MOSCOW -- Soviets were told publicly for the first time Wednesday that dictator Josef Stalin's boorish behavior drove his second wife to commit suicide.
Soviet citizens have long known privately that Stalin's wife, Nadezhda Alliluyeva, died of bullet wounds on a night in November 1932 but rumors of murder or suicide after a violent argument with Stalin have never been officially confirmed.
The published report that Stalin's wife killed herself came in an interview in the newspaper Moscovsky Komsolets with Mikhail Shatrov, author of a controversial play in which Stalin heaps abuse on another woman, the wife of the revered founder of the Soviet state, Vladimir Lenin.
'Out of the torrent of his obsenities I took those that could be published,' Shatrov said, defending his portrayal of the scheming and brutal dictator.
'I do not know much about Stalin's treatment of women,' he said. 'But we know about the suicide of his wife. We know that rudeness was always common to Stalin.'
The report that Stalin's wife killed herself is the latest step in an official campaign of discrediting the late dictator officially accused of killing or imprisoning millions of Soviets during the 1930s and 1940s.
The article also revealed Shatrov's very personal interest in portraying the true character of the man now held responsible for current Soviet backwardness.
Shatrov's father was taken off to the Gulag labor camps in 1937 - the height of Stalin's purge campaign called the 'Great Terror' -- and shot. His mother was arrested in 1949 and never seen again. He said of all his relatives, only one brother survived Stalin's purges.
Alliluyeva was married to Stalin in 1918, the year after Lenin's Bolshevik revolution catipulted the 39-year-old Georgian to national prominence. His first wife had died in 1905.
By 1932 Stalin's power was supreme and his forced industrialization of the cities and collectivization of agriculture created unprecedented hardships. A magazine last week admitted that 10 million peasants had been 'repressed,' a euphemism for treatment that usually meant death.
Although Shatrov gave no details, the widely circulated story at the time was that Alliluyeva had protested the suffering of the population under Stalin's policy of relentlessly squeezing the standard of living to finance his goal of creating heavy industry.
In a reflection of the rage he unleashed against others who questioned his policies, Stalin replied by heaping abuse on her. She returned to their apartment in the Kremlin and shot herself.
Stalin's son by his first wife, Yakov, died as a prisoner of war in World War II while his son by Alliluyeva, Vasily, died in 1962 of alcoholism.
The daughter of Stalin and Alliluyeva -- Svetlana Alliluyeva -- has led a life that reflects the chaotic relationship of her parents.
Alliluyeva, taking her mother's name instead of Stalin's, did not see the dictator in his final years until he was unconscious on his death bed in 1953.
In 1967 she defected to the West, living first in the United States and then Britain. In 1984 Svetlana returned to the Soviet Union, claiming to be a disillusioned wife in the West. A year later she moved back to Britain.