Yevgeny Khaldei

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Yevgeny Khaldei
File:Yevgeny Khaldei.jpg
Khaldei in 1946
Born 23 March [O.S. 10 March] 1917
Yuzovka (now Donetsk, Ukraine), Russian Empire
Died 6 October 1997(1997-10-06) (aged 80)
Moscow, Russia
Occupation Photojournalism
Children Anna Khaldei, Leonid Khaldei

Yevgeny Anan'evich 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.


Khaldei was born to 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.[citation needed] His father and three of his four sisters were murdered by the Nazis during the war.[1]

In 1945 he persuaded his uncle to create a large Soviet flag after seeing Joe Rosenthal's photo of the flag raising at Iwo Jima while the Soviet army closed in on Berlin and took it with him to Berlin for the Reichstag shot.[2]

He later took photographs of the Nazis at the Nuremberg Trials and of the Red Army during its offensive in Japanese Manchuria.[3]

Khaldei continued to work in photojournalism after the war as a TASS staff photographer, but was reprimanded in a 1947 evaluation:

In October 1948, Khaldei received notice that he was being let go because of the agency's "staff downsizing."[4] Khaldei himself attributed the firing to anti-Semitism.[5]

Khaldei continued to photograph, now working as a freelance photographer for Soviet newspapers, and focused on capturing the scenes of everyday life. In 1959, he got a job again at the newspaper Pravda, where he worked until he was forced to retire in 1970.[6]

His wartime photographs were collected in a 93-page book, Ot Murmanska do Berlina (From Murmansk to Berlin), published in 1984.[7] Khaldei's international fame dates from the 1990s, when exhibitions of his photographs began to be held in the West.[citation needed]


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.

— Khaldei

[citation needed]

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.[citation needed]

Red Army Reichstag photo

Khaldei's most famous photo was of a Red Army soldier raising a Soviet 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 Ogoniok published the photograph on 13 May 1945.[1] Khaldei had shot an entire roll of film, 36 images. One shot, along with some of its very similar versions, became the most iconic of the event (The Times identified one such version). The photograph is showing an adolescent Red Army soldier, Aleksei Kovalyev from Kiev, attaching the Soviet flag to the roof of the Reichstag, assisted by two other soldiers, Aleksei Goryachev (or rather Leonid Gorychev, depending on the source) from Minsk and Abdulkhakim Ismailov from Dagestan.[8] Khaldei altered the photograph before publication, to hide evidence of looting (one soldier was wearing two watches, one on each wrist), later also adding smoke in the sky and a more visually impressive version of the flag.[1] The official Soviet version of the story names the two better visible soldiers as Meliton Kantaria, thus a Georgian fellow countryman of Stalin's, and the Russian Mikhail Yegorov, instead of the actual three - a Ukrainian, a Belarusian and a Dagestani - probably for the obvious reasons.[9] Ismailov's role in the photograph was identified by Kovalyev in a 1995 television documentary;[8] the following year, President Boris Yeltsin honored Ismailov as a Hero of Russia.[8]

The celebrated image is a re-enactment of an earlier flag-raising of which no photograph was taken, as it happened at 10:40 p.m. on 30 April 1945 while the building was actually still held by German troops. A group of four Soviet soldiers fought their way to the roof, where 23-year-old private Mikhail Minin climbed up on an equestrian statue representing Germany, to fasten an improvised flagpole to its crown. As that occurred at night and under fire, no photo could be taken. The next day German snipers shot down the flag. The surrender of the Reichstag came on 2 May 1945, and only after that did Khaldei scale the building along with the three soldiers which he had picked up randomly on his way. He was carrying with him a large flag sewn from three tablecloths by his uncle for this very purpose. The seams are indeed visible on the picture. More details at Raising a flag over the Reichstag.

Honours and awards


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Sontheimer, Michael (5 July 2008). "The Art of Soviet Propaganda: Iconic Red Army Reichstag Photo Faked". Der Spiegel. Retrieved 3 June 2011.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. Griffin, Michael (199). "The Great War Photographs: Constructing Myths of History and Photojournalism". In Bonnie Brennen & Hanno Hardt eds., Picturing the Past: Media, History & Photography. (pp. 122–157). Urbana: University of Illinois Press. p. 144. ISBN 0-252-06769-X.
  3. "Yevgeni Khaldei short biography". Jewish Virtual Library. The American-Israeli Cooperative Enterprise. 2007. Retrieved 3 June 2011.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  4. 4.0 4.1 Schneer, David (2011). Through Soviet Jewish Eyes: Photography, War, and the Holocaust. New Brunswick, New Jersey: Rutgers University Press. pp. 213–214. ISBN 978-0-8135-4884-5.
  5. "Samaya znamenitaya fotografiya 1945 goda byla sfalsifitsirovana" (8 May 2008). Gorod Novostey. Retrieved 12 January 2012. (Russian)
  6. Grosset, Mark (January 2006). "Close up: Yevgeni Khaldei"., Enter #3. World Press Photo. Retrieved 3 June 2011. Italic or bold markup not allowed in: |work= (help)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  7. Khaldei, Yevgeny (1984). Ot Murmanska do Berlina. Murmansk: Murmanskoye knizhnoye izdatelstvo. (Russian)
  8. 8.0 8.1 8.2 Halpin, Tony (18 February 2010). "Red Army soldier who helped raise Russian flag over Hitler's Reichstag dies". The Times. UK. Retrieved 3 June 2011.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  9. Lucas, Dean (28 February 2010). "Flag on the Reichstag". Retrieved 3 June 2011.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

Further reading

  • Volland, Ernst (1994). Krimmer, Heinz (ed.). Von Moskau nach Berlin: Bilder des Fotografen Jewgeni Chaldej (in German). Berlin: Nicolaische Verlagsbuchhandlung. ISBN 3-87584-522-6.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link) CS1 maint: unrecognized language (link)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Nakhimovsky, Alexander; Alice Nakhimovsky (1997). Witness to History : The Photographs of Yevgeny Khaidei. photographs by Yevgeny Khaldei. New York: Aperture. ISBN 0-89381-738-4.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Grosset, Mark (2004). Khaldei: Un photoreporter en Union Soviétique (in French). Paris: Chêne. ISBN 2-84277-548-1.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link) CS1 maint: unrecognized language (link)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>