Lana Peters, the only daughter and surviving child of Josef Stalin, perhaps the greatest tyrant of the last century, has died impoverished and in obscurity 12 years into the new century in a nursing home in a quiet Wisconsin community. She was 86.
The death of Peters, who was named Svetlana Stalina at birth, was like a barely audible echo from an explosion in a galaxy far, far away, in this case the rein of terror of her father, Soviet Premier Joseph Vissarionovich Stalin, whose improbably defeat of the German armies on the Eastern Front will forever be overshadowed by his murder of perhaps 20 million of his countryman.
Peters' life was largely coincidental to her father's deeds and the path of Soviet history. She often said that she had been a slave to public circumstances although she was a willing propaganda tool for the U.S., where she defected in 1967, and then the Soviet Union, where she returned in 1984, and reaped royalties from not one but two best-selling autobiographies.
Her life seems to have been painfully unsettled. She was beset by emotional problems, sampled religions from Catholicism to Christian Science to Hinduism and repeatedly moved. At one time or another she lived in India, England, France, Switzerland and Soviet Georgia, finally resettling in the U.S.
Peters had a loving relationship with Stalin, who would cuddle and kiss his "little sparrow" while ordering mass executions. But all was not sweetness and light for her in the Kremlin. Her mother, Nadezhda Alliluyeva,who was Stalin’s second wife, committed suicide in 1932. Svetlana, then 6, was told that her mother had died of appendicitis and did not learn the truth for a decade.