Soviet NKVD Chief Lavrenti Beria Censors A Photograph of Stalin, 1946

Lavrenti Beria, Chief of the NKVD, was responsible for killing hundreds of thousand people in the 1930s. A remarkable expedition to the Arctic was made just prior to the start of WWII, led by a political officer, Ivan Papanin. This original photo was made as a photomotage by Alexander Rodchenko and his wife, Varvara Stepanova. They were among the most famous Russian photographers. The photo was part of an album dedicated to the Artic explorers and carried a slogan, "To The Glory of Stalin's pupils - the conquerors of the North Pole." It was standard practice for Beria to review anything published about Stalin in the Soviet Union. He was angry when he saw the picture because the image of Stalin was dwarfed by the photographs of the Arctic team. He marked the photo of Stalin and scribbled an order to the printer: "To Lev Mekhlis, Bring to the  forefront", L. Beria." On the reverse there is an NKVD departmental stamp, an inventory number, and the signature of a secret police officer.