The Stalin You Loved, the Stalin You Knew
The Stalin with a song in his heart! Stalin’s grandson has sued a Russian newspaper, Novaya Gazyeta, for defamation of his grandfather, dead more than fifty years:
Joseph Stalin’s grandson has launched a court action claiming a liberal Russian newspaper has defamed the former Soviet dictator.
Yevgeny Dzhugashvili says an article claiming Stalin personally ordered the deaths of Soviet citizens is a lie.
A Moscow court has agreed to hear the case against the opposition newspaper Novaya Gazeta.
The paper published a piece referring to declassified death warrants which it says bore Stalin’s personal signature.
Mr Dzhugashvili – who was not at the court as the case was brought on Thursday – says that is a lie, and that Stalin was never directly ordered the deaths of anyone.
It is the latest bizarre twist in what many see as a Kremlin-backed campaign to rehabilitate Stalin’s reputation, says the BBC’s Rupert Wingfield-Hayes in Moscow.
It’s not just nostalgic nonagenarian Stalinists who dream of rehabilitating Stalin’s image. Some younger people think fondly of Russia’s bygone status as a superpower. Others reminisce about how orderly things were under Stalin. It’s remarkable how orderly things can be when you’ve herded anyone who disagrees with you into gulags.
While I know of no evidence that the Kremlin is behind this lawsuit directly, it certainly fits into a theme that it has been pushing lately, that Russian greatness is inextricably tied to authoritarian government.
A little perspective on Stalin. According to Robert Conquest in The Great Terror Stalin was responsible for at least 20,000,000 murders: the number of executions 1936 to 1938 was probably about 1,000,000; that from 1936 to 1950 about 12,000,000 died in the camps; and 3,500,000 died in the 1930-1936 collectivization. Rudy Rummel’s estimate is higher: at least 40,000,000. According to Robert Service, the foremost living English language biographer of Stalin, the documentary evidence of Stalin’s having signed the death warrant of thousands or hundreds of thousands personally is overwhelming.
That the court has agreed to hear this case at all is absurd. It is surreal.
So the Ministry of Truth has brought Winston Smith out of retirement. Somewhere in the infinite cosmos, Orwell is smiling.
I wonder what the statute of limitations is on tyrannical mass murderers. Genghis Khan has crossed the line into impressive historical figure. But it seems just a wee bit early for Stalin.