The daughter of Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin, who fled to the West during the Cold War and became a best-selling book, has passed away. 85 years old.
According to Richland County Coroner Mary Turner, Lana Peters, formerly Svetlana Alliluyeva, passed away from colon cancer on November 22 in Wisconsin, where she intermittently resided after obtaining U.S. citizenship.
The defection of Peters in 1967, which she claimed was partially inspired by the torture of her late husband, Brijesh Singh, by Soviet officials, sparked a worldwide uproar and helped the United States public relations efforts.
Peters, whose two children survive, claimed that her identity was more complex than switching sides during the Cold War. In the 1980s, she even relocated back to the Soviet Union before coming home again more than a year later.
She intended to take the ashes of her deceased third husband, an Indian citizen, with her when she departed the Soviet Union in 1966 for India.
Instead, she entered the American embassy in New Delhi without being invited and requested political asylum. She traveled to the United States after a brief visit to Switzerland.
Peters traveled with a memoir of her time in Russia that she had written in 1963. Within months after she arrived in the United States, “Twenty Letters to a Friend” was released and quickly rose to bestseller status.
Upon her arrival in New York City in 1967, the 41-year-old said: “I have come here to seek the self-expression that has been denied me for so long in Russia.”
Peters claimed she had begun to question the communism she had been raised to believe in and now thought there were only good and evil people, not capitalists or communists. She had also discovered religion and believed that “it was impossible to exist without God in one’s heart.”
In the book, she described her father, who died in 1953 after 29 years of rule over the country, as a remote and paranoid man.
“He was a very simple man. Very rude. Very cruel,” Peters told the Wisconsin State Journal in a rare interview in 2010. “There was nothing in him that was complicated. He was very simple with us. He loved me and he wanted me to be with him and become an educated Marxist.”
Peters asserted that her identity involved much more than merely converting from Marxism to capitalism.
“People say, ‘Stalin’s daughter, Stalin’s daughter,’ meaning I’m supposed to walk around with a rifle and shoot the Americans,” she recalled in a 2007 interview for the documentary “Svetlana About Svetlana.” “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.”
It cost Peters a lot of money to defect. Josef and Yekaterina, two of her previous marriages’ children, were left behind in Russia. She was never close to either again because they were both hurt by her leaving.
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After her mother passed away in 1932, Peters was raised by a nanny with whom she had a strong bond. Jacob and Vasili were her two brothers. In 1941, the Nazis kidnapped Jacob, who later perished in a detention camp. By the age of forty, Vasili was a drunkard.
Before leaving the Soviet Union, Peters earned his degree from Moscow University in 1949 and spent time in Moscow’s literary circles while traveling, working as a teacher, and translating.
She had four marriages, the most recent to Frank Lloyd Wright’s apprentice William Wesley Peters. They had a daughter and were married from 1970 until 1973.
Three other books were written by Peters, one of which was the 1969 autobiography “Only One Year.”
She tried to live outside her father’s shadow, but it seemed like his legacy followed her throughout her life. She condemned his tactics, including herding millions of people into work camps, but frequently asserted that other Communist Party officials also contributed to the problem.
After spending two years in London, Peters, at 58, moved back to the Soviet Union with her daughter Olga in 1984, claiming she wanted reunited with her kids.
She criticized her stay in the United States and Britain, claiming that she never honestly had freedom after having her Soviet citizenship returned.
But, after a dispute with family members more than a year later, she requested and received permission to depart. She left for the United States and promised never to return to Russia.
In her later years, she began to live a solitary existence. Olga, who now resides in Portland, Oregon, and goes by the name Chrese Evans, is one of her survivors.
According to Russian media accounts, Josef Peters, Peters’ son, passed away in Moscow in 2008 at 63. Yekaterina, better known by her first name Katya, is a scientist.
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For almost 4 years, Jason Martin has been a freelance writer for newspapers, journals, blogs, books, and online material. He covers the most recent news as well as many other topics.