I Was Stalin's Double (except for My Ears.); THE REAL TYRANT: Joseph Stalin Feared for His Life and Used Body Doubles SPOT THE DIFFERENCE: Felix Dadaev Even Fooled Stalin's Closest Aides. He Is on the Left, and Stalin Is Above

The Mail on Sunday (London, England), April 13, 2008 | Go to article overview

I Was Stalin's Double (except for My Ears.); THE REAL TYRANT: Joseph Stalin Feared for His Life and Used Body Doubles SPOT THE DIFFERENCE: Felix Dadaev Even Fooled Stalin's Closest Aides. He Is on the Left, and Stalin Is Above


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. …

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I Was Stalin's Double (except for My Ears.); THE REAL TYRANT: Joseph Stalin Feared for His Life and Used Body Doubles SPOT THE DIFFERENCE: Felix Dadaev Even Fooled Stalin's Closest Aides. He Is on the Left, and Stalin Is Above
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