Sheila Fitzpatrick reviews 'Stalin's Daughter: The extraordinary and tumultuous life of Svetlana Alliluyeva' by Rosemary Sullivan

Nobody would have expected an ordinary life for Stalin's only daughter, but Svetlana's life was extraordinary beyond any expectations. Her mother killed herself in 1932, when Svetlana was six; her father treated her affectionately until as a teenager she annoyed him by becoming interested in men. Much of Svetlana's close family disappeared in the purges of the late 1930s or after the war, leaving both Svetlana and, paradoxically, Stalin lonely and isolated. When, a few years after Stalin's death in 1953, his sometime protégé Nikita Khrushchev publicly denounced his crimes, Svetlana sadly recognised the justice of the indictment. After a series of unsuccessful marriages and affairs, she defected to the United States at forty-one, leaving behind two children and becoming an unwilling celebrity and political symbol. In her late fifties, she defected back again to the Soviet Union with her non-Russian-speaking teenage daughter of an American marriage in tow, settling first in Moscow and then in her father's birthplace, Georgia. When neither worked out, she went to England, living for a time in a room with a communal kitchen in a London charitable home, as the money she had made from her memoirs after her first defection had long since run out. But she was always a nomad, and in her early seventies returned to America. She died in 2011 in a retirement home in Wisconsin.

Read the rest of this article by purchasing a subscription to ABR Online, or subscribe to the print edition to receive access to ABR Online free of charge.

If you are a single issue subscriber you will need to upgrade your subscription to view back issues.

If you are already subscribed, click here to log in.

Leave a comment

Please note that all comments must be approved by ABR and comply with our Terms & Conditions.

NB: If you are an ABR Online subscriber or contributor, you will need to login to ABR Online in order to post a comment. If you have forgotten your login details, or if you receive an error message when trying to submit your comment, please email your comment (and the name of the article to which it relates) to comments@australianbookreview.com.au. We will review your comment and, subject to approval, we will post it under your name.