Lana Peters, Stalin’s Daughter, has Died

Something that isn’t covered well enough in American history classes is the number of people butchered by Joseph Stalin. Stalin ordered the death of more people than Hitler yet we are still willing to gloss over that fact since the Soviet Union was our ally during World War II. Imagine though that you were the child of one of these murderous individuals, how would you go through life? In many cases the children of murderous authoritarians end up taking after their parents and end up being the next rulers of the countries their parents terrorized. Lana Parker took a different route, she defected to the United States and eventually returned to the Soviet Union which makes her case far more interesting:

Her three successive names were signposts on a twisted, bewildering road that took her from Stalin’s Kremlin, where she was the “little princess,” to the West in a celebrated defection, then back to the Soviet Union in a puzzling homecoming, and finally to decades of obscurity, wandering and poverty.

At her birth, on Feb. 28, 1926, she was named Svetlana Stalina, the only daughter and last surviving child of the brutal Soviet tyrant Josef Stalin. After he died in 1953, she took her mother’s last name, Alliluyeva. In 1970, after her defection and an American marriage, she became and remained Lana Peters.

Ms. Peters died of colon cancer on Nov. 22 in Richland County, Wis., the county’s corporation counsel, Benjamin Southwick, said on Monday. She was 85.

It is interesting to note that she defected after her father’s death and the defection didn’t appear to be related with the actions of Joseph Stalin. Personally I’ve always wondered what it must be like having a father or mother known first and foremost as a murdering tyrant. Some children end up following the parent’s footsteps while others seem to completely rebel and choose a different path in life. What shapes these decisions is most interesting to investigate and speculate on.

While she did publish an autobiography after defecting to the United States I would find it interesting if she were to have written another one later in her life after her return and eventual second departure from the Soviet Union. I’m sure her outlook would have been different and would certainly have been worth reading.