Friday, December 2, 2011

Lana Peters

The final line of Douglas Martin’s Times obituary of Stalin’s daughter, Lana Peters (“Lana Peters,Stalin’s Daughter, Dies at 85,” NYT, 11/28/11), is a quote from an interview she gave to the Wisconsin State Journal in 2010. “I will always be a political prisoner of my father’s name,” she said.  Usually fiction can take more liberties than non-fiction. But even Dickens with his vast sense of fate and destiny could unlikely have produced the dramatic story that the Times obit tells. History is not just a player in this tale. It is the stage on which it’s set and the turns of fortune are extreme. Born Svetlana Stalina, Americans might remember Stalin’s daughter from two books she published about her life in l969 (Only One Year) and l984 (Faraway Music) under the name of Svetlana Alliluyeva (Alliluyeva was her mother’s last name). In a sense she embodied the paradoxes of Soviet Communism, a dictatorship of the proletariat that produced  its own aristocracy. As Stalin’s purges raged on, proving that power is conservative, self-perpetuating and hardly geared toward the betterment of mankind, Stalin’s daughter, who changed her name to Lana Peters after marrying an American, lived the life of the poor little rich girl. Ironically what happened to her mirrored the fate of the banished  Romanovs who went from enjoying the extravagance of hereditary nobility to that of being dispossessed of all power and slaughtered. The psychoanalyst Leonard Shengold’s book Soul Murder, describes the effect of traumatic childhood experience on a number of great writers including Chekhov. According to Martin’s Times obit there had been  a plan by the KGB to assassinate the once in a future defector, but while Svetllana Alliluyeva aka Lana Peters was never murdered, it’s apparent that her soul was. “He broke my life,”  Martin quotes Peters as telling the same newspaper from the state where she’d died “after decades of obscurity, wandering and poverty.” “ I want to explain to you. He broke my life.”

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