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Twenty Letters to a Friend
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Twenty Letters to a Friend

3.7  ·  Rating Details ·  182 Ratings  ·  33 Reviews
In this riveting, New York Times-bestselling memoir—first published by Harper in 1967—Svetlana Alliluyeva, subject of Rosemary Sullivan’s critically acclaimed biography, Stalin’s Daughter, describes the surreal experience of growing up in the Kremlin in the shadow of her father, Joseph Stalin.

Svetlana Iosifovna Alliluyeva, later known as Lana Peters, was the youngest child
Hardcover, 291 pages
Published June 1st 1967 by Harper & Row (first published 1967)
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Jan 24, 2011 Gini rated it it was amazing
An amazing memoir published in 1967 by the daughter of Joseph Stalin. Beautifully written, Svetlana Alliluyeva reveals how she grew up as a child suspecting, and later as an adult confirming, her father had commited horrible atrocities. Stalin's murderous impulses struck close to home leading to the disappearance of Alliluyeva's beloved relatives and and the suicide of her mother. Though she was estranged from Stalin at the end of his life, she manages to convey through this painful personal exa ...more
Jan 19, 2012 Sally rated it really liked it
Fascinating insight into the family of one of the 20th century's strongmen. While there is no doubt that Stalin's rule was one of hardship for many Russians, this book shows another side of him. His daughter doesn't sugarcoat it; she acknowledges his temper and paranoia, but you get the feeling that after his wife's suicide that he was never quite the same. This book also gives the reader an insight into the machinations of the Party, where men fell over - and condemned - each other in their att ...more
Mar 17, 2012 Laura rated it really liked it
Recommended to Laura by: Bettie
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Sep 03, 2011 Butterfly rated it really liked it
Beautifully written glimpse into Stalin's daughter's life, from before the Revolution (as told to Svetlana by her older family members) to 1963. The 20 letters are basically her memoirs up until that point in her life, only a few years before she defected to the US. The stories offer very unique personal insights into Stalin's character as a "regular guy" and what it was like for the author to grow up as his daughter. Stalin is one of the main figures, but much of the book is devoted to Svetlana ...more
Apr 07, 2011 notRahimeanymore rated it liked it
I started reading this feeling sure I'd be dissatisfied by it, but I also wanted to have read it and found out what she said. It was pretty much as disappointing as I expected, as a memoir by Stalin's daughter, but it was enlightening in other ways. What stood out to me (especially when she was describing her 'nurse,' who apparently went seamlessly from being a servant for the nobility to being a servant for the Communist upper class, and spent a lifetime nursing Svetlana while her mother did al ...more
Gabriele Goldstone
Feb 04, 2016 Gabriele Goldstone rated it it was amazing
I picked up this memoir again after reading Sullivan's book: Stalin's Daughter: The Extraordinary and Tumultuous Life of Svetlana Alliluyeva|22638321] The two deserve to be read together. Very rewarding to view the family tree and photographs that Sullivan's book contains and compare them to Svetlana's letters. Fascinating.

My copy of this book came from my parents' shelves. It was a German translation, published in 1967 and read by various aunts and uncles who were all victims of Stalin in one w
Feb 09, 2008 Pamela rated it really liked it
The daughter of Josef Stalin opens this book with a description of the day he died in their home. A sorrowful account spanning 3 decades of the consequences of being the daughter of a historical figure who is also a tyranical totalitarian. Her method of telling the story through letters to an anonymous friend(the reader) added to my enjoyment of it
Jul 25, 2015 Doreen rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Diane, Jan F., Jan W., Sara P., history buffs
Recommended to Doreen by: discovered it when reading Rosemary Sullivan's book
"Twenty Letters to a Friend", is an outpouring of Svetlana Alliluyeva's deepest feelings and memories before her defection in 1967. She recounts the happiness and tragedies in the first half of her life, much as a woman would do if writing a letter or speaking to a close friend. She shares fond, warm memories of her childhood; people who loved her and treated her kindly. Even her father, Josef Stalin, seems to have had a moderate degree of tenderness toward his only daughter. Every daughter want ...more
Mar 10, 2012 Bettie☯ rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Brazilliant, Carey, GeeVee et al

'Svetlana's mother shot herself and Stalin never understood why.'

Abridged by Eileen Horne.

Writing as if to a close friend, Josef Stalin's daughter recalls her extraordinary life as an eyewitness to history, beginning with the searing memory of her father's final hours, and the turmoil provoked by his terrible death...

Read by Stella Gonet

Producer: Clive Brill A Pacificus production for BBC Radio 4.

"I kees you"
Feb 02, 2013 Sam rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Overall a fascinating look into the lives of the family surrounding Stalin, as well as providing unique insights into Stalin himself; insights which at times are contrary to the popular conception of him, while not covering up his flaws either. The author's own life seemed to mimic that of her father: as the years go by an increasing isolation from the reality of everyday life that most people experience. After his death, things would change in both Svetlana's life as well as in her brother's li ...more
Bjorn Roose
May 01, 2015 Bjorn Roose rated it really liked it
Great book. Inside the personal life of dictator Joseph Stalin, viewed by someone who neither hated nor really loved him.
Nov 30, 2011 Daisy marked it as to-read
Shelves: russia
Judith Johnson
Jan 21, 2014 Judith Johnson rated it really liked it
Many years since I read this - must re-read, inspired by others' reviews!
Jul 02, 2009 Masha rated it liked it
Reading books found on others' shelves is a favorite with me.
بهمن بهمن
ketabe khaterate dokhtare stalin ke be amrica farar kard
brenda lane
Jan 11, 2017 brenda lane rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Required reading

This is a truly moving memoir and a valuable piece of world history. Should be required reading for our high school world history students since it gives us an inside view of one of America's previously considered most dangerous enemies. This book makes one appreciate freedom even more than we thought possible.
Mar 19, 2016 Ξιτσυκα rated it it was amazing
I learnt the existence of this book during a course in college on 20th century dictatorship. I remember one unfortunate classmate asking the professor if Stalin waged the great terror in order to avenge for his dear Kirov. The professor, pissed off by such a hypothesis because every reading material in the course would tell you otherwise, cc-ed everyone in his class his response and emphasized how important it is to do the readings for the course. It was a polite public humiliation.
This is a not
Christi Warner
This served as encouragement for what is happening politically in the US. I figure if she can survive as her father had close friends and relatives murdered and tortured, and survive, contribute and shed light on history, I may be able to survive the next few years!
Mar 22, 2016 Elisa rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2016

I have to admit that among the reasons I read this book, I cannot rule out "morbid curiosity" as I rarely read memoirs. I found an elegantly, warm and touching account of life within the elite of one of the most brutal regimes in the 20th century. The most striking aspect of Stalin and his children's life is the loneliness. His paranoia and need for totalitarianism prevented close human relations within the family. A legacy that I understand followed Svetlana through life. A bit dated (I had to
Dec 30, 2015 Carol rated it liked it
I found this memoir by Josef Stalin's daughter interesting from a psychological perspective. I've always found it puzzling how tyrannical dictators can go out every day and commit horrendous acts of violence against their citizens and then go home and play with the baby on the carpet like Father Knows Best. Svetlana gives a view of what it was like to live with Stalin, although the parenting styles of the class and time were pretty much hands off. She had a nurse and a nanny and was intermittenl ...more
"You're probably worn out by now, my friend, with the countless deaths I've been telling you about." Yes!

"It was as though my father were at the center of a black circle and anyone who ventured inside vanished or perished or was destroyed in one way or another."

It's hard for anyone to come to terms with their parent being a bad person, even more so when one of those parents is Stalin. Nevertheless, his daughter gives him the benefit of the doubt and generally blames his advisors on all his destr
Jun 05, 2013 Anna rated it it was ok
it is easy to get worn out by the account of countless deaths that the author lists throughout the book. however, such was the part that her father played in the history of the soviet union. the book is a personal account of things she remembers and it also accounts the memories of other witnesses. so, you either can take it at the face value or question the authenticity of those accounts. there is a lot of personal opinion cast on some issues. although, she claims not to justify her father's ac ...more
Mar 30, 2013 Masha rated it liked it
It's a weird book, historically it's priceless but it's not something you'd read for entertainment. You will see Stalin from quite a shocking side - that person could love apparently and his closest friends, his children's nurses teachers guards etc all these people were surprisingly dedicated to him and loved him very much. The scene of Stalin's death described in such a way I got goose skin and I consider it the best part of the book. Read the book if you are interested in what is going inside ...more
Mar 31, 2014 TarasProkopyuk rated it really liked it
Книга дочери Сталина «20 писем к другу» в жанре мемуаров раскрывает Сталина помимо всех других его известных образов ещё и как семьянина, как личность, и конечно же каким он был отцом для Светланы, других своих детей, как относился к жене, родственникам и сотоварищей по партии.

Сталин, да и как все люди, был очень разный, но с такой стороны как описала его в своей книге дочь как правило таким его нигде не описывают. Помимо его жестокости, всех тех миллионов человеческих жертв и разрушенных судеб,
Jan 04, 2016 Helen rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
A very thought provoking book and given it's very heavy topic quite short so the reader doesn't getnlostbor bored.

I have a fascination of Russia and I have learned things and added to my list of other books tobread.

The most fascinating thing about this book is Svetka's divided views, she knows what her father did was wrong but she also sees the man who loved her and whom she loved. She takes the reader on her journey of trying to understand why Stalin did what he did and itvdoes seem a fairly ba
The Hancock
Nov 26, 2009 The Hancock rated it liked it
Interesting positive view of growing up as the daughter of Josef Stalin. Also provides an interesting, but not new, perspective of life in the Soviet Union and a good perspective on growing up in the thirties and forties.

Clea bought this a her Thrift Store based solely on the fact that it was Russian. The dust jacket was missing so it was purely a blind purchase. Svetlana Alliluyeva, it turns out, was Stalin's illegitimate daughter. This book was included in the bibliography of From the Yarosla
Sep 29, 2012 Barbarac rated it really liked it
I picked this book up at a yard sale a couple of years ago not having a clue that Svetlana Alliluyeva was Stalin's daughter. I thought the story was fascinating, even though the writing at times was pretty dry.
Her story is told as if in a letter to a friend. Before this book, I would never had thought about whether Stalin had kids or how they grew up. I can't even imagine this woman's life, she wins the contest at strictest dad on earth. If he doesn't like your friends he has them killed. Or se
Dec 05, 2013 Olga rated it really liked it
When one begins to read this book she or he should keep in mind that this book is written in a form of letters. Svetlana describes events that she actually experienced. It is an interesting read on Stalin from a perspective of a child and a young woman.
Dec 23, 2008 Arostratus rated it really liked it
Shelves: novel
all i know about stalin is juz the murderer from the soviet at the age of cold war and i think he had no love
but after reading that book, now i know that he was juz a human and he killed many people for his own good but he had love of his own way
Patrick McDaniel
Jan 07, 2016 Patrick McDaniel rated it really liked it
I felt this book started a little slow. Then I couldn't put it down. Then the last chapter seemed slow again. I've always loved Russian history so I found this book to be pretty interesting.
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Svetlana Iosifovna Alliluyeva (Russian: Светлана Иосифовна Аллилуева, Georgian: სვეტლანა ალილუევა; 28 February 1926 – 22 November 2011), later known as Lana Peters (Georgian: ლანა პეტერსი), was the youngest child and only daughter of Soviet Premier Joseph Stalin and Nadezhda Alliluyeva, Stalin's second wife. In 1967, she caused an international furor when she defected and became a naturalized citi ...more
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