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Russia prosecutors charge WWII historian with violation of privacy laws

[JURIST] A Russian historian who was researching his country's treatment of German prisoners of war during World War II was charged on Thursday with violating privacy laws. Mikhail Suprun was in the process of conducting research on the hardships faced [HistoryNet backgrounder] by captured German soldiers and civilians held at prisons in Arkhangelsk, northeast of St. Petersburg, when he was detained last month [Barents Observer report]. Under the Constitution of the Russian Federation [materials], privacy rights are protected through two provisions in chapter two, Articles 23 and 24, and it appears that Russian authorities are basing the charges on Suprun's violation of the privacy rights of Soviet citizens of German heritage [AFP report] who were held at Arkhangelsk. If convicted, Suprun faces up to four years in prison [Guardian report].

Many critics believe that Suprun's arrest is the latest in a series of acts by the Russian government meant to rehabilitate the image of the Soviet Union. Earlier this week, a Russian court rejected a libel suit [BBC report] brought by Stalin's grandson Yevgeny Dzhugashvili against the Russian newspaper Novaya Gazeta for a report that Stalin order the death of Soviet citizens. In September, critics of this rehabilitation expressed outrage when a renovated Moscow train station was unveiled with inscriptions praising Stalin [CNN report]. Dzhugashvili may have been partly prompted to bring the suit based on the results of a controversial December 2008 poll in which Russians voted his grandfather the third most popular Russian [BBC report] in history, a result criticized by many.

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