22 November 2011 saw the death of Lana Peters in Wisconsin. To those who came into contact with her, she was simply a lonesome frail 85-year-old with a rather strange accent. But she was, in fact, once known by the name of Svetlana Stalin and she was the daughter of Joseph Stalin.
Peters’ arrival in the US in 1967 gave the West a huge propaganda coup – the defection of Stalin’s own daughter was the ultimate proof of how terrible life was behind the Iron Curtain. She had even been prepared to leave behind her two adult children, aged 22 and 17, in the Soviet Union.
‘I have come here to seek self-expression’
In her first US press conference, in 1967, she acknowledged the father’s monstrous rule but insisted that the blame for the murder of millions of Soviet citizens could not be laid purely on one man – it was the regime and its ideology. ‘I have come here to seek the self-expression that has been denied me for so long in Russia,’ she said. Shortly afterwards, she wrote Twenty Letters To A Friend, which went on to become a bestseller. A follow-up autobiography, Only One Year, sold equally well. With time she became more critical of her past – she publicly burnt her Soviet passport and accused her father of being ‘a moral and spiritual monster’.
In 1970, she married Wes Peters. Peters’ first wife had died in a car crash. She was also called Svetlana and her mother, the widow of the architect, Frank Lloyd Wright, saw in Alliluyeva a divine substitution for her deceased daughter. Under her urging, her new Svetlana and Peters married. They had one child, Olga, and although fond of each other, Svetlana Peters felt too suffocated by her husband’s former mother-in-law’s domineering presence and the marriage ended within three years.
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