May 01, 2022

Sergei Elkin: Russia Through Caricatures


Sergei Elkin: Russia Through Caricatures
Drawing in the modern age. YouTube, The Moscow Times

Sergei Elkin is one of Russia’s best-known, most lauded political cartoonists. Over the course of his career, he has drawn hundreds of political cartoons satirizing Russian politicians, socialites, and businessmen. He has also been featured in many blogs and newspapers, most notably The Moscow Times.

Most of Elkin’s drawings are based on his own political opinions. However, he will also "word to order" for fans who want to see their own ideas in his creation.

One of Elkin's main targets is Russian President Vladimir Putin. He even created a specific series for his Vladimir Putin cartoons, “Putin’s Russia," begun on the heels of the 1998 financial crisis. Satirizing Putin quickly became a specialty.

His caricatures are remarkable given that many media outlets and artists don't dare to publish negative opinions of the president. Elkin said he enjoys drawing Putin because he has a distinct appearance and often displays no emotion.

A picture of a cartoon drawn by Elkin featuring Vladimir Putin interrogating a globe under a light, with the Russian words "Признавайся что ты задумал против меня", translating to "confess with you have in mind against me".
"Spill it: what are you plotting against me?" Instagram @ elkin_cartoon

Elkin did not begin as a political cartoonist. In the 1990s, he worked as an editor for a newspaper in Voronezh. When the paper wanted something more than words to fill a void in their content, Elkin took a shot at drawing. It helped he had attended art school.

He soon realized that drawing was his true passion, and then set foot into the realm of political cartoons. His greatest influences were Viktor Bogorad (who for years  illustrated Russian Life's "Survival Russian" column) and Mikhail Zlatkovsky.

A political cartoon featuring Vladimir Putin holding the hands of a ruble, while putting all of his focus on Bitcoin.
Is Bitcoin a woman? Instagram @ elkin_cartoon

Today, Elkin draws on a digital sketchpad, which allows him to work much faster and create far more, faster. Apparently he can draw up to seven cartoons per day on a computer, versus at most three per day the old analog way.

The 2022 invasion of Ukraine didn't put a stop to Elkin's work. He has even released works that satirize Putin’s role in the conflict. A few can be seen here

A political cartoon featuring Vladimir Putin skating in an ice rink, though his ice skates are military tanks
Skating on thinner ice than we thought. Instagram @ elkin_cartoon

However, new censorship rules threatens the work of artists, journalists, and the media. Anyone “spreading misinformation” faces a threat of up to 15 years in prison. While Elkin said he does not fear publicizing his works (and many outlets have refused to publish them), circumstances today are different. Two weeks ago the artist fled Russia for Bulgaria.

Much of his most recent work can be seen on his Instagram account.

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