American Teen-Ager Fights Soviet Life Style : Stalin's Granddaughter Slow to Adjust

United Press International

Dictator Josef Stalin's 13-year-old American granddaughter is said to be stubbornly refusing to adjust to her new life in the Soviet Union--for her, an alien country whose language she does not speak.

Soviet authorities, apparently seeking to coax teen-age Olga Peters into trying to adapt to her new home, have sent her to Stalin's native southern republic of Georgia.

Authorities feel that a warm reception in Georgia--where Stalin is still idolized, although he was denounced as a criminal by the Soviet government--may help Olga overcome the trauma she has been going through since her arrival in a blaze of publicity four months ago.

Girl Becomes Withdrawn

Sources in Moscow and travelers to the capital from Georgia say Olga has become withdrawn, refusing to speak to anyone or to wear her brown Soviet school uniform. She insists on continuing to wear a cross around her neck in a country where the government takes a strong atheistic stance.

The teen-ager poses greater problems for authorities than her mother, Svetlana Alliluyeva, sources say.

Alliluyeva, 58, who defected to the United States 17 years ago, brought Olga with her when she returned to the Soviet Union in November. Olga is the child of Svetlana's brief marriage to U.S. architect William Peters, from whom she was divorced in 1973.

Svetlana's return, like her defection, was dramatic. She told a news conference she was seeking the happiness that eluded her in the West by rejoining the son and daughter she left behind.

Still Seeks Happiness

But that happiness once again appears to have eluded Svetlana. Her son and daughter from her first two marriages, now in their 30s, did not open their arms to the mother who abandoned them in 1967.

Her daughter was said to have been downright hostile and her son, though more friendly, is said to have told Svetlana he did not want her to live with him and his family.

Like history repeating itself, Svetlana's impetuous search for happiness may have inflicted misery on her third child.

Olga grew up in the United States where her mother described her as "American as apple pie." When she was 11, Svetlana moved to Britain, where Olga attended a private Quaker school and was a popular, deeply religious child.

Identity Kept Secret

It is not known when Svetlana told Olga the identity of her grandfather, a ruthless Soviet dictator from 1924 to 1953 who sent millions of Russians to harsh labor camps or execution during his purges of the 1930s.

Two years ago, Svetlana told reporters she had kept her grandfather's identity a secret from Olga.

It is possible Olga did not even know who her grandfather was until she came to Moscow in November. On the eve of their departure, according to published reports, neighbors in England heard Olga shouting at her mother and screaming, "Why didn't you tell me?"

In Moscow, Olga began attending Moscow's school No. 45 but could not fit in. Teachers said the American teen-ager needed tutoring since she speaks no Russian and lacks the grounding in Soviet geography, history and other subjects already familiar to Soviet children.

She and her mother lived in a hotel, and the relatives they visited were less than welcoming, which must have put a strain on her mother.

Only Hospitable Place

Georgia may be the only place in the Soviet Union where Svetlana and Olga can find genuine warmth and even adoration.

Streets and a park still bear Stalin's name, his portrait hangs in bakeries and wine shops and his home in the town of Gori, near Tbilisi, has been turned into a Stalin museum. The Soviet Union's other republics tore down reminders of Stalin when Nikita S. Khrushchev denounced him in 1956.

Svetlana has family connections in Georgia through her half-brother Yakov, Stalin's son by his first wife. Yakov died at a prisoner of war camp in Germany in 1943 after Stalin refused to exchange him for a captured German marshal.

Yakov's son Yevgeni, who teaches at a Moscow military academy, has two sons who live in Tbilisi. Soviet sources said they and other sympathetic families have been charged with extending the traditional Georgian hospitality to Svetlana and Olga.

Tutored in Russian

They said Olga is being tutored in both Russian and Georgian and the basic Soviet school curriculum.

The teen-ager still holds an American passport though she has also been granted Soviet citizenship, which under Soviet law nullifies her American citizenship.

U.S. officials in Moscow said they consider Olga an American citizen with the right to travel to the United States if and when she wants, although they have been granted no contact with her since her arrival.

Copyright © 2019, Los Angeles Times
EDITION: California | U.S. & World