Lana Peters, Stalin’s Only Daughter, Dies at 85 After Turbulent Life

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Steve Apps / Wisconsin State Journal / AP

Lana Peters is photographed on a rural road outside of Richland Center, Wis., Tuesday, April 13, 2010.

She wandered the world for much of her Cold War-era life, amid several defections and homecomings, and married four times. But it appears Lana Peters was ultimately unable to escape the haunting reminders of her tyrant father, according to an obituary in the New York Times.

By the time of her death from colon cancer on November 22 in Richland County, Wis., the Soviet leader’s last surviving child, christened Svetlana Stalina, went by the name Lana Peters. In between she had taken the last name Alliluyeva, belonging to her mother Nadezhda, Stalin’s second wife who committed suicide in 1932.

(MORE: TIME’s 1967 article, “First Words from Svetana”)

Peters famously defected from the Soviet Union to the U.S. in 1967 via the American embassy in India, embarrassing the ruling communists and causing an international furor. She went on to become a best-selling author, writing several memoirs, but remained restless, moving repeatedly within the U.S. after becoming a citizen in 1978.

She later moved to England and then eventually returned to the Soviet Union, where she had left behind two children, in the 1980s — only to return to the U.S. more than a year later. An Associated Press obituary says Peters lived the last decades of her life reclusively but died surrounded by loved ones.

In an interview with the Wisconsin State Journal in 2010, Peters revealed the psychological impact of some of the cruelty her father had inflicted upon her. “He was a very simple man. Very rude. Very cruel,” she said. “He broke my life.”

Peters wrote in her autobiography that Stalin sent her first love to Siberia for 10 years. Meanwhile Nikita S. Khrushchev, Stalin’s successor as Soviet leader, wrote in his memoirs that at a New Year’s party in 1952 Stalin grabbed Svetlana by the hair and forced her to dance.

“Wherever I go,” she said in the 2010 interview, “here, or Switzerland, or India, or wherever. Australia. Some island. I will always be a political prisoner of my father’s name.”

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