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Stalin’s Daughter Became an American Citizen... and Wisconsin Cheesehead?

Our American Stories / Lee Habeeb
The Truth Network Radio
February 7, 2024 3:04 am

Stalin’s Daughter Became an American Citizen... and Wisconsin Cheesehead?

Our American Stories / Lee Habeeb

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February 7, 2024 3:04 am

On this episode of Our American Stories, 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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Insured by NCUA. 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. History guys 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 to 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 Yudkashvili 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 Inoga'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 6, 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 Zvanich, 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 in 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. Her 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 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 9, 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 Kukushuka 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.

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Whisper: medium.en / 2024-02-07 05:12:20 / 2024-02-07 05:17:43 / 5

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