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Chatting Up A Storm - Claudia Cragg


Jun 1, 2015

KGNU's Claudia Cragg speaks here with professor and author, Rosemary Sullivan about her latest book, Svetlana Alliluyeva. As 'Stalin's Daughter', she spent her youth inside the Kremlin as her father's power soared along with that of the Soviet Union. Eighty-five years later, she died alone and penniless in rural Wisconsin as Lana Peters. Revealed here for the first time, the many lives of Joseph Stalin's daughter form a riveting portrait of a woman who fled halfway around the world to escape her birthright.

Svetlana was protected from the mass starvation and murder that her father inflicted upon Soviet citizens, but she was not immune to tragedy. She lost almost everyone she loved, including her mother, who committed suicide, and her father's merciless purges claimed the lives of aunts and uncles, and her lover, who was exiled to Siberia.

After her father's death, Svetlana discovered the extent of his cruelty. Balking at the control the Kremlin still exerted over her life, she shocked the world by defecting to the United States at the height of the Cold War—leaving behind two children. However, in America Svetlana found only more heartbreak. For a time, Frank Lloyd Wright's Taliesin community, overseen by his controversial third wife, Olgivanna, formed a second family for her; Svetlana married Wesley Peters, a member of the inner circle, and they had a child. But Olgivanna manipulated their friendship for financial gain, and the marriage disintegrated. No matter how much distance she put between her past and her present, she could not undo the emotional and psychological damage her father had wrought.

With access to FBI, CIA, and Russian State Archives and with the close cooperation of Svetlana's daughter, Rosemary Sullivan has created a masterly biography that is epic in scope yet narrated with remarkable intimacy. 'Stalin's Daughter' deftly places Svetlana in a broader context of time and place, without losing sight of her powerfully human story. In the process, this multifaceted narrative reveals the heart of a brutal world and offers an unprecedented look at its mastermind.