Svetlana Alliluyeva, the daughter of Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin, was on a trip to India to bring her late husbands Brajesh Singh’s ashes back to his native land when, on 9 March 1967, she formally petitioned for political asylum at the US Embassy in New Delhi. She moved to the United States and became a citizen, causing an international uproar.
Svetlana grew up amid troubled times in her country. Her mother committed suicide when she was only six years old leaving Svetlana mostly in the care of nannies, while her father, Stalin, ruled the mighty USSR and his daughter’s life as well. Svetlana wanted to pursue a degree in languages, but instead, she was enrolled to study history, according to her father’s wishes. Her love life was under control as well. Svetlana’s first romance with Aleksey Kaplin ended when Stalin sentenced Aleksey to a Siberian labor camp.
During the war Svetlana married her school friend Grigory Morozov with whom she had a son, Joseph. Stalin was against their union and they were divorced in 1947. Stalin then chose a husband for his daughter – Yari Zhdanov, the son of his right hand man, Andrey Zhdanov. But for Svetlana it was a marriage without love and not long after the birth of their daughter Ekaterina, their marriage dissolved.
Disappointed by two failed marriages, Svetlana met an Indian student, Brajesh Singh, in 1963. Singh, a young communist, was a translator at a foreign language publishing house. Svetlana was a lecturer at the University of Moscow at the time. Singh was her most sincere and long-lasting love, but he suffered from an incurable illness and died in her arms in 1967. Svetlana was allowed to travel to India to execute her husband’s last wish – to have his ashes delivered to his homeland.
In the United States, Svetlana married William Wesley Peters, an architect, and changed her name to Lana Peters. They had a daughter named Olga, but soon divorced. In 1982 she moved to London and later returned to the Soviet Union where she settled in Tbilisi. From here, she again moved to the United States where she currently resides in a retirement home.
Svetlana has not spoken to her children in Russia since she moved to the US. Her son Joseph lives in Moscow and willingly talks about his childhood memories while Ekaterina Zhdanova, who also lives in Russia, refuses to talk about her family. Svetlana’s youngest daughter, Olga, does not see her mother much either.