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Alliluyeva, Svetlana Iosifovna


(b. 1926), daughter of Soviet general secretary Josef Stalin and his second wife, Nadezhda Alliluyeva.

The daughter of an old Georgian revolutionary friend, Sergo Alliluyev, Nadezhda Alliuyeva was sixteen when Stalin married her on March 24,1919. In addition to Svetlana Iosifovna, she had one son in 1919, Vasily. Svetlana also had an older half-brother Yakov (Jacob), the son of Stalin's first wife, Yekaterina Svanidze, a simple peasant girl, whom he married in June 1904 at the age of 25, but who died on April 10, 1907.

Nadezhda Alliluyeva's death in 1932, apparently a suicide following a quarrel with Stalin, deeply affected both her husband and her daughter. Morose, Stalin withdrew from Party comrades with whom he had socialized with his wife. Some believe her suicide contributed to his paranoid distrust of others.

Svetlana was twenty-seven when Georgy Malenkov summoned her to Blizhny, the nickname for Stalin's dacha at Kuntsevo, just outside of Moscow. In her first book, Twenty Letters to a Friend (1967), she poignantly described Stalin's three-day death from a brain hemorrhage. "The last hours were nothing but a slow strangulation. The death agony was horrible. He literally choked to death as we watched." Although she had lived apart from Stalin, who had always been "very remote" from her, she nevertheless experienced a "welling up of strong, contradictory emotions" and a "release from a burden that had been weighing on [her] heart and mind." After her father's death, Svetlana taught and translated texts in the Soviet Union. In late 1966, while in India to deposit the ashes of her late husband Brajesh Singh, she asked Ambassador Chester Bowles in the U.S. Embassy in New Delhi, India, for permission to defect to the United States. She left a grown son (Josef) and daughter (Katie) from two earlier marriages in the Soviet Union. Svetlana's defection caused an international sensation. "I could not continue the same useless life which I had for fourteen years," she told reporters on March 9, 1967. Settling in Locust Valley, New York, she wrote the abovementioned memoir describing the deaths of her two parents, and a second one two years later (Only One Year ), in which she described her decision to defect. Upon becoming a U.S. citizen, she married an American architect, William Peters, in 1970 and had a daughter by him. After separating from Peters, she returned to the Soviet Union in 1984 and settled in Tbilisi. She again left the USSR in 1986 and returned to the United States, but then settled in England during the 1990s.

See also: stalin, josef vissarionovich


Alliluyeva, Anna Sergeevna, and Alliluyev, Sergei Yakovlich. (1968). The Alliluyev Memoirs: Recollections of Svetlana Stalina's Maternal Aunt Anna Alliluyeva and her Grandfather Sergei Alliluyev, comp. David Tutaev. New York: Putnam.

Clements, Barbara E. (1994). Daughters of Revolution: A History of Women in the USSR. Arlington Heights, IL: Harlan Davidson.

Radzinskii, Edvard. (1996). Stalin: The First In-Depth Biography Based on Explosive New Documents from Russia's Secret Archives. New York: Doubleday.

Richardson, Rosamond. (1994). Stalin's Shadow: Inside the Family of One of the Greatest Tyrants. New York: St. Martin's.

Johanna Granville

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