Rosemary Sullivan – Stalin’s Daughter: The Extraordinary and Tumultuous Life of Svetlana Alliluyeva

Rosemary Sullivan – Stalin’s Daughter: The Extraordinary and Tumultuous Life of Svetlana Alliluyeva

Alliluyeva was Stalin’s daughter, born in 1926, two years before he consolidated his power. Her childhood was about as warm as one would expect. Stalin had occasional tender moments, but was a distant father, not to mention a dictator. When Svetlana was six and a half, her mother committed suicide. One of her teenage love interests ended up in the gulag. Friends kept a wise distance during the 1937-38 Terror, fearing that an adverse word from her to her father could have consequences.

In 1967, after three divorces, two children, and a stint in India, she defected to the United States. She wrote two books, was a media sensation for a time, and earned a large sum of money from the royalties. After several moves, she married Wesley Peters, an acolyte of Frank Lloyd Wright who spent his summers in Wisconsin and wintered in an Arizona compound with, among other people, Wright’s controlling widow, who was also a Russian. That marriage produced a daughter as well as another divorce, and Svetlana lost most of her money.

She moved back to the east coast, then the UK for a time, moving almost annually. She even defected back the USSR in the 1980s, considered it a mistake, and went back to America. She spent her final years in Wisconsin, of all places, a few hours’ drive from where I grew up.

She seems to have had a melancholy spirit. Circumstances made her lonely for obvious reasons, especially while her father still lived, and for her entire life she was unable to settle anywhere or with anyone for very long. Whatever she was looking for in life, she seems not to have found it. She was also prone to sudden emotional outbursts, and had occasional bouts of paranoia similar to her father’s. While she was certainly not her father, she was still his daughter. Sullivan has painted an interesting portrait of an interesting person.

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