C.W. Gusewell

THE KANSAS CITY STAR

Stalin's daughter should be remembered for her courage

To come into this world as the offspring of a monster, obliged to spend a lifetime alternately profiting from and concealing that terrible truth … surely there can be few more depressing fates to endure.

History is replete with authors of great evil. Some of them had children. Others, like Adolf Hitler, had none – or at least none of record.

Uganda’s Idi Amin was thought to have sired between 30 and 40.

Mao Zedong fathered 10. Some died at birth and some he reportedly abandoned.

Cambodia’s Pol Pot, who was responsible for the deaths of 2 million to 5 million of his countrymen, had just one child, a girl.

Saddam Hussein produced three sons and two daughters.

Little can be readily learned about any of these heirs to paternal infamy, with one notable exception.

The dictator who may rank as the worst monster of them all was Josef Stalin. Although estimates of the number of Russians who perished under his rule differ greatly, 30 million to 40 million seems to be an accepted minimum.

One Stalin son was captured and killed by the Germans during World War II. A second son perished of alcoholism. One child, a daughter, survived into the current millennium.

Named Svetlana Stalina at birth, and coddled by her tyrant father through early girlhood, she later led a vagabond life that took her from Moscow to India, then to the U.S., England, back to Russia and finally to the U.S. again.

Publication in 1967 of her autobiography, in which she repudiated both her father and the Communist regime, brought her brief celebrity, but also fears that she might be targeted by the Kremlin for her candor.

But in her last years she disappeared from public notice.

And just this Nov. 22, according to The New York Times, at age 85, she died of cancer in Wisconsin, where she was known by her shortened first name, Lana, and by the family name of her third husband, Peters.

It is impossible not to feel sympathy for a woman whose life was so cruelly deformed by her father – a man whose name would become synonymous with cruelty on an almost unimaginable scale.

Yes, she profited from that name. But there can be no discounting the courage it required to lay bare the unspeakable viciousness of a system and a leader so lacking in humanity.

Disordered as her life may have been, she deserves to be remembered for her part in dispelling the fiction of the Soviet Union as a people’s nation when in truth, under Josef Stalin, the Kremlin was a death machine.