Byline: Will Stewart
THE narrow, baggy eyes and droopy moustache are unmistakable - featuresthat terrified half the world, condemned millions to a cruel death and whicheven today are an instant symbol of monstrous despotism.
Yet the man who so clearly has Joseph Stalin's face upon his shoulders is notStalin at all. Despite the careful curve of the brows and the immaculate hair,these pictures show someone else entirely, someone who has never been supremeleader of the Soviet Republic.
This, as the Russian public has been learning, is Felix Dadaev, a dancer andjuggler who, amid the desperate defence against Hitler's invading armies, wasordered to the Kremlin to work as Stalin's body double.
For more than half a century, Dadaev remained silent, fearing a death sentenceshould he dare to open his mouth.
But at the age of 88, and with the apparent approval of the Putin regime, hehas finally come forward to tell a quite remarkable story.
It takes him from the ruined streets of Grozny all the way to Yalta on theBlack Sea coast for the historic three-powers showdown, where Stalin, Churchilland Roosevelt fought to determine the shape of post-war Europe.
Dadaev's new autobiography explains that he was one of four men employed toimpersonate the supreme leader, taking his place in motorcades, at rallies, onnewsreel footage and wherever - as at Yalta - Stalin feared he was inparticular danger.
The Russian media has been enthralled. For years, speculation about Stalin'sbody doubles remained just that, with the truth locked away in the KGB archivesand protected by the culture of paranoia. Dadaev is the first living proof thatthe stories were correct.
Even now - with the Russian security services resurgent - it is unlikely thathis book, Variety Land, would have been published without official approval.
Brief statements from the KGB archives, the state film industry Mosfilm and thestate-run Academy of Security, Defence, Law and Order have supported Dadaev'sversion of events.
'Even when I was young, my friends joked that I looked like Stalin,' herecalled. 'By the time my make-up and training were complete, I was like him inevery way, except perhaps my ears. They were too small.' Trained at thepersonal request of Stalin, Dadaev attended rallies and meetings across Russiawearing the leader's trademark Red Army cap and heavy overcoat encrusted withmedals.
He rarely had a speaking part but, in an age before television, his carefullycopied appearance and mannerisms went down well. It helped that he had trainedas both an actor and illusionist.
Dadaev was born in the Caucasian highlands of Dagestan and, when his familymoved to Grozny, in 'His chiefs shivered - everyone was scared'
Chechnya, he began taking ballet lessons - quite normal for a Russian boy inSoviet times.
At the age of 16, he had been offered a place in the State Singing and DanceBand of Ukraine. But war broke out and, instead of joining a tour of Britainwith the band, Dadaev was posted to a concert brigade, where he performed as adancer, juggler and illusionist.
He was required to fight, too, and was so badly injured during the Russianliberation of Grozny in 1942 that his family was told he had been killed. 'Iwas one of seven "corpses" delivered to a hospital, but another guy and I werestill alive,' he said.
That 'death' was the start of a strange double life. One evening in 1943, hewas flown to a cottage near Moscow where officers from the NKVD (predecessor ofthe KGB) demanded that he forge a new and distinctive identity.
'I was flattered, of course - proud to look like the leader, proud to thinkwhat my friends who teased me about looking like him when I was young would saynow,' he said.
Just into his 20s, Dadaev was a great deal younger than Stalin, but make-up andthe strain of war meant that he could pass as a 60-year-old. 'We had allexperienced so much suffering that I looked much older than I was,' he said.
He spent months in training, some of it under the eagle eye of Lavrenty Beria,Stalin's feared chief of secret police. He watched movies of Stalin to perfectthe mimicry of his movement and intonation.
Dadaev's book recalls his first terrifying attempt to play Stalin in front ofthe leader's comrades at the Kremlin. 'Remember, this plan was devised by thechiefs of all those frightful committees,' he said.
'There was much riding on the plan.
Perhaps I did not fully understand all the responsibility.
'Everybody shivered. Even among those men at the highest level, everyone wasscared. The main thing, they said, was to keep silent at the first meeting ifStalin was not in the mood for conversation.
But if he was, to be laconic and say something to him in his own voice.
'After a sleepless night, at 9am they brought me to the Kremlin. First GeneralVlasik, head of Stalin's personal security, came by.
'He was stunned, then, after a pause, nodded his head approvingly. Then hestudied my jacket and gown, paid attention to my slightly bent left arm andglanced at my boots.
'I was waiting with fear in case he noticed my fake grey temples. I had amake-up artist but he couldn't be with me all the time. So I learned to do itmyself. But my ability to copy Stalin's manners, voice and walk was far moreimportant.' Today, General Vlasik's daughter Nadezhda Nikolayevna confirmsDadaev's role. 'Yes, they used doubles,' she said. 'All the tricks to distractattention from the leader were invented by my father. He was so involved in thework, and loved Stalin so much, that he suggested fantastic ideas.' Dadaev wastalented - and lucky. Had he failed to convince Vlasik or Beria, he wouldalmost certainly have been shot to protect the secret plan. As it was, he wasbanned from seeing his relatives and bound by a non-disclosure agreement thatremained in force long after Stalin died.
Dadaev met his doppelganger on only 'They saluted me as I stood in Red Square'
one occasion, in the Fifties, and even then the encounter was brief. 'He smiledand gave me an approving nod and that was it,' he recalled.
'Stalin had four doubles in all. He was very afraid of attempts on his life.
Spies surrounded him and every trip was thoroughly planned. For example,doubles were often substituted for him on the way to the airport. Several carswere used to distract anyone watching.
I often took those trips.' Initially, Dadaev's meetings were limited to leavingthe Kremlin and driving off in Stalin's car. He progressed to meeting partyofficials, and once, Dadaev stood on the mausoleum in Red Square instead ofStalin.
'It was a sportsmen's parade,' he said.
'Everyone was sure it was Stalin himself.
I walked to the mausoleum with members of the government, then stood on thecentral dais, smiling and greeting the passing columns.
'The key thing was to get the step right. When Stalin was among his entourage,his walk was prompt and firm. But at receptions or meetings, he walked slowlyand pensively.
'My confidence was bolstered as soon as I came out and was greeted bygovernment members saluting me. We went directly to the mausoleum. I could seethere were no suspicions. Yet again the KGB had pulled it off.' Dadaev'sbiggest mission came as Stalin flew to Yalta for the famous conference inFebruary 1945. Stalin's flight was kept top secret while a later one withDadaev on board was publicised.
'Two flights were arranged, with one of them aimed to distract everyone'sattention,' he said. 'Nobody ever wrote about it, no one knows about it. I wasa decoy to draw the attention of foreign intelligence. Stalin was already inYalta.
'But it didn't work. Two attempts were made in Yalta to kill the real Stalin.
Our intelligence failed. I was back in Moscow by then.
'Seven high-ranking intelligence officers lost their posts. They were lucky tolose just that.'…