Stalin's Daughter: The Extraordinary and Tumultuous Life of Svetlana Alliluyeva

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9780062206107: Stalin's Daughter: The Extraordinary and Tumultuous Life of Svetlana Alliluyeva

Winner of the Plutarch Award for Best Biography

PEN Literary Award Finalist

National Book Critics Circle Award Finalist

New York Times Notable Book

Washington Post Notable Book

Boston Globe Best Book of the Year

The award-winning author of Villa Air-Bel returns with a painstakingly researched, revelatory biography of Svetlana Stalin, a woman fated to live her life in the shadow of one of history’s most monstrous dictators—her father, Josef Stalin.

Born in the early years of the Soviet Union, Svetlana Stalin spent her youth inside the walls of the Kremlin. Communist Party privilege protected her from the mass starvation and purges that haunted Russia, but she did not escape tragedy—the loss of everyone she loved, including her mother, two brothers, aunts and uncles, and a lover twice her age, deliberately exiled to Siberia by her father.

As she gradually learned about the extent of her father’s brutality after his death, Svetlana could no longer keep quiet and in 1967 shocked the world by defecting to the United States—leaving her two children behind. But although she was never a part of her father’s regime, she could not escape his legacy. Her life in America was fractured; she moved frequently, married disastrously, shunned other Russian exiles, and ultimately died in poverty in Wisconsin.

With access to KGB, CIA, and Soviet government archives, as well as the close cooperation of Svetlana’s daughter, Rosemary Sullivan pieces together Svetlana’s incredible life in a masterful account of unprecedented intimacy. Epic in scope, it’s a revolutionary biography of a woman doomed to be a political prisoner of her father’s name. Sullivan explores a complicated character in her broader context without ever losing sight of her powerfully human story, in the process opening a closed, brutal world that continues to fascinate us.

Illustrated with photographs.

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From the Back Cover:

Award-winning author Rosemary Sullivan returns with a revelatory biography of Svetlana Alliluyeva, a woman fated to live in the shadow of her father, the notorious Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin.

Born in 1926, Svetlana Alliluyeva spent her youth inside the Kremlin as her father’s power soared along with that of the Soviet Union. Eighty-five years later, she died alone and penniless in rural Wisconsin as Lana Peters. Revealed here for the first time, the many lives of Joseph Stalin’s daughter form a riveting portrait of a woman who fled halfway around the world to escape her birthright.

Svetlana was protected from the mass starvation and murder that her father inflicted upon Soviet citizens, but she was not immune to tragedy. She lost almost everyone she loved, including her mother, who committed suicide, and her father’s merciless purges claimed the lives of aunts and uncles, and her lover, who was exiled to Siberia.

After her father’s death, Svetlana discovered the extent of his cruelty. Balking at the control the Kremlin still exerted over her life, she shocked the world by defecting to the United States at the height of the Cold War—leaving behind two children. However, in America Svetlana found only more heartbreak. For a time, Frank Lloyd Wright’s Taliesin community, overseen by his controversial third wife, Olgivanna, formed a second family for her; Svetlana married Wesley Peters, a member of the inner circle, and they had a child. But Olgivanna manipulated their friendship for financial gain, and the marriage disintegrated. No matter how much distance she put between her past and her present, she could not undo the emotional and psychological damage her father had wrought.

With access to FBI, CIA, and Russian State Archives, and with the close cooperation of Svetlana’s daughter, Rosemary Sullivan has created a masterly biography that is epic in scope yet narrated with remarkable intimacy. Stalin’s Daughter deftly places Svetlana in a broader context of time and place, without losing sight of her powerfully human story. In the process, this multifaceted narrative reveals the heart of a brutal world and offers an unprecedented look at its mastermind.

About the Author:

Rosemary Sullivan has written poetry, short fiction, biography, literary criticism, reviews, and articles. Her recent books include the critically acclaimed Villa Air-Bel and Labyrinth of Desire. She is a professor emeritus at the University of Toronto and has been awarded Guggenheim, Camargo, and Trudeau Fellowships. She is a recipient of the Lorne Pierce Medal, awarded by the Royal Society of Canada for her contribution to literature and culture, and is an Officer of the Order of Canada.

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