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8 Oct, 2009 20:17

“Bloodthirsty cannibal”: Stalin’s grandson locks horns with newspaper in court

Moscow’s Basmanny court has begun hearing a ten million rouble libel lawsuit filed by Stalin’s grandson, Evgeny Dzhugashvili, against Novaya Gazeta newspaper that called his grandfather “a bloodthirsty cannibal.”

The opinion piece by Anatoly Yablokov, published in a special edition of the Novaya Gazeta on June 22, detailed the Katyn massacre, the mass killings of Polish prisoners by the infamous NKVD.

As Nadezhda Prosenkova, a spokesperson for Novaya Gazeta told the media, the article was based upon recently declassified documents from which it reported that Stalin personally signed orders to execute people and then forwarded the orders to the NKVD to carry out.

In the course of the hearing, plaintiffs’ lawyer Yury Mukhin said he doesn’t think that Stalin single-handedly ordered repressions against innocent people.

As for the defendants’ side, they said that to their mind the article under question contained only subjective judgments. In particular, the author has expressed his personal assessment of Stalin as a political figure, saying that “Stalin and the NKVD were bonded by blood” and “the former father of the people was a bloodthirsty cannibal.”

The defendants argue that those evaluations have been based upon general truths which can be found in all modern history school books.

“I peppered the plaintiffs with simple questions like, What part of the article do they think is libelous? Are they aware of some universally accepted facts? Do they know Gorbachov, Yeltsin and Putin all condemned the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact? Have they seen official reports of the Soviet era accusing Stalin of atrocities?” commented Henry Reznik, the defendants’ lawyer.

“Also, I asked them if they thought the author was the first one to call Stalin a “blood-thirsty cannibal.” Don’t they realize this is a generally accepted description used in numerous works? The reason I do this is because, according to the Civil Procedure Code, you don’t need to provide evidence for generally accepted facts,” he told journalists.

The defendants also said they are planning to present execution orders signed by Stalin to the court, along with some of the known documents from the Katyn case.

Some procedural matters were decided upon on Thursday and the plaintiffs’ side have presented their case. Besides, the court has established that the sides are not going to come to an amicable agreement.

The court is expected to rule on the lawsuit on Friday.