Wednesday, Dec. 14, 2011

Lana Peters

She wandered the world for much of her Cold War-era life and married four times. But Lana Peters was ultimately unable to escape the haunting reminders of her tyrant father, Soviet premier Josef Stalin. At the time of her death on Nov. 22 in Richland County, Wis., the Soviet leader's last surviving child, christened Svetlana Stalina, went by the name Lana Peters. In between she had taken the last name Alliluyeva, belonging to her mother Nadezhda, Stalin's second wife, who committed suicide in 1932.

Peters defected from the Soviet Union to the U.S. in 1967 via the American embassy in India, embarrassing the ruling communists and causing an international furor. She went on to become a best-selling author, writing several memoirs, but remained restless, moving repeatedly within the U.S. after becoming a citizen in 1978. She later moved to England and then eventually returned to the Soviet Union, where she had left behind two children, in the 1980s — only to go back to the U.S. little more than a year later.

In an interview with the Wisconsin State Journal in 2010, Peters revealed the psychological impact of some of the cruelty her father had inflicted upon her. "He was a very simple man. Very rude. Very cruel," she said. "He broke my life." Nikita Khrushchev, Stalin's successor, wrote in his memoirs that at a New Year's party in 1952 Stalin had grabbed Svetlana by the hair and forced her to dance. Peters herself wrote in her autobiography that her father had sent her first love to Siberia for 10 years.

"Wherever I go," she said in the 2010 interview, "here, or Switzerland, or India, or wherever. Australia. Some island. I will always be a political prisoner of my father's name."

A version of this text originally appeared on on Nov. 29, 2011.