Stalin's grandson loses libel case

19th October 2009, Comments 0 comments

The lawsuit was over an article that said Stalin personally ordered the killing of thousands of Polish officers at Katyn forest in western Russia in 1940 -- a massacre that continues to poison Russian-Polish ties.

Moscow -- The grandson of Joseph Stalin last week lost his case against an opposition newspaper he had sued for libel after the publication of an article on the Soviet dictator, RIA-Novosti reported.

The Moscow court that had heard the case since mid-September dismissed Yevgeny Dzhugashvili's lawsuit against Novaya Gazeta, the news agency said, adding that the judgment was to be made public later.

Dzhugashvili, a grandson of the Soviet dictator who died in 1953, had asked that the paper retract statements about his grandfather and pay 10 million rubles (340,000 dollars, 230,000 euros) in damages.

The lawsuit was over an article that said Stalin personally ordered the killing of thousands of Polish officers at Katyn forest in western Russia in 1940 -- a massacre that continues to poison Russian-Polish ties.

One of the paper's lawyers, Alexsey Benetsky, hailed the result as "a great victory" following the judgment in a case which became a battleground over Stalin's legacy in modern-day Russian.

Some gathered inside and near the courtroom applauded the court's decision, while others yelled "shame," the agency said.

"We didn't expect it to go any other way," said Dzhugashvili's lawyer, Yury Mukhin, who had argued that the judge had refused to accept evidence offered by his client. He said Dzhugashvili would appeal.

Last week, Mukhin predicted that his client would lose because of alleged bias from the judge.

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 case arose 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.

But while his brutality has been well documented, many Russians still associate his rule with the Soviet Union's victory over Nazi Germany in World War II and remain sympathetic to him.

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.

Genri Reznik, a prominent Russian lawyer who represented Novaya Gazeta and its journalist Anatoly Yablokov, said at a previous hearing that the case could help free people from "Stalin in their heads."

After the Novaya Gazeta revealed in September that it was being sued by Stalin's grandson, the paper's editor-in-chief Oleg Khlebnikov wrote in an editorial that "truth is often a dangerous thing."

"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," he wrote.

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.

AFP/Expatica

0 Comments To This Article