FBI declassifies files on Stalin's daughter
MADISON, Wis. — Newly declassified documents show the FBI kept close tabs on Soviet dictator Josef Stalin's only daughter after her high-profile defection to the United States in 1967, gathering details from informants about how her arrival was affecting international relations.
The documents were released on Monday under the Freedom of Information Act after Lana Peters' death last year at age 85 in a Wisconsin nursing home. Her defection to the West during the Cold War embarrassed the communists and made her a best-selling author. And her move was a public relations coup for the United States.
One April 28, 1967, memo details a conversation with a confidential source who said the defection would have a “profound effect” for anyone thinking of trying to leave the Soviet Union.
“Our source opined that the United States government exhibited a high degree of maturity, dignity and understanding during this period,” according to the memo. “It cannot help but have a profound effect upon anyone who is considering a similar solution to an unsatisfactory life in a Soviet bloc country.”
A memo dated June 2, 1967, describes a conversation an unnamed FBI source had with Mikhail Trepykhalin, identified as the second secretary at the Soviet Embassy in Washington.
The source said Trepykhalin told him the Soviets were “very unhappy over her defection” and asked wondered the United States would use it “for propaganda purposes.”
When she defected, Peters was known as Svetlana Alliluyeva, but she went by Lana Peters upon her 1970 marriage to William Wesley Peters, an apprentice of Frank Lloyd Wright.
Though Peters denounced communism and her father's policies, Stalin's legacy haunted her.
“People say, ‘Stalin's daughter, Stalin's daughter,' meaning I'm supposed to walk around with a rifle and shoot the Americans,” she said in a 2007 interview for a documentary about her life. “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.”