Stalin's Grandson Fights for the Good Name of Joseph

Article excerpt

Russian liberals sued over pamphlet saying that the dictator killed civilians

THE GRANDSON of Joseph Stalin has launched a libel suit against one of Russia's leading liberal newspapers, accusing it of lying in an article which stated Stalin had killed Soviet citizens.

As the Russian Prime Minister, Vladimir Putin, defended the reputation of the wartime leader in Poland, Yevgeny Dzhugashvili, the dictator's grandson, began his quest to claim nearly 200,000 from Novaya Gazeta.

"Half a century of lies have been poured over Stalin's reputation and he cannot defend himself from the grave, so this case is essential to put the record straight," Mr Dzhugashvili's lawyer, Leonid Zhura, told Reuters.

Liberal critics say that the drive to rehabilitate Stalin has official backing, with the Kremlin keen to glorify Russia's Soviet past and make Russians proud of their history, while glossing over Stalin's crimes.

Dzhugashvili is Stalin's real surname, and Yevgeny Dzhugashvili is the son of Stalin's son, Yakov, who was killed during the Second World War. It is believed that the Nazis offered to trade Yakov for a captured German field marshal, but Stalin refused the offer. Yevgeny Dzhugashvili, however, remains an enthusiastic Stalinist.

His anger was raised by a Novaya Gazeta publication which referred to declassified secret documents ordering the execution of Soviet citizens and which are said to bear Stalin's personal signature.

The lawsuit also accuses the human rights organisation Memorial of libel. It has collected testimony about victims of Stalin's terror and the article appeared in a pamphlet that it published jointly with the newspaper.

The court case is part of an increasingly bitter conflict between liberals and Russian officials over control of Stalin's legacy. Over the past decade, the Kremlin has sought to portray Russia's victory in the Second World War as the most significant historical event of the 20th century. Attention has been focused on Stalin's supposedly heroic wartime leadership, and away from his crimes and repressions.

Last week, a Moscow metro station reopened after renovations, and horrified liberals found that an inscription lauding Stalin, which had been removed from the station after his death in the 1950s, had been restored. …