Svetlana Iosifovna Alliluyeva (28 February 1926 – 22 November 2011), later known as Lana Peters, was the youngest child and only daughter of Soviet Premier Joseph Stalin and Nadezhda Alliluyeva, Stalin's second wife. In 1967, she caused an international furor when she defected and became a naturalized citizen of the United States.
She was born on February 28, 1926 as Svetlana Stalina. Like most children of high-ranking Soviet officials, Alliluyeva was raised by a nanny and only occasionally saw her parents. Her mother, Nadezhda Alliluyeva, died on November 9, 1932. The death was officially ruled as peritonitis resulting from a burst appendix. While there were various other theories as to the cause of her death (murder on the orders of Stalin, or that she was killed by Stalin himself), it appears Nadezhda Alliluyeva actually committed suicide. According to Nikita Khrushchev, Stalin was very abusive toward Alliluyeva in the later part of their marriage. In his memoirs, Khrushchev recalled an occasion when Stalin, during a drunken rage at a party, dragged a crying Alliluyeva onto a dance floor by her hair.
At 16, Svetlana Alliluyeva fell in love with Aleksei Kapler, a Soviet filmmaker who was 40 years old. Her father vehemently disapproved of the romance. Later, Kapler was sentenced to ten years in exile in the industrial city of Vorkuta, near the Arctic Circle.
At age 17 she received a marriage proposal from Grigory Morozov, a fellow student at Moscow University. Her father grudgingly allowed the couple to marry, although he made a point of never meeting the bridegroom. A son, Iosif, was born in 1945. The couple divorced in 1947, but remained close friends for decades.
Alliluyeva's second marriage was arranged for her; that husband was Yuri Zhdanov, the son of Stalin's right-hand-man Andrei Zhdanov and himself one of Stalin's close associates. They were married in 1949. In 1950, Alliluyeva gave birth to a daughter, Yekaterina. The marriage was dissolved soon afterward. In 1963, Alliluyeva lived with an Indian Communist politician named Brajesh Singh. They were not officially married, but they lived together for four years until she left for the United States in 1967 following his death. From 1970–73, she was married to an American architect William Wesley Peters, with whom she had a daughter, Olga.
After her father's death in 1953, she worked as a lecturer and translator in Moscow. Her training was in history and political thought, a subject she was forced to study by her father, although her passion was literature and writing. Stalin forbade her to be taught in these subjects. She had also studied four languages since childhood, including German, French and English and was fluent in all. She was granted a pension with which she supported herself and her two children.
In 1963, while in hospital for the removal of her tonsils, she met Brajesh Singh, an Indian Communist visiting Moscow. The two fell in love. Singh was mild-mannered and highly educated but gravely ill with bronchiectasis and emphysema. The relationship grew deeper and stronger still while the couple were recuperating in Sochi beside the Black Sea. Singh returned to Moscow in 1965 to work as a translator, but he and Alliluyeva were not allowed to marry. The following year, 1966, he died. She was allowed to travel to India to take his ashes to his family to pour into the Ganges. She stayed in the family home in Kalakankar on the banks of the Ganges for eight months and became immersed in local customs, leading to her abandonment of atheism. In an interview on April 26, 1967, she referred to Singh as her husband but also stated that they were never allowed to marry officially.
On March 6, 1967, Alliluyeva approached the United States embassy in New Delhi. After she stated her desire to defect in writing, the United States Ambassador Chester Bowles offered her political asylum and a new life in the United States. Alliluyeva accepted. Because the Indian government feared condemnation by the Soviet Union, she was immediately sent from India to Rome in Italy. When the Alitalia flight arrived in Rome, Alliluyeva immediately traveled onward to Geneva, Switzerland, where the government arranged a tourist visa and accommodation for six weeks. She travelled to the United States, leaving her adult children back in the USSR. Upon her arrival in April 1967 in New York City, she gave a press conference denouncing her father's regime and the Soviet government. Her intention to publish her autobiographical book Twenty Letters to a Friend on the fiftieth anniversary of the October Revolution caused an uproar in the Soviet Union and the government threatened to release an unauthorized version. Publication in the West was therefore moved to an earlier date.
Alliluyeva moved to Princeton, New Jersey, where she lectured and wrote.
During her years in exile, it is claimed that Svetlana was never happy. Her children who were left behind in the Soviet Union disowned her. She had money problems and flirted with various religions. In 1970, Alliluyeva answered an invitation from Frank Lloyd Wright's widow, Olgivanna Lloyd Wright, to visit Taliesin West in Scottsdale, Arizona. Alliluyeva described the experience in her autobiographical book Far Away Music. Olgivanna believed in mysticism and had become convinced that Alliluyeva was a spiritual replacement for her own daughter, also named Svetlana. Years previously, Svetlana Wright (Olgivanna's daughter) had married Wright's chief apprentice William Wesley Peters and had died in a car crash. She came to Arizona and, within a matter of months, was engaged to Peters. They married and had a daughter, Olga (born 20 May 1971). William Peters was a member of the Taliesin Fellowship, a group of architects and designers who had been Wright's apprentices and acolytes and had remained dedicated to his work. Alliluyeva took the name Lana Peters, became part of the Fellowship community and migrated back and forth and with them between the Scottsdale and Taliesin studios.
By her own account, Alliluyeva retained respect and affection for Wes Peters, but their marriage dissolved both under the pressure of Mrs. Wright's influence and because of Svetlana's inability to adjust to the Taliesin cult-like lifestyle, which she compared to life in the Soviet Union under her father. In 1982, Alliluyeva moved with her daughter to Cambridge, England. In 1984, she returned to the Soviet Union, where she and her daughter were granted citizenship, albeit apparently retaining her acquired United States citizenship.
Alliluyeva settled in Tbilisi, Georgian SSR. In 1986, she returned to the United States, after "feuding with relatives".
Alliluyeva died on November 22, 2011 from complications arising from colon cancer in Richland Center, Wisconsin, where she resided. Alliluyeva's daughter Olga now goes by the name Chrese Evans and lives in Portland, Oregon.
Alliluyeva was baptised into the Russian Orthodox Church on March 20, 1962. During her years of exile she flirted with various religions. She then turned to the Greek Orthodox church and is also reported to have thought of becoming a nun. In 1967, Alliluyeva found herself spending time with Roman Catholics in Switzerland and encountered multiple American Christianities during her time in the United States. She received a letter from Father Garbolino, an Italian Catholic priest from Pennsylvania, inviting her to make a pilgrimage to the Virgin of Fatima, in Portugal, on the occasion of the 70th anniversary of 'the apparitions'. In 1969 Garbolino, who was in New Jersey, came to visit Alliluyeva at Princeton. In California she lived with Catholics Rose and Michael Ginciracusa for two years, from 1976. She read books by authors such as Raissa Maritain. In Cambridge, England, during December 1982, on the feast of Santa Lucia, Advent, Alliluyeva converted to the Roman Catholic Church.[