Politics

Moscow court nixes attempt at Stalin revisionism

By Branko Brkic 14 October 2009

Seems the ghost of Joseph Stalin is still whistling around the corridors of the Kremlin. But we bet the dictator responsible for maybe 20 million deaths never, ever used the courts the way one of his grandsons tried.

Yevgeny Dzhugashvili had a few minor objections to the way his grandad was depicted by independent newspaper Novaya Gazeta: as helping Hitler at the beginning of World War II (before becoming Adolf’s greatest nemesis) and personally ordering the killing of thousands of Polish military officers at Katyn forest in western Russia in 1940 – a massacre that continues to mar relations between Poland and Russia. So he went to court demanding the paper retract statements about Uncle Joe – sorry, Grandpa Joe – and pay $340,000 in damages

Ruling on someone a little bit more controversial than our own Glenn Agliotti, a Moscow court dismissed Dzhugashvili’s claims this week. Born Ioseph Visarionovich dze Jughashvili, depending on which spelling conventions are used, he was better known as Stalin, meaning steel, and that pretty much characterised his genocidal rule – and, excuse the pun, iron grip over the former Soviet Union. Thanks to a certain degree of reforms, citizens of the new Russia today can openly criticise or praise the man whose cult of personality was responsible for chistkas (purges), gulags and disastrous agricultural reforms that left millions dead in the subsequent mass famine. Estimates vary, but it is believed that between ten and twenty million people perished under his rule, that on top of twenty million Soviets killed in the World War Two

Freedom of the press is still a touchy subject in modern-day Russia, with the offending publication in this case being one of a few lone voices among Russia’s largely pro-government media. In a sign of how hard some memories die, news reports say people gathered at the court clapped and hollered, while others yelled “disgrace”, remembering how Russians heroically repelled the Nazis. The pro-Stalin sentimentalists are tentatively backed by Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, who uses Stalin’s darkly iconic status to boost patriotic fervour, praising his memory as an effective manager and wartime leader. Under Putin’s watch, the country has seen the murder of numerous journalists, most infamously, the killing of investigative reporter Anna Politkovskaya three years ago

By Mark Allix

Read more: The New York Times

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