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Lana Peters, Stalin's daughter, dies

MADISON, Wis. -- Soviet dictator Josef Stalin's daughter, whose defection to the West during the Cold War embarrassed the ruling communists and made her a best-selling author, has died. She was 85.

Lana Peters -- who was known internationally by her previous name, Svetlana Alliluyeva -- died of colon cancer Nov. 22 in Wisconsin, Richland County Coroner Mary Turner said Monday.

Her defection in 1967 -- which she said was partly motivated by the poor treatment of her late husband, Brijesh Singh, by Soviet authorities -- caused an international furor and was a public relations coup for the United States. But Peters, who left behind two children, said her identity involved more than just switching from one side to the other. She even moved back to the Soviet Union in the 1980s, only to return to the United States more than a year later.

When she left the Soviet Union in 1966 for India, she planned to leave the ashes of her late third husband, an Indian citizen, and return. Instead, she walked unannounced into the U.S. embassy in New Delhi and asked for political asylum. After a brief stay in Switzerland, she flew to the United States.

Peters carried with her a memoir she had written in 1963 about her life in Russia. "Twenty Letters to a Friend" was published within months of her arrival in the United States and became a best-seller.

Peters wrote three more books, including "Only One Year," an autobiography published in 1969.

Her survivors include her daughter Olga, who now goes by Chrese Evans and lives in Portland, Ore. A son, Josef, died in 2008 at age 63 in Moscow, according to media reports in Russia. -- AP

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