Joseph Stalin’s Children

Stalin with His Son (Vasily Dzhugashvili) and Daughter (Svetlana Alliluyeva)

Joseph Stalin had three children: one with his first wife, Ekaterina Svanidze, and two with his second wife, Nadezhda Sergeyevna Alliluyeva.

Yakov Dzhugashvili

Yakov Dzhugashvili was Stalin’s first son. He was born on the 31st of March 1907 and died on the 14th of April 1943. His mother was Ekaterina Svanidze, who died of typhus when Yakov was only nine months old. Stalin was overcome with grief when Ekaterina died but did not show much care for Yakov. When Yakov was 18, he suffered a broken heart over a woman and tried to kill himself with a gun. However, he only managed to wound himself, causing his father to say, “He can’t even shoot straight.” Later, Yakov married a Jewish woman named Yulia Meltzer. Stalin thought Yakov intentionally chose a Jewish woman to infuriate him, but he eventually accepted her. 

When World War 2 erupted, Stalin ordered his son to join the fight as an artillery lieutenant. In a few weeks, he was captured by the Germans. However, there were reports that he intentionally surrendered to the enemy. The Germans took advantage of the capture of Stalin’s son, spreading propaganda that Stalin’s son actually surrendered and that it made no sense to fight for Stalin anymore. In 1941, Stalin announced that all officers who were captured were traitors, and their relatives would be arrested. Because of Yakov’s capture at the hands of the Germans, Yulia was arrested and imprisoned for two years. There was talk that she urged Yakov to surrender, and this might have contributed to the harsh treatment she suffered. Later, Hitler’s nephew was caught by Soviet soldiers, prompting Hitler to offer Stalin an exchange. Stalin refused, saying he did not want an exchange between a lieutenant and a higher-ranking field marshal. Years later, it became known that Stalin ordered two rescue attempts for his son. 

Yakov died in 1943 at the age of 36 inside a German prison. The official statement claimed that he died while trying to escape. This statement came with a photo of Yakov’s body full of bullet holes trapped in a prison fence. In 2000, an inquiry determined that Yakov intentionally killed himself on the electric prison fence.

Vasily Dzhugashvili

Vasily Dzhugashvili was born on the 21st of March 1921 and died on the 19th of March 1962. He was Stalin’s second son, and his mother was Nadezhda Sergeyevna Alliluyeva. Stalin did not despise Vasily as much as Yakov, but Vasily nonetheless led a troubled life. When Vasily was only 11 years old, his mother shot herself in the heart after an argument with Stalin. However, he was not informed of the real cause of his mother’s death, and instead, he was told that she died of appendicitis. When Vasily was 17, he enrolled in an aviation school and advanced through the ranks with the help of his father’s influence. However, he was continually hounded by his love of alcohol and women. 

Vasily progressed in his career and achieved the rank of Major General. But his colleagues were aloof towards him because they felt he was serving as his father’s spy. When his father died in 1953, Vasily no longer enjoyed special privileges, and those who were friendly to him while his father was alive knew that they no longer needed to be friends with him. Vasily was constantly getting himself into trouble, and he found himself in and out of prison. He was set free in 1960 and was granted a pension and an apartment in Moscow. In 1962, Vasily died of causes related to alcoholism.  

Svetlana Alliluyeva

Svetlana Alliluyeva was Joseph Stalin’s third child and only daughter. She was born on the 28th of February 1926 and died on the 22nd of November 2011. Her mother was Nadezhda Sergeyevna Alliluyeva, and she was the younger sister of Vasily Dzhugashvili. During her childhood, Svetlana was well-loved in the Soviet Union. However, when she was just six years old, her mother committed suicide by shooting herself in the chest. Like her brother, Svetlana was led to believe that their mother died of appendicitis. Stalin ruled Svetlana’s life like he ruled the Soviet Union — with an iron fist. When she fell in love with a Jewish filmmaker, he roared at her for having sex with a Jew while the country was at war. Stalin then sent the Jewish filmmaker to a labor camp. Svetlana wanted to study literature but had to follow her father’s wish and, instead, study history and political thought.

When Stalin died, Svetlana tasted a little freedom, but she also no longer enjoyed special treatment. She had a relationship with an Indian communist but was forbidden by Communist officials to marry him. He died in 1967, and Svetlana was allowed to take back his ashes to India. While in India, she headed to the U.S. Embassy and told the officials there who she was. Svetlana eventually defected from the U.S.S.R. and settled in the U.S.A. She left behind two children in the Soviet Union. She married an American named William Wesley Peters in 1970 and changed her name to Lana Peters. The couple had one daughter named Olga, but she eventually divorced William in 1973. Lana Peters died of colon cancer in Wisconsin in 2011 at 85.