The intrigue surrounding Stalin’s daughter’s defection from the Soviet Union to the American Embassy in New Delhi is just the beginning of this tale spanning three continents, four husbands, a few lovers and a teenager who didn’t know she was Stalin’s granddaughter until the paparazzi showed up on her front lawn…. a true story, thrillingly told in this fast-paced, fascinating biography.

Cokie RobertsNew York Times bestselling author of Founding Mothers, Ladies of Liberty, and Capital Dames



Compassionate and compelling, Sullivan sensitively delivers the intimate, tragic life story of a woman who was Stalin’s only daughter in all its strangeness; from her mother’s suicide in the Kremlin to her defection and her love-affairs; from Oxford England & Princeton USA to impoverished death in Wisconsin—always haunted by Stalin. This is not a political story but a quest for love in the heart of darkness.

Simon Sebag MontefioreBestselling author of Stalin: The Court of the Red Tsar



Stalin’s Daughter remains riveting throughout....At times one feels as if one is looking at the backside of history: The picture is on the obverse. But the broad contours come through—the violence, the terror, in countless minute heartbreaking flashes…. The complex and tragic figure that emerges offers an extraordinary glimpse into one of the grimmest chapters of the past century.

Olga GrushinThe New York Times Book Review

This is a tremendously exciting and stimulating biography. Every few pages, Svetlana rockets into a new place, invariably causing mayhem. Never have I read a biography that reminded me more of a picaresque novel, with its heroine bouncing like a pinball from one location to another, from one bizarre situation to another…. But Svetlana refused to be a victim. To some extent, she spent her life on the run, pursued by the shadow of her father, but, for all her irrational urges, there was something heroic in the way she remained unbowed, and never stopped shaking a fist at fate.

Craig BrownThe Mail on Sunday

Utterly engrossing…. Sullivan’s book reads like a riveting novel, one rich in psychological insight…. a heartbreaking portrayal of a woman who courageously struggles not to be undone by history and who made history herself with her denunciation of Soviet repression.

Patricia HluchyThe Toronto Star
Stalin's Daughter

About Stalin’s Daughter

The award-winning author of Villa Air-Bel returns with a painstakingly researched, revelatory biography of Svetlana Stalin, a woman fated to live her life in the shadow of one of history’s most monstrous dictators—her father, Josef Stalin.

Born in the early years of the Soviet Union, Svetlana Stalin spent her youth inside the walls of the Kremlin. Communist Party privilege protected her from the mass starvation and purges that haunted Russia, but she did not escape tragedy—the loss of everyone she loved, including her mother, two brothers, aunts and uncles, and a lover twice her age, deliberately exiled to Siberia by her father.

As she gradually learned about the extent of her father’s brutality after his death, Svetlana could no longer keep quiet and in 1967 shocked the world by defecting to the United States—leaving her two children behind. But although she was never a part of her father’s regime, she could not escape his legacy. Her life in America was fractured; she moved frequently, married disastrously, shunned other Russian exiles, and ultimately died in poverty in Spring Green, Wisconsin.

With access to KGB, CIA, and Soviet government archives, as well as the close cooperation of Svetlana’s daughter, Rosemary Sullivan pieces together Svetlana’s incredible life in a masterful account of unprecedented intimacy. Epic in scope, it’s a revolutionary biography of a woman doomed to be a political prisoner of her father’s name. Sullivan explores a complicated character in her broader context without ever losing sight of her powerfully human story, in the process opening a closed, brutal world that continues to fascinate us.

Illustrated with photographs.

Watch the PBS Interview with Judy Woodruff on NewsHour: Rosemary Sullivan and Chrese Evans.
Listen to an excerpt from the audiobook of Stalin’s Daughter.
Read “Rosemary Sullivan wins the prestigious 2016 RBC Taylor Prize” at Macleans.ca.
Watch Rosemary Sullivan talk about Stalin’s Daughter on TVO’s The Agenda.

Reviews in the US

Stalin’s Daughter remains riveting throughout…. At times one feels as if one is looking at the backside of history: The picture is on the obverse. But the broad contours come through—the violence, the terror, in countless minute heartbreaking flashes…. The complex and tragic figure that emerges offers an extraordinary glimpse into one of the grimmest chapters of the past century.”
—Olga Grushin: The New York Times Book Review

“Insightful and thoroughly researched…. This excellent and engrossing biography is suitable for anyone interested in Russian history or in Svetlana’s struggle to make a difference in a world that never could separate her from her father.”
Library Journal

“A biography of haunting fascination portrays its subject as a pawn of historical circumstance who tried valiantly to create her own life….. With great compassion, Sullivan reveals how both sides played her for their own purposes, yet she was a writer first and foremost, a passionate Russian soul who wanted a human connection yet could not quite find the way into the Western heart. The author manages suspense and intrigue at every turn.”
Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

“Sullivan masterfully employs interviews, Alliluyeva’s own letters, and the contents of CIA, KGB, and Soviet archives to stitch together a coherent narrative of her fractured life… A head-spinning journey as Alliluyeva attempts to escape her father’s shadow without ever fully comprehending the man who cast it.”
Publishers Weekly (starred review)

“When Stalin’s only daughter, Svetlana, was young, her mother traced a finger over the girl’s heart, whispering “That is where you must bury your secrets.” As Sullivan details in this magisterial biography, those secrets dogged Svetlana as she grew up in a Kremlin Palace—doted on by a father all would come to know as a monster—and followed her for the rest of her difficult life.”
—No 1. The Season’s Best: Biography and Memoir: O, the Oprah Magazine

“You are Stalin’s daughter…. You can’t live your own life. You can’t live any life. You exist only in reference to a name.” [Svetlana Alliluyeva]…. This tragic figure is the subject of a compelling biography by Rosemary Sullivan…. Alliluyeva is a fascinating person not simply because of her name but because she was a wilful, intelligent, passionate woman who resisted being gawked at as a freak of history: the monster’s pretty daughter.”
—Gal Beckerman: The Wall Street Journal

“Sullivan does an admirable job of researching, organizing and contextualizing the events of Alliluyeva’s bewildering life in a highly accessible style…. There is fresh torment, fresh rage around every corner in Sullivan’s account. Stalin’s Daughter is the saga of a mighty struggle to be free of the shadow of evil…. It is an excellent book, and deserves a wide readership.
—Daniel Kalder, The Dallas Morning News

“In her poignant biography, Canadian writer Rosemary Sullivan tells Alliluyeva’s story with sympathy and sharp psychological insight. Sullivan does not cast Svetlana’s life as an unmitigated tragedy or as a treacly triumph against the odds…. The glimpses into the Stalin household are invariably fascinating, and the subsequent wanderings of Svetlana as she searches for inner peace take on an epic quality…. It is to Sullivan’s credit that she makes the Homeric wanderings of Svetlana Alliluyeva—who died, almost penniless, in 2011—not only comprehensible, but also unforgettably moving.”
— Matthew Price: Newsday

“Sullivan, Alliluyeva’s even-tempered biographer, writes straightforwardly and with common sense, neither detached nor overly intimate. She quotes often from Alliluyeva’s letters and interviewed dozens of Alliluyeva’s surviving family members and friends in the US and Russia. Continuously engaged by her difficult but captivating subject, Sullivan deals fairly with a woman who perhaps seems best suited to a Greek tragedy. As a reviewer of Alliluyeva’s first book observed, “To be Stalin’s daughter and to remain human is itself admirable—and we have every evidence that Svetlana Alliluyeva remained so.”
—Bob Blaisdell: The Christian Science Monitor

“Rosemary Sullivan takes on the task of bringing [Svetlana Alliluyeva’s] remarkable journey into close focus within the colossal panorama of history…. What Sullivan makes clear is that Stalin’s daughter was stronger than she knew, ultimately capable of defying her father and others.”
—Barbara Bamberger Scott: Bookreporter

“A principal virtue of Canadian critic and biographer Rosemary Sullivan’s empathetic Stalin’s Daughter: The Extraordinary and Tumultuous Life of Svetlana Alliluyeva is the vivid sense it offers of Alliluyeva as a woman buffeted by forces beyond her control, including her unruly emotions, in a world where her symbolic significance overshadowed her individual qualities.”
—Wendy Smith: Los Angeles Times

“Sullivan draws on previously secret documents and interviews with Svetlana’s American daughter, her friends, and the CIA “handler” who escorted her to the U.S. for riveting accounts of her complicated life, inside and outside of Russia. Svetlana’s letters and family photographs enhance the portrait of a woman tortured by the secrets, lies, and intrigues at the center of her early life as a Kremlin princess and in later years as the object of fascination and scorn as the daughter of the feared Russian dictator.”
—Vanessa Bush: Booklist

“This biography [is] an admiring portrait of an amazingly adaptable person facing all but insurmountable odds. [Alliluyeva] refused to let her lineage seal her fate.”
—Janet Maslin: The New York Times

“Rosemary Sullivan weaves together interviews, letters, and information from the CIA, the KGB, and Soviet files to construct a comprehensive portrait of Svetlana Alliluyeva, a woman whose primary goal in life was to distance herself from her father’s infamy….With a gentle literary touch, she lets readers follow Alliluyeva as she wanders the U.S. and U.K., running from her past—how would you grapple with the knowledge that your father was a mass murderer?—or, perhaps, searching for her future.”
Los Angeles Magazine

Reviews in the UK

“Rosemary Sullivan has created a great piece of work here. Stalin’s Daughter probably tells us more about Stalin the man than most of his biographers and is therefore essential reading to any student of his life and times. But this book is not about him—Stalin’s Daughter is the most compelling Russian biography that I have read since Nadezhda Mandelstam’s Hope Against Hope some thirty years ago.”
—Mark Diston: The Register

“This excellent biography has the immediacy of a novel…. Rosemary Sullivan controls her widespread canvas and large cast in exemplary fashion. Svetlana was chaotic, exasperating, difficult to the point of impossible—but never boring. She was one of the few credits that you can attribute to Stalin.”
—Peter Louis: The Daily Mail (on Line)

“An award winning poet and academic, Sullivan has written a biography on an epic scale, with a combination of tragedy and history worthy of a Russian novel. She recreates with clarity and compassion the life of a brave woman who could never escape Stalin’s sins. As Svetlana lamented: ‘Wherever I go, whether to Australia or some island, I will always be the political prisoner of my father’s name.’”
—Rachel Trethewey: The Independent

“This is a tremendously exciting and stimulating biography. Every few pages, Svetlana rockets into a new place, invariably causing mayhem. Never have I read a biography that reminded me more of a picaresque novel, with its heroine bouncing like a pinball from one location to another, from one bizarre situation to another…. But Svetlana refused to be a victim. To some extent, she spent her life on the run, pursued by the shadow of her father, but, for all her irrational urges, there was something heroic in the way she remained unbowed, and never stopped shaking a fist at fate.”
—Craig Brown: The Mail on Sunday

“Was Stalin a monster? Oh, yes. The question that threads through this lively intelligent book is a more interesting one, though: can you live with the idea that you are the daughter of a monster? . [Svetlana] proves, in her strange life between Russia, Georgia, India, the United States and Britain, that you really can survive as the child of an abhorred tyrant—but you spend a great deal of time running away from yourself.”
—Roger Boyes: The Times (London)

“Stalin’s Daughter is filled to the rafters with…first-hand accounts, taken from hoards of letters, interviews, articles and previously unseen papers, of Svetlana’s life, times and personality, giving the book the feel of a well-made documentary…. her life, as Sullivan shows….was lived as a series of endlessly repeated, suffocating cycles…. It takes a fine biographer to catch a woman as parti-coloured as this, and Sullivan has produced a delicate, balanced and unforgettably good portrait of a courageous and magnificent woman.”
—Frances Wilson: The London Daily Telegraph

“Philip Larkin wrote, “They fuck you up, your mum and dad”, but this can rarely be as directly true as for Svetlana. Her mother shot herself after being publicly humiliated by her husband, leaving her child to a solitary life within the walls of the Kremlin. Teenage dates meant a bodyguard at the next door table; school writing lists of her own father’s achievements…. Reading this extensively researched book, it is impossible not to feel for a woman who grew up “the political prisoner of my father’s name” and who despite all her efforts—whether as a wife, writer or even during a dalliance with a commune—could never escape it.”
—Oliver Poole: London, The Independent on Sunday

“Rosemary Sullivan, the Canadian author of this impressive and largely sympathetic biography, begins with the defection….[Her] account reads like the climax of a spy thriller…. the pace rarely lets up. Sullivan weaves in as much of the politics as is necessary—but it never weighs too heavy—while keeping the focus tightly on Svetlana herself.”
—Mary Dejevsky: Newsweek (European edition)

“What would it mean to be the child of one of the most feared mass murderers in history? Rosemary Sullivan’s compelling biography of Svetlana Alliluyeva, Stalin’s only daughter, makes an admirable attempt at an answer….The remarkable thing about Stalin’s daughter was not that she was imperious, infuriating, batty at times, but that she had survived at all—and survived, as this entertaining book shows, with her dignity and integrity intact.”
—Victor Sebestyen: The Sunday Times

Reviews in the Canada

“Utterly engrossing…. Sullivan’s book reads like a riveting novel, one rich in psychological insight…. The breadth of her research, meanwhile, is stunning: she poured over FBI, CIA and Russian state archives…[The] biography is satisfying on many levels, but at its core is a heartbreaking portrayal of a woman who courageously struggles not to be undone by history and who made history herself with her denunciation of Soviet repression.”
—Patricia Hluchy, The Toronto Star

Stalin’s Daughter is a captivating tale of intrigue, tragedy and survival….[Sullivan] spent 3 1/2 years researching and writing [the book]. The result is a compelling biography that reveals a complex, conflicted woman who was as stubborn as her father and as impetuously intelligent as her mother. In a life defined by tragedy and drama, she endured, even flourished. “What you must understand about Svetlana was that she had her father’s will, and his intelligence; she just didn’t have his evil,” said her nephew, and Stalin’s grandson, Alexander Burdonsky.”
—Patricia Treble, Maclean’s (Toronto)

Recognition for Stalin’s Daughter

  • Winner of the 2016 Plutarch Award, Biographers International Organization
  • Winner of the 2016 RBC Charles Taylor Prize for Non-Fiction
  • Winner of the 2016 BC National Non-Fiction Prize
  • Finalist for the 2016 American PEN /Bograd Weld Award for Biography
  • Finalist for 2016 the National Books Critics Circle Award
  • Winner of the 2015 Hilary Weston Writers’ Trust Prize for Non-fiction
  • One of Newsday’s Best Books of 2015
  • The Daily Mail’s Book of the Year 2015
  • One of The Boston Globe’s Best Books of 2015
  • A New York Times Book Review Editor’s Choice
  • 2016 American Library Association Notable Book
  • One of Kirkus Reviews’ Best Nonfiction Books of 2015
  • One of The New York Times’ 100 Notable Books of 2015
  • One of Washington Post’s Notable Nonfiction Books of 2015
  • One of Minneapolis Public Radio’s Top Nonfiction Picks of 2015
  • A Globe & Mail Bestseller
  • A Maclean’s Bestseller

International Rights

  • Brazil: Globo
  • Bulgaria: IZTOK-ZAPA
  • China: Beijing Imaginist Time Culture Co.
  • Czech Republic: Albatros
  • Denmark: Informations Forlag
  • Estonia: Tänäpaev
  • Finland: Otava
  • Greece: Patakis
  • Israel: Keter
  • Hungary: Europa
  • Japan: Hakusui Sha
  • Norway: Kagge Forlag
  • Poland: Znak
  • Portugal: Temas e Debates
  • Spain: Debate
  • Romania: Corint
  • Russia, Astrel
  • Serbia: Laguna
  • Slovakia: Ikar
  • Sweden: Norstedts
  • The Netherlands: De Geus
  • United Kingdom: Fourth Estate