MOSCOW (Reuters) - Josef Stalin was in the dock on Monday when a Russian court held a preliminary hearing in a libel case brought by his grandson over a newspaper story which said the tyrant had ordered the killings of Soviet citizens.What those who can't live with nasty historical reality further miss, it seems to me, is that Stalin's death toll keeps on rising. A Russia that has "modernized" with very little in the way of a shared covenant that works to guarantee the individual's freedom - and no such covenant can exist without people first recognizing the impossibility of any big man long keeping a moral order - without which success in the now single global economy is unlikely to be very great, is a society likely fated to suffer great resentments and continue to fade into a rather childless oblivion.
"We want to rehabilitate Stalin," he told Reuters. "He turned populations into peoples, he presided over a golden era in literature and the arts, he was a real leader."
A phrase in the article saying Stalin and the secret police committed grave crimes against their own people caused particular offence, Zhura said.
Gilded words of praise for the dictator were unveiled last week on the marbled halls of a central Moscow metro station and Stalin was voted Russia's third most popular figure in history in a nationwide poll last year.
Russia buried last August Soviet-era dissident and author Alexander Solzhenitsyn, who was sent to a Gulag (labor camp) for making a joke about Stalin, in a religious ceremony which bore all the hallmarks of a state funeral.
But in the public arena in today's Russia, there is very little talk about the millions of Soviets who perished in Gulag labor camps or from famine during Stalin's rule.
Recent Russian teachers' manuals have described Stalin as an effective manager who acted rationally in conducting a campaign of terror to modernize the Soviet Union.
But maybe that's just why many Russians can't face the reality of Stalin: they can't accept that doing what it took to defeat the Nazis at their own game was no guarantee of "the people's" survival, sad to say. But why isn't that obvious by now?