Many leaders throughout history have been dictators known for using harsh measures and forcing their ideology on their citizens. Let’s take a look at ten of the most famous dictators and some of the things they’re known for.
10. Vlad III – 1431-1476/77
Vlad III, otherwise known as Vlad Tepes or Vlad the Impaler held the official title of Prince of Wallachia. History reports him as one of the cruelest men that ever lived but during his reign he was hailed as a hero of the people of Romania. During his wars with the Ottomans he would impale his enemies at different heights according to rank, sometimes leaving the bodies for months.
9. Porfirio Diaz – 1830-1915
Porfirio Diaz was elected by the Mexican people as president in 1877 after creating the Plan of Tuxtepec in which governance relied greatly upon the principle of a one term presidency. In 1844 he was unanimously elected again as president. From 1884 until 1911 Porfirio ruled Mexico as a dictator and handled his opposition with intimidation and force. It’s notable that he made extraordinary advances towards Mexico’s industrial age including building hundreds of miles of rail for trains, bringing electricity to Mexico’s main cities and clearing the country’s debt completely.
8. Ho Chi Minh – 1890-1969
Ho Chi Minh, came to power through the rebellion of the Viet Minh whose primary goal was to eliminate the French from Indo China. With the defeat of the French in 1954 Ho was able to establish a communist government within the borders of Northern Vietnam. Ho Chi Minh inspired the patriotism of his soldiers and convinced them they were doing the best thing for Vietnam. Many of his policies were cruel and atrocious resulting in the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Vietnamese civilians.
7. Benito Mussolini – 1883-1945
Benito Mussolini was made the prime minister of Italy in 1922. Mussolini believed that Italy must go back to its imperial roots and his philosophy became known as Fascism. Many politicians rejected his position and boycotted the parliament which allowed Mussolini to pass the necessary laws to create a police state and quickly eliminate his opposition. Mussolini is notable as one of the famous dictators in power during World War II.
6. Joseph Stalin – 1879-1953
Joseph Stalin ruled the Soviet Union from 1922-1956. He is notable as one of the most famous dictators for the “great purge” in which he killed an estimated 700,000 people. His attempt to purge the Soviet Union of radicals, spies and dissidents ended with the deaths of mostly ordinary citizens who were sent to the gulag to be worked, beaten or shot to death.
5. Idi Amin – 1925-2003
Idi Amin took control of Uganda in a military coup and established himself as president. He introduced martial law and replaced civilian courts with military tribunals. He was responsible for the deaths of thousands of people sometimes in an effort to deal with rebellion but it wasn’t uncommon for entire villages to be wiped out for no reason. Amin is a famous dictator that is well known for his short temper and personality quirks.
4. Mao Zedong – 1893-1976
Mao Zedong led the communist party to victory during China’s civil war and was proclaimed a hero of the people. Chairman Mao led the People’s Republic of China until 1979. He subjected his enemies to brutal torture techniques and millions were executed or sent to forced labor camps during his time in power. This famous dictator’s reign wasn’t all bad. Chairman Mao’s five year economic plan turned China’s peasant population into a thriving modern workforce. In China, Mao Zedong’s life is still celebrated.
3. Francisco Franco – 1892-1975
Another famous dictator from the World War II era is Francisco Franco. He was a general of Spain at a time of civil unrest and staged a military coup that began the Spanish Civil War. General Franco emerged victorious and was named as Spain’s Head of State. Despite being friendly with other famous dictators during World War II, notably Germany’s Hitler and Italy’s Mussolini, General Franco never officially entered Spain into the war. As a result he was able to retain power until his death in 1975.
2. Fidel Castro – 1926-Present
Among the famous dictators you may have heard of before is Fidel Castro. Castro came to power in Cuba in 1959 after the Cuban Revolution. Fidel Castro is not guilty of wars or atrocities and has enjoyed a successful reign. In October of 1962 there was a 13 day standoff between Cuba and the United States that resulted in harsh trade restrictions that have lasted until recent years. Castro’s dictatorship has survived intact and he is hailed by some in third world countries as a hero and great leader. Due to his rapidly declining health he was forced to step aside and transfer power to his brother Raul in 2008. Fidel Castro is still alive and now 87 years old.
1. Adolf Hitler – 1889-1945
Number one on our list of famous dictators is Germany’s Adolf Hitler. Hitler is well known for his book Mein Kampf and his persecution of Jewish nationals during World War II. Adolf Hitler signed the death warrants of millions of communists, homosexuals, handicapped, gypsies, Jews and anyone who didn’t fit his ideals for a super human race. Hitler shot himself in a secret bunker beneath Berlin and was accompanied by his wife Eva Braun who swallowed cyanide capsules.