American Elephants


R.I.P. Lana Peters: Stalin’s Only Daughter Dies at Age 85. by The Elephant's Child
November 29, 2011, 6:52 am
Filed under: Communism, History, Russia, The United States | Tags: , ,

Lana Peters was born Svetlana Alliluyeva Stalina. She was the only daughter of Joseph Stalin. She grew up in the Kremlin, where she was Stalin’s “Little Sparrow.”Her life was spent in the shadow of the man who helped to establish Soviet communism., and killed far more people than Hitler, who gets far more public opprobrium.

Her mother shot herself when Svetlana was 6, after her parents argued at a banquet, although Svetlana didn’t learn that until she was a teenager.

In 1929 Stalin demanded “the eradication of all kulak tendencies and the elimination of the kulaks as a class.” It was in effect a war declared on a nation of smallholding farmers. More than 2 million peasants were deported, 6 million died of hunger, and hundreds of thousands died of deportation.  That was followed by the Great Famine, when more than 6 million people in the Ukraine and the Northern Caucasus died of forced starvation in one of the darkest periods of Soviet Russia.

That was followed by the Great Terror, which in turn was followed by the Great Purge of the Red Army, which left Soviet Russia very short of experienced military officers for their battle against Nazi Germany.  Svetlana described seeing her father die of a stroke in 1953.  As the USSR began reforms under Khrushchev, her life became increasingly difficult and she dropped her father’s name in favor of her mother’s, Alliluyeva.

In 1967 Ms. Alliluyeva defected to the U.S.,with a manuscript of her memoir in hand.Her memoir “Twenty Letters to a Friend” was an international best seller, as was a sequel “Only One Year” which described her defection to the U.S. via India.  She had traveled there to deposit the ashes of her third husband, a prominent Indian communist, in the Ganges.

She became a U.S. citizen, and settled in Princeton N.J. She visited Taliesin West on an invitation from Frank Lloyd Wright’s widow, where she met and married architect William Peters, a Wright protégé. They had a daughter, though they soon split. In 1984, Ms. Peters returned to the USSR, reuniting with her son, a physician. She denounced the West as starkly as she had once denounced her homeland. She stuck that out for two years, and then returned to the US.

She eventually settled in Richland Center, Wisconsin, where she lived in obscurity in a one-room apartment.  She lived always in the shadow of her father’s life. It was not an easy history to bear.




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