and steelworkers as pioneers. At the age of eighteen, Khaldei worked for the Tass News Agency in Moscow as a staff photographer. When Nazi Germany invaded the Soviet Union, he was commissioned as a lieutenant in the Red Army. During that time, he lost his father and three of his four sister by the Nazis during the war. Khaldi documented the entire Eastern front of the war. He published many of his photographs in Pravda, the official newspaper of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union.

When the Russians reached Berlin in April 1945, Khaldei planned to capture the deteriorated city. He had brought with him oversized Soviet Union flags, made by his uncle a tailor, who then sewed on the hammer and sickle and yellow star on to red tablecloths. Khaldei raised the first makeshift flag over the Great German Eagle at the Tempelhof Airport. On May 2, he captured his iconic photograph when he witnessed a group of Russian troops at the Brandenburg Gate; Khaldei immediately climbed the steps of the Brandenburg Gate and raised the second makeshift flag over the bronze horses at the top of the gate. He was determined to place the final flag over the Reichstag. Khaldei and with three comrades climbed the steps of the Reichstag even as the fighting continued in the basement. It was then that Khaldei took his iconic picture of the soldiers raising the Soviet flag over the Reichstag.

At the end of the Second World War, Khaldei also photographed the triumphant leaders at the Potsdam Conference and the last few days of the Soviet campaign against the Japanese in Manchuria. In the fall of 1945, he documented the Nuremberg Trials where many Nazis were convicted. The images that Khaldei took during the War were later compiled to create the album From Murmansk to Berlin, a chronicle of the Russian involvement in the War. Following the war, Khaldei worked in film labs and continued to work as a photographer for Russian publications. He died in Moscow on October 6, 1997, at the age of 80.

Georgii Anatolevich Zelma (1896-1984) born to a Jewish family in Tashkent, Uzbekistan. In 1921, his family moved to Moscow. He took up photography at a young age; his first experiences as a photographer took place at the Proletkino film studio and published his photographs in the magazine Teatr. He finished school in 1922, Zelma worked technical jobs as a darkroom assistant and then a technical assistant for the Institute of Cinematography.

Between 1924 and 1927, he traveled various locales of Islamic Central Asia, including his home country in order to document the Soviet Union socialist reconstruction of the Islamic culture. In 1927, he enlisted in the Red Army, stationed in Moscow. In 1929, he returned to Tashkent and worked for the Uzbek cinema chronicles. Zelma began working with smaller cameras, allowing quicker shoots and with greater control. He started experimenting with diagonal compositions and unusual perspectives.

In the early 1930’s, Zelma was employee of Souizfoto agency, he traveled to the European countries of the Soviet Union and documented collective farms, industrial projects, and military exercise. He worked with Roman Karmen on the stories the USSR from the Air and Ten Years of the Soviet Socialist Republic of Iakutia, which were published in the propaganda magazine “USSR in Construction”.

During the Second World War, he was a correspondent for Isvestia newspaper stationed at the front-line in the southeastern Europe. He documented the campaigns in Moldova, Odessa, and Ukraine. His most notable photographs are of the Battle of Stalingrad, where he spent the severe winter of 1942-43.

After the war, Zelma continued his work as a photographer for the journal Ogonyok. In 1962 he joined the Novosti’ press agency, which would publish his Stalingrad: Juliet 1942-février 1943, with design by Alexander Zhitomirsky in 1965. Zelma passed away in 1984.

Emmanuil Evzerikhin was born in 1911 to a Jewish family in Rostov-on-Don, Russia. When he was in the fifth grade his father bought him a simple box-type model camera. At a young age Evzerikhin sent his best photographs to the TASS news agency; by 1930 he was one of their freelance correspondents. At the age of 19, Evzerikhin was a photographer at the House of Young Communist Movement.

In 1934 he moved to Moscow to photograph main events of the Soviet Union, including, the congress of the Comintern and the congress of Soviets where the constitution was adopted, various constructions, parades, and the Arctic expeditions. He attended Soyuzfoto for schooling; he graduated from a six-month photographic course with the highest degree in photo-correspondence. During the Second World War, he worked for Fotokhonika TASS as a war correspondent. Evzerikhin was on multiple fronts, such as the 4th Ukrainian, 2nd Belorussian, and 3rd Stalingrad that gained him affirmative recognition. Evzerikhin also participated in the liberation of Minsk, Warsaw, Konigsberg and Prague. His photographs were often published in periodicals and books.

After the war he continued to work for Fotokhronika TASS. Evzerikhin headed the photo information section, where he gave talks on the visual arts. Upon his retirement on August 23, 1971, Evzerikhin requested to be made a non-salaried correspondent and continued to collaborate with the agency. Emmanuil Noevich Evzerikhin died in 1984 at age 73.


16 Photographic Prints

Language of Materials



This collection is arranged in chronological order.

Condition Description

Finding Aid of the Soviet Union photograph collection
Tiana Taliep
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Code for undetermined script

Repository Details

Part of the Oskar Schindler Archives Repository