The Red Flags over Berlin, 1945

When he saw Joe Rosenthal’s photos of flag raising on Iwo Jima, Stalin wanted a similar image to commemorate the Soviet victory over Germany. Yevgeny Khaldei’s photos of various flags being raised across Berlin were the most famous, but other photos also appeared in the Soviet papers.

Khaldei’s photo appeared in magazine Ogonjok on 13th May 1945. Before that, on 3rd May, Pravda mentioned the flags being placed on various landmarks across Berlin, including on the Victory Column in Tiergarten (where Polish flag was also raised). Pravda’s frontpage that day was a photo of Viktor Tyomin with the caption: “Berlin. A victory banner has been installed on the Reichstag building (taken on May 2, at one o’clock in the afternoon).” In the photo, a huge flag flew — a retouched picture to make it more prominent than in Tyomin’s original.

The flag in Tyomin’s picture was on one of the side towers. The flag raising there was captured by a soldier working for Political Department of the Red Army named A.P. Morozov. The flag here was without the hammer-sickle-star.

Here are some of his photos. One of the photos was printed in the May issue of the magazine “Frontova Ilustria”, which was published by the Political Department with a giant picture of Stalin on the front cover. The caption read: “Among the scouts who had the honor of placing our flag over the Reichstag building were junior sergeant M. Kantaria and private M. Yegorov, whom you see in this picture.” 

The state propaganda machine chose Meliton Kantaria, a Georgian, and Mikhail Yegorov, a Russian to be their poster boys and attributed Khaldei’s flag raising to the duo as well. The state wished it that the flag raisers be a Georgian and a Russian — which would have been preferred by Stalin, born in Georgia. They were made Heroes of the Soviet Union by Stalin himself and were given a new “Victory” car each.

In “Pravda” of May 20, another flag-raising photo taken by Yakov Ryumkin appeared with the caption: “Berlin. Fighters of the unit of Captains Neustroeva and Davydova salute the victory banner they placed over the German Reichstag building. 

(Later, in the Soviet state archives, the names of the soldiers in the photo were given as: V.M. Pravotorov, I.R. Lysenko, G.P. Bulatov, S.E. Sorokin, battalion commander S.A. Neustroev, S. M. Horeshko, P. D. Bryukhovetsky, M. A. Pachkovsky, M. S. Gabidullin).

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