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Newspaper allowed to call Joseph Stalin a "bloodthirsty cannibal"

The application was rejected as “manifestly ill-founded” and the case declared inadmissible.

Image: AP/Press Association Images

THE EUROPEAN COURT of Human Rights (ECHR) has rejected a complaint from the grandson of Joseph Stalin over a newspaper article which called the former Russian dictator a “bloodthirsty cannibal”.

The court rejected the complaint by Yevgeny Dzhugashvili, who had sought damages from Moscow’s Novaya Gazeta newspaper.

The case had previously been thrown out by a Russian court, before being brought to Europe.

On 22 April 2009, the Novaya Gazeta, an opposition newspaper, published an article entitled “Beria pronounced guilty” which dealt with the 1940 Katyń shootings. The article was written by a former investigator of the Russian Chief Military Prosecutor’s Office who had been responsible for the rehabilitation of victims of political persecution.

The article accused leaders of the Soviet Politburo, including Joseph Stalin, of being “bound by much blood” in the order to execute Polish prisoners of war at Katyń in 1940, and described the applicant’s grandfather as a “bloodthirsty cannibal”.

The article also alleged that those leaders had “evaded moral responsibility for the extremely serious crime”.

Russia Stalin's Grandson Yevgeny Dzhugashvili, wearing a USSR lapel pin, is photographed during an interview in Moscow in 1999. Source: AP/Press Association Images

Dzhugashvili considered that the article was defamatory towards his grandfather, and sued the Novaya Gazeta and the author of the article for non-pecuniary damages totalling 9.5 million roubles (the equivalent of approximately

In its decision, the ECHR said that while families of the dead had a right not to be defamed by publications, the criticism of a political figure was legitimate.

“In the applicant’s case, Novaya Gazeta’s publication of the first article contributed to a historical debate of public importance, concerning Joseph Stalin and his alleged role in the Katyń shootings.

The Court held that the Russian national courts had “struck a fair balance between the applicant’s privacy rights and journalistic freedom of expression”.

The application was rejected as “manifestly ill-founded” and the case declared inadmissible.

Read: Russian politician gets abuse after comparing Stalin police to Nazis

Read: Lenin, Stalin and ‘The Myth of the Beloved Leader’

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