Spring 2006 (14.1)
Lives On - Svetlana Alliluyeva
were sacrificed senselessly, thousands of talented lives extinguished
prematurely. The tale of these losses could not be told in 20
books, never mind 20 letters. Would it not have been better for
these people to have gone on serving mankind here on earth, rather
than have their deaths be the only mark they left in the hearts
Above: Svetlana Alliluyeva, daughter of Stalin.
"Twenty Letters to a Friend" (written in the summer
of 1963). Translated by Priscilla Johnson, McMillan. Harper &
Row: New York, 1967.
History is a stern judge. It's not for me, but for history, to
decide who served the cause of good and who served vanity and
vainglory. I certainly don't have the right.
All I have is my conscience. And conscience tells me that before
pointing out the mote in my neighbor's eye, I must first see
the beam in my own. There's no one, including me, who doesn't
have a beam in his own eye.
We are all responsible for everything that happened. Let the
judging be done by those who come later, by men and women who
didn't know the times and the people we knew.
Let it be left to new people to whom these years in Russia will
be as remote and inexplicable, as terrible and strange, as the
reign of Ivan the Terrible. But I do not think they'll call our
era a "progressive" one, or that they'll say it was
all for the "good of Russia". Hardly...
They will have their say. And what they say will be something
new and cogent. Instead of idle whining, they will give voice
to a new sense of purpose. They will read through this page in
their country's history with a feeling of pain, contrition and
bewilderment, and they will be led by this feeling to live their
I hope that they won't forget that what is Good never dies-that
it lived on in the hearts of men even in the darkest times and
was hidden where no one thought to look for it, that it never
died out or disappeared completely.
Everything on our tormented planet that is alive and breathes,
that blossoms and bears fruit, exists only by virtue of, and
in the name of, Truth and Good."
Svetlana Alliluyeva (born 1926),
Stalin's daughter by his second wife Nadezhda Alliluyeva, who
committed suicide in 1932 in protest against Stalin. Quote from
"Twenty Letters to a Friend", page 235.
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