Her defection in 1967, which she said was partly motivated by the poor treatment of her late husband, Brijesh Singh, by Soviet authorities, caused an international furor and was a public relations coup for the US But Peters, who left behind two children, said her identity involved more than just switching from one side to the other in the Cold War. She even moved back to the Soviet Union in the 1980s, only to return to the US more than a year later. Peters carried with her a memoir she had written in 1963 about her life in Russia. "Twenty Letters to a Friend" was published within months of her arrival in the US and became a best-seller.
When she left the Soviet Union in 1966 for India, she planned to leave the ashes of her late third husband, an Indian citizen, and return. Instead, she walked unannounced into the US embassy in New Delhi and asked for political asylum. After a brief stay in Switzerland, she flew to the US. Upon her arrival in New York City in 1967, the 41-year-old said: "I have come here to seek the self-expression that has been denied me for so long in Russia." She said she had come to doubt the communism she was taught growing up and believed there weren't capitalists or communists, just good and bad human beings. She had also found religion and believed "it was impossible to exist without God in one's heart."
In the book, she recalled her father, who died in 1953 after ruling the nation for 29 years, as a distant and paranoid man. Soviet Premier Alexei Kosygin denounced her as a "morally unstable" and "sick person" and added, "We can only pity those who wish to use her for any political aim or for any aim of discrediting the Soviet country." "I switched camps from the Marxists to the capitalists," she recalled in a 2007 interview for the documentary "Svetlana About Svetlana." But she said her identity was far more complex than that and never completely understood.
"People say, 'Stalin's daughter, Stalin's daughter,' meaning I'm supposed to walk around with a rifle and shoot the Americans. Or they say, 'No, she came here. She is an American citizen.' That means I'm with a bomb against the others. No, I'm neither one. I'm somewhere in between. That 'somewhere in between' they can't understand." The defection came at a high personal cost. She left behind her children Josef and Yekaterina from previous marriages. Both were upset by her departure, and she was never close to either again.
Image: In this undated photo provided by Icarus Films, Soviet dictator Josef Stalin is seen with his daughter Svetlana Alliluyeva. Stalin's daughter, whose defection to the West during the Cold War embarrassed the ruling communists and made her a best-selling author, has died. She was 85. Svetlana, or Lana Peters, died of colon cancer November 22, 2011.
Text and Images: AP