All through history we can see power hungry leaders who have imposed their rule on fearful populations and committed great atrocities. The methods of dictatorship are ruthless and have caused the deaths of millions of people. To maintain their power dictators use violent and forceful actions. Dictators are driven by ambition and use war as an instrument of national exaltation. You can go through this list of top 10 dictators in the world.
10. Muammar Gaddafi
Estimated kills: 55,000
Gaddafi was a Libyan revolutionary and politician who ruled Libya for over four decades. He was born in a Bedouin tent near Sirte. He seized control over Libya in 1969 after overthrowing King Idris with a group of revolutionary army officers. Through his Arab nationalist oratory and socialist type of policies he gained support in the early days of his rule. But his corruption, military interference in Africa, and abusing of human rights were the reasons for most of Libyan population to go against him. He has been accused of supporting terrorism and in the last decade of his rule he re-established harmonious relations with Western leaders and Libya became a key provider of oil to Europe. When the Arab Spring spread to Libya in 2011 there were many protests against him. After months of hiding, Gaddafi died in his hometown of Sirte in October of 2011 due to wounds caused while he was being captured.
9. Kim Jong-il
Country: North Korea
Estimated kills: 1 to 2 million
He became the dictatorial leader of North Korea after his father, Kim II-sung’s death in 1994. Very little is known about this man due to the secrecy maintained by his government. He is the world’s only hereditary communist ruler. He was criticized for abusing human rights and for threatening the stability of the region by attempting to acquire nuclear weapons and testing long-range missiles. And because of this, U.S. president George W. Bush declared North Korea to be part of an “axis of evil” along with Iran and Iraq in 2002. Kim did not care about the strained relations with South Korea and the rest of the world. North Korea became more isolated with the frequent famines and economy that was in disarray during his time. Kim suffered a stroke in 2008 and died after three years in 2011.
8. Pol Pot
Estimated kills: 1.7 to 2.5 million
He is one of the bloodiest dictators in history. Pol Pot and his army called Khmer Rouge came to power in Cambodia in 1975. He became prime minister of the new communist government in 1976 and began to introduce violent reforms. Under his orders, the Khmer Rouge abolished currency, religion and private property and evacuated cities with the idea of creating a Maoist agrarian society. During his regime, between 1.5 and 2 million Cambodians who constituted nearly 20% of the population were killed due to forced labor, executions and famine. Pol pot was expelled from the capital when Vietnam invaded Cambodia in 1979 but continued to lead the Khmer Rouge army in exile. He retired as the leader of Khmer Rouge in 1985. He died in 1998 and the cause of his death is still a mystery although it was officially announced that he died of heart attack.
7. Saddam Hussein
Estimated kills: 2 million
Saddam means “he who confronts”. Born in a village called al-Auja in northern Iraq, he went on to become a well known leader who provoked numerous conflicts in his life time. He was a brutal dictator and used terror to stay in power. He ordered mass genocide against the Kurds, Shabaks, Assyrians, Mandeans and other ethnic groups who rebelled against him. He was overthrown by a U.S. led invasion when they saw him as a threat to U.S. interests in the region. Saddam fled escaping from being captured. He was found hiding in a bunker in ad-Dawr near Tikrit after an intense search. After a trial for crimes against humanity, he was sentenced to death. He was hanged in December 2006, at Camp Justice, an Iraqi base in Baghdad.
6. Yahya Khan
Estimated kills: 2 to 12 million
General Agha Muhammad Yahya Khan was born in Chakwal. He implemented martial law as soon as he came into power in 1969. Yahya Khan used army and paramilitary forces in East Pakistan to crush the political commotion that arose and this resulted in the beginning of the war between Pakistan and India in 1971. As the President and also the Commander-in-Chief of Pakistan Army, he failed to plan the war properly which resulted in the defeat of Pakistan. The surrendering of Pakistani forces without any opposition and the fall of Dhaka made Yahya Khan the greatest villain in Pakistan. Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto who was his foreign minister replaced him and put him under house arrest. Later he was paralyzed by a stroke and played no further important political role upon his release. He died in Rawalpindi in 1980 and was honored by his nation with a military burial.
5. Hideki Tojo
Estimated kills: 5 million
He was born in Tokyo. He was the Army General and Prime Minister of Japan during most of the World War II. He ordered a surprise attack on U.S. Naval forces in Hawaii within two months of becoming the prime minister. He authorized attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941. He is accused for waging unprovoked wars against China, USA, Netherlands and France. He ordered and permitted brutal treatment of war prisoners. He was forced to resign when the direction of the war changed. After losing in the war he shot himself in the chest but survived when the U.S. soldiers found him and treated him to good health. Later he was tried by a post-war military tribunal for war crimes and executed by hanging in 1948.
4. Vladimir Lenin
Estimated kills: 7 to 8 million
He was born in Simbirsk into a well-educated upper middle-class family in 1870. He was a Russian communist revolutionary and founded the Russian Social Democratic Labour Party. He led the Bolshevik revolution after returning from exile and established the Soviet government under Bolsheviks. He practically used Karl Marx’s ideas. He led the campaign known as the ‘Red Terror’ against the opposition who were called ‘White Terror’ and led to murders of thousands of Russian peasants and sent thousands more into concentration camps as “enemies of the revolution”. Lenin’s economic innovations caused a terrible famine in 1921 which killed nearly 5 million people. He passed away in 1924.
3. Joseph Stalin
Estimated kills: 23 million
Stalin was born in the village of Gori in the Russian province of Georgia in 1879. He joined the Bolsheviks and rose in Lenin’s favour. Soon after that, Lenin appointed him to the Bolshevik Central Committee. It was at this time that he adopted the name ‘Stalin’ which means ‘steel one’. He played an important role in October Revolution. He gained control over the Soviet Union after Lenin’s death. After expelling his rival Leon Trotsky, he consolidated his power and became the dictator of Soviet state. He executed his political enemies ruthlessly through a campaign of political repression known as ‘Great Purge’ and introduced aggressive industrial and agricultural policies that cost millions of lives. He was the Commander of Soviet military in World War II. Even in his last years, he remained dangerous. He died in 1953 due to stroke.
2. Adolf Hitler
Estimated kills: 17 to 20 million
The name Hitler has become a synonym for dictator. How else is the best way to describe the mark this man has made in history? He doesn’t need an introduction as all of you must be familiar with him. Born in Austria, he became the leader of National Socialist German Workers party also known as Nazi party. He set out to conquer the world and led Nazis into war. He launched the Second World War and holds the responsibility for deaths of millions of people including genocide of 6 million Jews. He committed many war crimes and his most heinous crime is the ‘holocaust’. He died by committing suicide along with his wife Eva Braun in his Berlin bunker in 1945.
1. Mao Zedong
Estimated kills: 45 to 75 million
Commander Mao was born in 1893 in Shaoshan, China. He laid the foundations of Maoism. He was the chairman of the People’s Republic of China from 1949 to 1959 and led the Chinese Communist Party from 1935 until his death. He killed around 4 to 6 million people in the first five years of his regime by frantically sentencing them to death. His ‘Great Leap Forward’, Cultural Revolution and other policies had devastating consequences starving around 40 million people to death. He also executed many of his political enemies. Mao died in 1976 suffering from Parkinson’s disease in addition to heart and lung troubles when he was 82 years old.