Stalin's daughter Svetlana dies in the US

 

The only daughter of Soviet dictator Josef Stalin, Svetlana Peters, who denounced communism after a Cold War defection worthy of a novel, has died in the United States, authorities said yesterday.

She died on 22 November, age 85, from colon cancer, according to Benjamin Southwick, the county attorney in Richland County, Wisconsin. He said the county coroner had confirmed her death.

Svetlana had settled in central Wisconsin after marrying architect William Peters, an apprentice to Frank Lloyd Wright, in 1970. They lived in Spring Green, near Madison, the site of Wright's Taliesen workshop, and had a daughter, Olga, then divorced.

Her 1967 Cold War-era defection from the Soviet Union while in India involved the CIA, who helped her get to the United States where she was met by reporters upon her arrival. She denounced communism and her father and his policies, calling him "a moral and spiritual monster."

Josef Stalin died in 1953 after three decades of brutal rule and was deemed responsible for the deaths of millions.

She wrote two best-selling memoirs, including "Twenty Letters to a Friend" that earned her about £1m.

But in a rare interview in 1990 with The Independent, she said she had no money and no income from her books and was living with Olga in a shared rented house at the time.

She had left two children from her first two marriages in the former Soviet Union. Both marriages ended in divorce.

A documentary filmmaker, Lana Parshina, found her in a retirement home in Wisconsin and interviewed her for "Svetlana About Svetlana," a film about her complicated life that the New York Times said was "worthy of a Russian novel."

In an interview last year with the Wisconsin State Journal, she sought to retract a comment in the film in which she said she regretted coming to the United States and wished she had stayed in a neutral country, like Switzerland.

"I am quite happy here," she said.

"Wherever I go," she said, "here, or Switzerland, or India, or wherever. Australia. Some island. I always will be a political prisoner of my father's name."

She was once close to her father, who called her his "little sparrow," the New York Times reported. She was known as Svetlana Alliluyeva and compared to US actress Shirley Temple, with thousands of Russian children named Svetlana after her.

She was six years old when her mother died from suicide, though she was told she had been ill. Her brother was killed during the Second World War with Germany when her father refused to exchange him for a German general, the Times reported.

She studied history, not her chosen field of art, at her father's direction. He sent her first love, a Jewish filmmaker, to Siberia. She became a translator and taught literature and English.

Reuters

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