Stalin’s daughter

Svetlana Stalin spent her life trying to escape from the shadow of her father, defecting to the US and becoming known as Lana Peters. So why will history mark her as a cold war plaything?

Ed Pilkington

To his many detractors, Joseph Stalin was a monster on an epic scale who sent millions of "class enemies" to their graves. To the considerably smaller band of his enduring admirers, he was the man who saved the world from the far worse fate of Nazi tyranny. And then there was Svetlana. For her, his "little sparrow", Stalin was the imposing father whose long shadow haunted her throughout a lifetime spent in vain pursuit of escape.

The story of Lana Peters, nee Svetlana Stalina, is on one level quite unexceptional. Spanning as she did the period from 1926 to her death last week in the American heartlands of Wisconsin, she experienced extremes of hardship and joy, success and poverty, that were common to generations of Europeans and Americans who lived through the brutal 20th century.

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