The Strange Life of Joseph Stalin's Body Double

Joseph Stalin at building of Moscow-Volga canal. Public Domain

In 1943, Dadaev was flown to a cottage near Moscow and instructed by the NKVD, later the KGB, that he forge a new identity. He was “flattered” and “proud to look like the leader.” Dadaev began his training to become Stalin’s body double. Despite being significantly younger than the leader, makeup artists made the 20-something young man look like the war-strained 60-year old leader. Dadaev watched countless movies and newsreels of Stalin in public giving speeches and walking. Under the strict direction of Lavrenty Beria, Stalin’s chief of secret police, Dadaev mastered Stalin’s movements and intonation.

In 1943, Dadaev was flown to a cottage near Moscow and instructed by the NKVD, later the KGB, that he forge a new identity. He was “flattered” and “proud to look like the leader.” Dadaev began his training to become Stalin’s body double. Despite being significantly younger than the leader, makeup artists made the 20-something young man look like the war-strained 60-year old leader. Dadaev watched countless movies and newsreels of Stalin in public giving speeches and walking. Under the strict direction of Lavrenty Beria, Stalin’s chief of secret police, Dadaev mastered Stalin’s movements and intonation.

When Dadaev’s training was complete, he stood in for Stalin at the Kremlin. This was a plan made by Stalin’s ministers and committee leaders. If Dadaev could convince those men that he was Stalin, he would officially become a political decoy. The months of training had paid off. In February 1945, Dadaev was placed on a plane and flown to Yalta to discuss with President Franklin D. Roosevelt and Prime Minister Winston Churchill the postwar reorganization of Europe. Dadaev’s plane was to act as a decoy that permitted Joseph Stalin to land in Yalta unnoticed. Soviet intelligence was not accurate. There were two assassination attempts against Stalin in Yalta, through no fault of Dadaev, who had been sent back to Moscow.

Over the course of several years, Dadaev’s life was all about standing in for Stalin. He learned how to apply the makeup on his own since a makeup artist could not always travel with him. Dadaev sat in cars in numerous parades acting as the Premier. He flew in planes that diverted attention from Stalin’s plane, allowing Stalin to arrive in cities unnoticed. If at any point Dadaev failed to convince those around him and the public that he was Stalin, the secret police would have executed him.

Dadaev was forced to sign a non-disclosure contract that prohibited him from discussing his role as Stalin’s political decoy for decades after Stalin’s death in 1953. He was never able to notifiy his family that he was alive or what his new role was in the Soviet government. Upon Stalin’s death there was no longer a need for a body double and Dadaev created yet another identity and life for himself. At the age of 88, he released the approved autobiography about his role as Stalin’s body double.

Felix Dadaev in military uniform. Google Images

Dadaev was not the only body double for Stalin. Rumors had circulated that there was another body double for Stalin simply known as Rashid. It is unclear if Rashid was trained by the Soviet secret police or recruited by Joseph Stalin. Regardless, Rashid learned how to mimic Stalin under the tutelage of Alexei Dikiy who played Stalin in the numerous propaganda films released by the Soviet government.

Rashid stood in for Stalin on numerous occasions. The KGB never acknowledged Rashid as one of Stalin’s body doubles. The rumor that Rashid existed is consistent with Dadaev’s approved account that Stalin used more than one body double. Rashid had claimed that while Stalin was lying in his home dying, a body double was in the home acting as if Stalin was healthy. This body double was used when Stalin needed to make appearances to meet government officials and others in the months and weeks before his death. The man simply known as Rashid existed. He died in 1991 at the age of 93.

Felix Dadaev saw Joseph Stalin only once. The encounter was brief and happened in the years before Stalin’s death in 1953. Dadaev stated that Stalin “smiled and gave me an approving nod and that was it.” For a man that proclaimed to be “honored” to stand in as a political decoy for the leader of the Soviet Union, that simple nod of approval was enough recognition for a job well done. Clearly, Dadaev was a talented stand-in for Stalin as his story has now been made public with Russian approval. Having just a little evidence that Joseph Stalin used body doubles provides some proof on how governments would protect their leaders during times of adversity.