“God, America and Apple Pie”: The Dramatic Defection of Stalin’s Daughter

“God, America and Apple Pie”: The Dramatic Defection of Stalin’s Daughter


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Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin is generally considered one of history’s worst tyrants, responsible for millions of civilian deaths. Perhaps unsurprisingly, his only daughter, Svetlana, found it extraordinarily difficult growing up in the Kremlin under his care. Though Stalin purportedly doted on her, giving her presents, showing her Hollywood movies and calling her “little sparrow,” family conflict and tragedy predominated. She suffered her first major heartbreak at age 6, when her mother died of what she was told was appendicitis, but which turned out to have been a suicide. Not long afterward, during the so-called Great Terror of the 1930s, Stalin ordered the arrest of her beloved aunt and uncle for being “enemies of the people.” They, along with another of Svetlana’s uncles, were later executed, and other family members and friends were imprisoned. To make matters worse, her brother died of alcoholism, and her half-brother was captured by the Nazis during World War II and subsequently killed after Stalin refused to exchange him for a German general.

Meanwhile, even as the Nazi invasion of 1941 threatened to bring about his downfall, Stalin found time to micromanage Svetlana’s career and dating life. He forbid her from studying literature at Moscow State University and, upon discovering she had a Jewish boyfriend more than 20 years her senior, slapped her twice across the face, in addition to shipping her boyfriend off to an Arctic labor camp. The increasingly anti-Semitic Stalin didn’t take it much better when told she wanted to wed a second Jewish man, a college classmate. Though he grudgingly approved the marriage, he vowed never to meet the husband. (That relationship soon ended in divorce, as did a second marriage to the son of one of Stalin’s closest confidants.) Seeking to escape her past, Svetlana changed her surname from Stalina to Alliluyeva, her mother’s maiden name, following Stalin’s death. But the state continued to interfere in her affairs, refusing, for example, to let her marry Brajesh Singh, an Indian Communist who had fallen in love with her during a trip to Moscow for medical treatment in the 1960s.

When Singh died of a respiratory illness in 1966, the Soviet authorities reluctantly allowed Alliluyeva—who had only been abroad one other time—to visit India so that she could scatter his ashes into the sacred Ganges River. However, they rejected her attempt to stay in the country indefinitely. On the evening of March 6, 1967, just two days prior to her scheduled return flight to Moscow, she impulsively decided that she’d had enough. Taking a taxi from the Soviet embassy guesthouse in New Delhi to the nearby U.S. embassy, she submitted a formal request for political asylum and met with a diplomat who tried to ascertain whether she really could be Stalin’s daughter. The diplomat checked with Washington and learned that no one—not even the CIA—had any record of Alliluyeva’s existence. Yet embassy officials decided to help her anyway, stamping her passport with a tourist visa and escorting her to the airport, where she boarded the next available international flight (which happened to go to Rome). By the time the Soviets realized Alliluyeva had gone missing, it was too late to do anything about it, though they did allegedly discuss assassination plans that were never put into action.

With only a small suitcase to her name, Alliluyeva remained holed up in Geneva, Switzerland, for the next few weeks while the U.S. authorities debated what to do with her. Some opposed abetting her defection for fear it would worsen U.S.-Soviet relations, but President Lyndon B. Johnson ultimately decided to take her in on humanitarian grounds. Though the administration preferred to have her arrive without fanfare, a scrum of reporters greeted her at New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport when her plane touched down on April 21, 1967, and even more reporters showed up for a press conference a few days later. Denouncing her father as a “moral and spiritual monster,” Alliluyeva burned her Soviet passport and declared that she finally felt “able to fly out free, like a bird.” At first, life in the United States appeared to suit her. She became a citizen, published two memoirs that made her a millionaire, married an associate of architect Frank Lloyd Wright (which, like her other marriages, quickly ended in divorce) and changed her name a second time to the American-sounding Lana Peters. She moreover embraced American culture, writing, for instance, that Thanksgiving was a “marvelous substitute for the state-run Fifty Year Jubilee of the October Revolution!”

Alas, her honeymoon with the United States did not last. As public interest in her waned, her writing career stalled. She also squandered her fortune, alienated many friends and never really settled anywhere, bouncing back and forth between Arizona, New Jersey, California and Wisconsin, as well as several countries in Europe. “Mom used to move around every year, sometimes twice in a year,” her American-born daughter told a reporter. In 1984, Alliluyeva even moved back to the Soviet Union, claiming that she had not known a single day of freedom in the West and that she had been a pet of the CIA. But she again grew disillusioned with the USSR and in 1986 returned to the United States, where she disavowed her previous anti-American statements. “You can’t regret your fate,” Alliluyeva once said, “although I do regret my mother didn’t marry a carpenter.” She lived out her final years in a Wisconsin nursing home before dying of colon cancer in 2011.


Lana Peters, Stalin’s Daughter, Dies at 85 - NY Times




Born Svetlana Stalina, Stalin's daughter changed her name twice and lived in several countries after her famous defection.

Published: November 28, 2011

Her three successive names were signposts on a twisted, bewildering road that took her from Stalin’s Kremlin, where she was the “little princess,” to the West in a celebrated defection, then back to the Soviet Union in a puzzling homecoming, and finally to decades of obscurity, wandering and poverty.

At her birth, on Feb. 28, 1926, she was named Svetlana Stalina, the only daughter and last surviving child of the brutal Soviet tyrant Josef Stalin. After he died in 1953, she took her mother’s last name, Alliluyeva. In 1970, after her defection and an American marriage, she became and remained Lana Peters.

Ms. Peters died of colon cancer on Nov. 22 in Richland County, Wis., the county’s corporation counsel, Benjamin Southwick, said on Monday. She was 85.

Her death, like the last years of her life, occurred away from public view. There were hints of it online and in Richland Center, the Wisconsin town in which she lived, though a local funeral home said to be handling the burial would not confirm the death. A county official in Wisconsin thought she might have died several months ago. Phone calls seeking information from a surviving daughter, Olga Peters, who now goes by the name Chrese Evans, were rebuffed, as were efforts to speak to her in person in Portland, Ore., where she lives and works.

Ms. Peters’s initial prominence came only from being Stalin’s daughter, a distinction that fed public curiosity about her life across three continents and many decades. She said she hated her past and felt like a slave to extraordinary circumstances. Yet she drew on that past, and the infamous Stalin name, in writing two best-selling autobiographies.

Long after fleeing her homeland, she seemed to be still searching for something — sampling religions, from Hinduism to Christian Science, falling in love and constantly moving. Her defection took her from India, through Europe, to the United States. After moving back to Moscow in 1984, and from there to Soviet Georgia, friends told of her going again to America, then to England, then to France, then back to America, then to England again, and on and on. All the while she faded from the public eye.

Ms. Peters was said to have lived in a cabin with no electricity in northern Wisconsin another time, in a Roman Catholic convent in Switzerland. In 1992, she was reported to be living in a shabby part of West London in a home for elderly people with emotional problems.

“You can’t regret your fate,” Ms. Peters once said, “although I do regret my mother didn’t marry a carpenter.”

‘Little Sparrow’

Her life was worthy of a Russian novel. It began with a loving relationship with Stalin, who had taken the name, meaning “man of steel,” as a young man. (He was born Ioseb Besarionis dze Jughashvili.) Millions died under his brutally repressive rule, but at home he called his daughter “little sparrow,” cuddled and kissed her, showered her with presents, and entertained her with American movies.

She became a celebrity in her country, compared to Shirley Temple in the United States. Thousands of babies were named Svetlana. So was a perfume.

At 18, she was setting the table in a Kremlin dining room when Churchill happened upon her. They had a spirited conversation.

But all was not perfect even then. The darkest moment of her childhood came when her mother, Nadezhda Alliluyeva, Stalin’s second wife, committed suicide in 1932. Svetlana, who was 6, was told that her mother had died of appendicitis. She did not learn the truth for a decade.

In her teenage years, her father was consumed by the war with Germany and grew distant and sometimes abusive. One of her brothers, Yakov, was captured by the Nazis, who offered to exchange him for a German general. Stalin refused, and Yakov was killed.

In her memoirs she told of how Stalin had sent her first love, a Jewish filmmaker, to Siberia for 10 years. She wanted to study literature at Moscow University, but Stalin demanded that she study history. She did. After graduation, again following her father’s wishes, she became a teacher, teaching Soviet literature and the English language. She then worked as a literary translator.

A year after her father broke up her first romance, she told him she wanted to marry another Jewish man, Grigory Morozov, a fellow student. Stalin slapped her and refused to meet him. This time, however, she had her way. She married Mr. Morozov in 1945. They had one child, Iosif, before divorcing in 1947.

Her second marriage, in 1949, was more to Stalin’s liking. The groom, Yuri Zhdanov, was the son of Stalin’s right-hand man, Andrei Zhdanov. The couple had a daughter, Yekaterina, the next year. But they, too, divorced soon afterward.

Her world grew darker in her father’s last years. Nikita S. Khrushchev, Stalin’s successor as Soviet leader, wrote in his memoirs about the New Year’s party in 1952 when Stalin grabbed Svetlana by the hair and forced her to dance.

After Stalin died in 1953, his legacy was challenged, and the new leaders were eager to put his more egregious policies behind them. Svetlana lost many of her privileges. In the 1960s, when she fell in love with Brijesh Singh, an Indian Communist who was visiting Moscow, Soviet officials refused to let her marry him. After he became ill and died, they only reluctantly gave her permission, in early 1967, to take his ashes home to India.

Once in India, Ms. Alliluyeva, as she was known now, evaded Soviet agents in the K.G.B. and showed up at the United States Embassy in New Delhi seeking political asylum. The world watched in amazement as Stalin’s daughter, granted protection, became the most high-profile Soviet exile since the ballet virtuoso Rudolf Nureyev defected in 1961. The United States quickly dispatched a C.I.A. officer to help her travel through Italy to neutral Switzerland, but American officials worried that accepting her into the United States could damage its improving relations with Moscow. Finally, President Lyndon B. Johnson, on humanitarian grounds, agreed to admit her but asked that there be as little fanfare as possible.

Unknown to Washington at the time, the K.G.B. was discussing plans to assassinate Ms. Alliluyeva, according to former agency officials who were quoted by The Washington Times in 1992. But, they said, the K.G.B. backed off for fear an assassination would be traced back to it too easily.

Her arrival in New York, in April 1967, was more triumphant than low-key. Reporters and photographers were waiting at the airport, and she held a news conference in which she denounced the Soviet regime. Her autobiography, “Twenty Letters to a Friend,” was published later that year, bringing her more than $2.5 million. In 1969 she recounted her journey from the Soviet Union in a second memoir, “Only One Year.”

Settling in Princeton, N.J., Ms. Alliluyeva made a public show of burning her Soviet passport, saying she would never return to the Soviet Union. She denounced her father as “a moral and spiritual monster,” called the Soviet system “profoundly corrupt” and likened the K.G.B. to the Gestapo.

Writing in Esquire magazine, Garry Wills and Ovid Demaris — under the headline “How the Daughter of Stalin Denounced Communism and Embraced God, America and Apple Pie” — said the Svetlana Alliluyeva saga added up to “the Reader’s Digest ultimate story.”

As the Kremlin feared, Ms. Alliluyeva became a weapon in the cold war. In 1968, she denounced the trial of four Soviet dissidents as “a mockery of justice.” On Voice of America radio, Soviet citizens heard her declare that life in the United States was “free, gay and full of bright colors.”

Another Marriage

In interviews, however, she acknowledged loneliness. She missed her son, Iosif, who was 22 when she left Russia, and her daughter, Yekaterina, who was then 17. But she seemed to find new vibrancy in 1970, when she married William Wesley Peters. Mr. Peters had been chief apprentice to the architect Frank Lloyd Wright and, for a time, the husband of Wright’s adopted daughter.

Wright’s widow, Olgivanna Wright, encouraged the Peters-Alliluyeva marriage, even though the adopted daughter was Mrs. Wright’s biological daughter from a previous marriage. That daughter was also named Svetlana, and Mrs. Wright saw mystical meaning in the match.

The couple lived with Mrs. Wright and others at Taliesin West, the architect’s famous desert compound in Scottsdale, Ariz. There, Ms. Peters began chafing at the strict communal lifestyle enforced by Mrs. Wright, finding her as authoritarian as her father. Mr. Peters, meanwhile, objected to his wife’s buying a house in a nearby resort area, declaring he didn’t want “a two-bit suburban life.”

Within two years, they separated. Ms. Peters was granted custody of their 8-month-old daughter, Olga. They divorced in 1973.

Information about the next few years is sketchier. Ms. Peters became a United States citizen in 1978 and later told The Trenton Times that she had registered as a Republican and donated $500 to the conservative magazine National Review, saying it was her favorite publication.

She and Olga moved to California, living there in several places before uprooting themselves again in 1982, this time for England so that Olga could enroll in an English boarding school. She also began to speak more favorably of her father, Time magazine reported, and perhaps felt she had betrayed him. “My father would have shot me for what I have done,” she said in 1983.

Seeking Reconciliation

At the same time, Stalin was being partly rehabilitated in the Soviet Union, and Soviet officials, after blocking Ms. Peters’s attempts to communicate with her children in Russia, relaxed their grip. Iosif, then 38 and practicing as a physician, began calling regularly. He said he would try to come to England to see her.

“For this desperate woman, seeing Iosif appeared to herald a new beginning,” Time said.

Abruptly, however, Iosif was refused permission to travel. So in November 1984, Ms. Peters and 13-year-old Olga — who was distraught because she had not been consulted about the move — went to Moscow and asked to be taken back. Lana Peters now denounced the West. She had not known “one single day” of freedom in the West, she told reporters. She was quoted as saying that she had been a pet of the C.I.A. Any conservative views she had expressed in the United States, if they still existed, went unexpressed. When an ABC correspondent in Moscow tried to question her a few days later, she exploded in anger, exclaiming: “You are savages! You are uncivilized people! Goodbye to you all.”

Ms. Peters and Olga were given Soviet citizenship, but soon their lives worsened. The son and daughter who lived in Russia began shunning her and Olga. Defying the official atheism of the state, Olga insisted on wearing a crucifix. They moved to Tbilisi, Georgia, but it was no better than Moscow.

In April 1986, they returned to the United States, with no opposition by the Soviet authorities. Settling at first in Wisconsin, Ms. Peters disavowed the anti-Western things she had said upon her arrival in Moscow, saying she had been mistranslated, particularly the statement about being a pet of the C.I.A. Olga returned to school in England.

Quiet Years

Ms. Peters said she was now impoverished. She had given much of her book profits to charity, she said, and was saddled with debt and failed investments. An odd, formless odyssey began. Friends said she appeared unable to live anywhere for more than two years.

Mr. Peters died in 1991. Ms. Peters’s son, Iosif, died in November 2008.

Besides her daughter Olga, now Ms. Evans, Ms. Peters is survived by her daughter Yekaterina Zhdanov, a scientist who goes by Katya and is living on the Kamchatka Peninsula in Eastern Siberia studying a volcano, according to The Associated Press. Reached later on Monday by e-mail, Ms. Evans told The A.P. that her mother had died in a nursing home in Richland Center, where she had lived for three years. “Please respect my privacy during this sad time,” the wire agency quoted her as saying.

Ms. Peters was said to enjoy sewing and reading, mainly nonfiction, choosing not to own a television set. In an interview with The Wisconsin State Journal in 2010, she was asked if her father had loved her. She thought he did, she said, because she had red hair and freckles, like his mother.

But she could not forgive his cruelty to her. “He broke my life,” she said. “I want to explain to you. He broke my life.”

And he left a shadow from which she could never emerge. “Wherever I go,” she said, “here, or Switzerland, or India, or wherever. Australia. Some island. I will always be a political prisoner of my father’s name.”

Elizabeth A. Harris and Lee van der Voo contributed reporting.

This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:

Correction: November 29, 2011

An earlier version of this article misstated the last name of Ms. Peters’s late son, Iosif. It is Alliluyev, not Morozov.


My secret summer with Stalin’s daughter

In 1967, I was in the middle of one of the world’s buzziest stories.

My father, the diplomat George F. Kennan, disliked the telephone. So when he called me in March 1967, I knew it was something important. At the time, I was 36 years old and living in California — recently divorced, newly employed as a book critic for San Francisco magazine, looking after my three children and dating architect Jack Warnecke, who would later become my second husband. But soon, I’d find myself in the middle of one of the buzziest stories of that year — now a mostly forgotten footnote of Cold War history. It started with that call: My father wanted to tell me that the State Department had asked him to go to Switzerland on a secret mission to establish the bona fides of a woman who had defected from the Soviet Union and claimed to be the daughter of Soviet dictator Josef Stalin.

Although long retired at this point, my father had been chosen for this mission because he knew the Stalin family history and the right questions to ask. I could tell that he was pleased and liked being back in the fray. The next day he flew off to Geneva on a special plane. When he returned, he told me about his trip. It was clear that Svetlana Stalin had unexpectedly touched him. Forty-one years old, she was Stalin’s only daughter. My father, although not a churchgoer at the time, had been impressed both by her energy and her claim to newfound spirituality. Always gallant to those in need, he also succumbed to Svetlana’s helpless-and-alone-in-the world facade.

When they met in Switzerland, Svetlana expressed her desire to defect to the United States in the coming weeks. My father offered to provide her with peace and quiet at the family farm in East Berlin, Pennsylvania, but Svetlana turned him down. She had already made plans to live with her translator, Priscilla Johnson, on Long Island, while Johnson translated Svetlana’s manuscript Twenty Letters to a Friend, a memoir of her life inside Stalin’s circle that later became a publishing sensation in the United States. I was certain that Svetlana would have expired of boredom at the farm after a week but kept those feelings to myself.

Svetlana’s defection to the United States was world news. I flew from California to be with my parents and sister Joanie at John F. Kennedy Airport in New York for her arrival on April 21, which was kept secret until the last minute. Our parents were whisked off to be part of the official welcoming committee standing on the tarmac, while Joanie and I were seated on the high balcony of a building, with a more distant view of the scene. I was astounded by the tight security and especially by the sharpshooters on top of neighboring buildings.

As a former Russian history and literature major, the opportunity to get to know Stalin’s daughter and to have an inside glimpse into historic Kremlin politics was priceless.

I tingled with excitement at the dramatic sight of this red-haired, young-looking woman coming down the airplane stairs, escorted by a man I later found out was her lawyer, Alan U. Schwartz. She went up to the waiting microphone. “Hello, I’m happy to be here,” she said with a big smile.

The press could not get enough of Svetlana. Her dramatic defection, newly found religion, abandonment of her two teenage children and her condemnation of the Soviet Union were all grist for the mill. After an initial press conference at the Plaza hotel in Manhattan, she refused all interviews and was guarded on Long Island by a police car parked outside the Johnson home and by two private security men. Her inaccessibility made her even more like catnip to the media.

A few months later, Svetlana’s friendship with Priscilla Johnson came to an abrupt end, an event that foreshadowed the pattern of most of her relationships. My father renewed his invitation for Svetlana to stay at the farm for the summer.

However, since he and Mother would be making their annual summer trip to Norway, he asked Joanie, who was living in nearby Princeton, to be her hostess. Joanie, a natural caregiver, agreed with enthusiasm to this assignment. She and her husband, Larry Griggs, with their two boys, Brandon and Barklie, lived with Svetlana for six weeks. Joanie and Larry took her on expeditions, and Larry barbecued on the warm summer nights. Joanie cooked and cleaned she bought Svetlana clothes.

Svetlana thrived on all this love and attention, and she and Joanie became good friends. During the daytime, Svetlana worked on her voluminous mail and her new book. But after a while, Joanie and Larry, who had received an assignment with the Peace Corps, had to go into training, so my father recruited me to take care of Svetlana for the remainder of her stay. Joanie called to request an additional favor. “Would you mind also taking care of Brandon and Barklie?” The boys were then aged six and eight. “They won’t be any trouble they’re used to the farm and will play outside all day.”

Stalin and daughter Svetlana in 1935 | Wikimedia commons

At the time of these requests, I was knee-deep in children’s problems, volunteer work and the challenges of dating Jack Warnecke, all of which required me to stay put in San Francisco. But as a former Russian history and literature major, the opportunity to get to know Stalin’s daughter and to have an inside glimpse into historic Kremlin politics was priceless.

My father also weighed in strongly in favor of my coming to Pennsylvania. “It will be no problem,” he said. “All you have to do is include Svetlana in your meals and drive in to East Berlin for her mail, which is being sent to an assumed name at the post office.”

So my children and I joined the family project. Despite much grumbling on Jack’s part, I knew him well enough to know that he would get over his feelings of abandonment, since I would be associated with a world-famous woman who was on the cover of countless magazines. I promised that as long as he kept her stay a secret, he could come visit.

Youthful and blue-eyed, Svetlana had a girlish, ingénue-like quality that endeared her to many, especially to men. Shortly after I met her, she confided, “The State Department proposed to provide me with protection, but I turned the offer down. Finally I am free!” She literally twirled with joy.

Her independence worried me. My father, from his secure perch on a Norwegian fjord, had warned that there was real danger that the KGB might kidnap her and spirit her away. He reminded me of Leon Trotsky’s assassination in Mexico after he fled the Soviet Union. I was taking care of a possible Trotsky, and her visit had to be top secret. Not only did this mean I couldn’t tell my friends it also dictated that we couldn’t have any help in the house. The people of East Berlin must not know that they had a mysterious visitor in their midst. Joanie had faced the same challenges, but she was a better housekeeper than I and had only two children to worry about, while I had five.

What I had foreseen as an intellectual exchange and a chance to practice my Russian had turned into a different kind of experience. We had no washer or dryer, so the laundry for seven people had to be carted to the East Berlin Laundromat, a steam oven in the summer heat. The nearest big store was ten miles away in Hanover, and my new collective required lots of food. Endless trips were made, sometimes with two or three children in tow. Father’s idea that we would all eat together proved unrealistic, as the children got up long before Svetlana. I would feed them and, after doing their dishes, then feed Svetlana a second breakfast. The “Kremlin Princess,” as some tabloid had named her, had done little housework and was not starting to learn on my watch.

Then there were the meals. When Svetlana had gone to scatter the ashes of her Indian lover in the Ganges, she lived for a while with his family before she defected there she adopted their vegetarian diet. She wouldn’t eat the hamburgers, hot dogs and chicken that the children liked. Instead, I had to whip up risottos and other filling vegetable dishes for Svetlana I desperately worked my way through “Joy of Cooking” to stay ahead of the game. All this food preparation turned me, a lifetime dieter, into a compulsive nibbler, tasting a little of this and a lot of that. To add to the housekeeping nightmare, Svetlana’s translator from England, Max Hayward, a noted Russian scholar, soon moved in with us to work with Svetlana.

A recovering alcoholic, Max craved sweets. I had to add cake baking and piemaking to my culinary repertoire: more hours in the sweltering kitchen. We had no air conditioning. Svetlana’s lawyer also appeared for a few days. Sometimes we were nine for every meal. Realizing that the children were not getting enough attention, I enlisted the teenage daughter of some Washington friends to come and help. She, too, was pledged to secrecy but was another mouth to feed.

Svetlana Alliluyeva at a press conference in New York City, USA, 1967 | Harry Benson/Express/Hulton Archive via Getty Images

A confirmed bachelor, Max Hayward was not interested in women, an aspect of his character that Svetlana did not grasp. In fact, she took quite a shine to him. One summer evening, the three of us were outside sipping wine before a late dinner. Svetlana, in a white dress I had washed and ironed, stood up and flirtatiously flitted around the garden. She looked like an actress in a Chekhov play, catching fireflies in a glass jar. She became distinctly cold to me during Max’s visit, as she saw me as competition.

Despite her girlish quality, she had strong feelings about people. Either they were faultless and wonderful, or they were all bad. She saw no shades of gray. She claimed great love for her mother, who died from a gunshot wound when Svetlana was only six. It was supposedly a suicide or, according to some rumors, could have been murder at the behest of Stalin. Svetlana dedicated her book “Twenty Letters to a Friend” to her mother, but the parent she mostly talked about — and not entirely pejoratively — was her father.

Max was reading galley proofs of “Journey into the Whirlwind,” an autobiography of Evgenia Ginzburg’s life and time in the gulag, and he kindly shared them with me. As soon as we started discussing the book, Svetlana quickly curtailed all discussion and wanted to switch the conversation to her book. When she did mention the purges, or other former horrors of the Soviet period, they were all the fault of Lavrentii Beria, a fellow Georgian and head of the KGB from 1938 to the year Stalin died, 1953. According to Svetlana, Beria had made Stalin into the cruel dictator that he was and was responsible for the horrors that went on. Her father, she implied, was more of a hapless bystander.

In time, Max and Alan departed, and Svetlana and I were the only adults at the farm. We resumed our budding friendship. One day, in her usual impulsive manner, she grabbed my arm and said, “Grace, I have to have my hair cut. This heat makes me itch where my hair touches my neck. Can you get me an appointment right away?”

I was nervous about taking her out in public but realized that this was not a request but an imperative. So I found a hair salon in a neighboring town where I wasn’t known, and off we went. As soon as I walked in, I saw a Ladies’ Home Journal with Svetlana’s familiar face staring up at me. I grabbed the magazine and pressed Svetlana’s image to my breast as I gave instructions on the haircut. Luckily, none of the ladies there recognized her. They couldn’t conceive that someone on the cover of a national magazine would end up in Abbotstown, Pennsylvania.

By the time Jack arrived for his promised visit, I already knew that his stay would be a disaster. He and Svetlana both demanded center stage, and there wasn’t room for two. They eyed each other warily, like circling dogs. The first night after dinner, Jack took me aside. “Look, darling, this is ridiculous. You are doing all the work. For God’s sake, you’re acting like her maid.” I explained the importance of her anonymity, and he snorted, “If it’s dangerous to have normal help here, call the State Department and let them help you out.”

When he left abruptly after two days, ostensibly for an urgent business meeting, I was secretly relieved. I badly needed support, and Jack provided nothing but criticism. A few days later, Svetlana came downstairs, breathing heavily. “Grace, you must help me. I am having a heart attack,” she gasped.

A picture taken on August 17, 2017 in Gori shows a man selling magnets bearing the picture of Joseph Stalin | Joel Saget/AFP via Getty images

“Heart attack — oh, my God,” I gulped. “I’ll take you to the hospital!”

“Oh, no, I don’t need that,” Svetlana replied. “I just need some brandy — you know, the kind with a pear in the middle of the bottle. I had it in Switzerland, and it is very good for the heart.”

I have learned since that Russians label as “heart attacks” all sorts of breathing problems that would not be categorized as such in America, but I did not know this then. After checking with the local Pennsylvania State Liquor Store and learning that they did not stock a brandy with a pear in it, I got on the phone and called everyone I knew in Washington, pleading, “Please, please this is a crisis — I absolutely must have a bottle of pear brandy.” What my friends thought, I can’t imagine. Finally I persuaded a busy lawyer to drop all he was doing and drive out to the farm with a 40-dollar bottle of the lifesaving liquid.

Svetlana drank some of it every night. I don’t know what the brandy did for her heart, but she started to talk about her childhood, her children, her two husbands. She told me about how Stalin slapped her so hard that she fainted when he learned about her Jewish lover, Aleksei Kapler, who was shortly afterward sentenced to the gulag.

Just as her stories would get really interesting, my eyes would start to close and I would have to go to sleep. I was exhausted after flying around at top speed from 7:00 a.m., cooking, shopping, cleaning the 18-room house and taking care of its seven inhabitants. My new notebook, in which I had planned to write every night, remained largely empty. Afterward, I always felt that in some way I had failed. I had squandered this great opportunity to get to know the daughter of one of the world’s most cruel dictators and had ended up, instead, mostly in the kitchen.

Svetlana in time turned against everyone in the Kennan family, but I was the first. We were only six years apart, and she was by nature competitive. I was reluctant to assume the role of a handmaiden. I knew that I played second fiddle to her favorite, Joanie, and I was distracted by the demands of five children and phone calls from an angry Jack. Still, I was shocked when I first read the book she had been working on while at the farm, “Only One Year.” Eager to learn her version of our time together, I picked it up and raced through the pages, only to discover that I wasn’t there. According to Svetlana, only Joanie and Larry had been at the farm. But my photographs of that trying summer reveal otherwise.

Excerpt from the chapter “Marriage: A Second Act,” from “Daughter of the Cold War,” by Grace Kennan Warnecke (c) 2018. All rights are controlled by The University of Pittsburgh Press, Pittsburgh, PA 15260. Used by permission of the University of Pittsburgh Press.


By Mail Foreign Service
Updated: 18:04 BST, 13 April 2010

An independent film is bringing to light a well-kept secret: Soviet Dictator Josef Stalin's only daughter, Svetlana Alliluyeva, has been living incognito in the U.S. state of Wisconsin.

It is unclear whether the 84-year-old who fiercely guards her privacy still lives here today, but Lana Peters has lived at several addresses in southern Wisconsin in the last 20 years.

And in the summer of 2007, a determined film maker tracked her down at an apartment at a retirement home in an undisclosed Wisconsin town for a rare interview that could be the last she ever grants.

Svetlana Alliluyeva in the arms of her father, the Soviet dictator Josef Stalin. Svetlana's mother was Stalin's second wife, Nadezhda

A documentary based on the interview, 'Svetlana About Svetlana,' tells her complex life story, which is probably most noted for her defection to the U.S. in 1967. On April 18, the film will be shown at the Wisconsin Film Festival in Madison.

The film explores Alliluyeva's life and how she managed to 'disappear' while living in near Madison, Wisconsin.

On March 6, 1967, she first visited the Soviet embassy in New Delhi, and then went to the U.S. embassy and formally petitioned Ambassador Chester Bowles for political asylum.

This was granted. However, because the Indian government feared the potential ill-will of the Soviet Union, it was arranged for her to leave India immediately for Rome.

When the Alitalia flight arrived in Rome, Alliluyeva immediately went to Geneva. There the Swiss government arranged a tourist visa and accommodation in Switzerland for six weeks. Alliluyeva then went on to the U.S.

Miss Alliluyeva with documentary film-maker Lana Parshina in her retirement flat in Wisconsin three years ago. She has disappeared since the film was made

Upon her arrival in April 1967 in New York City, Alliluyeva gave a press conference denouncing her father's regime and the Soviet government.

Her intention to publish her autobiography, Twenty Letters To A Friend, on the 50th anniversary of the Soviet revolution caused an uproar in the USSR, and the Soviet government there threatened to release an unauthorised version.

Alliluyeva moved to Princeton, New Jersey, and later to nearby Pennington.

In 1970, Alliluyeva answered an invitation from Frank Lloyd Wright's widow, Olgivanna Lloyd Wright, to visit Taliesin West in Scottsdale, Arizona.

Olgivanna believed in mysticism and had become convinced that Alliluyeva was a spiritual replacement for her own daughter Svetlana, who had married Wright's chief apprentice William Wesley Peters, and who had died in a car crash years before.

Alliluyeva came to Arizona, and agreed to marry Peters within a matter of weeks.

Svetlana Alliluyeva is pictured discussing her memoirs with Paul Niven on American television just after she defected to the west

Peters was a member of the Taliesin Fellowship, a group of architects and designers who had been Wright's apprentices and acolytes, and remained dedicated to his work.

Alliluyeva became part of the Fellowship community, adopted the name Lana Peters, and migrated with them back and forth between the Scottsdale studio and Taliesin om Spring Green, Wisconsin.

The couple had a daughter, Olga. By her own account Alliluyeva retained respect and affection for Wes Peters, but their marriage dissolved under the pressure of Mrs. Wright's influence.

In 1982, she moved with her daughter to Cambridge in England.

Svetlana Alliluyeva is pictured in Cambridge in 1984 and, right, leaving her then home in Notting Hill Gate, west London, in 1984

In 1984, she returned to the Soviet Union, where she and her daughter were granted citizenship, and settled in Tbilisi, Georgia. In 1986, Alliluyeva returned to the U.S. In the 1990s she moved to Bristol, England.

As of 2009, she is living in Madison, Wisconsin.

Peters initially refused to talk to film maker Parshina. She has dodged the media and the public eye for several years. But after several of Parshina's attempts and hours of conversation, Peters eventually trusted Parshina enough to allow her an interview.

'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,' Peters said, reports the AP. 'No, I'm neither one. I'm somewhere in between. That 'somewhere in between' they can't understand.'

This brief but insightful look into the life of Svetlana will be screened April 18 at the Wisconsin Film Festival in Madison.

But don't expect to find Lana Peters there. Or in Madison in general.

According to Parshina and others, Peters moved on after the interview. She moved out of the retirement home apartment and changed her phone number.


Lana Peters, Stalin’s Daughter, Dies at 85

Svetlana Stalin, as she was known when she defected to the United States was hidden almost immediately at the New York home of the parents of Priscilla Johnson (McMillan). As the article indicates, she was surrounded by CIA agents and was a key tool of the Cold War propaganda machinery, and under threat of assassination. Her location at this “safe house” was hardly random. Priscilla came home to help Stalin’s daughter write and translate her memoirs. Priscilla Johnson, working under the auspices of the North American Newspaper Alliance, a British and American intelligence front, was sent by British spy Ian Fleming (of James Bond fame) and his NANA Russian bureau chief Sidney Goldberg (married to Lucianne and father of Jonathan for those of you who follow the news) to talk to Richard Snyder (Naval Intelligence attache to the US Embassy in Moscow), who in turn suggested she interview the “defector” Lee Harvey Oswald at the Metropole Hotel. This created the first news item regarding Oswald’s engineered and false defection in the American press. Another NANA correspondent, Aline Mosby, also interviewed Oswald in Moscow. There he met and immediately married his Russian wife Marina, who was inexplicably allowed to return to the United States with him, their way financed by the US State Department. Years later, Priscilla Johnson would write Marina & Lee to bolster the official version of the assassination of President Kennedy. When the JFK Records Act effected the release of over 6.5 million classified files, we found documents showing that Priscilla had been a “witting agent” of the CIA for many years. She continues to speak out on Oswald’s guilt in the murder, though all the best evidence points to his innocence and his role as a patsy.

Lana Peters, Stalin’s Daughter, Dies at 85
By DOUGLAS MARTIN

November 28, 2011, New York Times

Her three successive names were signposts on a twisted, bewildering road that took her from Stalin’s Kremlin, where she was the “little princess,” to the West in a celebrated defection, then back to the Soviet Union in a puzzling homecoming, and finally to decades of obscurity, wandering and poverty.

At her birth, on Feb. 28, 1926, she was named Svetlana Stalina, the only daughter and last surviving child of the brutal Soviet tyrant Josef Stalin. After he died in 1953, she took her mother’s last name, Alliluyeva. In 1970, after her defection and an American marriage, she became and remained Lana Peters.

Ms. Peters died of colon cancer on Nov. 22 in Richland County, Wis., the county’s corporation counsel, Benjamin Southwick, said on Monday. She was 85.

Her death, like the last years of her life, occurred away from public view. There were hints of it online and in Richland Center, the Wisconsin town in which she lived, though a local funeral home said to be handling the burial would not confirm the death. A county official in Wisconsin thought she might have died several months ago. Phone calls seeking information from a surviving daughter, Olga Peters, who now goes by the name Chrese Evans, were rebuffed, as were efforts to speak to her in person in Portland, Ore., where she lives and works.

Ms. Peters’s initial prominence came only from being Stalin’s daughter, a distinction that fed public curiosity about her life across three continents and many decades. She said she hated her past and felt like a slave to extraordinary circumstances. Yet she drew on that past, and the infamous Stalin name, in writing two best-selling autobiographies.

Long after fleeing her homeland, she seemed to be still searching for something — sampling religions, from Hinduism to Christian Science, falling in love and constantly moving. Her defection took her from India, through Europe, to the United States. After moving back to Moscow in 1984, and from there to Soviet Georgia, friends told of her going again to America, then to England, then to France, then back to America, then to England again, and on and on. All the while she faded from the public eye.

Ms. Peters was said to have lived in a cabin with no electricity in northern Wisconsin another time, in a Roman Catholic convent in Switzerland. In 1992, she was reported to be living in a shabby part of West London in a home for elderly people with emotional problems.

“You can’t regret your fate,” Ms. Peters once said, “although I do regret my mother didn’t marry a carpenter.”

Her life was worthy of a Russian novel. It began with a loving relationship with Stalin, who had taken the name, meaning “man of steel,” as a young man. (He was born Ioseb Besarionis dze Jughashvili.) Millions died under his brutally repressive rule, but at home he called his daughter “little sparrow,” cuddled and kissed her, showered her with presents, and entertained her with American movies.

She became a celebrity in her country, compared to Shirley Temple in the United States. Thousands of babies were named Svetlana. So was a perfume.

At 18, she was setting the table in a Kremlin dining room when Churchill happened upon her. They had a spirited conversation.

But all was not perfect even then. The darkest moment of her childhood came when her mother, Nadezhda Alliluyeva, Stalin’s second wife, committed suicide in 1932. Svetlana, who was 6, was told that her mother had died of appendicitis. She did not learn the truth for a decade.

In her teenage years, her father was consumed by the war with Germany and grew distant and sometimes abusive. One of her brothers, Yakov, was captured by the Nazis, who offered to exchange him for a German general. Stalin refused, and Yakov was killed.

In her memoirs she told of how Stalin had sent her first love, a Jewish filmmaker, to Siberia for 10 years. She wanted to study literature at Moscow University, but Stalin demanded that she study history. She did. After graduation, again following her father’s wishes, she became a teacher, teaching Soviet literature and the English language. She then worked as a literary translator.

A year after her father broke up her first romance, she told him she wanted to marry another Jewish man, Grigory Morozov, a fellow student. Stalin slapped her and refused to meet him. This time, however, she had her way. She married Mr. Morozov in 1945. They had one child, Iosif, before divorcing in 1947.

Her second marriage, in 1949, was more to Stalin’s liking. The groom, Yuri Zhdanov, was the son of Stalin’s right-hand man, Andrei Zhdanov. The couple had a daughter, Yekaterina, the next year. But they, too, divorced soon afterward.

Her world grew darker in her father’s last years. Nikita S. Khrushchev, Stalin’s successor as Soviet leader, wrote in his memoirs about the New Year’s party in 1952 when Stalin grabbed Svetlana by the hair and forced her to dance.

After Stalin died in 1953, his legacy was challenged, and the new leaders were eager to put his more egregious policies behind them. Svetlana lost many of her privileges. In the 1960s, when she fell in love with Brijesh Singh, an Indian Communist who was visiting Moscow, Soviet officials refused to let her marry him. After he became ill and died, they only reluctantly gave her permission, in early 1967, to take his ashes home to India.

Once in India, Ms. Alliluyeva, as she was known now, evaded Soviet agents in the K.G.B. and showed up at the United States Embassy in New Delhi seeking political asylum. The world watched in amazement as Stalin’s daughter, granted protection, became the most high-profile Soviet exile since the ballet virtuoso Rudolf Nureyev defected in 1961. The United States quickly dispatched a C.I.A. officer to help her travel through Italy to neutral Switzerland, but American officials worried that accepting her into the United States could damage its improving relations with Moscow. Finally, President Lyndon B. Johnson, on humanitarian grounds, agreed to admit her but asked that there be as little fanfare as possible.

Unknown to Washington at the time, the K.G.B. was discussing plans to assassinate Ms. Alliluyeva, according to former agency officials who were quoted by The Washington Times in 1992. But, they said, the K.G.B. backed off for fear an assassination would be traced back to it too easily.

Her arrival in New York, in April 1967, was more triumphant than low-key. Reporters and photographers were waiting at the airport, and she held a news conference in which she denounced the Soviet regime. Her autobiography, “Twenty Letters to a Friend,” was published later that year, bringing her more than $2.5 million. In 1969 she recounted her journey from the Soviet Union in a second memoir, “Only One Year.”

Settling in Princeton, N.J., Ms. Alliluyeva made a public show of burning her Soviet passport, saying she would never return to the Soviet Union. She denounced her father as “a moral and spiritual monster,” called the Soviet system “profoundly corrupt” and likened the K.G.B. to the Gestapo.

Writing in Esquire magazine, Garry Wills and Ovid Demaris — under the headline “How the Daughter of Stalin Denounced Communism and Embraced God, America and Apple Pie” — said the Svetlana Alliluyeva saga added up to “the Reader’s Digest ultimate story.”

As the Kremlin feared, Ms. Alliluyeva became a weapon in the cold war. In 1968, she denounced the trial of four Soviet dissidents as “a mockery of justice.” On Voice of America radio, Soviet citizens heard her declare that life in the United States was “free, gay and full of bright colors.”

In interviews, however, she acknowledged loneliness. She missed her son, Iosif, who was 22 when she left Russia, and her daughter, Yekaterina, who was then 17. But she seemed to find new vibrancy in 1970, when she married William Wesley Peters. Mr. Peters had been chief apprentice to the architect Frank Lloyd Wright and, for a time, the husband of Wright’s adopted daughter.

Wright’s widow, Olgivanna Wright, encouraged the Peters-Alliluyeva marriage, even though the adopted daughter was Mrs. Wright’s biological daughter from a previous marriage. That daughter was also named Svetlana, and Mrs. Wright saw mystical meaning in the match.

The couple lived with Mrs. Wright and others at Taliesin West, the architect’s famous desert compound in Scottsdale, Ariz. There, Ms. Peters began chafing at the strict communal lifestyle enforced by Mrs. Wright, finding her as authoritarian as her father. Mr. Peters, meanwhile, objected to his wife’s buying a house in a nearby resort area, declaring he didn’t want “a two-bit suburban life.”

Within two years, they separated. Ms. Peters was granted custody of their 8-month-old daughter, Olga. They divorced in 1973.

Information about the next few years is sketchier. Ms. Peters became a United States citizen in 1978 and later told The Trenton Times that she had registered as a Republican and donated $500 to the conservative magazine National Review, saying it was her favorite publication.

She and Olga moved to California, living there in several places before uprooting themselves again in 1982, this time for England so that Olga could enroll in an English boarding school. She also began to speak more favorably of her father, Time magazine reported, and perhaps felt she had betrayed him. “My father would have shot me for what I have done,” she said in 1983.

At the same time, Stalin was being partly rehabilitated in the Soviet Union, and Soviet officials, after blocking Ms. Peters’s attempts to communicate with her children in Russia, relaxed their grip. Iosif, then 38 and practicing as a physician, began calling regularly. He said he would try to come to England to see her.

“For this desperate woman, seeing Iosif appeared to herald a new beginning,” Time said.

Abruptly, however, Iosif was refused permission to travel. So in November 1984, Ms. Peters and 13-year-old Olga — who was distraught because she had not been consulted about the move — went to Moscow and asked to be taken back. Lana Peters now denounced the West. She had not known “one single day” of freedom in the West, she told reporters. She was quoted as saying that she had been a pet of the C.I.A. Any conservative views she had expressed in the United States, if they still existed, went unexpressed. When an ABC correspondent in Moscow tried to question her a few days later, she exploded in anger, exclaiming: “You are savages! You are uncivilized people! Goodbye to you all.”

Ms. Peters and Olga were given Soviet citizenship, but soon their lives worsened. The son and daughter who lived in Russia began shunning her and Olga. Defying the official atheism of the state, Olga insisted on wearing a crucifix. They moved to Tbilisi, Georgia, but it was no better than Moscow.

In April 1986, they returned to the United States, with no opposition by the Soviet authorities. Settling at first in Wisconsin, Ms. Peters disavowed the anti-Western things she had said upon her arrival in Moscow, saying she had been mistranslated, particularly the statement about being a pet of the C.I.A. Olga returned to school in England.

Ms. Peters said she was now impoverished. She had given much of her book profits to charity, she said, and was saddled with debt and failed investments. An odd, formless odyssey began. Friends said she appeared unable to live anywhere for more than two years.

Mr. Peters died in 1991. Ms. Peters’s son, Iosif, died in November 2008.

Besides her daughter Olga, now Ms. Evans, Ms. Peters is survived by her daughter Yekaterina Zhdanov, a scientist who goes by Katya and is living on the Kamchatka Peninsula in Eastern Siberia studying a volcano, according to The Associated Press. Reached later on Monday by e-mail, Ms. Evans told The A.P. that her mother had died in a nursing home in Richland Center, where she had lived for three years. “Please respect my privacy during this sad time,” the wire agency quoted her as saying.

Ms. Peters was said to enjoy sewing and reading, mainly nonfiction, choosing not to own a television set. In an interview with The Wisconsin State Journal in 2010, she was asked if her father had loved her. She thought he did, she said, because she had red hair and freckles, like his mother.

But she could not forgive his cruelty to her. “He broke my life,” she said. “I want to explain to you. He broke my life.”

And he left a shadow from which she could never emerge. “Wherever I go,” she said, “here, or Switzerland, or India, or wherever. Australia. Some island. I will always be a political prisoner of my father’s name.”

Elizabeth A. Harris and Lee van der Voo contributed reporting.

This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:

Correction: November 29, 2011

An earlier version of this article misstated the last name of Ms. Peters’s late son, Iosif. It is Alliluyev, not Morozov.


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Flight of the Little Sparrow

Svetlana Alliluyeva in New York in 1969, two years after she defected to the U.S.

Joseph Stalin was one of history’s most operatic tyrants, a leader who killed tens of millions of people by starvation, war and outright murder. He built a megalomaniacal cult of personality and left behind a paranoid country in which one half informed on the other. He also had three children—two sons who met untimely deaths and one daughter, his “little sparrow.”

The life of Svetlana Alliluyeva (1926-2011) was lived within the tight parameters that came with being born to one of the 20th century’s cruelest despots. She desired to be someone else and was all too aware that this was not possible. She tore through relationships with men, joined and abandoned various religions, lived a frenetically nomadic existence, and most famously defected to the United States in the middle of her life—all in order to flee her origins. Yet she was tormented by a truth she once revealed to a journalist: “You are Stalin’s daughter. . . . You can’t live your own life. You can’t live any life. You exist only in reference to a name.”

This tragic figure is the subject of a compelling biography by Rosemary Sullivan. Very few lives would seem to demand more than 600 pages, and certainly not the life of someone famous by accident of birth. But Alliluyeva’s trajectory—from Kremlin princess with a perfume named after her (Breath of Svetlana) to living in a cabin in the Wisconsin woods—merits it. It’s to Ms. Sullivan’s credit that, at least in these pages, Alliluyeva herself is proved wrong. She is a fascinating person not simply because of her name but because she was a willful, intelligent, passionate woman who resisted being gawked at as a freak of history: the monster’s pretty daughter.

Alliluyeva’s life divides neatly into two periods: her Soviet existence before her defection in 1967 and, as she put it, “the modern jungle of freedom” where she struggled to make a life. Drawing on a combination of interviews with friends, hundreds of letters and, significantly, the three memoirs written by Alliluyeva herself, Ms. Sullivan takes us confidently through an eventful life that converged with many of the central events and personalities of the Cold War.

Stalin enjoyed her when she was a lively red-headed young girl, making her dance for his fellow Bolsheviks and showering her with affection when he wasn’t being withholding and harsh. It took her time to see it, but it was her father who shattered “that place of sunshine I call my childhood,” as Alliluyeva referred to her very early years.


Political Influence of Animal Farm

In the ideological struggle that was one facet of the cold war, Animal Farm, together with its successor Nineteen Eighty-Four, played an important role. As a consequence, its author came to achieve an eminence that approached a kind of mythic status. Part of the status derived from his authorship of two books that had a powerful emotional appeal in calling attention to the evils of the Stalinist regime. Of these, it is clear that Animal Farm locates that regime as its primary target. Nineteen Eighty-Four, on the other hand, while certainly including the Soviet Union as the most obvious example, targets the general threat of the totalitarian state and its looming presence.

The enlistment of Animal Farm in the cold war came about initially as a result of the novel’s astounding popularity among readers. The American Book of the Month Club offered it as a selection in September 1945, and it proved to be a phenomenal success. In England, also, it became a best-seller, read among others by the Queen mother (the mother of Queen Elizabeth II) and Winston Churchill, certainly not Orwell’s target audience. In fact the readership he most immediately had in mind were the left-wing intelligentsia, who had turned a blind eye to the fact that Stalin’s Russia represented a total repudiation of socialism and was in fact a murderous, tyrannical dictatorship.

As for its impact beyond the Iron Curtain, its power was made evident after the collapse of the Soviet empire in the testimony of those who had read the book in translations smuggled into Eastern Europe. It turns out that the proliferation of translations was not entirely a natural consequence of the book’s appeal. Many of these were financially underwritten by the United States Information Agency (USIA):

The U.S. government was heavily involved in these translations. At the State Department, Dean Acheson authorized payment for the translation rights to Nineteen Eighty-Four in 1951. Beginning with the Korean edition of Animal Farm in 1948, the U.S. information Agency sponsored translations and distribution of Orwell’s books in more than thirty languages. The voice of America also broadcast Animal Farm (1947) and Nineteen Eighty-Four (1949) in East Europe (Rodden, Politics, 202n).

In the case of one early translation, the Ukrainian, for which Orwell wrote an explanatory preface (see Prefaces), the American authorities intercepted an attempt to smuggle copies to the East. Observing diplomatic protocol, they turned them over to the Russians. But as Allied-Soviet relations deteriorated, the British and the Americans increasingly played hardball, using Animal Farm in their pitching repertory. The reason the book proved so effective is that the animals’ fate fairly accurately described the lives of people trapped in the communist satrapies of Eastern Europe. In the four decades of the cold war, the book retained its extraordinary popularity in the West. In English and American secondary schools, it was required reading, leaving its young readers with a general, if vague, impression of communism as a malevolent force in the world.


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Community Reviews

I am a huge fan of historical fiction, especially when it’s about a time, place or person I know little to nothing about. The Red Daughter covers Svetlana Alliluyeva, the only daughter of Joseph Stalin, so it fit the bill.

The book purports to be a collection of excerpts from her private journals, letters and Editor’s Notes, written by Peter Horvath, the lawyer who helped her reach the US.

The chapters acting as her journal entries look back at her life starting with her memories of her mother’s I am a huge fan of historical fiction, especially when it’s about a time, place or person I know little to nothing about. The Red Daughter covers Svetlana Alliluyeva, the only daughter of Joseph Stalin, so it fit the bill.

The book purports to be a collection of excerpts from her private journals, letters and Editor’s Notes, written by Peter Horvath, the lawyer who helped her reach the US.

The chapters acting as her journal entries look back at her life starting with her memories of her mother’s suicide and the difficult relationship she had with her father. But I had to question if this were truly a journal, would the conversations have been recorded in detail? The book rings more true when Svetlana is just sharing her thoughts, whether about her father, Mother Russia, communism, her new adoptive country, living in exile or her children.

It’s hard to know what to make of Svetlana. She leaves Russia, her children ages 16 and 21, behind, with no warning. She thinks it’s for their own good. But what would they feel or believe? And her willingness to rush into a marriage after only a few weeks. This isn’t a woman I could really relate to or feel sympathy for.

Peter, as the editor, brings his side of the story to light. He and Svetlana had a complicated relationship starting when they presented themselves as Mr. and Mrs. Staehelin to get her to the States.

The writing is lush. “There is a kind of drunkenness one finds only in Russia. The Irish don’t know it, the French, the Greeks. An ecstasy of melancholy. The oldest lament in the world. A sadness that has no limits and somis very close to joy, but never reaches it. Joy’s dark cousin.”

Unfortunately, the pace of the book is not consistent and there are times it positively drags. I just was not interested in her affair. And again, if this book was based on her journals, shouldn’t there have at least been more of her thoughts on the affair? Instead, we just get where they met up and how fast the clothes came off.

In an interesting aside, the author’s father was the lawyer who actually accompanied Svetlana to America and was the one who actually gave her away at her marriage to Sid Evans. But there was no affair between them. And there were no journals.

This book had a strong premise and started off on a promising note. It just didn’t live up to its potential. And I was upset to learn from the Author’s Note how much of the book was entirely made up. Not what I expect from something calling itself historical fiction.

My thanks to netgalley and Random House for an advance copy of this book. . more

I tend to find anything to do with the history of the Cold War era and Eastern Europe interesting – fiction and non-fiction. The Red Daughter is an odd mixture of both. I read it with interest but I’m still trying to figure out what to make of it. The book is described as a novel, but it is about Svetlana Alliluyeva, who was Joseph Stalin’s daughter, focusing on the time in her life after she immigrated to the United States. In real life, the author’s father was an American lawyer who 3.25 stars

I tend to find anything to do with the history of the Cold War era and Eastern Europe interesting – fiction and non-fiction. The Red Daughter is an odd mixture of both. I read it with interest but I’m still trying to figure out what to make of it. The book is described as a novel, but it is about Svetlana Alliluyeva, who was Joseph Stalin’s daughter, focusing on the time in her life after she immigrated to the United States. In real life, the author’s father was an American lawyer who accompanied Alliluyeva as she went to the US. The novel includes a central character who was a lawyer who played such a role in Alliluyeva’s life. But the author proclaims in the afterword that the relationship between Alliluyeva and the lawyer in the novel is entirely fictional, and does not reflect the real relationship between his father and Stalin’s daughter. The book also purports to be based on Alliluyeva’s journal as it was delivered to her lawyer after her death, but it turns out there was no such journal or delivery. Weird, I know. Much of the book portrays Alliluyeva as a difficult person who led a difficult life. If there was no such historical figure as Svetlana Alliluyeva, I’m not sure there would be any reason to read this novel. Given the admission that much of this book was made up, it’s not to be read for the purpose of understanding Alliluyeva. So why read it? I’m not sure, but I did read it with some interest. I guess I’m still feeling a bit perplexed about this one. Thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for an opportunity to read an adance copy.
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Svetlana Alliluyeva is the only daughter of the Soviet dictator, Joseph Stalin. Stalin was a brutal leader and millions of his own people died during his horrific reign. He was a cold, insensitive man. But he loved his little girl and called her “my little housekeeper”. Then Svetlana grew up and fell in love with a young man who her father didn’t like. He cruelly had the man arrested and deported to Siberia. Thus began the estrangement between Svetlana and her father.

In 1967, Svetlana decided to Svetlana Alliluyeva is the only daughter of the Soviet dictator, Joseph Stalin. Stalin was a brutal leader and millions of his own people died during his horrific reign. He was a cold, insensitive man. But he loved his little girl and called her “my little housekeeper”. Then Svetlana grew up and fell in love with a young man who her father didn’t like. He cruelly had the man arrested and deported to Siberia. Thus began the estrangement between Svetlana and her father.

In 1967, Svetlana decided to defect to the United States. She left behind her two children, I believe the daughter was 16 and the son was 22, if I remember correctly. The CIA sent a young lawyer, Peter Horvath, to smuggle her out of Russia. This was a huge and stressful decision on her part and led to much publicity here in the US and complete alienation by her children. All Svetlana wants is a peaceful American life away from her father’s evil name. She attempt to find that life in Princeton, NJ. When an invitation by the widow of architect Frank Lloyd Wright comes, she decides to see what Taliesin West is all about. She’s pulled into the cultist community there and exchanges one dictator in her life to another, the controlling Olgivana Lloyd Wright, who believes Svetlana has money that the community could use.

The book slightly covers Svetlana’s younger years but mostly concentrates on the time after her defection to America. Interestingly, the author’s father is the young lawyer who accompanied Svetlana to America. The author is given his father’s private papers to use so there are parts of actual letters in this book. However, the author departs from accurate history in several respects. I find it very odd that he chooses to invent a romantic interest between Svetlana and her lawyer, especially since that lawyer was Schwartz’s own father and the love triangle would have involved his mother. I can see that from a literary sense it was a good choice but I much prefer a historical novel more based on fact than fiction otherwise, I would have given this sensitive novel 5 stars. It does seem that most of the book is factual, other than the change of some names and the switching of the sex of some children mentioned and of course the romantic relationship between Svetlana and Peter.

Svetlana’s life was certainly a tragic one and she’s a very sympathetic character. She struggles for so many years with her abandonment of her two oldest children. She’s a broken woman in many ways and my heart bled for her situation and her confusion. It’s a heart breaking, engrossing story and this author, being a very talented one, brings Svetlana back to life. I’ve always been very interested in the life of Frank Lloyd Wright and found that part of the book fascinating. Based on what I know of how Taliesin West was run after his death, I found all of that to be very believable. This historical novel has inspired me to read Svetlana’s own memoirs that have been published or possibly some biographies on her fascinating life.

This book was given to me by the publisher in return for an honest review.
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THE RED DAUGHTER, by John Burnham Schwartz, is the historical fiction account of Stalin’s daughter and her defection to the United States.

Svetlana Alliluyeva’s story is told, primarily, in the format of her journal and accompanying “Editor’s Note”s from the perspective of attorney Peter Horvath who brings Alliluyeva to America at the instruction of the CIA.

Svetlana is a woman whose personality is as sharp and as fractured as the shards in a kaleidoscope. This, supposedly, a result of growing up THE RED DAUGHTER, by John Burnham Schwartz, is the historical fiction account of Stalin’s daughter and her defection to the United States.

Svetlana Alliluyeva’s story is told, primarily, in the format of her journal and accompanying “Editor’s Note”s from the perspective of attorney Peter Horvath who brings Alliluyeva to America at the instruction of the CIA.

Svetlana is a woman whose personality is as sharp and as fractured as the shards in a kaleidoscope. This, supposedly, a result of growing up with the brutal USSR dictator Joseph Stalin as her parent. Once in the States, Alliluyeva is free of Stalin’s restriction and is faced with a multitude of choices. Her mind can change quickly and without reflection on possible results. We are left with a character often in a manic state.

Will Svetlana find her happiness and all of her dreams fulfilled by her defection? Can one ever make life-changing decisions without suffering any consequences?

THE RED DAUGHTER is not a book that I enjoyed. I found its organization left the story shallow in some respects. Since I love history and historical fiction I was very enthusiastic about reading THE RED DAUGHTER prior to receipt. However, I think I will need to read another of Mr. Schwartz books to discover his voice as an author.

I thank Random House Publishing for this gift in exchange for an impartial review.
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The Red Daughter has no doubt been a huge labour of love for the author, and it really shows in this exceptional hybrid biography/fiction. It is primarily a cleverly disguised account of one fearless woman and the life and times in which she lived. Svetlana Alliluyeva, notorious tyrannical leader Joseph Stalin&aposs only daughter, managed to embarrass the Soviet Union by defecting in 1967 and becoming a naturalised citizen of their sworn enemy: the United States. This book mainly follows the defecti The Red Daughter has no doubt been a huge labour of love for the author, and it really shows in this exceptional hybrid biography/fiction. It is primarily a cleverly disguised account of one fearless woman and the life and times in which she lived. Svetlana Alliluyeva, notorious tyrannical leader Joseph Stalin's only daughter, managed to embarrass the Soviet Union by defecting in 1967 and becoming a naturalised citizen of their sworn enemy: the United States. This book mainly follows the defection and the time afterwards as she tries to settle and effectively start her life anew. It proves a difficult task with the struggles laid bare throughout the text.

Of course, Washington jumped at the chance to take her in most likely due to the invaluable information she may be willing to provide about the regime back in her homeland and the propaganda it would create. But it was also possible that she could be an agent of Moscow a member of the KGB spying and feeding information back to help her father, but it appears they were willing to take that risk. Because this is primarily based in fact I found it incredibly fascinating it's easy to see that Svetlana had courage and passion for what she believed in and the was a truly inspirational figure who was ahead of her time and burdened by her tricky heritage.

What makes John Burnham Schwartz an authority on Svetlana you ask? Well, when travelling from Russia to the US in secret she needed an escort, and that escort came in the form of CIA agent, Peter Horvath the author's father, who became a very close and loyal confidant of Ms Alliluyeva. Based on his father's reminiscences as well as his own extensive research into Svetlana's life, John Burnham Schwartz recreates this dramatic story of a woman's search for a new life and a place to belong. Schwartz paints a compelling and eminently readable biography with evocative and imaginative prose that makes this both moving and absorbing. Highly recommended. Many thanks to Corsair for an ARC. . more

This historical novel looks at the life of Svetlana Alliluyeva, the only daughter of Joseph Stalin. The author uses an unpublished memoir as the device to tell her story, which is really a loosely disguised biography. This memoir is left to Peter Horvath, who was sent to Switzerland to escort Svetlana to the United States, when she defected.

Although Stalin is, obviously, the reason why Svetlana is of historical interest, the character herself remembers her mother as central to her childhood. Sh This historical novel looks at the life of Svetlana Alliluyeva, the only daughter of Joseph Stalin. The author uses an unpublished memoir as the device to tell her story, which is really a loosely disguised biography. This memoir is left to Peter Horvath, who was sent to Switzerland to escort Svetlana to the United States, when she defected.

Although Stalin is, obviously, the reason why Svetlana is of historical interest, the character herself remembers her mother as central to her childhood. She was, of course, the most famous Cold War defector and it is interesting to read of the horror of the airline pilot when he discovers she is aboard, for fear that the Russians will do something to prevent them arriving in the US.

However, arrive in America, Svetlana does albeit without her two children, who she leaves behind. This is not only her story, but that of Peter’s and of the relationship that he shares with her. This is a very moving, and interesting account, of an amazing life, with much of the emphasis on the time following her defection to the US although her early life is covered. Svetlana seems quite lost at times and you do feel a huge amount of sympathy for her and the burden of her heritage. I received a copy of this book from the publisher, via NetGalley, for review.

I doubt the name Svetlana Alliluyeva means anything to most of us today, but Joseph Stalin’s daughter was a political hot potato when she defected from Mother Russia during the Cold War. Whether you know of her, and regardless of your knowledge of the Cold War and Russian history, you will tear through this novelization of Svetlana’s life. Mr. Schwartz writes of her confusing and privileged young life and provides the background to her defection, but the story is primarily that of her life aft I doubt the name Svetlana Alliluyeva means anything to most of us today, but Joseph Stalin’s daughter was a political hot potato when she defected from Mother Russia during the Cold War. Whether you know of her, and regardless of your knowledge of the Cold War and Russian history, you will tear through this novelization of Svetlana’s life. Mr. Schwartz writes of her confusing and privileged young life and provides the background to her defection, but the story is primarily that of her life after arriving in the U.S., and it is totally engrossing.

Intelligent, guarded and seemingly hard, Svetlana hides her vulnerability and her past, to the extent that she can or is allowed to but her life as her father’s child and as an adult under the rigid control of Soviet society leaves her unprepared for Western life and choices. She is haunted by the two nearly adult children she left behind the U.S.S.R. tantalizes her with them, and U.S. authorities fear her children will be used to lure or harm her. There is a brief remarriage, and a baby boy born late in Svetlana’s life. She adores this child, hides his grandfather’s identity from him until he is a young teenager, and there are traumatic consequences. You will swear that what you have before you is non-fiction reading as fiction, but, no. The strength of this work is the story - fiction reading as blisteringly masterful fiction.

Available to everyone on April 30.

Full Disclosure: A review copy of this book was provided to me by Random House Publishing Group / Random House via NetGalley. I would like to thank the publisher and the author for providing me this opportunity. All opinions expressed herein are my own. . more

via my blog: https://bookstalkerblog.wordpress.com/
&aposShe survived her life, which maybe under the circumstances is maybe sort of heroic.&apos

John Burnham Schwartz takes liberty with his fictions, imagining the life of Josef Stalin’s daughter Svetlana Alliluyeva, as she defects from the communist state to America in 1967, leaving behind her son and daughter, carrying with her the stain of her father’s infamy. Always thereafter to be ‘a foreigner in every sense of the word’ having left her homeland, a via my blog: https://bookstalkerblog.wordpress.com/
'She survived her life, which maybe under the circumstances is maybe sort of heroic.'

John Burnham Schwartz takes liberty with his fictions, imagining the life of Josef Stalin’s daughter Svetlana Alliluyeva, as she defects from the communist state to America in 1967, leaving behind her son and daughter, carrying with her the stain of her father’s infamy. Always thereafter to be ‘a foreigner in every sense of the word’ having left her homeland, a terrible mother to the two children she abandoned, that even Americanizing herself through marriage, now Lana Peters can never remove the blood that runs through her veins. Though there is an electric current that runs between Svetlana and her young lawyer Peter, loosely based on the author’s own father, the meat of the novel is in the tragedy of being Stalin’s daughter, it is a poisonous legacy. The cruel truth behind her mother’s erasure, the rest of her people ‘exiled or in prison by her father’s decree’, aunts and uncles arrested and executed, even her own brother Yakov captured by the Nazis wasn’t worth a prisoner trade. Her father controlled her life, who she was permitted to fall in love with, the state too ever a watchful eye reporting back to Stalin, there wasn’t an emotion felt, a movement made that wasn’t under scrutiny. A caged child, fed a diet of lies, not even knowing the truth behind her mother’s death. Daring to fall in love with a Jewish filmmaker, which her father forbid it seems no shock he was sent to labor camps. There was an arranged marriage, producing her daughter Katya. There was a deep love for an ill Indian man, whom she met while in hospital for her own treatment, of course she wasn’t allowed to marry him. Within the novel as in life, she journeys to India to scatter his ashes upon his passing. With her father’s death, the only release was to make a new home, to become someone else and remaining in her homeland was an impossibility.

“Svetlana’s entry into our marital orbit was something neither Martha nor I ever recovered from. Our own personal Cold War, you might say…” of course the story fictionalized a romance between Peter and Svetlana, their intimacy a window into her unsettling life in America. It would be a spot of happiness were it true too. Here, she will never escape being her father’s daughter, not even by marrying Sid and giving birth to an American son. We follow her tortured path, living with rumors about her Russian children, Katya and Josef who have forsaken their mother (were barred really from speaking to her, as she was a traitor to the Motherland) and wonder will they ever reunite but knowing that if the ‘future has defected’, then the past keeps its grave hands upon her feet. We suffer with Peter, who can’t help but wonder at the woman behind the eyes and fall in love with her. A love cultivated in letters and visits. In 1984, Svetlana appears as a star of the international press conference at the Moscow offices of the Soviet Woman’s National Committee. With her son Yasha, she shockingly renounces her American citizenship. She was ready to unite her family at last, return to her now grown children, who needed her. It wasn’t to last, tumultuous winds were always blowing through her life and again she leaves her homeland.

It would do one good to research the real story behind Svetlana, but this was a fascinating novel regardless of how true to facts the author leaned. She did seek political asylum and she was invited by Frank Lloyd Wright’s widow to visit the studio in Scotsdale, she did marry an architect and have a child with him, but it was a daughter named Olga not a son. Looking her up, she seems like a very fascinating woman too. John Burnham Schwartz tells us in his author’s note that he used his father’s ‘expansive Svetlana file’ with original material as his father ( lawyer Alan U. Schwartz) did travel under CIA cover to escort Svetlana Alliluyeva, the only daughter of Josef Stalin into the United States. She was a part of his family, that much is fact, but it is a fictional novel and his father did not have a love affair with her. Living in the shadow of such a father as Stalin (undeniable monstrous) , one can only wonder at what went on inside of her, stuck between cultures, unable to shed the horrors of her father, removed from her children… it’s a hell of a life.

Publication Date: April 30, 2019

Written in the style of a memoir, this is a novel about Joseph Stalin&aposs only daughter, who defected to the US.

Perhaps due to the memoir style, there is a lot of "telling" rather than "showing", and the narrative feels very disjointed, hopping from one thing to the next and only briefly detailing important events in Svetlana&aposs life that could have been used to really flesh out the characters and story.

I was really hoping this novel would give me great insight into a historical figure and subject Written in the style of a memoir, this is a novel about Joseph Stalin's only daughter, who defected to the US.

Perhaps due to the memoir style, there is a lot of "telling" rather than "showing", and the narrative feels very disjointed, hopping from one thing to the next and only briefly detailing important events in Svetlana's life that could have been used to really flesh out the characters and story.

I was really hoping this novel would give me great insight into a historical figure and subject matter I don't know much about but I feel like it didn't tell me much more than I could have learned from reading Svetlana's Wikipedia page.

Advanced review copy from publisher via NetGalley. My opinions are my own.


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