“Used for propaganda purposes” Lana Peters’ (Svetlana Alliluyeva)’s FBI file

Despite initial fears, the Bureau’s interest in the dictator’s daughter evaporated over the decades

Written by Beryl Lipton
Edited by JPat Brown

When Lana Peters - AKA Svetlana Alliluyeva, AKA Josef Stalin’s daughter -died in Wisconsin at 85, she had accrued a Federal Bureau of Investigation file over 200 pages long. But the FBI’s involvement with her was limited, mostly capturing their sideline vantage the year she defected to the United States of America, beginning two decades of something like her American Dream.

At a time when civil rights activities at home and communist finger-pointing were still cash crops for the Bureau’s investigations, Alliluyeva’s file - released to MuckRock user Robert Delaware - is not an investigatory one, and so is devoid of a lot of common file elements: subject description, for example, or interviews with known associates.

But the headlines and interviews with sources in other investigations offer an interesting spread of opinions and attempts to sensationalize the socialist sweetheart.

One professor from Boston, for example, was in contact with the Bureau regarding requests for translation being made by her students, which she refused to do for them. Nonetheless, a translation of the piece in question was provided to the FBI for their perusal.

Other pieces capture the high emotional reaction that spun through the newspapers at the great betrayal or heroism of the darling defector.

But eventually the the federal government seemed to be uninterested in the now-settled former Soviet sweetheart, though the news continued to squeeze curious clips from her goings-on. One piece from 1971 caught Hoover’s attention with its mention that an FBI agent had been to have dinner with Svetlana in Arizona. “I assume this is untrue,” he wrote.

According to the FBI’s Phoenix Office, it was.

By that time, she had adopted the name Lana Peters, and the FBI’s interest in her evaporated, as she embarked on the commonly-messy adventure of an American life. “I believe one’s home is anywhere one can feel free,” she’d said at its start. In the 1980s, she would return to Russia, live in England, light in Georgia, and finally return to the United States, a resident of the world but rarely “at home.”

The full file is embedded below, and you can read the rest on the request page.


Image via Wikimedia Commons