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8 Aug, 2019 16:49

Stalin’s shadow won’t disappear until criminal case launched against him – investigator

Stalin’s shadow won’t disappear until criminal case launched against him – investigator

A former high-ranking investigator is fighting for a criminal case to be launched against Joseph Stalin, insisting that the legal evaluation of the ex-Soviet leader’s crimes is the only way to finally end his cult in Russia.

Igor Stepanov, who used to be a major crimes detective, addressed the Prosecutor General’s Office and the Investigative Committee, saying that Stalin must be considered “an organizer of mass killings, meaning genocide of Orthodox clergy and other citizens.”

His accusations are based on an NKVD (the USSR’s secret police) order from July 1937 to repress former kulaks (wealthy farmers deprived of their property), ex-convicts, and other “anti-Soviet elements.” The paper, which was signed by Stalin himself, includes the precise number of those to be purged, with 82,700 to face firing squads and 193,400 to be sent to labor camps.

Among those persecuted were around 20 of Stepanov’s relatives, most of whom were priests.

His plea has been rejected by several local investigative bodies already, but he persistently appeals the rulings. He says he will go all the way to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) to see that justice is served.

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Stepanov said he’s well aware that a criminal case against Stalin can’t be launched “due to the death of the suspect” in 1953. But this was never his aim, as the former investigator is only looking for an official legal evaluation of the ex-Soviet leader’s actions. According to Russian law, prosecutors are obliged to carry out the evaluation before rejecting the case.

“Now, no such legal evaluation exists and that’s why the cult of Stalin remains,” Stepanov said.

Though it has been 66 years since he passed away, Stalin remains a widely discussed and highly controversial figure in Russia. Many argue that he led the Soviet Union to victory against the Nazis and created major industries in the country from scratch, but others accuse him of masterminding the merciless purge of hundreds of thousands of dissidents and creating a personality cult around himself.

His approval rating is currently the highest since the USSR collapsed in 1991. A poll in April revealed that more than 50 percent of the population consider Stalin a “positive figure.”

In May, a bust of the ex-Soviet leader was placed outside the Communist Party HQ in Siberia’s third largest city, Novosibirsk. 

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The crimes of Stalin haven’t been officially condemned in Russia and what Stepanov is doing is “quite innovative,” Nikita Petrov, from the Memorial human rights group, which among other things investigates the purge of 1936-38, told Kommersant.

“In our country, there’s some special reverence towards Stalin; an unwillingness to admit that he was an ordinary criminal,” he said.

The only case investigated was the Katyn massacre of 1940, in which thousands of Polish POWs were executed, Petrov said. But the blame was placed on NKBD boss Lavrenty Beria and his associates.

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