Photograph by Yevgeny Khaldei, May 1945

Red Army soldier who helped raise Russian flag over Hitler's Reichstag dies

The Times of London, February 18, 2010

By Tony Halpin, Moscow

A Red Army soldier who appeared in an iconic photograph of a Soviet flag flying from the ruins of Hitler’s Reichstag has died, aged 93.

Abdulkhakim Ismailov had fought all the way to Berlin from the Battle of Stalingrad three years earlier, where the destruction of the German Sixth Army turned the tide against the Nazi regime in the Second World War.

But he was only recognised half a century later as one of three soldiers raising the Hammer and Sickle flag in a picture that was staged by the Tass photographer Yevgeny Khaldei in May 1945, three days after Berlin fell to the Soviet Army.

He was decorated as a Hero of Russia in 1996 after being named as one of the soldiers standing beneath the man holding the flagpole. He died on Tuesday in his native village of Chagar-Otar in the southern Russian region of Dagestan, the regional government said.

"His enormous life experience and services to the Motherland will remain forever in the memory of today's and tomorrow's generations," it said in a statement. Soldiers from a local garrison fired a military salute at the funeral yesterday after Mr Ismailov’s coffin had been carried past the village school named in his honour.

The Reichstag photograph has been compared for its historical impact to the Associated Press picture of American soldiers raising the flag of the United States at Iwo Jima in 1945. Mr Khaldei later disclosed that he had sown the flag together from three tablecloths in Moscow after being ordered to fly to Berlin to capture the Nazi defeat.

A group of Soviet soldiers had briefly raised a Hammer and Sickle over the Riechstag on April 30 but it had been brought down by German snipers before any record had been made. Mr Khaldei recruited a teenage private, Aleksei Kovalyev to hold the flag with his comrade Aleksei Goryachev and Mr Ismailov.

Mr Khaldei, who died in 1997, shot dozens of pictures of the scene with his Leica camera and later admitted that he doctored the image when he returned to Moscow to develop them. One soldier was wearing two watches and the photographer scratched one of them out of the negative to avoid allegations that he was undermining the Red Army's heroic image by showing evidence of looting.

Mr Ismailov’s role might have been lost to history until Mr Kovalyev identified him in a television documentary in 1995 to mark the 50th anniversary of the end of the war. He was decorated by the Kremlin the following year.

He was wounded five times, including at Stalingrad in 1942, while fighting with a motorised infantry division. He worked as the chairman of a collective farm after the war and was a Communist Party official.

His death comes as Russia prepares major celebrations to mark the 65th anniversary of the victory over Hitler. Britain and the United States have been invited to send troops to join a parade on Red Square on May 9.

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