March 12th

On This Day in 1967, Stalin’s daughter defected to the West. Svetlana Alliluyeva – who preferred to go by her mother’s maiden name – was not known for being especially submissive to her father’s wishes, ignoring the Soviet dictators pleas for her to not marry a Jewish fellow from Moscow University and defecting from the nation he ruled for decades 14 years after his death.


After they had a child together, their marriage was dissolved, Grigory Morozov was sent to a forced labour camp. Svetlana would go on to marry three more times, including renowned architect and engineer William Wesley Peters.

Her mother, who committed suicide in 1932, was the second wife of Joseph Stalin and is considered to have had a mental illness, with even Vyacheslav Molotov considering her to be a “mad woman”. Upon her death following a heated public argument with Stalin, Nadezhda Alliluyeva shot herself, but Soviet news sources announced her death had occurred through appendicitis.

It was Svetlana’s relationship with an Indian communist that would be pivotal for her Western defection. In 1963, while in hospital for the removal of her tonsils, Svetlana met Kunwar Brajesh Singh. The two grew incredibly intimate but were not allowed to marry and when Singh died in 1966, Svetlana went to India to spread his ashes.

From here she went to the American embassy in New Delhi and requested, in writing, political asylum, which was granted by Chester Bowles. This was granted, and she flew into Rome and stayed in Switzerland for 6 weeks, during which time she was introduced to numerous Roman Catholics, which she would later convert too, before moving to the United States. She left her two adult children in the USSR.

In 1984 she returned to the Soviet Union, but left two years later, becoming a British citizen in 1992 and living in Bristol. She continued to spend large periods of time in different Western nations, including the USA and France, before passing away in 2011, aged 85, from colon cancer. She is survived by two daughters.


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