If ever was a person who knew “them”, her name was Svetlana Alliluyeva (Lana Peters). “Them” meaning the fraternity of KGB thugs, with their cynicism, brutality, mendacity, hypocrisy, and rudeness. As Rosemary Sullivan documents it her fascinatingly detailed and truly illuminating book (“Stalin’s Daughter: The Extraordinary and Tumultuous Life of Svetlana Alliluyeva,” Harper, 2015), Svetlana grew up under complete secret police surveillance.
She had to live in the company of permanent body guards. The notorious Vlasik and Poskrebyshev, Stalin’s most trusted servants, were in charge of her, including the selection of her nanny, friends etc “The Kremlin princess” was aware that they informed her father about every single detail of her life. After the tyrant’s death, increasingly critical of her father’s times of universal terror, she changed her last name form Stalina into Alliluyeeva, after her mother, Nadezhda, who had committed suicide in November 1932. After her defection, she was a main target of KGB disininformation. Yuri Andropov personally dealt with her case. In a letter to friend, immediately after Putin’s election as president in 2000, Svetlana spelled our her disgust with the political masquerade taking place in Moscow and her dispapointment with the naivete of the American administration:
“Russia has changed the flag and some names, to be sure–yet it is still the same USSR, so far as I am conerned. And these days–when a shadowy KGB colonel got to the top (because he was wise enough to guarantee Boris Yeltsin to be spared from public investigation–and–most probably prosecution–in that field of corruption & money stealing–when the New Man in Kremlin is being pronounced by my local Public Radio as the ‘sure hero of the Russians,’ as the ‘sure choice’ for the next president–I can only swear in Russian (which is a very heavy swear, but no one can understand, than God)…” (p. 615) Reading these presciently lucid words, one can understand why, for many years, until the deteriorarion of a very close family relationship, George Kennan regarded her political thinking as worth being listened carefully to.