Captain Moonlight's Notebook: Stalin was a jolly man, but a bit sarcastic

Share
Related Topics
SVETLANA Alliluyeva, 67, only daughter of the dictator, Joseph Stalin, and now living on charity at a home for elderly women in north London, refused to see her Russian cousins who were visiting the capital last week. She sent them a brief note saying merely that she was 'indisposed'. Her first cousin, Kyra Politskaya, 73, and Olga Alliluyeva, 38, her first cousin-once- removed, said Svetlana's response was not unexpected. The two women were discreet about their feelings, but I believe they were disappointed that on their first visit to London, Svetlana had chased them away.

A strong streak of paranoia, even schizophrenia, runs through this family - inevitably I suppose when so many of them suffered so horribly from their association with the Soviet leader. The fate of the Alliluyev family, which succoured Stalin when he was a revolutionary in Georgia and on the run from the Tsar's secret police and provided him with a wife and social stability, is a classic Russian tragedy.

From the time Stalin launched his purges in the 1930s, the Alliluyev family tree was cut to pieces by suicide (his wife), suspected poisoning (his brother-in-law), firing squad (another brother-in-law),jail (two sisters-in-law) and jail and exile (one niece). Yet as they died or were incarcerated these relatives by marriage refused to blame Stalin. They really loved and trusted the old bastard, believing they were victims of a conspiracy organised by Beria, Joe's secret policeman and executioner, and others jealous of the family's closeness to the dictator.

The tragedy of the family's revolutionary innocence is found in The Long Shadow, a history of Stalin's relatives by Rosamond Richardson and published by Little Brown last week. Kyra, Stalin's niece and the one he jailed and sent into exile, and Olga, his great niece, were brought to Britain for the book launch. I met them at Browns Hotel, off Piccadilly, after they had wolfed down an English tea.

Kyra is a former actress, rather timid by the standards of our thespians, but talkative, lightly flirtatious, twice married, trusting and kindly. Born in 1919 she was the eldest of Joe's nieces and nephews. Her father, Pavel Alliluyev, (elder brother of Stalin's wife Nadya, the mother of Svetlana) was in the Red Army, a close friend of Stalin and the one who died suddenly in mysterious circumstances in 1938, officially of a heart attack, after he had appealed for the life of several colleagues during the first great purges.

After his death, Kyra's mother Eugenia accused Beria of being an enemy of the family in front of Stalin. Eugenia was sent to jail for 10 years in 1947 during the second wave of purges and set free seven years later after Nikita Khrushchev had come to power.

'When mother returned home in 1954 she said at first: 'I knew it] I knew Stalin would release me.' My brother said this was nonsense because Stalin was dead. This shows the degree of faith my family had in Stalin. In my own case I believed in my soul that Stalin must take some responsibility because he did nothing to protect my family. None of us would have been touched if Stalin had objected,' Kyra said.

Why did he do it, I asked? 'I don't know. We are still wondering. He was just like that.' Did you hate him at the time? 'No I can't say I felt hatred towards Stalin. You made sure you never asked him for anything, though. He would just do the opposite. For example, I know that if I had appealed from my prison cell for help, as my jailers suggested, he would have locked me away for good, or perhaps sent me to the firing squad.'

As a child Kyra remembers Stalin as a jolly man, much more approachable than her Aunt Nadya, his wife, whom she described as austere. After the revolution the Alliluyevs and Stalin lived in the same Kremlin flat, sharing a common kitchen, though each family had separate rooms. They also shared the same dacha in the countryside.

'Stalin was very gay, he was hospitable, he liked people, he was always joking with us, but his humour was very sarcastic. He would find a weak spot and hit it hard. He liked scoring points, it wasn't just with me it was with everyone. He said all the time that I had 'a hole in my head', which in Russian means you are scatty,' she said.

'When I was arrested two months after my mother and was held in solitary confinement in Lefortovo prison for five months I was never told why I was in jail. My interrogators said only that I had spread rumours so I think Stalin decided I talked too much. I was sent away from Moscow to internal exile for five years.'

During this time her family's possessions were confiscated. When they returned to Moscow in the late 1950s and reoccupied their apartments Svetlana helped the family, especially with money. I asked whether the family still felt beholden to her. 'Why should we?' Kyra snapped back. 'She never earned a penny in her life. It was all given to her by the state.'

This, I decided, was a family where some wounds cannot heal.

(Photograph omitted)

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Industrial Gas Burner Engineer

£26000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Industrial Gas Burner Engine...

Recruitment Genius: Telesales Advisor - OTE £30,000

£15000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

h2 Recruit Ltd: Inside Sales Manager - Accountancy Software - £80,000 OTE

£50000 - £60000 per annum + £80,000 OTE: h2 Recruit Ltd: London, Reading , Sou...

h2 Recruit Ltd: Business Development Manager - BIM Software - £55,000 OTE

£40000 per annum + OTE £55,000 +Pension : h2 Recruit Ltd: An excellent opportu...

Day In a Page

Read Next
More vegetarian and vegan options are now available for consumers  

The stereotypes around vegetarians and vegans must stop: I've never worn tie-dye, I'm not weak, and I can't stand Morrissey

Liz Cookman
 

You wouldn't give your child untested medicine, so why would you give them an untested education?

Oliver Wright
Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Drifting and forgotten - turning lives around for ex-soldiers

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Turning lives around for ex-soldiers

Our partner charities help veterans on the brink – and get them back on their feet
Putin’s far-right ambition: Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU

Putin’s far-right ambition

Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU
Tove Jansson's Moominland: What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?

Escape to Moominland

What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?
Nightclubbing with Richard Young: The story behind his latest book of celebrity photographs

24-Hour party person

Photographer Richard Young has been snapping celebrities at play for 40 years. As his latest book is released, he reveals that it wasn’t all fun and games
Michelle Obama's school dinners: America’s children have a message for the First Lady

A taste for rebellion

US children have started an online protest against Michelle Obama’s drive for healthy school meals by posting photos of their lunches
Colouring books for adults: How the French are going crazy for Crayolas

Colouring books for adults

How the French are going crazy for Crayolas
Jack Thorne's play 'Hope': What would you do as a local politician faced with an impossible choice of cuts?

What would you do as a local politician faced with an impossible choice of cuts?

Playwright Jack Thorne's latest work 'Hope' poses the question to audiences
Ed Harcourt on Romeo Beckham and life as a court composer at Burberry

Call me Ed Mozart

Paloma Faith, Lana del Ray... Romeo Beckham. Ed Harcourt has proved that he can write for them all. But it took a personal crisis to turn him from indie star to writer-for-hire
10 best stocking fillers for foodies

Festive treats: 10 best stocking fillers for foodies

From boozy milk to wasabi, give the food-lover in your life some extra-special, unusual treats to wake up to on Christmas morning
Phil Hughes head injury: He had one weakness – it has come back to haunt him

Phil Hughes had one weakness – it has come back to haunt him

Prolific opener had world at his feet until Harmison and Flintoff bounced him
'I have an age of attraction that starts as low as four': How do you deal with a paedophile who has never committed a crime?

'I am a paedophile'

Is our approach to sex offenders helping to create more victims?
How bad do you have to be to lose a Home Office contract?

How bad do you have to be to lose a Home Office contract?

Serco given Yarl’s Wood immigration contract despite ‘vast failings’
Green Party on the march in Bristol: From a lost deposit to victory

From a lost deposit to victory

Green Party on the march in Bristol
Putting the grot right into Santa's grotto

Winter blunderlands

Putting the grot into grotto
'It just came to us, why not do it naked?' London's first nude free runner captured in breathtaking images across capital

'It just came to us, why not do it naked?'

London's first nude free runner captured in breathtaking images across capital