The Truth Behind Viral Pics of Soviet Soldier Before and After WWII

X user @TheAvatarLang
X user @TheAvatarLang


Photos shared in viral social media and blog posts authentically depict the same Soviet soldier, Evgeny Kobytev, before and after WWII.


Rating: True
Rating: True

In June 2024, a number of X users participated in a meme that consisted of humorously comparing the drastic difference in appearance of photos allegedly showing a soldier before and after World War II to how the users felt before and after going through everyday experiences. Among the struggles mentioned in the posts were checking a crush's likes, binge-watching a Netflix series, and visiting Wales.

Many of the joke posts took the form of reposts of a January 2023 X post by historical meme account @historyinmemes, which consisted of side-by-side images that purportedly showed how World War II ravaged one young soldier's face. The original @historyinmemes post had received around 203,000 likes and 33,000 reposts, many of which took the form of the meme.

The photos used in the meme originally went viral — without the joking commentary — in May 2020, when, as Know Your Meme explains, they were posted on the Russian news aggregator site Zen. From there, they quickly spread to Reddit, Facebook, and other corners of the internet. 

In the English-speaking world, two widely shared posts have claimed to tell the full story behind the photos. One is a post by the blog Rare Historical Photos, which was most recently updated on Jan. 9, 2024, but first appeared in much shorter form in July 2020. The second is a thread by X user @fakehistoryhunt, which had been retweeted around 7,900 times and liked around 25,000 times at the time this story first published.

Both the blog post and the X thread identify the man in the photos as Russian artist Evgeny Stepanovich Kobytev (also transliterated from Cyrillic as "Kobitev"), a teacher and artist from Altai who graduated from art school in Kyiv in 1941 and immediately joined the Red Army. A few months later, according to the posts, Kobytev was captured and sent to the "Khorol pit," a notorious German prison camp in central Ukraine. After escaping from the camp in 1943, the posts claim, Kobytev rejoined the Red Army for the duration of WWII and then returned to artistic life in the Siberian city of Krasnoyarsk. The photos, the posts claim, subsequently ended up in the collection of an institution called the Pozdeev Museum.

Unfortunately for readers who might want to double check the accuracy of this information, neither Rare Historical Photos nor @fakehistoryhunt cited or linked to any sources for the compelling story.

However, by turning to Russian-language sources, which we consulted using Google Translate, Snopes was able to confirm that the details provided by Rare Historical Photos, @fakehistoryhunt, and other posts are correct. As a result, we have rated the claim as "True."

One informative and authoritative Russian-language source we consulted is a May 7, 2019, article published by Russian newspaper Komsomolskaya Pravda. The article includes an interview with Kobytev's daughter, Vera Polynskaya–Kobyteva, who corroborates the major details and dates of the story included the X and Rare Historical Photos posts, including the timelines of Kobytev's service in the war and his artistic career. The article also includes a photograph showing weathered prints of the two pictures of Kobytev before and after the war.

(Komsomolskaya Pravda)

As for the photos themselves, they are indeed part of the collection of the Pozdeev Museum (officially, the School Museum of the Artist Andrey Pozdeev) in Krasnoyarsk, as the Rare Historical Photos post and some social media posts claim.

According to a 2013 post on the museum's Russian-language website, which includes an image of the same two photographs shown in the Komsomolskaya Pravda article, the museum began working with Kobytev's daughter to acquire the artist's personal archives in 2005. While Snopes was unable to confirm the exact year the museum took possession of the photos of Kobytev before and after World War II, a page dedicated to the museum's collection of Kobytev memorabilia clearly explains that the photos are currently on display at the museum and do depict Kobytev as he appeared first in 1941, the year he joined the Red Army, and then in 1945, the year he returned to his adopted hometown of Krasnoyarsk.

Because the major details about the photographs as provided by popular English-language coverage of the photographs are corroborated by authoritative Russian sources, we have rated this claim as "True."


"Evgeny Stepanovich Kobytev: A Soldier's Face after Four Years of War, 1941-1945 - Rare Historical Photos." Https://Rarehistoricalphotos.Com/, 4 July 2020,

"Soldier's Face After Four Years of War." Know Your Meme, 6 Jan. 2023,

Школьный Музей Художника Андрея Поздеева | Итоги Заочного Тура Краевого Конкурса Школьных Музеев. Accessed 20 June 2024.

Школьный Музей Художника Андрея Поздеева | Хорольская Яма Евгения Кобытева. Accessed 20 June 2024.

"Жизнь папе спасла его записная книжка": дочь автора знаменитой мозаики на "Родине" рассказала о судьбе создателя панно. Комсомольская Правда, 7 May 2019. Accessed 20 June 2024.