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Nadezhda Alliluyeva

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Nadezhda Alliluyeva
Надежда Аллилуева
Born22 September [O.S. 9 September] 1901
Died9 November 1932(1932-11-09) (aged 31)
Cause of deathGunshot (suicide)
Other namesNadezhda Stalina
OccupationAssistant, typist, engineering student
(m. 1919)
  • Sergei Alliluyev (1866–1945)
  • Olga Fedotenko (1877–1951)
  • Anna (sister)
  • Fyodor (brother)
  • Pavel (brother)

Nadezhda Sergeevna Alliluyeva (Russian: Надежда Сергеевна Аллилуева; 22 September [O.S. 9 September] 1901 – 9 November 1932) was the second wife of Joseph Stalin. Born in Baku to a revolutionary and friend of Stalin, she was raised in Saint Petersburg. Having known Stalin from a young age, the two married when she was 18, and they had two children. Alliluyeva worked as a secretary for Bolshevik leaders, including both Vladimir Lenin and Stalin, before enrolling at the Industrial Academy in Moscow to study synthetic fibres and become an engineer. Alliluyeva had several health issues, which combined with her interest in pursuing an independent, professional career led to frequent arguments with Stalin, who wanted his wife to maintain a domestic role. On several occasions, Alliluyeva contemplated leaving Stalin, and after an argument shot herself the night of 9 November 1932.

Early life[edit]


Alliluyeva's father, Sergei Alliluyev (1866–1945), was from a peasant family in Voronezh Oblast, and worked as a metal worker and then mechanic, eventually settling in the Caucasus.[1] He joined the Russian Social Democratic Labour Party (RSDLP) in 1898, and became an active member in worker study circles; it was through these meetings he met Mikhail Kalinin and Ivan Fioletov, chief organizers of the party in the Caucasus.[2] Sergei had been arrested and exiled to Siberia, but by 1902 he had returned to the Caucasus.[3] In 1903, he met Ioseb Jughashvili (later known as Joseph Stalin) while helping to move a printing machine from Baku to Tiflis.[4]

Her mother, Olga Fedotenko (1877–1951), was the youngest of nine children of Evgeni Fedotenko and Magdelena Eicholz. Evgeni had Ukrainian ancestry on his father's side, while his mother was Georgian, and grew up speaking Georgian at home.[5] Magdalena came from a family of German settlers, and spoke German and Georgian at home, only learning Russian later in life.[6][7] Olga's father initially wanted her to marry one of his friend's sons, however she refused to accept the arrangement and left home at 14 to live with Sergei, joining him in Tiflis.[6][8]


Photo of Stalin as a younger man, smiling at the camera and cropped from the waist up
Joseph Stalin in 1915. He and Alliluyeva married in 1919.

Nadezhda Alliluyeva, born in Baku in 1901,[9] was the youngest of four children, following Anna, Fyodor, and Pavel.[10] The family moved to Moscow in 1904, but had returned to Baku by 1906. In 1907, to avoid arrest, Sergei moved the family to Saint Petersburg, where they would remain.[11] The family would often help hide Bolsheviks at their home, including Stalin.[12] Sergei Aliluyev worked at an electricity station, and by 1911 was named head of a sector there, allowing the family to afford a comfortable lifestyle.[13]

Exposed to revolutionary activity throughout her youth, Alliluyeva first became a supporter of the Bolsheviks while in school.[14] Her family frequently hosted Party members at their home, including hiding Vladimir Lenin during the July Days of 1917, which further strengthened Alliluyeva's views.[15] After Lenin escaped Russia (August 1917), Stalin arrived.[16] He had known Alliluyeva since she was a child, reportedly once having saved her from drowning when she was 2 years old.[17] But, it had been many years since they had last seen each other, and over the course of the summer they became close.[18] The couple married in February or March 1919.[19][a] Stalin was a 40-year-old widower and father of one son (Yakov), born in 1907 to Stalin's first wife (Kato) who died of typhus in 1907. There was no ceremony for the marriage, as Bolsheviks frowned upon the custom.[20]

Life and career[edit]

Professional life[edit]

In 1918, Alliluyeva and Stalin moved to Moscow, joining other Bolshevik leaders as the capital was transferred there.[21] They took up residence in the Amusement Palace[b] of the Kremlin, occupying separate rooms.[22][23] Stalin made Alliluyeva a secretary at the People's Commissariat for Nationalities, where he served as the head, and in May brought her and her brother Fyodor with him to Tsaritsyn, where the Bolsheviks were fighting the White Army as part of the Russian Civil War.[24] Alliluyeva did not stay long there and returned to Moscow, though Stalin's involvement in the Civil War meant he was rarely around.[25]

Not wanting to be dependent on Stalin, Alliluyeva transferred positions and joined Vladimir Lenin's secretariat.[26] This annoyed Stalin, who wanted his wife to quit her job and remain at home. Alliluyeva was comfortable working for Lenin and his wife Nadezhda Krupskaya, also a Bolshevik functionary, as they were more lenient about her work than Stalin: Lenin knew that Alliluyeva had left school at a young age and consequently forgave her for spelling errors, for example.[27]

In 1921, a few months after the birth of their first child, Vasily, Alliluyeva was expelled from the Party during a purge. Historian Stephen Kotkin has suggested this was because Stalin wanted her to stay at home, and while she was admitted back on Lenin's encouragement, her full status was not restored until 1924.[28] Alliluyeva was concerned that if she did not work outside the home, she would not be taken seriously. She also desired to be qualified for any role she took up.[29] After working in Lenin's office, Alliluyeva transferred to briefly work for Sergo Ordzhonikidze, and then on to the International Agrarian Institute in the Department of Agitation and Propaganda as an assistant.[30]

Tired of her work and not happy in her role as the "First Lady", Alliluyeva looked for something else to do with herself.[31] Interested in education and wanting to be more involved with the Party, in 1929 she enrolled in the Industrial Academy to study engineering and synthetic fibres, which was a new technology at the time, and became more active in local Party meetings.[21][32] As per the custom of the time, Alliluyeva registered using her maiden name, which also allowed her to keep a low profile; it is unclear if her associates knew who she was, though it is likely that at least the local Party boss, Nikita Khrushchev, knew of her.[33] Alliluyeva frequently took the tram from the Kremlin to the Academy, joined by Dora Khazan (ru), the wife of Andrey Andreyev, a leading Bolshevik and associate of Stalin.[34] At the Academy, Alliluyeva interacted with students from across the Soviet Union, and learned of the issues the collectivization of agriculture, in particular in Ukraine, which was seeing widespread famine, and was causing on them. She reportedly argued with Stalin about this on one occasion, only to have him ban her from classes for two months. Despite that, she continued to take in the views of her classmates, and she sympathized with their plight.[35][33]

Family life[edit]

Alliluyeva had her first child, Vasily, in 1921. Historian Simon Sebag Montefiore noted that she walked to the hospital to give birth in a show of "Bolshevik austerity".[36] A second child, daughter Svetlana, was born in 1926.[37] In 1921, the family also took in Stalin's first son, Yakov Dzhugashvili, who was born to Stalin's first wife Kato in 1907.[38] Alliluyeva was only six years older than her step-son, Dzhugashvili, with whom she developed a friendly relationship.[39] In 1921, the family also took in Artyom Sergeyev, the son of Fyodor Sergeyev, a close friend of Stalin. Fyodor died four months after the birth of Artyom in an accident, and though his mother was still alive the boy was raised in the Stalin household.[40][41]

Interested in pursuing a professional career, Alliluyeva did not spend much time with her children, and instead hired a nanny, Alexandra Bychokova, to watch the children.[42] This was normal of someone of her status, as female Party members were expected to work.[43] When Alliluyeva dealt with her children, though, she was quite strict: Svetlana would later recall the only letter she received from her mother scolded her for "being terribly naughty", despite Svetlana being 4 or 5 at the time. She would also recall that the only person Stalin feared was Alliluyeva.[44] Even so, Alliluyeva wanted to ensure the children received a good education.[45]

During the week, the family would stay in their Kremlin apartment, where Alliluyeva maintained a simple lifestyle and controlled the family's expenses.[33] On weekends, they would often go to their dacha on the outskirts of Moscow.[38] Alliluyeva's siblings and their families lived nearby the dacha, and they would all frequently get together on these occasions.[46] In the summer, Stalin would holiday along the Black Sea near Sochi or in Abkhazia, and was frequently joined by Alliluyeva, though by 1929 she would only spend a few days there before returning to Moscow for her studies. Though apart, the two of them would frequently write letters to each other.[47]

According to her close friend, Polina Zhemchuzhina, the marriage was strained, and the two argued frequently.[48] Stalin believed that Alliluyeva's mother had schizophrenia and would accuse Alliluyeva herself of having it when they fought.[49] Alliluyeva suspected Stalin was unfaithful with other women.[50] Stalin did have close relationships with many women within the Party, and the Bolsheviks were more sexually liberated than earlier Russian society, so it is possible that he did have liaisons with some of these women.[51][52] On several occasions, Alliluyeva looked at leaving Stalin and taking the children with her, and in 1926 she left for a short time, moving to Leningrad. However, Stalin called her back, and she returned to stay with him.[53] Her nephew Alexander Alliluyev would later claim that shortly before her death Alliluyeva was again planning to leave Stalin, but there is no evidence to confirm this assertion.[54]


Marble grave with a women's head carved into the top, all encased in protective glass
Alliluyeva's grave at the Novodevichy Cemetery in Moscow

Last night[edit]

In November 1932, Alliluyeva was only a few weeks away from finishing her course at the Academy.[55] Alongside her compatriots, she marched in the 7 November parade commemorating the fifteenth anniversary of the October Revolution, with Stalin and the children watching her from the top of Lenin's Mausoleum on Red Square.[56] After the parade finished, Alliluyeva complained of a headache, so the children went to their dacha outside the city while she returned to their residence in the Kremlin.[56] The next evening, both Alliluyeva and Stalin attended a dinner hosted at the Kremlin apartment of Kliment Voroshilov, a close friend of Stalin's and a member of the Politburo, another event to commemorate the Revolution. Though she preferred to dress modestly in a style that was more in line with the Bolshevik ideology, Alliluyeva dressed up for the occasion.[22] There was much drinking during the dinner, which had several high-ranking Bolsheviks and their spouses in attendance, and Alliluyeva and Stalin began to argue, which was not an unusual occurrence at these gatherings.[50] It has been suggested that Stalin was also flirting with Galina Yegorova, the young wife of Alexander Yegorov, and that there was recent discussion that he had been with a hairdresser that worked in the Kremlin.[56][57]

At one point, things became even worse between the two, but Montefiore suggested that when Stalin "toasted the destruction of the Enemies of the State", he saw Alliluyeva did not raise her glass as well (she was known to be against Stalin's recent campaign against the peasantry), and became annoyed.[51] Stalin supposedly threw something at her (listed variously as an orange peel, cigarette butt, or piece of bread)[c] to get her attention, before finally calling out to her, which only further maddened Alliluyeva, who abruptly left the dinner and went outside; Zhemchuzhina trailed after her to ensure someone else was there with her.[51] The two women walked outside within the Kremlin Wall, discussing the events of the night, agreeing that Stalin was drunk, and talking about Alliluyeva's issues with Stalin's supposed affairs.[58] The two parted ways and Alliluyeva returned to her residence.[59]

Events after that are not clear, but at one point early in the morning of 9 November, Alliluyeva, alone in her room, shot herself in the heart, killing herself instantly.[60] Her body was found in the morning by Karolina Til, the Stalin family's housekeeper.[61] Alliluyeva used a small Walther PP pistol only recently given to her by her brother Pavel Alliluyev, who brought it as a gift from his time in Berlin. She had asked him to do so, noting that it could be dangerous alone in the Kremlin at times, and she wanted protection.[62]

Funeral and burial[edit]

It was decided by Stalin and the other leaders that it would not be appropriate to say Alliluyeva had killed herself. So when her death was announced the next day, the cause of death was given as appendicitis.[63][64] The children were not told the true nature of her death, and it would be 10 years before they learned of the specific details.[63] Accounts of contemporaries and Stalin's letters indicate that he was much disturbed by the event.[65][66]

Pravda, the Communist Party newspaper, announced Alliluyeva's death in its 10 November edition. This came as a surprise to many in the Soviet Union, as it also was the first public acknowledgement that Stalin had been married. Her body, in an open casket, was placed in an upper floor the GUM department store, which was opposite Red Square and the Kremlin. Government and party officials came to visit, but the public was not allowed.[67] The funeral was held on 12 November, and only Vasily was present.[68] Stalin took part in the procession to the cemetery afterwards, which involved a 6 kilometres (3.7 mi) march from GUM to the Novodevichy Cemetery, though it is not clear if he walked the entire route.[69][70] Stalin never again visited the grave.[71]


The death of Alliluyeva had a profound impact on her children and family. Svetlana only found out her mother killed herself when reading an English journal article in 1942. The revelation came as a shock to her, and profoundly altered her relationship with Stalin, who had maintained the lie for a decade.[72] She would remain distant from Stalin until his death, and took up her mother's maiden name in 1957 as a means to further distance herself from him.[73] She ultimately defected from the Soviet Union in 1967, and died in the United States in 2011.[74]

Vasily was also greatly affected: while Alliluyeva had not played a major role in raising her children, she still showed interest in their well-being. After her death, Stalin doted upon Svetlana but virtually ignored Vasily, who began to drink from a young age and ultimately died of alcohol-related issues in 1962.[75]

Alliluyeva's father, Sergei, became very withdrawn after her death. He continued working, and rose to be the Chairman of the Leningrad Electric Power Company. He also wrote memoirs, which were published in 1946 after being heavily redacted. He died of stomach cancer in 1945.[76] Her mother Olga lived until 1951, dying of a heart attack.[77]


  1. ^ The date of the marriage was never recorded. See Kotkin 2014, p. 778, note 228
  2. ^ Also known by its Russian name, Poteshny Palace. See Montefiore 2003, p. 1
  3. ^ Sources differ on what specifically was thrown. See Kotkin 2017, p. 936, note 330



  1. ^ Alliluyeva 1967, pp. 39–40
  2. ^ Alliluyeva 1967, p. 40
  3. ^ Richardson 1993, pp. 25–26
  4. ^ Richardson 1993, pp. 28–29
  5. ^ Alliluyeva 1967, p. 44
  6. ^ a b Alliluyeva 1967, p. 43
  7. ^ Richardson 1993, p. 44
  8. ^ Richardson 1993, p. 45
  9. ^ Alliluyeva 1967, p. 86
  10. ^ Alliluyeva 1967, p. 46
  11. ^ Richardson 1993, pp. 29, 35–38
  12. ^ Kotkin 2014, p. 117
  13. ^ Richardson 1993, p. 39
  14. ^ Richardson 1993, p. 64
  15. ^ Richardson 1993, p. 56
  16. ^ Richardson 1993, p. 62
  17. ^ Alliluyeva 1967, pp. 49–50
  18. ^ Montefiore 2007, pp. 345–346
  19. ^ Kotkin 2014, p. 364
  20. ^ Richardson 1993, p. 69
  21. ^ a b Montefiore 2003, p. 8
  22. ^ a b Montefiore 2003, p. 1
  23. ^ Kotkin 2014, p. 593
  24. ^ Sullivan 2015, p. 45
  25. ^ Richardson 1993, p. 66
  26. ^ Richardson 1993, p. 70
  27. ^ Vasilieva 1994, p. 61
  28. ^ Kotkin 2014, pp. 467–468
  29. ^ Kotkin 2014, pp. 594–595
  30. ^ Montefiore 2003, pp. 7–8
  31. ^ Richardson 1993, p. 80
  32. ^ Sullivan 2015, p. 25
  33. ^ a b c Kotkin 2017, p. 109
  34. ^ Montefiore 2003, p. 43
  35. ^ Richardson 1993, pp. 119–122
  36. ^ Montefiore 2003, p. 35
  37. ^ Sullivan 2015, p. 15
  38. ^ a b Kotkin 2014, p. 466
  39. ^ Kotkin 2014, p. 595
  40. ^ Kun 2003, p. 351
  41. ^ Sullivan 2015, p. 18
  42. ^ Sullivan 2015, pp. 23–24
  43. ^ Alliluyeva 1967, p. 30
  44. ^ Sullivan 2015, pp. 19–21
  45. ^ Alliluyeva 1967, p. 29
  46. ^ Kotkin 2017, pp. 108–109
  47. ^ Montefiore 2003, p. 6
  48. ^ Sullivan 2015, p. 27
  49. ^ Vasilieva 1994, p. 63
  50. ^ a b Montefiore 2003, p. 12
  51. ^ a b c Montefiore 2003, p. 15
  52. ^ Khlevniuk 2015, p. 255
  53. ^ Sullivan 2015, p. 46
  54. ^ Sullivan 2015, pp. 50–51
  55. ^ Kun 2003, p. 204
  56. ^ a b c Kotkin 2017, p. 110
  57. ^ Montefiore 2003, p. 3
  58. ^ Montefiore 2003, p. 16
  59. ^ Montefiore 2003, p. 17
  60. ^ Kotkin 2017, pp. 110–111
  61. ^ Montefiore 2003, pp. 18–19
  62. ^ Montefiore 2003, p. 18
  63. ^ a b Sullivan 2015, p. 53
  64. ^ Montefiore 2003, p. 108
  65. ^ Rieber 2001, pp. 1662–1663
  66. ^ Montefiore 2003, pp. 19–20
  67. ^ Kotkin 2017, p. 111
  68. ^ Alliluyeva 1967, p. 118
  69. ^ Montefiore 2003, pp. 110–111
  70. ^ Kotkin 2017, pp. 111–112
  71. ^ Alliluyeva 1967, p. 119
  72. ^ Sullivan 2015, pp. 103–104
  73. ^ Sullivan 2015, pp. 3, 217
  74. ^ Sullivan 2015, pp. 1, 622
  75. ^ Alliluyeva 1967, p. 230
  76. ^ Alliluyeva 1967, pp. 39–42
  77. ^ Alliluyeva 1967, p. 52


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