Written by Vedika Pathania, a second-year journalism student
Since the start of time, power rivalries and war have existed, and corrupt political leaders have come to authority multiple times.
You may have heard about dictators such as Genghis Khan and Adolf Hitler who committed horrific atrocities. While we hope that history does not repeat itself, we must remember our past – even the most heinous aspects.
Who is a dictator?
A dictator is a political leader who has complete power, and who no one dares to oppose. Usually, a dictator uses fear to get people to obey him (or her). A dictatorship thus is when a country is ruled by one dictator or by a small group of powerful people.
Is Russia’s President a dictator?
As the Ukrainian-Russian conflict continues and progresses with each passing day, you might have this question in your mind- Is Vladimir Putin, the Russian President, a dictator?
To answer this, let us first understand what dictators are, what makes dictatorship different from other forms of governance, and the other dictators that history has seen.
This article is the next segment in our new series which will help you understand geopolitical concepts and events in a short and simple way!
Nations all around the world have an authority that governs them. India for example is a democratic nation and England is a constitutional monarchy. In the same way, Saudi Arabia is an absolute monarchy.
In a democracy, people get to choose their representatives whereas in a monarchy, the head of state is the head of the nation’s royal family and a constitutional monarchy is a blend of both.
On the other hand, a dictatorship is a form of government where a very small group of people or a single person holds complete power and authority over a country. Dictators make choices that have far-reaching consequences for their country without consulting any other department of government. This is because the dictator has complete authority over every branch of government.
There is another similar concept called despotism. What differentiates despotism and dictatorship is that despotism is cruel and oppressive whereas dictatorship might or might not be.
Dictators of the Past
Perhaps the first name that comes to all of our minds is Adolf Hitler and he is rightfully the first name.
The infamous Adolf Hitler, manoeuvred his way to the top as Germany’s chancellor in 1933, and then as Führer a year later. After invading Poland in 1939, Hitler was primarily responsible for WWII and was the principal architect of the Holocaust. Within two years, Hitler’s Third Reich dictatorship had engulfed the majority of Europe. He then went on to command the deliberate execution of anybody who did not fit his image of an “ideal master race,” including Jews, Slavs, and anyone else he deemed socially undesirable.
On his command, his followers carried out widespread genocide, murdering almost 19 million people. This does not take into account the millions of troops and civilians that died during WWII. He is most likely to blame for the largest number of human death and damage ever perpetrated by a single person in history.
From 1979 until 2003, Saddam Hussein Abd al-Majid al-Tikriti was the president of Iraq, and he was recognised for his authoritarianism, control, and dominance. He plotted and carried out a genocide against the rebels who opposed his government. Kurds, Shabaks, Madeans, Assyrians, and other ethnic groups were included. It is believed that over 2 million people were killed under his reign. During the genocide, his forces used mustard gas and nerve gas, as well as toxic chemical weapons, killing up to 100,000 people.
Benito Mussolini, the ruler of Italy from 1925 to 1945, created the Fascist Party in 1919. It was anti-discrimination on the basis of race and was pro-nationalist. Mussolini, on the other hand, destroyed competing political parties, trade unions, the free press, and free expression when he was in power. In July 1943, he was deposed by his old allies in the Fascist administration, and in April 1945, he was shot dead.
Joseph Stalin, the Russian dictator, governed the Soviet Union for about 25 years, from 1929 to 1953, and is credited with turning it into a major economic and military force. During World War II, his forces also beat the Nazis. His rule, however, was one of fear and violence, and many Soviet people died as a result.
Mao Zedong, the cruelest dictator in history, is regarded to be the founding father of the People’s Republic of China. His actions and control resulted in the deaths of 49 million people, placing him at the top of the list of cruelty and brutality. He began policies like the Cultural Revolution and the Great Leap Forward, which resulted in the starvation of around 20 million people. His dictatorship exterminated between 2 and 3 million people in a systematic way.