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SOCHI SCENE: Stalin's Dacha
Associated Press
2014-02-23 11:42 PM

SOCHI, Russia (AP) -- Before it was an Olympic city, Sochi was a Black Sea resort town favored by Russians trying to escape the cold up north.

And its most famous visitor was Joseph Stalin, the dictatorial leader of the Soviet Union from the 1920s until his death in '53 who built a dacha -- or villa -- on the hills overlooking the sea just outside of central Sochi.

The trip from the Olympic park to the dacha known as Green Grove, between the city of Sochi and the cluster of stadiums that hosted many Olympic events, requires a bus or train and then a long walk up a winding road.

But when you arrive, there can be no doubt.

The villa is painted in a bright shade reminiscent of the artificial turf on a football field. It was built in 1937 to Stalin's specifications, down to the stair treads that are closer together to be more comfortable for the diminutive Soviet strongman.

The tour -- conducted in Russian and translated by AP freelancer Marie Millikan -- takes about a half hour and wanders around the grounds and through about a half-dozen rooms.

A fountain in the center of the courtyard was filled with sand on Stalin's orders. Locks were added to the door because he feared his enemies.

There is the oversized chess board Stalin used, the seawater swimming pool he soaked in to soothe his sore left arm, the office where a Stalin mannequin is propped behind a desk -- here's a picture: pic.twitter.com/LrvWd6sahh -- in front of a map of his Soviet empire. In the game room is a pool table with Stalin's extra-heavy cue stick, because he wasn't very good.

But I'd bet just about everyone let him win.

-- By Jimmy Golen -- Twitter http://twitter.com/jgolen

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Associated Press reporters are filing dispatches about happenings in and around Sochi during the 2014 Winter Games. Follow AP journalists covering the Olympics on Twitter: http://apne.ws/1c3WMiu

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