Svetlana Peters, the only daughter of Soviet dictator Joseph Vissarionovich Stalin has died in Wisconsin, aged 85.
Stalin’s daughter, who famously denounced communism and moved to the United States in the late 1960s, died from colon cancer.
Svetlana Peters’ defection in 1967 – partly motivated by the poor treatment of her late husband, Brijesh Singh, by Soviet authorities – caused an international furor.
Within months, Svetlana Peters published her memoirs about life in Russia, entitled “Twenty Letters to a Friend”, that became a best-seller.
Svetlana Peters, who was known internationally by her previous name, Svetlana Alliluyeva, said her identity involved more than just switching from one side to the other in the Cold War.
Upon her arrival in New York City in 1967 at 41, she said: “I have come here to seek the self-expression that has been denied me for so long in Russia.”
Stalin’s daughter said she had come to doubt the communism she was taught growing up and believed there weren’t capitalists or communists, just good and bad human beings.
In “Twenty Letters to a Friend”, Svetlana Peters recalled her father, who died in 1953 after ruling the nation for 29 years, as a distant and paranoid man.
Soviet Premier Alexei Kosygin denounced Svetlana Peters as a “morally unstable” and “sick person”.
“I switched camps from the Marxists to the capitalists,” Svetlana Peters recalled in a 2007 interview. But she said her identity was far more complex than that and never completely understood.
“People say, <<Stalin’s daughter, Stalin’s daughter>>, meaning I’m supposed to walk around with a rifle and shoot the Americans.
“Or they say, <<No, she came here. She is an American citizen>>. That means I’m with a bomb against the others.
“No, I’m neither one. I’m somewhere in between. That <<somewhere in between>> they can’t understand.”
Svetlana Peters’ defection came at a high personal cost. She left two children behind in Russia – Josef and Yekaterina – from previous marriages.
Both her children were upset by her departure, and she was never close to either again.
Svetlana Peters was Stalin’s only daughter. She had two legitimate brothers, Vasili and Jacob.
When Svetlana, also known as Lana in US, was six years old, her mother, Stalin’s second wife, Nadezhda, shot herself after a row over his philandering. Thereafter, Lana was raised by a beloved nanny.
At 17, Stalin’s daughter fell in love for the first time, with a film-maker and writer 22 years her senior named Aleksei Kapler.
But Stalin did not approve of Aleksei Kapler, whom he dismissed as a “Bohemian artist” and a Jew, and banished him to Siberia for ten years.
Incensed that her boyfriend had influenced her to apply for a university fine arts course, Stalin also insisted she study history and become “an educated Marxist”.
Svetlana Peters graduated from Moscow University in 1949, worked as a teacher and translator and travelled in Moscow’s literary circles before leaving the Soviet Union.
Stalin’s daughter was married four times – the last time to William Wesley Peters, an apprentice to the great architect Frank Lloyd Wright. She took the name Lana Peters.
They had a daughter, Olga, before divorcing in 1973.
Svetlana Peters wrote three more books, including “Only One Year”, an autobiography published in 1969. The book made more than $3 million.
Stalin’s legacy appeared to haunt her throughout her life.
Stalin’s daughter denounced his policies, which included sending millions into labor camps.
“Over me my father’s shadow hovers, no matter what I do or say,” Svetlana Peters lamented in a 1983 interview with the Chicago Tribune.
After living in Britain for two years, Svetlana Peters returned to the Soviet Union with Olga in 1984, saying she wanted to be reunited with her children.
Svetlana Peters’ Soviet citizenship was restored, and she denounced her time in the U.S. and Britain, saying she never really had freedom.
But more than a year later, Svetlana Peters asked for and was given permission to leave after feuding with relatives. She returned to the U.S. and vowed never to go back to Russia.
By her later life, Svetlana Peters was fully immersed in American culture, admitted that she enjoyed American food, particularly hamburgers, and American films, and preferred to speak her adopted language.
Svetlana Peters later lived in Cornwall, England for a brief period in the mid 1990s.
A documentary, “Svetlana About Svetlana”, aired at the Madison Film Festival, Wisconsin in 2010. But Svetlana Peters, who did not attend the airing, later expressed regret at taking part, claiming the film-maker Lana Parshina had tricked her.
“This girl (Parshina) told me she was a college film student and she had to present something different,” she said.
“She was young, and I always like to help young people, so I let her in. But she only came to see me twice and she didn’t say she was making a film about my father.
“She just said it was going to be about the way I live now. I wish I didn’t do it. I won’t even make any money out of it. She will make all the money.”
Svetlana Peters went into seclusion in the last decades of her life in Richland Centre, Wisconsin, and relied on a cane after she developing scoliosis – a condition which twists the spine.
Stalin’s daughter survivors include her daughter Olga, who now goes by Chrese Evans and lives in Portland, Oregon, where she manages a clothes shop.
Her second daughter, who was born in 1950, goes by Katya, and is a scientist who studies an active volcano in eastern Siberia.
A son, Josef, died in 2008 at age 63 in Moscow, according to media reports in Russia.
Stalin’s other children:
Yakov Dzhugashvili, born in 1907, was Stalin’s eldest child and was raised by his aunt in Tbilisi, Georgia. During WWII, Yakov fought in Russia’s Red Army and was captured by the Nazis in 1941. He died in a concentration camp in 1943, aged 35. It has been suggested that he ran into an electric fence to kill himself.
Konstantin Kuzakov, born in 1911, was Stalin’s illegitimate second child, whose mother was Stalin’s landlady while he was in exile. In 1932, the Soviet secret police forced him to sign a statement promising he would not reveal Stalin was his father.
He was later a colonel in WWII. After he was accused of being a spy, he was dismissed from the Communist party. He died in 1996.
Vasili Dzhugashvili, born in 1921, was the son of Stalin and his second wife. After her death, Stalin rarely visited Vasili and Lana, and they were raised by nannies.
Vasili served in the Red Air Force, but was dismissed after allowing planes to fly in bad weather. He was imprisoned for giving away secret information to foreign diplomats. He died in 1962, aged 40, from alcoholism.