A Russian court on Monday threw out a libel case brought by Stalin’s grandson against a radio station over its claim that the dictator sanctioned the execution of children as young as 12 during the 1930s purges.
The case comes amid emotional debate over Stalin’s legacy as Russia celebrates the 65th anniversary of victory over Nazi Germany in World War Two.
“The suit has been rejected,” the judge at Moscow’s Presnensky District Court said.
Representatives of liberal radio station Ekho Moskvy had produced material from Russia’s historical archives to back up the claim made on air that Stalin issued orders sanctioning the shooting of children deemed “enemies of the people”.
Yevgeny Dzhugashvili lost another defamation suit last October over his grandfather’s memory. A Moscow judge then rejected his claim that the newspaper Novaya Gazeta had smeared Stalin in an article that said he personally ordered the deaths of Soviet citizens.
Historians say millions of Soviet citizens were executed or died in the forced collectivisation of farms and in labour camps during Stalin’s rule from the 1920s until his death in 1953.
Stalin was discredited by his successors, but praise for his leadership has become more common in recent years.
Opinion polls show many Russians think he was a talented manager and a tough wartime leader who defeated a strong enemy. Stalin was voted Russia’s third most important historical figure of all time in a nationwide television show.
Moscow authorities floated a plan to place information stands describing Stalin’s role in the war around the capital on May 9 for the 65th anniversary of World War Two. After a public outcry, the plans were scaled back and his image was only used close to the entrances of city museums.
The Kremlin has angered Stalin apologists in recent weeks by releasing documents relating to the Soviet killing of thousands of Polish officers in Russia’s Katyn Forest.
(Writing by Conor Humphries; editing by Andrew Roche)