Stalin's Grandson Rallies Support
Mar. 05, 1999
MOSCOW (AP) _ From certain angles, Yevgeny Dzhugashvili bears a chilling resemblance to the late Soviet dictator Josef Stalin. His mustache is thinner and his eyes less penetrating, but it's easy to understand why he was once chosen to play Stalin on film.
Nor is it any coincidence: Dzhugashvili is Stalin's grandson.
A retired Soviet army colonel who spent most of his life in history's shadows, Dzhugashvili has now set forth on a quixotic _ and, most people would say, disturbing _ quest: to revive his grandfather's legacy.
To that end, he has helped create a Stalin Bloc of political extremist groups, and has been speaking at angry rallies of nationalists and communists, many brandishing portraits of his grandfather.
``I've always been proud of Stalin,'' Dzhugashvili, 63, said in an interview this week in Moscow. ``And when they started to insult him and launched a slander campaign, if I'd had a gun I would have killed those people.''
On Friday, Dzhugashvili joined about 300 other neo-Stalinists in Stalin's hometown of Gori, Georgia, to mark the 46th anniversary of the dictator's death, on March 5, 1953.
``The right cause of Stalin will prevail!'' declared rally leader Panteleimon Georgadze, chairman of the Unified Communist Party of Georgia. The group placed Soviet flags, pinned with black ribbons, near Stalin's old home.
Such rallies are held annually in Georgia. Similar groups hold frequent demonstrations in Russia, where a small fringe movement of neo-Stalinists has tried to gain leverage from Russia's economic crisis and reclaim the Kremlin.
Few people knowledgeable about Russian politics believe a new Stalin is to be found in this ragtag collection of extreme nationalists, anti-Semites and radical communists.
``To my mind, there is no danger,'' said Andrei Ryabov, a political analyst with both the Gorbachev Foundation and the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.
To many Russians, Stalin remains a loathsome figure who ruled by terror and killed millions of his own people. But a sizable minority of mostly older people still revere him as the man who built the Soviet Union into a superpower and presided over its victory in World War II.
Dzhugashvili adheres to the latter view.
Told that many people in the former Soviet Union despise his grandfather's memory, he bristled.
``Your information is wrong,'' he said coolly. ``Stalin is not hated. He is loved. Stalin is hated only by the authorities. Why? Because only swindlers take high-ranking posts now. ... Ordinary people say, `We would like to have Stalin back.'''
Dzhugashvili is one of eight Stalin grandchildren, and his is an especially tragic legacy.
He still uses the Georgian surname that was Stalin's family name, and lives in Tbilisi, Georgia, not far from Gori.
His father was Yakov Dzhugashvili, Stalin's oldest son, whose mother died when he was an infant.
Yakov is best known as the Stalin son who was captured by the Germans during World War II. Germany offered Stalin a swap _ Yakov in exchange for a high-ranking German POW. The Soviet leader adamantly refused, regarding his son as a traitor for having fallen into enemy hands. Yakov died in a German prison camp, an apparent suicide.
As the son of an outcast, Yevgeny Dzhugashvili never met his grandfather. He was 17 when Stalin died.
``The first time I saw him was in his coffin,'' Dzhugashvili said, recalling that the Soviet leadership dispatched a special plane to pick him up at his school in the northern city of Tver and bring him to Moscow for the funeral.
Dzhugashvili appears not to have suffered any serious recriminations as a result of his relationship to Stalin, who was officially denounced by the Soviet leadership several years after his death.
Nor did he accept the denunciations. Dzhugashvili continues to insist that the well-established historical record of Stalin's crimes _ the purges, the millions sent to the gulag _ is nothing but ``lies and slander.''
He claims all these crimes were the work of Bolshevik leader Leon Trotsky and his followers _ apparently overlooking the fact that the harshest repression occurred years after Trotsky was ousted from the Soviet leadership by Stalin and exiled from the country.
``Personally, I don't see any mistakes made by Stalin,'' he said. ``He was a leader, he was a patriot.''
He was, in fact, exactly what Russians are yearning for now, Dzhugashvili believes.
Polls have shown that many Russians would welcome a strong leader, and not a few would welcome a return to the certainties of Soviet life.
Dzhugashvili appears an unlikely candidate to inherit the mantle, however.
``Yevgeny hasn't any influence, either with political elite or with the public,'' said Ryabov. ``They consider him like a historical monument, a symbol of history.''