Alliluyeva, Svetlana (1926—)

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Alliluyeva, Svetlana (1926—)

Writer and sole surviving child of Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin. Name variations: Svetlana Stalin, but for most of her life she used her mother's maiden name Alliluyeva (also spelled Allilluyeva). Born Svetlana Iosifovna Stalina on February 28, 1926, in Moscow, USSR; youngest child and only daughter of Joseph and Nadezhda Alliluyeva-Stalin; graduated Moscow University, 1949; graduate study, Academy of Social Sciences, Moscow; married Grigory Morozov, in 1943 (divorced 1947); married Yury Zhdanov, in 1949 (divorced); reportedly married Mikhail L. Kaganovich, 1951; married, in common law, Brijesh Singh (d. 1966), around 1963; married James Wesley Peters, 1970 (separated 1971); children: (first marriage) Joseph Alliluyev (b. 1945); (second marriage) Ekaterina (Katya, b. 1950); (fourth marriage) Olga.

Selected writings:

Dvadsat pisem k drugu (translation by Priscilla Johnson McMillan published as Twenty Letters to a Friend, Harper, 1967); Tol'ko odin god (translation by Paul Chavchavadze published as Only One Year, Harper, 1969); also author of a pamphlet, Borisu Leonidoichu Pasternaku.

Svetlana Alliluyeva, the sole surviving child and only daughter of Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin, might never have gained notice in the Western World had it not been for her well-publicized defection to the United States in 1967. In an escape from the Indian Embassy, where she was being held for deportation back to Moscow, Alliluyeva slipped out to the American Embassy, setting in motion a journey to Switzerland, Rome, and, finally, freedom in the United States. A year later, Alliluyeva announced that she had burned her Soviet passport and, regretting only her separation from her children, had decided to apply for U.S. citizenship. She bought a house in the university town of Princeton, New Jersey.

Born in 1926, in post revolutionary Moscow, Alliluyeva was the youngest of three children. Both of her brothers died prematurely: Yakov, Stalin's son by an earlier marriage to Ekaterina Keke Svanidze , died in a Nazi prison camp during World War II after his father refused to intercede for his release; and Vasily, a Soviet air-force flyer, died of alcoholism in 1962.

Alliluyeva, apparently shielded from many of the political forces swirling around her at the time, characterized her early years as idyllic. Her father, known to the world as a ruthless dictator, was evidently an affectionate and doting father. Alliluyeva described her mother Nadezhda Alliluyeva-Stalin (1901-1932) as the acknowledged head of the household, who was respected and loved by everyone. "She was intelligent, beautiful, extraordinarily gentle and considerate in every relationship. At the same time she could be firm, stubborn and unyielding when she felt that a conviction could not be compromised." Like most Bolshevik women, Nadezhda left the children in the care of a nurse while she pursued her own political and intellectual interests. Alliluyeva attended music school as a preschooler and was tutored by a governess. Later, in addition to tutoring, she attended public school in Moscow. The family had an apartment in the Kremlin and summered in the country.

In 1932, Alliluyeva's world shattered when her mother, apparently tortured by Stalin's merciless political activities and his frequent verbal and physical abuse, shot herself. Alliluyeva was told and believed that her mother had died of a burst appendix, until she read of the suicide in an American magazine ten years later. Stalin, apparently angered over his wife's suicide, refused to stay in the home they had shared and moved the family to a new apartment. The children continued to summer with his wife's family, with whom Stalin had little interaction. Eventually, several members of the family fell victim to his purges.

Alliluyeva evidently remained close to her father until her girlhood affair with Jewish filmmaker Alexei Kapler, who was 40 at the time. The rabidly anti-Semitic Stalin was enraged at the romance and had Kapler banished to Lubianka Prison in Siberia for ten years. From then on, Alliluyeva saw little of her father, although he exerted rigid control over her life.

After her graduation from Moscow University, Alliluyeva entered into a series of marriages about which little is known. Her first husband, Grigory Morozov, was a fellow student at the university and, like Kapler, was Jewish. (Stalin, for some reason, appeared to endure this union, although he refused to meet or have anything to do with his new son-in-law.) After having a son Joseph, born in May 1945, they divorced in 1947. Two years later, this time with her father's blessing, she married Stalin's second in command, and they had a daughter Ekaterina (Katya) in 1950. When they, too, divorced, Alliluyeva took an apartment in Moscow, outside the Kremlin, where she lived quietly with her two children, receiving a modest allowance from the state. In 1953, the year of her father's death, there were unconfirmed reports that she had married Mikhail Kaganovich, the son of a high Soviet official.

In 1963, she met Brijesh Singh, an Indian Communist 17 years her senior. Their warm and loving relationship, which developed while they were both confined in a hospital, is detailed in her book Only One Year. Unable to legally marry because of Singh's foreign status, and denied permission to accompany him to India when he became seriously ill in 1966, it was only after his death that she received permission to return his ashes to his native village. She remained

there for two months, fully embracing the Hindu culture. Outspoken in her criticism of the Soviet Union, through friends she inquired about remaining in India, but the Indian government, fearing a threat to Soviet-Indian relations, did not encourage her. She was summoned to the Soviet Embassy in New Delhi, where she was told to stay until a flight back to Moscow could be arranged. It was then that she made her fateful escape to the American Embassy. She called her defection an attempt to "salvage the spirit."

Alliluyeva held various jobs in Moscow, occasionally teaching at the university and working as an English translator. In 1963, she wrote her memoirs "for the drawer," as they could not be published in Russia because of the strict censorship laws. Her literary career in America was considerably more successful. Her much heralded and long awaited Twenty Letters to a Friend, the story of her mother's family, which has been called "an allegory of the sufferings of the Soviet people as a whole," brought unprecedented offers and made her a great deal of money, most of which she gave to charity. Although the book was not acclaimed as a great work of art, it was favorably reviewed by critics. William Henry Chamberlin's review in the Wall Street Journal praised her "excellent gift of conveying personalities and recalling dramatic scenes." The Soviet government, which had earlier charged that CIA agents were helping her rewrite her memoirs, was relieved that the book "divulged no new secrets nor did it deviate from the Soviet view of Stalin's regime."

In 1984, Alliluyeva returned to her homeland, in a well-publicized visit with her 14-year-old daughter, Olga Peters . Although she had been stripped of her Soviet citizenship following her defection, it was restored after she criticized the West, claiming a lack of freedom. She returned briefly to the United States in 1986. Since 1986, she has avoided the news media, but there have been many Svetlana sightings. In 1995, one newspaper claimed she was destitute and living in London, frequenting a charity hostel that catered to indigents with severe emotional problems. In 1996, an Italian priest said that she had stayed for a year in a Roman Catholic convent near Rugby, England, in 1993. Alliluyeva had told him that she thought religion might give her peace.


Alliluyeva, Svetlana. Only One Year. NY: Harper and Row, 1969.

——. Twenty Letters to a Friend. NY: Harper and Row, 1967.

Moritz, Charles, ed. Current Biography Yearbook, 1968. NY: H.W. Wilson, 1968.

Barbara Morgan , Melrose, Massachusetts

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Alliluyeva, Svetlana (1926—)

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