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Lawsuit to defend Stalin divides Russia

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MOSCOW – Both sides are hoping that a lawsuit that opened Tuesday in a Moscow court will turn into Russia’s trial of the century – of the last century, that is.

On first blush, it’s a simple libel case. Yevgeny Dzhugashvili, grandson of former Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin, alleges that Russia’s leading opposition newspaper, Novaya Gazeta, falsely accused Mr. Stalin of signing “death lists” and committing “crimes against [his] own people” in an article last April by historian Anatoly Yablokov. He is suing for $300,000 in damages. Novaya Gazeta stands by its publication, and its editor, Dmitri Muratov says the paper is ready to take part in any legal action “because we are anti-Stalinists,” dedicated to establishing the historical truth.

Both sides say they are ready for a long and tough court battle. They believe any judgment rendered will have sweeping social repercussions, and be seen – rightly or wrongly – as an indication of where today’s Kremlin stands on this most sensitive of historical issues.

Stalin’s legacy: Golden age or nightmare?

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