The Associated Press reports today that hearings had resumed in Moscow in a libel suit filed by Yevgeny Dzhugashvili. Dzhugashvili is suing a newspaper that printed some negative comments about his grandpappy, Josef Vissarionovich Dzhugashvili, better known as "Stalin."
Now, I know you're probably wondering who in the world might have anything bad to say about Stalin, and the answer here is the Russian newspaper Novaya Gazeta. The paper ran an article in April reporting that, based on recently declassified documents, Stalin personally signed orders for the executions of thousands of people. The only news here, of course, would be that he personally signed them rather than having a flunky do it, because there is no question that Stalin was responsible for the deaths of not thousands, but millions of people by means of executions, famine, and his wildly erratic bowling technique. But I suppose if Stalin was your grandpa, you would like people to forget all that and remember instead the kindly old gentleman who told you those delightful bedtime stories about having Trotsky killed with an icepick.
And some Russians are perfectly willing to give Stalin the benefit of the doubt. "I've come here to defend Stalin, to defend him against these terrible accusations," said Vera Atomanova. She was not his lawyer, just one of "ten elderly Stalin supporters" who gathered outside the courtroom holding pictures of their favorite dictator. (Stalin supporters do tend to be elderly, but I guess it should not be surprising that there are no elderly Stalin opponents.) "He was a great man," Atomanova said. "He united the country and created a great superpower." Well, he certainly united the country, although how he did it seems like an important part of that story. Suggesting that everybody was okay with this reminds me of the scene in "Life of Brian" where people are objecting to having been crucified and the guard says something like, "We'll soon settle this. All those who don't want to be crucified, raise your right hand. . . . That's what I thought."
The plaintiff is demanding compensation from the newspaper and the article's author. He did not, however, show up for Tuesday's hearing, which might be a sign that his Stalin-rehabilitation campaign is not going so well.