DATELINE: Defector by Heart
Alleluyeva to You!
The only daughter of Soviet mass murderer and megalomaniac, Josef Stalin, is subject of a fascinating Australian documentary, called forthrightly Stalin’s Daughter.
Being the object of a doting father who is a psychopath could prove daunting to most people. Maybe Svetlana was different.
Stalin extended his ruthless exercise of murder to those in the closest orbit personally. His second wife was Lenin’s secretary, which made her attractive for many reasons, but her independence irritated the Red Despot.
Though Svetlana’s mother gave him two children, a son and daughter, she was quickly alienated from her husband and found dead of a gunshot wound to the head. The official cause of death was appendicitis. Svetlana learned of this by translating an English magazine as a young girl.
She was thought to be a princess, but not as spoiled as Vasily, her brother. As a girl, Svetlana was faced with a father who disapproved of her boyfriends: they ended up in gulags, if not with their families executed.
She was a prisoner of the Soviet state, never having true freedom. When her father died, she took her mother’s name Svetlana Alleluyeva. It wasn’t enough to escape the stigma.
In the 1960s, she married a non-Russian and took his ashes back to his home country: India. There in 1967, she went to the American embassy and defected. The CIA vouched for her.
Thus began true American celebrity. First, no one believed who she was—and then she spoke English fluently and wrote a best-seller that made her millions. A media darling throughout the ‘60s and ‘70s, she became increasingly erratic, like her father.
Her sad story ended with poverty, a nursing home in America, and a forgotten end in 2011. Who knew?