Ioseb Besarionis dze Jughashvili was born on 18 December 1878 in the city of Gori, Georgia. Often terrorized by his abusive and alcoholic father and troubled by diseases and unfortunate events, Ioseb had a rough childhood.
As a young man, he studied to become a priest only to later become an atheist. After moving to Russia and joining the communist party of Lenin, Ioseb grew up to be one of the most powerful and feared men of all time.
Somewhere between 1910 and 1912, he changed his name, which would later become a synonym for dictatorship. His new name was Joseph Stalin.
Stalin is one of the most notorious dictators of all time. The absolute ruler of the Soviet Union was a master at propaganda and a ruthless leader. Starting at the bottom of the Communist party, he worked his way to the top, becoming the General Secretary of the party in 1922.
After Lenin’s death in 1924, Joseph Stalin became the leader of the USSR and he remained in this position until his death on 5 March 1953. Under his rule, the Soviet Union became one of the most powerful countries in the world, in both industrial and military terms. From the start of his rule, Stalin dealt with his possible enemies ruthlessly, either by exile or execution.
He grew into a feared figure, responsible for the deaths of more than 50 million people. Ruling with terror, he increased the presence of the secret police and led a campaign of political repression inside the country, which is now known as The Great Purge.
As for foreign relations, Stalin made a pact with Germany in 1939, where the two countries agreed not to attack each other. In the meantime, the Soviet Union led invasions into Poland, Romania, Lithuania, Estonia, Finland and Latvia, wanting to create a secure zone around the USSR.
In 1941, Germany broke the pact and launched an attack on Russia. Stalin led the Red Army into a counter-attack, which led to an invasion of Germany, defeat of the Nazi troops and end of the war.
During World War II, Stalin had good relations with the United States and Great Britain, which later got tense, eventually leading to the Cold War.
A perfect example of Stalin’s ruthlessness was the case when his son Yakov was imprisoned by the Nazi forces. Hitler was ready to negotiate over his release, but Stalin rejected all the demands of the enemy and left his son to rot in prison, where he later died.
Joseph Stalin has all the characteristics of a classic dictator. He created a cult of personality around himself by having books rewritten in order to idolize himself, named cities after himself, inserted his name into the national anthem and established control over the media throughout the Soviet Union.
But Stalin grew ever more paranoid and was in constant fear for his own safety. And, again, like many other dictators, he used doubles in order to protect himself from assassination.
These doubles, or political decoys, were people that resembled of Stalin. There are two confirmed doubles that are known to have been used by Stalin over the years.
For years they would be trained to behave and talk like the dictator, had their hair and mustache trimmed like his and appeared instead of the leader on many occasions. The first confirmed double was a man named Rashid, who was recruited by the KGB once they heard that he looked like Joseph Stalin.
He spent 2 years training with an actor who played Stalin’s role in his propaganda films. Rashid appeared in media events when Stalin had more important things to do. He claimed there were other doubles who lived in the dictator’s villa near Moscow.
After Stalin’s death, Rashid moved to a small isolated city and shaved his mustache. Growing old, he lost his hair, but still clearly resembled Stalin.The double died in 1991, at the age of 93, and he never met another double of the dictator.
The second confirmed double told his story publicly in 2008 after he got a permission from the current Russian government. His name is Felix Dadaev, and the world never knew about his existence until he came forward with his story.
Felix became Stalin’s double when he was slightly older than 20. Serving as a soldier in WWII, he was badly injured and taken to the hospital. Here, he was approached by the NKVD (predecessor of the KGB) and given new orders. Felix was proclaimed dead and taken to the Kremlin to practice for his new role. His family was told he had been killed in the war, and so his saga began.
Born in Dagestan, the former ballet dancer and juggler now studied how to behave like the leader. Stalin personally requested his training, and even though there was a 40 years difference in their ages, Felix still looked like the leader.
With makeup on his face, dressed exactly as the tyrant would be, Dadaev attended meetings all around Russia. He even traveled to Yalta for the famous conference, but only for the media. His flight was made public, and the real Stalin traveled to Yalta in secrecy.
In his statements from 2008, the double said that the only difference between him and Stalin were the ears: the double had smaller ears than the dictator. Dadaev was so good in his role, that even Stalin’s closest acquaintances sometimes were not able to tell the difference.
The only thing different was the voice, but in absence of big media coverage at that time, this went unnoticed. Felix Dadaev kept his secret until he was 88 years old, fearing for his life. As he said, he was still frightened that the KGB or even Stalin’s ghost might hurt him.
When Dadaev’s story went public, the KGB supported his story. Dadaev made several interviews and wrote an autobiography. It is hard to believe that the book was published without a need for permission from the current Russian authorities.
He stated that there were four body doubles employed to imitate Joseph Stalin. Felix admitted that even though he was practically kidnapped by the secret police, he had still been very proud of his resemblance to the tyrant and his new role.
The story of Felix Dadaev proved many conspiracy theorists right, and it makes one think if the theories for other dictator doubles are in fact true. It is believed that Hitler himself had several doubles.
One of them, named Gustav Weler, was killed right after Hitler’s death, just to make sure the real dictator was dead. Others claim that both the dead bodies belonged to Hitler’s doubles, and the real tyrant managed to escape.
It is known that Saddam Hussein and his sons used body doubles, and the latest bizarre theory says that Hillary Clinton used a body double on one of her appearances in 2016. So far, only one thing is certain: if Felix Dadaev managed to keep his secret for such a long time, it is quite likely the public will never know the entire truth.