NPR : News

Documents Show FBI Kept Tabs On Stalin's Daughter After Defection

You may remember that Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin's only daughter, who had defected to the U.S. in 1967, died last year. Today, The Associated Press reports that the FBI kept close tabs on Lana Peters after her defection to determine how her presence in the U.S. was affecting international relations.

The AP obtained documents under the Freedom of Information Act following Peters' death at age 85 in a Wisconsin nursing home.

Here's more from the AP story:

"One April 28, 1967, memo details a conversation with a confidential source who said the defection would have a 'profound effect' for anyone else thinking of trying to leave the Soviet Union. The source claimed to have discussed the defection with a Czechoslovak journalist covering the United Nations and a member of the Czechoslovakia 'Mission staff.'

"'Our source opined that the United States Government exhibited a high degree of maturity, dignity and understanding during this period,' according to the memo, prominently marked 'SECRET' at the top and bottom. '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.'"

The former Svetlana Alliluyeva went by Lana Peters after her marriage in 1970 to William Wesley Peters, an apprentice of Frank Lloyd Wright. Her defection followed the death of her husband, Brijesh Singh, an Indian Communist.

Here's how The New York Times described her defection last year:

"After Stalin died in 1953, his legacy was challenged, and the new leaders were eager to put his more egregious policies behind them. Svetlana lost many of her privileges. In the 1960s, when she fell in love with Brijesh Singh, an Indian Communist who was visiting Moscow, Soviet officials refused to let her marry him. After he became ill and died, they only reluctantly gave her permission, in early 1967, to take his ashes home to India.

"Once in India, Ms. Alliluyeva, as she was known now, evaded Soviet agents in the K.G.B. and showed up at the United States Embassy in New Delhi seeking political asylum. The world watched in amazement as Stalin's daughter, granted protection, became the most high-profile Soviet exile since the ballet virtuoso Rudolf Nureyev defected in 1961. The United States quickly dispatched a C.I.A. officer to help her travel through Italy to neutral Switzerland, but American officials worried that accepting her into the United States could damage its improving relations with Moscow. Finally, President Lyndon B. Johnson, on humanitarian grounds, agreed to admit her but asked that there be as little fanfare as possible."

Another memo seen by the AP is dated June 2, 1967. It "describes a conversation an unnamed FBI source had with Mikhail Trepykhalin, identified as the second secretary at the Soviet Embassy in Washington, D.C."

Here's more from the AP:

"The source said Trepykhalin told him the Soviets were 'very unhappy over her defection' and asked whether the U.S. would use it 'for propaganda purposes.' Trepykhalin 'was afraid forces in the U.S. would use her to destroy relationships between the USSR and this country,' the source told the FBI.

"An unnamed informant in another secret memo from that month said Soviet authorities were not disturbed by the defection because it would 'further discredit Stalin's name and family.'"

The AP reports that many of the 233 pages released to the wire service were heavily redacted, and much of it comprised newspaper articles from the period.

Copyright 2012 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

NPR

'Before India,' A Young Gandhi Found His Calling In South Africa

The racism Gandhi encountered in South Africa helped spark a lifetime of activism. Historian Ramachandra Guha says without that experience, "he would never have become a political animal."
NPR

Behold Ukrainian Easter Art: Incredible, Inedible Eggs

Even 2,000 years ago, people seemed to know that the egg could be a source of life. And an ancient art form has been passed down, transforming a symbolic source of food into a dazzling decoration.
NPR

Is Obamacare A Success? We Might Not Know For A While

Fans and foes want to know whether the Affordable Care Act is meeting its goals. But, for good reasons, there are no clear answers yet.
WAMU 88.5

Capital Bikeshare Supplier Bought, Reopening Door To Expansion

Bixi, the company that supplies bicycles and bike stations to the Capital Bikeshare program, has been rescued from bankruptcy. But does that mean the bike sharing will resume expansion in our area?

Leave a Comment

Help keep the conversation civil. Please refer to our Terms of Use and Code of Conduct before posting your comments.