Joseph Stalin was a monster who often treated his friends worse than his enemies. What was it like to be his daughter? Horrible.
Here are some snippets from a NYT review of a new biography on Stalin’s Daughter. It looks fascinating, but at over 600 pages, only serious history lovers will read it. But it looks fascinating.
“But as she [Stalin’s daughter] gets older, she starts seeing and hearing more, and sinister shadows creep into the light, dimming it little by little. The aunts and uncles begin to vanish one by one. Her grandmother says: “Where is your soul? You will know when it aches.” Her mother draws a little square over the child’s heart with her finger and tells the girl, “That is where you must bury your secrets”; then, before the girl’s seventh birthday, she shoots herself in her own heart with a Mauser pistol. The little girl’s world is shattered, never to be the same. Troubled and lonely, she will spend decades trying to escape the horror of her past, the terrible weight of history. “You can’t regret your fate,” she will say later, “though I do regret my mother didn’t marry a carpenter.” She is Svetlana, her father is Joseph Stalin, and her extraordinary story is the subject of “Stalin’s Daughter,” Rosemary Sullivan’s thoughtful new biography.
“In 1967, 14 years after Stalin’s death, Svetlana Alliluyeva created an international scandal by defecting to the United States, only to return to the Soviet Union in 1984, then run away again in 1986, each escape taut with cloak-and-dagger suspense worthy of any spy thriller. She fell in love disastrously and often, had three children from three of her four failed marriages, published several books, made a million dollars, lost a million dollars, moved from home to home with the restlessness of a nomad, abandoning the past again and again, driven by eternal disquiet, “always leaving things all over the globe,” in the words of her younger daughter, Olga, before dying nearly destitute in Wisconsin, at the age of 85, under the anonymous name of Lana Peters. Olga scattered her ashes in the Pacific Ocean. The historical context of Alliluyeva’s unsettled life, the immense monstrosity of Stalin forever looming behind her, makes her story impossibly haunting and equally impossible to put down.”