Joseph Stalin's Daughter Lived Out A Quiet Life In Wisconsin Because Of A Bizarre Reincarnation Theory

We may have a tendency, when reviewing history's worst and most-murderous dictators, to see them as one-dimensional caricatures of themselves. Pol Pot, Idi Amin, Adolf Hitler, and others exist within the pages of history where the narrative focuses almost exclusively on the crimes they committed, or were committed on their orders. Lost within these narratives is the fact that these people did many of the things that regular people do, too, such as marry and have children.

Joseph Stalin (above), whose brutal rule of the Soviet Union was estimated to be responsible for between 6 and 20 million deaths, was himself such a person (via All That's Interesting). Sure, he was a murderous dictator who paid no heed to the millions of people starving under his rule, but he also married twice and likely drove his second wife to suicide (per UPI). He also fathered three children and adopted another, according to Russia Beyond.

One of his children, daughter Svetlana Iosifovna Alliluyeva, eventually made her way to the United States and lived the high life for a while before eventually disappearing into obscurity (via the Association for Diplomatic Studies and Training). She died in Wisconsin, having been brought there in part because Frank Lloyd Wright's widow believed Alliluyeva was the reincarnation of her deceased young daughter (per The New Yorker).

Svetlana Iosifovna Alliluyeva's Childhood And Youth

According to The Vintage News, Joseph Stalin's relationships with his male children were largely antagonistic and hostile, but he absolutely adored and doted on his youngest child and only daughter, Svetlana Alliluyeva. Born in Moscow in 1926 (per MPR News), she was a "child celebrity" in her youth, the Soviet equivalent of Shirley Temple, as The Vintage News describes her.

Though his father loved her, her loved ones didn't fare as well. Alliluyeva's mother died when she was 6, likely driven to suicide by her father, although the family lied to her and told her she'd died of a sudden illness. When Alliluyeva fell in love with a Jewish man, he was sent to the labor camps for 10 years. A number of years later, Alliluyeva fell in love with and married a Jew, but the dictator refused to even meet him and allegedly slapped his daughter in anger. They divorced not long afterward.

Alliluyeva was pushing 30 years old when her father died in 1953. At the time, the Soviet Union was keen to turn a new page, and that meant distancing itself from Stalin's crimes against humanity. Suddenly, Alliluyeva found that her connection to the country's dictator meant considerably less, and she started looking for options outside of the Soviet Union.

India And Defection To The U.S.

Svetlana Alliluyeva's options in the Soviet Union now having become increasingly limited due to her association with her father, it was a relationship with an Indian man that changed her life (via MPR News).

In 1963, an Indian communist named Brajesh Singh was recuperating from an illness in the same Moscow hospital where Alliluyeva was herself convalescing (per The Times of India). The two met and fell in love. Unfortunately, Soviet authorities declined to allow her to marry a foreigner, so instead, the two simply lived together in defiance, according to MPR News. When he died, Alliluyeva was keen to see him cremated, his ashes scattered in the Ganges River, in accordance with his culture and custom. Soviet authorities granted her permission to go to India, and she never looked back.

On March 9, 1967, Alliluyeva entered the U.S. embassy in New Delhi and asked for asylum (via the Association for Diplomatic Studies and Training). A few weeks later, she arrived in New York, the most famous Soviet defector of her day (per The New Yorker).

Two Svetlanas

When she arrived in the United States in 1967, Svetlana Alliluyeva was a celebrity, largely because she was an extraordinarily high-profile person from the Soviet Union who had defected to the U.S. (via The Telegraph). She was also monied — she'd made millions from two books. According to MPR News, she was the toast of dinner parties hosted by the well-heeled, and at some point, she crossed paths with Olgivanna Lloyd Wright, the widow of famed architect Frank Lloyd Wright.

The New Yorker reports that the admiration between the two women was mutual, if perhaps a bit misplaced. Olgivanna took a shine to Alliluyeva because the older woman herself had had a daughter — also named Svetlana — who died in a car accident some years prior and would have been close in age to Alliluyeva. Alliluyeva, for her part, was reminded of her own mother by the older woman.

Olgivanna invited Alliluyeva to visit the Taliesin Fellowship, a sort of community dedicated to Frank's ideals and memory, which had locations in Tucson, Arizona, and Spring Green, Wisconsin. In Tucson, Alliluyeva met Wesley Peters, the widower of Olgivanna's Svetlana. Evidence seems to point to Olgivanna being particularly invested in this marriage — for a very particular reason.

Reincarnation as Lana Peters?

As The New Yorker reports, when Svetlana Alliluyeva arrived in Tucson, she found the red carpet rolled out for her (almost literally) by Olgivanna Wright. There, she was introduced to Wright's daughter's widower, Wesley Peters, who was, perhaps not coincidentally, seated beside her. This bit of matchmaking extends quite a bit beyond an old lady shipping two younger people. For reasons perhaps best known to her, Olgivanna believed that Alliluyeva was the reincarnation of her own daughter.

There are several problems with this notion, and that excludes the discussion of whether or not reincarnation is real. The biggest is that both women were alive at the same time for much of their lives — Wright died in 1946, when Alliluyeva was an adult (per Wisconsin State Journal). Regardless, Peters and Alliluyeva married, and she took on the name "Lana Peters" (per The Vintage News). At some point, the couple moved from Tucson to Wisconsin, and it was there that she lived out the remainder of her life.

Svetlana Alliluyeva's Sad End

For Olgivanna Wright, Svetlana Alliluyeva's marriage to her son-in-law was a perhaps misguided attempt to bring back her own daughter. For Alliluyeva, however, it was just another marriage that ended poorly. She was dissatisfied with life at Taliesin, over which Olgivanna ruled with an iron fist, and eventually, she left the compound. Wesley stayed behind, per The New Yorker.

From there, Alliluyeva effectively disappeared into poverty and obscurity. She'd arrived in the U.S. a monied celebrity; by middle age, she was divorced and broke (via The Telegraph). According to The Vintage News, she moved about here and there over the years but eventually wound up back in Wisconsin, where she died in 2011 at the age of 85. She was estranged from her family, including from her children, both Soviet and American. The New Yorker reports that a 1992 story claims that she had been living in a "charity hostel" in Wisconsin.

Via a New York Times obituary, Alliluyeva complained that she never escaped being a "political prisoner" of her father's name. "He broke my life," she said of him.