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Stalin’s Daughter: American Citizen, Wisconsin Cheesehead?!

Our American Stories / Lee Habeeb
The Truth Network Radio
August 10, 2022 3:00 am

Stalin’s Daughter: American Citizen, Wisconsin Cheesehead?!

Our American Stories / Lee Habeeb

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August 10, 2022 3:00 am

On this episode of Our American Stories, entrepreneur, philanthropist, and America’s Cup winner Bill Koch doesn’t like being cheated. Tom Acitelli, author of Pilsner: How The Beer of Kings Changed The World, tells the story of how America's favorite drink came here and stayed here despite a world war and Prohibition. When 85-year-old Lana Peters passed away in 2011 from complications due to colon cancer, the nation seemed to have forgotten the woman who had become a sensation during the Cold War.  The History Guy recalls the extraordinary life of the woman whose defection to the United States represented a seminal moment in history.

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Time Codes:

00:00 - The Man Who Spent $35MM Fighting A $400k Fake Wine Fraud

10:00 - How The Pilsner Arrived, Survived, and Thrived in America

35:00 - Stalin’s Daughter: American Citizen, Wisconsin Cheesehead?!

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This is Lee Habib and this is our American Stories.

This next story, well, it's our Rule of Law series, where we tell stories about what happens when the rule of law is present or absent in our lives. 1,800 employees. Here's Bill. Which means you put a lot of energy and thought and everything else into it. And the same with a bricklayer. You know, he really loves his work. He takes a little extra care in doing it other than slapping it together. And the same thing with wine.

The great wine, she could really taste the love that the vintner had in making it. And so, that to me is highly offensive when someone is faking it. Bill found out that four bottles that were sold to him as Thomas Jefferson's were fake.

And then he found out that more were too. There's a huge code of silence because the faker doesn't want to know that he's faking. The middle man who's selling the wine doesn't really want to know if it's fake. In fact, there was one big auction house that was selling a lot of wine in New York in auctions. And they had to have this retailer deal with them to get through the laws. And the guy who owns the retail shop said, why are you selling a lot of fake wine in this auction? And the head in-house counsel versus the outhouse counsel said authenticity is an opinion. And we're not in the opinion business. We're in the business of making our margin.

So, just ignore it. And then the guys who buy the fake wine, if they find out it's fake, they want to get rid of it and get their money back. Primarily, they either dump it into the auction market or they give it to a charity to auction off. Or they find some sucker that will buy it. Some of the fake wines I bought were from charity auctions.

Because the guy gave it to him and he got a tax deduction on it and some other schmuck got him. Mainly me. I got him. And so I just said, I'm out on a crusade. A legal crusade.

To shine a bright light on it. And I also, I guess because when I was younger I was taken advantage of by people when I was naive. So, I said I just hate being cheated.

Hate it. One of the fakers actually offered to give Bill all of his money back. And Bill said, no, we're going to court.

That's right. Well, I ended up in one real long lawsuit, which we won hands down. And then after that everybody wanted to settle with me. And there was one guy who said, well, I sold you these fake bottles. Would you give them back to me so I could give them back to the guy that sold them to me? And so I said, all right, I will. But then I engraved on the bottles, counterfeit, and gave them back to him.

I haven't heard from him since. One big faker sent me a fax saying, why are you worried about fake wine? Even Jesus turned water into wine.

And I was hoping I could get him into a court in the Bible Belt. But I couldn't. And one guy had a huge collection of pre-World War II bottles of Petrus, which is one of the best wines in the world, and oversized bottles. And I bought a bottle of 1921 Petrus in a double magnum.

And I opened it up. God, that tasted like the cheapest wine I've ever had. I looked at it, and there was an article about this wine, about how it was found, and who found it, et cetera.

And it was rated 100 out of 100. That's why I bought this bottle. And what the guy did, the faker, a guy named Hardy Runestock, poured in 1957 wine into the bottle, and he made a fake label. We even found the place where he bought the bottle, and we found where he had the labels printed. And he poured in 1957 wine, put in some juice that made it taste old and smell old.

I said what he did was put moose piss in it for me. And we took this bottle to Petrus, and they said they never made big bottles pre-1945. And this one guy who had this huge collection of huge bottles called me up and said, are all our bottles fake? And we said, yeah, how do you know?

Well, we went to Petrus, and they said they never made them. And they said, oh, my God. And then a month later he called up and said, why don't you buy these bottles for me? And I said, why? And he said, well, it's good evidence. I said, well, I don't mean to pay you.

I'll just subpoena you. Unfortunately, Crusades turn out to be long and very expensive. Bill has spent $35 million going after the fakers over what was originally a $400,000 wine fraud. And some might say that's a Crusade not worth it, spending 87 and a half times the cost. But for Bill Koch, it is. The Crusade isn't about the wines. I mean, it's a little bit about the wines. But Bill could have bought new wines for far less. What it's really about to him is the rule of law. And Bill's pursuit of the rule of law ended up exposing an industry of tens of millions of fake wine. I try to say, well, it's bad business to cheat when you get caught. And great job, as always, by Alex.

And thanks to Bill Koch. A rule of law series, because let's face it, sometimes the cops can't get these people. And sometimes, let's face it, no one else can. Sometimes we the citizens have to go out and find these fakers.

But if we can't bring them to a court of law, if we can't have the rule of law, then we have nothing at all. Bill Koch's story, his Crusade against fake wine, and again, and against fake everything, here on Our American Stories. Folks, if you love the great American stories we tell and love America like we do, we're asking you to become a part of the Our American Stories family. If you agree that America is a good and great country, please make a donation.

A monthly gift of $17.76 is fast becoming a favorite option for supporters. Go to now and go to the donate button and help us keep the great American stories coming. That's And we continue here with Our American Stories. And up next, a story on one of America's favorite beverages.

Here's our own Monty Montgomery with a story. We Americans enjoy our beer. In 2018, we consumed about 6.8 billion gallons of it. And by far the most popular style we drink is Pilsner. Here's Tom Accatelli, author of Pilsner, How the Beer of Kings Changed the World, with more. Pilsner is the dominant style of beer in the world and has been for well over 100 years. All the major brands you can pick up Budweiser, Bud Light, Miller, Miller Lite, Heineken, Pabst, are based on Pilsner or imitations of the Pilsner style. They're everywhere.

They're, you know, every grocery store, bar, gas station, bodega, you name it. It's Pilsner. It was first made in a small, what was then a sort of a mid-sized city of the Austrian empire called Pilsen.

And what's now determined by the history of Pilsner is the city of the Austrian empire called Pilsen. And what's now the Czech Republic, the local aristocrats in Pilsen who had the right to brew and sell beer locally, they were getting tired of their beer, their local beer getting beaten out of the marketplace by beers from Bavaria just over the border. So the aristocrats in Pilsen are like, we're tired of losing market share to these guys, these Bavarians making these lighter, better beers.

They co-op what they're doing, right? So you can imagine, you know, they literally have meeting after meeting memos and manifestos about how to compete with Bavarian beer and knock it out of the marketplace in Pilsen. So what they do is they hire a Bavarian brewmaster named Josef Grohl who uses Bavarian know-how, Bavarian recipes, Bavarian techniques. In other words, just sort of imports German technique into a pile over the border and makes this beer for the burgers, for the aristocrats of Pilsen to sell. And he ends up making in late 1842, now it's lost to history whether Grohl himself intended for this to happen, but the specific ingredients he used and the water quality, the local water quality, which was very important to brewing then as now, turned out the lightest looking beer anyone had ever seen up to that point. Before that, beer for millennia is dark and it's thick and it's rich, it's like liquid bread and they weren't the color of sunshine. Pilsner was this lager made in Pilsen in 1842.

You know, it looks beautiful, right? It's bubbly, it's clear, it's crisp when you taste it. It's a beer that's unlike anybody has ever seen. Right from the get-go, Pilsner is extremely unique. And it quickly grows in popularity, first in the Austrian Empire, then in Central Europe, and then basically all over the world to the present day.

It picked the best time to be born and the best time to leave home, because it's born in this kind of supernova of technological change and political change, especially in Europe. The technological change is everything from the mass production of glass, which had never happened before in the history of humanity, because Pilsner looks great in a glass, it looks great poured, it looks great in glass bottles. The technology for fighting bacteria and infection, which can be deadly to beer and deadly to beer sales, comes along around at the same time. Brewing techniques, temperature measurement, all that is sort of blossoming around the same time as Joseph Parol is doing those first batches of Pilsner and Pilsen. And then you also have stuff like the railroad for better shipping. The first mechanical refrigeration starts up because Pilsner, like most lager beers, unlike ales, tastes better cold.

It's easier to preserve them too. But the political change is really what spurs Pilsner's story from sort of a local legend to worldwide fame. There's all these revolutions and counter revolutions in Europe, and a lot of Germans and Czechs fled the turmoil. They were done with these wars and fighting, and they settled in the United States, a lot of them. There were about a million Germans emigrated to the U.S. in the 1850s alone.

They find the most opportunity farther inland, so they settle in cities like Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Louis. They take their preference for lighter lagers and lighter colored lagers and lighter tasting lagers to the United States. And, of course, the dominant style by then is Pilsner.

And so that's how it spread, basically. Anywhere you had Germans in the mid to late 19th century, you were going to have beer, and the beer was overwhelmingly going to be Pilsner. Wherever Germans go, they bring this Jones for the lighter lager. And with the winds of the Industrial Revolution at their back, these immigrants created some of the most recognizable names in the beer industry today, including Anheuser-Busch. Eberhard Anheuser and Adolphus Busch were father-in-law and son-in-law, and they became business partners. Adolphus Busch basically rescued his father-in-law's business. He had a brewery that was failing, right? So after the Civil War in the early 1860s, Adolphus Busch begins to build the Anheuser-Busch brewing company into this mega conglomerate, and he does it largely behind a recipe for Pilsner imitation that he gets via a business partner of his who had been traveling in Europe and knew of the popularity of this lighter-colored, lighter-tasting lager called Pilsner. Brings it back to Adolphus Busch, says, can you make this for me?

He does, and he eventually acquires the rights to it. They name it after a Czech town called Budweiser, and that becomes just a sensation from the late 1870s onward. For many of the reasons that Pilsner itself became a sensation is that it just looked good.

It looked modern, it looked good in the glass, it looked good in a bottle. Anheuser-Busch is the biggest bottler of any food stuff at the time in the late 19th century, and it just takes off from there. I mean, there was sort of an arms race in the late 1900s between Frederick Pabst and Adolphus Busch to have kind of the biggest brewery in the U.S. and perhaps the world, and they were both racing each other with Pilsners. In Busch's case, it was Budweiser. In Pabst's case, it was what we now know as the Pabst Blue Ribbon. Because of this arms race, they end up just sort of sweeping all before them competition-wise and end up as the kings of brewing by 1900, by the 19-teens, and because of that, because of that race, Pilsner gets more and more ubiquitous and more and more unavoidable. And increasingly on the radar of temperance advocates wanting to end the sale and consumption of alcohol in the U.S. Back into the 1900s, right, there's sort of a movement to improve the United States.

You know, in many cases, well-intentioned. And one of the ways to improve it is to cut back on overconsumption of alcohol. Now, the U.S. in the early 1900s was not a beer country. It was whiskey, whiskey and cider. And Americans drank a tremendous amount compared with the rest of the world.

European visitors who chronicled their visits to the U.S. always noted how much and how frequently Americans drank. So there was an understandable temperance movement to sort of slow things down. Then what happens is you have this mass immigration of Germans, and they bring with them a different way of drinking and a different type of drink. They bring lighter lagers, which are much, much lower in alcohol than whiskey, and they drink it in beer gardens, and the beer gardens are family affairs, and the Germans are still, you know, despite the fact that they drink this beer, noted for their industriousness and their hard work. So it sort of clashes with what the temperance advocates have been telling people for decades, that if you drink, you know, you're going to be derelict and desolate and, you know, not contribute, you're not going to get up for work the next morning, et cetera, et cetera. German Americans disrupt this narrative. And so the temperance movement has to turn its efforts toward combating beer as well.

And they also have to turn their efforts toward combating the brewers behind the beer. And they have a very tough time of it, but they get a boon from World War I. America's enemy in World War I, of course, was the German Empire. So the temperance advocates seize on American skittishness about German culture. War ends in late 1918.

Prohibition passes in 1919, takes effect in 1920. I don't think it would have happened with the speed it did without the war and the anti-German feelings that the war engendered. It's just a fascinating slice of life and culture when you realize what happened over those 70 years, you know, and how pilsner and beer is right in the middle of it. And great American storytelling and history through the lens of beer, when we come back, more of this remarkable story of how the beer of kings changed the world. The story of pilsner continues here on Our American Stories. And we return to Our American Stories and the story of the pilsner with Tom Accatelli, author of Pilsner, how the beer of kings changed the world. When we last left off, anti-German sentiment in the U.S. was at an all-time high because of World War I and prohibition went into effect, impacting brewers profoundly.

Let's pick up where we last left off. With animosity towards Germans and German culture at an all-time high after World War I, the 18th Amendment was passed, ushering in prohibition. With their market dried up, brewers were forced to set aside beer and make other products to survive.

Pilsner was put on hold. Some of them made near beer. They switched to alcohol that could be used in machinery, but a lot of them didn't survive. It's a much smaller field of brewers in the United States post-1933 when prohibition ends.

And what that means is the ones who could survive, who could get by, who could skirt disaster, they come out with the ability to grow very fast. Their reach expands, and you see this massive consolidation in the industry where the big get bigger and the smaller kind of disappear. Before prohibition became the law of the land, there were over 4,000 breweries in the United States.

By 1975, there were 115. And that's where I think Pilsner starts to have a wider cultural effect. Marketing Pilsner becomes such an acute focus of these bigger breweries that they start to really innovate when it comes to advertising and marketing. So you get the quirky beer jingles, you get the cartoon characters, you get the sports partnerships, any number of things that we all know today and we can probably remember our favorite tag lines like taste great, less filling, all you ever wanted a beer and less. I mean, all those, you know, the champagne of beers, et cetera, et cetera, that comes about after prohibition and helps Pilsner grow its reach wider and helps these breweries get that much bigger. The Budweisers, the Millers, they grew and grew and grew.

Pilsner becomes so big you couldn't get away from it. The first big change comes when the Miller Brewing Company, which had recently been acquired by Philip Morris, the tobacco giant, they were laser focused on growing from, I think they were the eighth or ninth biggest brewery in the country. They wanted to be number two behind Anheuser-Busch. They know that they're not going to be number one. Anheuser-Busch is so far ahead of any brewer, maybe except for Heineken, in the entire world.

And how do they do that? They introduce Miller Lite. And this is the one I'm holding on to. Lite beer from Miller. It has a third less calories than the regular beer, it's less filling, and it tastes terrific, too.

I also love the easy-opening cans. Miller Lite kind of changes the game. There had been Lite beers before, but the marketing had always been toward people who maybe wanted to diet or to lose weight.

But the problem is, if they're trying to lose weight, they're not going to look to beer at all, whether it's lower in calories or not. So Miller Lite basically presented itself as quote, a low-calorie beer that tasted like beer. They wanted to be known as just beer, but with low calories. So they came up with the famous tagline, Lite beer from Miller. Everything you always wanted in a beer, and less. And it became this kind of sensation, Lite beer. Just a quick aside, this is another example of Pilsner's influence. Miller Lite put a fine Pilsner right on the bottle. You can still see it on the labels today. But Lite, L-I-T-E, or L-I-G-H-T, seeped into all sorts of foodstuffs.

And that point on in the 1970s. So you had Lite everything. But back to beer. So Lite beer happens, and it becomes, you know, Pilsner becomes even bigger and more influential. The United States had essentially become a beer desert. But things were about to change that would lead to a whole new industry being developed by innovating entrepreneurs. You had a growing number of people, mostly home brewers and their fans, who wanted more variety, who were tired of these beers that all seemed to look and taste the same.

And indeed they did. They start meeting sort of underground because home brewing was illegal in the United States, just sort of a quirk of post-Prohibition America. The federal government forgot to legalize it. They legalized winemaking coming out of prohibition, but not home brewing. But then that happens in 1978. There's a push on from California, from some lawmakers and home brew enthusiasts in California, to have home brewing legalized at the federal level. That happens in early 1978 and takes effect in 1979.

But what does that do? That sort of brings these home brewers out of the shadows. And people begin openly sharing information. And they begin openly selling and sharing materials and recipes.

So you have this sort of blossoming of underground entrepreneurial spirit turning pro. And that's where you get the sort of the first proliferation of smaller breweries in the United States in the late 1970s, early 1980s. So you have this infusion of knowledge and you have this counter reaction to the rise of light beer. If you wanted a richer tasting beer in the 1970s, up to that point, you had to make it yourself.

Or you had to like, chance upon it while in Europe or something like that. But suddenly you start to see the growth of micro brewing. Pilsner is still dominant, and it's still dominant today, because you now have just sort of this kaleidoscope of styles and breweries. Today there are over 8,000 breweries in the United States.

That's over double of what existed before Prohibition. And a big reason why these breweries exist is the Pilsner and its oversaturation in the market during the 1970s. But everything old is new again, and today the Pilsner is having a remarkable resurgence among even the people who tried to get away from it all those years ago. You know, history repeats itself, and beer is very much sort of a cyclical thing. I mean, people discover and rediscover different styles and different approaches all the time, and I think Pilsner is just kind of having a moment because craft brewing was a reaction to Pilsner's rise. And now I think the sort of rise of Pilsner within craft brewing is a reaction to craft brewing's rise. The defining feature, the defining characteristic of IPAs is bitterness. You know, the bitterness from hops, and so this sort of overwhelming prickly crispness and, you know, alcoholic kick.

So if you want something different, what do you do? You know, you turn to a lighter tasting, sweeter beer, and that's Pilsner. You could not have had this counter reaction toward Pilsner without the rise of the bitter IPAs and, you know, the heavier seasonal beers and then porters and ales and all that. Without those, you wouldn't have this reaction.

But again, you wouldn't have those without the rise of Pilsner originally. So it's kind of funny. They've all sort of intersected.

And there's no end in sight, too. That's the thing. There's this, you know, in many countries, federal governments or national governments regulate style and ingredients and proportions of ingredients in wine and spirits. But that's not the case for beer. You can call yourself whatever you want in the U.S. as long as you follow some, you know, guidelines as far as what you put on your label. You have to use a certain proportion of Merlot grapes if you're going to call yourself a Merlot, if you're going to call your wine a Merlot.

You don't have to use a certain proportion or a certain type of hop if you're going to call your beer an IPA. So it lends itself to this experimentation in the marketplace. And I think that's kind of a wonderful thing because it creates this experimental dynamic. And that brings everything full circle, too, because what is Pilsner to begin with? It was somebody 170 years ago experimenting with existing styles and ideas until they came up with something new.

And that's still going on today. And a special thanks to Monty Montgomery for that piece and Monty's, I believe Monty's passion is beer, sampling every kind possible. Also Tom Acatelli, a special thanks to him. He's the author of Pilsner, How the Beer of Kings Changed the World. And I keep thinking about that line, where Germans go, they bring their Pilsner. And think about that with Italians, too, and their contribution with food and Mexican Americans, Chinese Americans. And this is what we do here.

We eat each other's food, and then we marry each other. The story of Pilsner and the story of so much more American history and American life and culture here on Our American Stories. And we continue with Our American Stories, and we love telling stories about history. Our next story comes to us from a man who's simply known as the History Guy.

His videos are watched by hundreds of thousands of people of all ages over on YouTube. The History Guy is also heard here at Our American Stories. Here's the History Guy with a real beauty. The story of Stalin's daughter. On November 22nd, 2011, an 85-year-old woman named Lana Peters passed away in Wisconsin from complications due to colon cancer. Eventually, her death made it into some newspapers, but it seemed to go largely unnoticed by an American public that seemed to have largely forgotten who she was and all the attention that she had gained during one of the seminal events of the Cold War that happened on March 9th, 1967. Lana Peters, otherwise known as Svetlana Aliyeva, represented the contradictions of the era of the Cold War and was witness of some of the greatest crimes of that era.

She's most known because of her famous father, but is perhaps most notable because of how very different she was from him. The defection of a woman whose birth name was Svetlana Stalina, the youngest child and only daughter of Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin, deserves to be remembered. Born Joseph Yukashvili in the imperial state of Georgia, then part of the Russian Empire in 1878, Joseph Stalin already had a reputation for brutality when he was arrested and exiled by the Tsarist government in 1908. He had purportedly been responsible for a bank robbery in 1907 that had killed some 40 people, and had, as one historian put it, established himself as Georgia's leading Bolshevik. It was sometime during this period that he started using the name Stalin, meaning roughly, Man of Steel. After the October Revolution, Stalin became a trusted supporter of Vladimir Lenin and a vocal supporter of the brutal period of political repression and mass execution called the Red Terror. Appointed People's Commissar for Nationalities in 1919, he took Sergei Anoga's daughter, Nadezhda, who had worked as a clerk in Lenin's office, as his secretary.

The two married later the same year. At the time, Nadezhda was 18, and Stalin was a 40-year-old widower, his first wife having died of typhus in 1907. Stalin and Aljueva had two children, Vasily, born in 1921, and Svetlana, born in 1926. At the time of her birth, Stalin was General Secretary of the Soviet Union and had largely gained the upper hand in the struggle to replace Lenin following his death in 1924. As intrigues continued in the Soviet Union, Stalin's daughter was feted by both the Soviet people and her father, who showered her with gifts and called her Little Sparrow. She became a celebrity in her country compared to Shirley Temple in the United States. Thousands of babies were named Svetlana, so was a perfume.

But being the daughter of the Man of Steel, did not lead to an easy destiny. While she was being treated like Shirley Temple, Soviet collectivization of the agricultural sector, essentially forcing peasants onto collective farms, was resulting in various periods of famine. Over the period of collectivization, an estimated 14 million people died due to starvation.

On November 9, 1932, Yosef and Nadezhda had a public argument about collectivization policy at a dinner party. When they got home that evening, she went into a separate room and shot herself. To prevent scandal, her death was reported as because of an appendicitis. Her children, Vasily was 11 and Svetlana just six, were told the same lie for fear if they knew the truth, that they might accidentally reveal it. Svetlana did not know the truth of how her mother died until she read it in an American newspaper in 1942.

Nearly six decades later, she was quoted saying, I do regret that my mother didn't marry a carpenter. While she still enjoyed her father's favor with the notoriously unsentimental Stalin even playing little games with her, she and her siblings were also under great pressure to be examples to the Soviet people. And even Svetlana was not free from the brutality of her father's regime. In December 1934, when Sergei Kirov, a fellow revolutionary and close friend of Stalin's, was assassinated, Stalin used the event as a provocation for the Great Purge.

In fact, some historians argue that it was Stalin who was behind Kirov's murders, a pretext for the repressive effort to purge what Stalin called enemies of the people, including counter-revolutionaries and essentially anyone who was a threat to Stalin's power. Among the as many as one and a quarter million victims of the purge was Alexander Zvanitch, the brother of Stalin's first wife, whom Svetlana knew as a favorite uncle. More relatives were removed as well as some of Svetlana's school friends whose once privileged lives were shattered when their parents were deemed untrustworthy. When she protested to her father on behalf of one of her friends, her father replied to his 14-year-old daughter, sometimes you are forced to go against even those you love.

She later said that it took her years to grasp the extent of her father's crimes. In 1943, Svetlana met and fell in love with filmmaker Alexei Kapler, who was married and 23 years her senior. Kapler later said that he was drawn to Svetlana by the freedom within her. Stalin disapproved for numerous reasons, but Svetlana suspected he was most insulted by the fact that Kapler was Jewish. Kapler was arrested and charged with being a British spy, although it was assumed the actual crime was the indiscreet affair with Stalin's daughter. Stalin destroyed the letters the two had written each other. He banished Svetlana from his house because of moral depravity and even punished her brother, at whose home she had met Kapler and her grandparents for failing to intervene.

Kapler was eventually imprisoned for 10 years. When Stalin's purchase continued after the war, they instilled more of Svetlana's family, including her mother's sister. When she tried to intervene with her father on her aunt's behalf, Stalin made it clear to her that she also could be accused.

On March 2nd, 1953, she was called from class. Her father had suffered a cerebral hemorrhage and was dying. Stalin lingered for four days as she believed God grants an easy death only to the just. The family had difficulty blaming the man who had been both patriarch and villain. Even as family members returned from the gulag, they became convinced that it wasn't Stalin's fault, that someone else was responsible for making them a political target, that Stalin had been poisoned against them. But the prisoners returning from the gulags were compelling evidence of the crimes of Stalin.

The new leader who was consolidating power, Nikita Khrushchev, saw bringing down the cult of Stalin as critical to retaining the support of the people. By then, Svetlana had had two failed marriages and had two children. In 1957, to escape the stigma of her father's name, she went to her mother's maiden name and became Svetlana Alueva. She wandered through love affairs, flirted with different religions, spent another year on another failed marriage. A friend later said of her, she was a very kind and warm-hearted person, but it was impossible to escape her terrible heritage. She couldn't trust anyone, how could you, if you were Stalin's daughter? She alternatively had to deal with people who sought to associate with her in the hope of getting some favor, and others who loathed her for her father's crimes. In 1963, while in the hospital for a tonsillectomy, Svetlana met an Indian national named Brajesh Singh. She sought to marry him, but that required state permission. And once again, she suffered from the curse of being Stalin's daughter.

Singh died from emphysema in October 1966. Svetlana was allowed to travel to give Singh his traditional funeral, as long as she did not talk to any foreign reporters. She was staying at the guesthouse of the Soviet Embassy in Delhi, and on March 9th, 1967, no one apparently suspected her motives when she went outside, held a cab, entered the US Embassy in India, presented her Soviet passport, and asked for asylum.

The request took the Americans completely off guard. Chester Bowles, the US Ambassador to India, didn't even know Stalin had a daughter, more or less that she was visiting India. Bowles put Svetlana on the next plane to anywhere but Moscow, and sent her with a diplomat, actually a CIA agent, as escort to Rome. The assessment by the CIA at the time was, our own preconceived notions of what Stalin's daughter must be like just didn't let us believe that this nice, pleasant, attractive, middle-aged Hofstrau could possibly be who she claimed to be. Svetlana Aliyeva's defection required a lot of political maneuvering.

She had to spend time both in Italy and then in Switzerland before she could finally go to the United States. The Soviets tried to portray her as crazy, calling her Kukchuka or cuckoo bird. Later it was revealed that the KGB had made plans to either kidnap her or assassinate her, but they decided not to because it would be too easy to trace back to them. In the United States she married one last time between 1970 and 1973 to an architect named William Peters. They had a daughter named Olga. She went by the name Lana Peters for the rest of her life. In 1978 she became a US citizen, but in 1984 she and her daughter Olga returned to the Soviet Union, but she found she was shunned there, and she and Olga returned to the United States in 1986. When author Nicholas Thompson decided he wanted to interview her for a book he was doing on US-Soviet relations during the Cold War in 2006, he had to do a public record search to find her. She was living in Wisconsin.

When she passed away in November 2011, the New York Times found it difficult to even confirm her death, which wasn't even reported in the local newspaper. But it does seem that the woman who was so unlike her father had finally escaped her father's shadow. And a special thanks, as always, to Greg Hengler for the production, and a special thanks, as always, to The History Guy. Please subscribe to his YouTube channel, The History Guy. History deserves to be remembered. The story of Lana Peters. She becomes an American citizen in 1978, but never ever, I would guess, is ever truly home anywhere. Her story here on Our American Stories.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-02-17 08:48:01 / 2023-02-17 09:03:30 / 15

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