Stalin's grandson sues Russian paper for defamation

6th September 2009, Comments 0 comments

Yevgeny Dzhugashvili is suing the Novaya Gazeta and its journalist Anatoly Yablokov over an article about Stalin's crimes published earlier this year in a special issue devoted to the excesses of his rule.

Moscow -- A Russian court will later this month start hearing a defamation case brought against the opposition Novaya Gazeta newspaper by the grandson of Josef Stalin, the newspaper said Wednesday.

The hearing at Moscow's Basmanny district court on September 15, which follows two preliminary court sessions, promises to be a battleground over the reputation of Stalin as both sides amass information to support their case.

Yevgeny Dzhugashvili is suing the Novaya Gazeta and its journalist Anatoly Yablokov over an article about Stalin's crimes published earlier this year in a special issue devoted to the excesses of his rule.

The paper said the plaintiff had called for documents from Russian archives including the ex-KGB and the constitutional court to be brought for the September 15 session.

"All these documents demanded by the plaintiff can only in our opinion confirm the crimes of Stalin. But it is for the court to decide," the Novaya Gazeta's deputy editor-in-chief Oleg Khlebnikov wrote in an editorial.

The Novaya Gazeta, which publishes three times a week, said it would be represented by the prominent Russian rights lawyer Genri Reznik.

"Truth is often a dangerous thing," said Khlebnikov.

"Ignorance does not make one immune from responsibility. Hiding the crime is to be an accomplice. Stalin was an accomplice of the crimes of Hitler at the start of World War II.

"In the war, the victor was not Stalin but the (Soviet) people," he wrote, pointing out that the reclusive leader "did not once make an appearance within shooting range of the front line."

He railed against people who praise Stalin for making the country strong, industrialised and creating respect, saying, "In general the problem is how the nation sees itself."

The Novaya Gazeta is one of the few opposition voices in Russia's largely pro-government press and has been scarred by the tragic murder of several journalists, including the investigative reporter Anna Politkovskaya.

Yevgeny Dzhugashvili, who still bears the Georgian-born Stalin's original surname, is reportedly a son of Stalin's son Yakov who was killed in World War II while in German captivity.

The Novaya Gazeta said the court had asked him to prove his family links to Stalin.

The case comes up amid fierce arguments between Russian liberals and conservatives about the legacy of a dictator responsible for the death and imprisonment of millions in the Soviet Union's notorious gulag prison system.

Under former president Vladimir Putin, now prime minister, Moscow has been downplaying his crimes in a bid to boost patriotic feelings, praising Stalin as an effective manager and wartime leader.

AFP/Expatica

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