Excerpt from Stalin's Daughter by Rosemary Sullivan, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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Stalin's Daughter

The Extraordinary and Tumultuous Life of Svetlana Alliluyeva

by Rosemary Sullivan

Stalin's Daughter by Rosemary Sullivan X
Stalin's Daughter by Rosemary Sullivan
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  • First Published:
    Jun 2015, 752 pages
    Paperback:
    Jun 2016, 768 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Sinéad Fitzgibbon
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Prologue
The Defection

At 7:00 p.m. on March 6, 1967, a taxi drew up to the open gates of the American Embassy on Shantipath Avenue in New Delhi. Watched carefully by the Indian police guard, it proceeded slowly up the circular drive. The passenger in the backseat looked out at the large circular reflecting pool, serene in the fading light. A few ducks and geese still floated among the jets of water rising from its surface. The embassy's exterior walls were constructed of pierced concrete blocks, which gave the building a light, airy look. The woman noted how different This was from the stolid institutional Soviet Embassy she had just left. So this was America.

Svetlana Alliluyeva climbed the wide steps and stared at the American eagle embedded in the glass doors. All the important decisions of her life had been taken precipitately. Once she crossed this threshold, she knew that her old life would be irrevocably lost to her. She had no doubt that the wrath of the Kremlin would soon fall on her head. She felt defiant. She felt terrified. She'd made the most important decision of her life; she'd escaped, but into what she had no idea. She did not hesitate. Clutching her small suitcase in one hand, she rang the bell.

Danny Wall, the marine guard on desk duty, opened the door. He looked down at the small woman standing before him. She was middle-aged, neatly dressed, nondescript. He was about to tell her the embassy was closed when she handed him her passport. He blanched. He locked the door behind her and led her to a small adjacent room. He then phoned Robert Rayle, the second secretary of the embassy, who was in charge of walk-ins— defectors. Rayle had been out, but when he returned the call minutes later, Wall gave him the secret code indicating the embassy had a Soviet defector, the last thing Rayle was expecting on a quiet Monday evening in the Indian capital.

When Rayle arrived at the embassy at 7:25, he was pointed to a room where a woman sat talking with Consul George Huey. She turned to Rayle as he entered, and almost the first thing she said to him was: "Well, you probably won't believe this, but I'm Stalin's daughter."

Rayle looked at the demure, attractive woman with copper hair and pale blue eyes who stared steadily back at him. She did not fit his image of Stalin's daughter, though what that image was, he could not have said. She handed him her Soviet passport. At a quick glance, he saw the name: Citizeness Svetlana Iosifovna Alliluyeva. Iosifovna was the correct patronymic, meaning "daughter of Joseph." He went through the possibilities. She could be a Soviet plant; she could be a counteragent; she could be crazy. George Huey asked, nonplussed, "So you say your father was Stalin? The Stalin?"

As the officer in charge of walk-ins from the Soviet bloc, Rayle was responsible for confirming her authenticity. After a brief interview, he excused himself and went to the embassy communications center, where he cabled headquarters in Washington, demanding all files on Svetlana Iosifovna Alliluyeva. The answer came back one hour later: "No traces." Headquarters knew nothing at all about her—there were no CIA files, no FBI files, no State Department files. The US government didn't even know Stalin had a daughter.

While he waited for a response from Washington, Rayle interrogated Svetlana. How did she come to be in India? She claimed that she had left the USSR on December 19 on a ceremonial mission. The Soviet government had given her special permission to travel to India to scatter the ashes of her "husband," Brajesh Singh, on the Ganges in his village—Kalakankar, Uttar Pradesh—as Hindu tradition dictated. She added bitterly that because Singh was a foreigner, Aleksei Kosygin, chairman of the Council of Ministers, had personally refused her request to marry him, but after Singh's death, she was permitted to carry his ashes to India. In the three months she'd spent here, she'd fallen in love with the country and asked to be allowed to stay. Her request was denied. "The Kremlin considers me state property," she said with disgust. "I am Stalin's daughter!" She told Rayle that, under Soviet pressure, the Indian government had refused to extend her visa. She was fed up with being treated like a "national relic." She would not go back to the USSR. She looked firmly at Rayle and said that she had come to the American Embassy to ask the US government

From Stalin's Daughter by Rosemary Sullivan Copyright © 2015 by Rosemary Sullivan. Reprinted courtesy of Harper, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers.

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