Josef Stalin’s daughter, who denounced communism after defecting during the cold war, has died in the US after living out her remaining years there in seclusion.
Svetlana Peters, whose quest to find her own identity saw the only daughter and last surviving child of the dictator take on three names, had described her father as “a moral and spiritual monster” after the CIA helped her to escape the Soviet Union in 1967 which caused a diplomatic furore.
Born Svetlana Stalina, she adopted her mother’s last name, Alliluyeva, following her father’s death in 1953. But she ended her life as Lana Peters – the identity she adopted after claiming political asylum in the US.
After living many years in the public eye, she spent her final days in seclusion. She died of colon cancer on 22 November in Richland County, South Carolina, it emerged. She was 85.
Frequently moving countries, sampling religions from Hinduism to Christian science, the four-times married Peters lived a life which could grace the pages of any novel, and saw her tales inside the Soviet Union earn her two best-selling autobiographies.
She wrote two best-selling memoirs, including Twenty Letters to a Friend which earned her about £1m.
But in a rare interview in 1990 with the Independent newspaper, she said she had no money and no income from her books and was living with her daughter, Olga, in a shared rented house.
Her decision to leave the USSR – which she said was partly motivated by the poor treatment of her third husband by Soviet authorities – was considered a massive public relations boost for the US and a huge embarrassment to the Soviets.
Upon her arrival in New York City, she gave a press conference denouncing her father’s regime, saying: “I have come here to seek the self-expression that has been denied me for so long in Russia.”
But she was denounced by Soviet Premier Alexei Kosygin who described her as “morally unstable” and “sick person”, saying: “We can only pity those who wish to use her for any political aim or for any aim of discrediting the Soviet country.”
Peters was the only daughter of Stalin by his second wife Nadezhda Alliluyeva, who killed herself in 1932. She graduated from Moscow university in 1949 and worked as a teacher and translator before leaving the Soviet Union.
At 18, she defied her father’s wishes and married Jewish student Aleksei Kapler. The couple had a son but the marraige was dissolved and her ex-husband was banished to a Siberian labour camp.
Her second husband was Yuri Zhadanov, with whom she had a daughter, but the marriage was dissolved following the wedding to her third husband Brijesh Singh, an Indian communist, in 1964.
After she defected to the US, she married for a fourth time to William Wesley Peters and the couple had Olga, before divorcing in 1973. After living in Britain for two years, Peters returned to the Soviet Union in 1984 to be reunited with the two children she had left behind.
But she returned to the US just a year later where she spent the remainder of her life. 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 US 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.”