Josef Stalin's grandson loses legal attempt at rehabilitating Soviet dictator's reputation

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The ruling, by a Moscow court, is a rare victory for Russia's embattled liberal elite who believe the Kremlin is using Stalin's strongman image to boost patriotic fervour and legitimise its own tough tactics today.

In a case as surreal as it was absurd, Yevgeny Dzhugashvili, Stalin's grandson, had sued Novaya Gazeta, a liberal newspaper, for printing an article that referred to Stalin as a "bloodthirsty cannibal."

Mr Dzhugashvili, who lives in neighbouring Georgia and never appeared at the trial himself, alleged the article had offended his late relative's honour and dignity.

In particular, he took issue with a claim that Stalin had personally signed the death warrant of hundreds of thousands of "enemies of the state" shot during the "Great Terror" in the 1930s.

Mr Dzhugashvili's legal team argued that Stalin did not personally sign the warrants, that many of the people killed really were enemies of the state and that ill-wishers had besmirched the dictator's image unfairly since his death in 1953.

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Nicholas Clifford - 10/15/2009

This story takes the prize, surely, for the "not my fault" category. I wonder if the Ukranian famine was part of the legal process?