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Thursday, September 14, 2006

Stalin the Sex God

La Russophobe has already reported that Russians identified Vladimir Zhirinovksy as the sexiest man alive. Now comes news that their next new screen love god will be none other than Stalin himself. The Scotsman reports that Russia is about to release a new film about crazed dictator Joseph Stalin depicting the mass murderer as a red hot lover.

He has been worshipped, feared, and even denounced. But now the sexy side of Joseph Stalin is being exposed in a controversial Russian film.

The Soviet tyrant's relationship with a woman 22 years his junior is to be turned into a steamy TV and film drama this autumn.

The production team admits it will provoke a storm of anger in Russia and reignite the debate over the portrayal of one of history's most infamous dictators who sent millions to their deaths.

It comes a year after German filmmakers sparked a major row by depicting Hitler as warm and caring in the film Downfall.

Yevo Zhena, or 'His Wife', is being made as a £1.5m four-part blockbuster to be shown on the Rossiya TV Channel this autumn. There are also plans for a feature-film version to be sold internationally.

The drama focuses on Stalin's relationship with his second wife, Nadezhda Alliluyeva, and depicts the feared ruler as a passionate lover who missed the climax of the Russian Revolution because he was in bed with Alliluyeva, then a teenager.

The two first met in 1908. He was 30 and she was eight when her father, Sergei Alliluyeva, offered Stalin shelter after he had escaped from prison. Stalin's first wife, Ekaterina Svanidze, had died a year earlier after four years of marriage.

Stalin and Alliluyeva married in 1919 and had an often stormy relationship until she mysteriously died in 1932.

The film shows them striking up a romantic attachment in early 1917, after he returned from exile in Siberia. One scene sees Stalin helping the nervous teenager undress, and in another he pulls her into a bath with him.

Even more controversially, the film claims that he missed the storming of the Winter Palace during the October Revolution because he was in bed with Alliluyeva. As they listen to the shooting outside, Stalin casually remarks that the Bolsheviks may or may not have taken power. Yevo Zhena is based on a book published in 2001, called The Only Women, which was based on new material from archives but which dramatised the gaps between what could be proved from research.

The film takes the scholars' view of Alliluyeva's death, saying that she committed suicide after a public row, and dismisses popular conspiracy theories suggesting Stalin murdered her or had her killed.

After Stalin insults her at a banquet, she is shown walking through the Kremlin alone, and then a shot is heard.

Mira Todorovskaya, the co-director, said: "Stalin was a devil and monster, but in our film you can't see that. LR: You couldn't see it in his propaganda either, see above right; indeed, what woman in her right mind could resist this charming he-man? See, the girls can't keep their hands off!

"People will say that we have beautified Stalin and made him not as he was in real life. But I think my film will have opponents from both sides."

Todorovskaya said she believed that Alliluyeva helped keep Stalin's behaviour under control, calling her "his second conscience".

Historian Simon Sebag Montefiore, who wrote a best-selling book on the Soviet tyrant, Stalin: Court Of The Red Tsar, and who is now researching a volume on Stalin's early life to be published next April, said: "It's not correct to say that he missed out on the Revolution. He didn't help storm the buildings, but that's because he didn't have a military role. He was the editor of Pravda, which was a very important job because the paper was crucial in the days before radio and television.

"The producers are right to dismiss the conspiracy theories about Stalin killing her or having her killed. All the evidence points to her having committed suicide.

"Alliluyeva's death did affect Stalin, although I disagree with the suggestion that she kept him in check or acted as a 'conscience'. He was extremely brutal before she died. But losing her helped make him more paranoid and affected his views of families and spouses, such as imprisoning or torturing wives of suspects."

Dr Andrei Rogatchevski, a lecturer in Russian culture at Glasgow University, said: "It will be very interesting and will spark a lot of debate. There are still some who are nostalgic for the kind of strong leadership which Stalin gave. They don't want the gulags or terror back, but they believe that such a vast country can only be ruled by a strong man like Stalin. They won't like Stalin being portrayed as missing the Revolution to be with his lover.

"Many others in Russia will not like to see a man who caused the death of millions being seen as loving and tender. As well as the terror, many still blame Stalin for the blunders at the beginning of the Second World War which cost millions of lives and allowed the Germans to advance into Russia."

Three years after Stalin's death, the 'excesses' of his rule were denounced by Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev, who announced a policy of "De-Stalinisation."

In the film, Stalin is played by award-winning Georgian actor Duta Skhirtladze, with Olga Budina starring as his young lover.

Budina recently played the part of Grand Duchess Anastasia, the youngest daughter of the last Russian tsar, Nicholas II.

Anastasia's fate has been the subject of even more debate than Alliluyeva, with many believing Anastasia survived the murder of the Imperial family in 1918 and managed to escape to the West.

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