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prozhektor 1924

Prozhektor – Прожектор 1924 – (Trotsky edition)




Historical significance

Rear cover- advert for Mospoligraf printing house

Rear cover- advert for Mospoligraf printing house

No.1, January 1924

Complete, 20 pages


Efimov cartoons

White Russians

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The attractive cover was designed by the artist B. Efimov.  The main design above the photographs, giving the impression of light rays, refers to the magazine’s title, ‘Projector’.  The photos show Karl Liebkenecht, the German socialist leader and revolutionary.  January 1924 marked the fifth anniversary of his murder at the hands of the Freikorps in Berlin.

A particular issue of Prozhektor

This issue is rare, eye-catching and highly significant.  It appeared on sale on 15 January, 1924, one week before Lenin died on the 21st.  Lenin had been incapacitated for nearly a year and had left political life completely, giving rise to a 15 – year long, blood-soaked power struggle within the upper echelons of the Bolshevik party.  The style and atmosphere of this magazine represents a point when the country was the nearest it ever came to resembling (albeit perhaps only superficially) pre-1917 Russia.  There are sharp political cartoons, references to relations with the USA and rude comments about White Russian Emigrees.

Lev Davidovich Trotsky and Prozhektor

'On the Occasion of the Illness of Comrade L. D. Trotsky'

‘On the Occasion of the Illness of Comrade L. D. Trotsky’

Although Lenin was still alive, he had been incapable of participating in political life for about a year due to a severe stroke that left him unable to speak effectively or write.  Into the power vacuum stepped various precarious alliances between the emerging Kremlin elite.  For the population of the country, the high-profile characters and possible heirs to the Party leadership were Zinoviev, Trotsky, Bukharin, and Kamenev.  Another, less populist and vociferous individual concentrated on the gradual ascent to absolute power – Stalin.

Lenin’s Political Testament

Lenin had dismissed the chance of Stalin succeeding him.  He denounced Stalin as ‘too rude’ and recommended his removal from his position.  Lenin’s political testament did not directly name a successor and it is generally assumed that he felt a collective leadership was the only way of taking the country forward.  He foresaw political and personality differences between the future leaders producing a schism in the Party.  That schism occurred with fatal consequences for millions of Russians.   This is evidence of a fundamental lack of forward planning and personnel management by Lenin. He had known Trotsky and Stalin for about twenty years.  He was able to seize control of a country and subject it to civil war, but he could not manage his own subordinates.  It was a case of ‘Après moi, le déluge’.

The Left Opposition

Lev Davidovich Trotsky had formed a group that called itself the ‘Left Opposition’.  Thye were concerned about their apparent gradual exclusion from setting the legislative agenda and its debate.  They felt their interpretation of Marxism and Lenin’s wishes was superior to that of the others.  They advocated world-wide Marxist revolution.  Russia was just the start, not the goal.  They accentuated the international nature of the suffering of the proletariat irrespective of its nationality. For them, Marxism was a unifying force for international revolution and the securing of the Soviet regime and its primacy in leading the new world order.  For the ascending leadership, it was possible to achieve socialism in one country.

At the time of the publication of this edition of ‘Prozhektor’, Trotsky’s Left Opposition was in direct and open political conflict with the powerful group comprising the General Secretary of the Communist Party, the Chairman of the Politburo and the Chairman of Comintern – Stalin, Kamenev and Zinoviev respectively.  The continual political struggle weakened Trotsky’s already poor health.

Illness and strange appearance of his photograph

It is said that Trotsky suffered from nervous disorders in addition to an interesting selection of physical ailments since childhood.  In late 1923 he was ordered by his doctors to take a recuperative holiday in the South.  He would leave by train for the Black Sea coast.  Lev Davidovich was just about to depart to Sukhumi when the above picture of him was published in Moscow.  How it happened to be published and who authorised it is open to question, but it is without doubt that the magazine was edited by Trostsky’s Politburo colleague, Nicolai Bukharin.  At that time Bukharin was tending towards alliance with Stalin against the Left Opposition.  The appearance of the photograph is significant in its caption:  ‘On the Occasion of the Illness of Comrade L. D. Trotsky’.  It was well known throughout the country that Trotsky was of weak constitution and prone to all sorts of medical conditions.  As Lenin was dying, was it not a cynical move by Trotsky’s opponents for the leadership of the Party to publish a photograph of him and to use it to remind the country that he, just like Lenin, is ill and by inference incapable of leading the country?

To add insult to illness

Six days after this issue of ‘Prozhektor’ went on sale, Lenin died. Trotsky was informed by telegram from the OGPU (the Cheka, later known as the KGB).  It stated the funeral would take place on the next Saturday.  Trotsky could not travel nearly 2000 km. to reach Moscow in time for that day. The railways were nearly snowbound. The funeral in fact took place a day later and he could have probably attended had he known the actual date. There is controversy as to whether Stalin deliberately ordered that Trotsky be misinformed of the correct day.   Saturday was indeed the original, planned date.  However, the winter was so severe that dynamite had to be employed to blast a hole in the frozen Red Square earth to accommodate the foundations of Lenin’s tomb. The funeral was moved to Sunday.  Trotsky was marooned in the South as his opponents grasped at any strands of Lenin’s political inheritance.  He stayed away from Moscow until April, by which time he had been subjected to ceaseless political vilification.

The illness to which the photograph refers was now terminal, although Trotsky managed to live a further 16 years until his health problems were resolved by a paid assassin, sent by Stalin.

Political Satire

'For Discussion' - (Yefrimov)

‘For Discussion’ – (Yefimov)

This cartoon by Boris Yefimovich Yefimov uses the duel in Pushkin’s Eugene Onegin as the setting for the contemporary conflict between Bukharin, with Zinoviev acting as his second, and Preobrazhensky, supported by Pyatakov. The latter pair were leading members of Trotsky’s left opposition.  The ‘guns’ they are holding are paper ‘resolutions’.  Bukharin, as editor of Pravda, is holding a copy of the paper.  The caption reads:  ‘‘For Discussion’ – a re-working of a famous duel…’  

The lines to the top right are from the epic poem, chapter 6 verse XXVIII:

Enemies! Is it long since blood-lust drew them apart?
Did they, long ago, as friends, share their days in thought and deed, their table, and their hours of leisure?
But now, in this vindictive pleasure, hereditary foes they seem..

All of the characters depicted in this cartoon were murdered on Stalin’s orders.

For Discussion

For Discussion

Another Yefimov appears on the next page:

‘For Discussion’

From the illustrated chronicles of a future historian.

After the first month of discussions one began to observe an increase in the size of the jaw of certain orators.

After the second month – the development of the jaw becomes noticeable.

After the first half year.

The indisputable law of hereditary was quick to show itself in the next generation

White Russians

What are the White Russian Emigrees doing?

Naughty People

Naughty People

This article expresses self- righteous Soviet indignation over people in large hats enjoying themselves in New York on the proceeds of a sale of Romanov artifacts by Prince Yusupov.  Terrible.

Wait – what’s this?  The man third from the right in the upper photo is none other than the renowned Soviet theatre producer and guru, Konstantin Stanislavsky.  

How did he manage to have tea with these thieves of the proletariat’s property and get photographed doing it – and if that’s not bad enough, it’s published in Prozhektor – then return to the USSR and not get shot?  Amazing.

For more about Stanislavsky, click here