|Former communist leader Joseph Stalin was loved by some and hated by many [Reuters]|
The only daughter of Soviet leader Joseph Stalin, Lana Peters, who denounced communism after a Cold War defection that the New York Times once described as “worthy of a Russian novel” has died, authorities said.
Benjamin Southwick, a county attorney in her home state of Wisconsin, announced on Monday that Peters, who was born Svetlana Alliluyeva, had died of colon cancer on November 22 at the age of 85.
He said that a county coroner had confirmed her death.
Peters had settled in central Wisconsin after marrying architect William Peters, an apprentice to Frank Lloyd Wright, in 1970.
They lived in Spring Green, near Madison, the site of Wright’s Taliesen workshop, and had a daughter, Olga, before divorcing.
Her 1967 Cold War-era defection from the Soviet Union, while in India, involved the CIA, who helped her reach the US where she was met by reporters upon her arrival.
She denounced communism, her father and his policies – calling him “a moral and spiritual monster”.
Stalin died in 1953 after three decades of brutal rule and was deemed responsible for the deaths of millions.
Peters wrote two best-selling memoirs, including “Twenty Letters to a Friend” that earned her roughly $1.7m.
But in a rare interview in 1990 with the Independent newspaper, she said that she had no money and no income from her books and was living with Olga in a shared rented house at the time.
She had left two children from her first two marriages in the former Soviet Union. Both marriages ended in divorce.
Lana Parshina, a documentary filmmaker, found her in a retirement home in Wisconsin and interviewed her for “Svetlana About Svetlana,” a film about her complicated life.
In an interview last year with the Wisconsin State Journal, she sought to retract a comment in the film in which she said that 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.”
Peters was once close to her father, who called her his “little sparrow”.
As a young girl she was compared to US actress Shirley Temple, with thousands of Russian children named Svetlana in her honour.
She was six years old when her mother died from suicide, though she was told she had been ill.
Her brother was killed during the Second World War with Germany when her father refused to exchange him for a German general.
He also sent her first love, a Jewish filmmaker, to Siberia.
At her father’s direction, Peters studied history, not her chosen field of art, and ultimately became a translator and English teacher.