The world has seen its fair share of totally crazed and intense rulers. From Pacific islands to Europe, there have been some scary and incredibly vicious political leaders. What is it about leadership that makes men go so insane? We will try to figure it out as we read this list of 10 ruthless dictators who are still honored as heroes.
You got that right. People like Stalin and Franco are still highly regarded in a positive way. How can you shine a good light on these men who killed so many people and installed repressive regimes that nearly cut off their people from their birthright to freedom? We are not sure, but the research shows polls and surveys that have even native inhabitants lauding these repressive authoritarian rulers for the gains they made in their respective countries.
We may never know why someone who distorts their political power, uses rape as a strategic tool, and cuts off their people from the rest of the world is considered a hero, but we know you will find our list intriguing and somewhat insane. You may learn a few things you never knew about these historical leaders. Some things you may not want to know though.
10 Nicolae Ceausescu
While Nicolae Ceausescu was executed in 1989, for the twenty years prior to his death, he was a prominent leader of Romania, which was held under the powers of communism. He demanded absolute servitude from the Romanian people, and had been involved in the communist party since his teens. He quickly went through the ranks and became a top leader. He visited Mao Zedong in China and became buddy-buddy with him. After returning to Romania, he cut off his country from the Western world. Debt ensued, labor laws were non-existent, and Ceausescu was put to death after the people revolted. Yet, people still consider the days of his leadership to be more prosperous than now.
9 Park Chung Hee
Park Chung Hee was a leader in South Korea, serving as a general and eventual President of the Republic of Korea. He helped his country see more economic stability. The downside? His people were greatly repressed and there was a major crackdown on all types of freedom. His authoritarian rule was called the Yushin, or “Revitalization Reform” in which he crafted a new constitutional document that granted him absolute power. He was eventually assassinated by his own friend, who was appointed as leader of the Korean Central Intelligence Agency, which Park Chung Hee expanded. Park's economic expansion led to his being celebrated.
8 Antonio de Oliveira Salazar
Antonio de Oliveira Salazar was a Portuguese economic mastermind who later became the prime minister of his country. For thirty-six years, he was one of the most influential people in Portugal. He wrote out a new constitution and reordered the Portuguese political situation to line up with his new ideals. He was greatly influenced by Catholic beliefs and he chose most of the leaders in the government. He limited a lot of civil liberties and focused on bringing the country's economics back to life. His gains in economics may contribute to his likability even though he was a purely authoritarian leader.
7 Francisco Franco
Francisco Franco ruled in Spain from 1939 until 1975. When he took power, many republican political figures fled the country due to Franco's harsh regime. It was only a matter of time until civil war broke out, and with it came a whole lot of repression and harshness. There were many political prisoners who were captured or “disappeared” during the Franco regime. Thousands of the Spanish were killed, and Franco said that he had about 26,000 prisoners under his command. He banned all religions except Catholicism, as well as any language that was not Castilian. Still, many Spaniards consider Franco to be responsible for saving Spain from being a communist nation.
6 Greek Junta
The Greek Junta was led by Colonel George Papadopoulos and was formed to fight the impending communism that was heading their way. The Greek Junta overthrew the Greek government that was in place, declared marital law, and outlawed a ton of civil liberties. The Greek Junta was known for using rape and sexual assault for torturing its victims, and the Junta's rule became known in history as “The Seven Years.” Now Greece experiences a democracy, but research has shown that many Greeks feel the country was more stable under the dictatorship, because the Junta provided increased security through their anti-communist practices.
5 Ferdinand Marcos
Ferdinand Edralin Marcos was a lawyer and politician in the Philippines and served as the head of state from 1966 to 1986. During that time, he set up an authoritarian dictatorship in which there was a high level of corruption and repression. Any democratic activity was shunned and he threw any opposing forces into prison as quickly as he could. During his later years of ruling, the country experienced economic turmoil, a huge rich-poor gap, and tons of political wrongdoing. The country's rural areas were hotspots for communist guerrilla warfare and it was later revealed that Marcos had stolen tons of cash from the country's economy. Yet, residents claim he saved them from commies.
4 Erich Honecker
Erich Honecker was a German politician who became the first secretary of East Germany' s Social Unity Party of Germany. He was a communist official in charge of East Germany from 1971 until his demise in 1989, when democracy began making waves in Europe. During his younger years he teamed up with the Germans who had been trained by the Soviet Unions in all things communism. He was elected into the Central Committee of the Communist Party and introduced one of the most repressive regimes in the country. Yet, it was also one of the most prosperous, which is why he is still lauded as a great hero.
Suharto served as the second President of Indonesia from 1967 to 1998. He introduced a lot of economic and political stability to the country, but at the expense of an authoritarian regime that ended up backfiring on itself. The corruption and inner turmoil of his government eventually led to his downfall ten years before his death. Suharto used his place in politics to install new rules and regulations for Indonesia's economy, but these moves ended up breaking down at the end of Suharto's rule. However, he encouraged Western aid and collaboration and also helped Indonesia avoid a complete communist takeover.
2 Benito Mussolini
Benito Mussolini was the creator of the Fascist Party in Italy. Before World War II broke out, he had made himself the dictator of the European country. Mussolini's dad was a raging socialist and Benito was eloquent and intelligent, which proved useful in assuming mass power. As a child, he was a bully, which also played a role in his dictatorship. As he aged, he became even more violent and outrageous. The ultimate demonstration of his tendencies came out in the mass killings and intense rage he displayed during his dictatorship. The fascination around him may have prompted some people to adore him.
1 Josef Stalin
The Soviet Union fell under the rule of Josef Stalin for more than twenty years. It became a “Reign of Terror” and Stalin was known as one of the most ruthless men in history. He had an intensity about him that instilled fear in others but also allowed him to revitalize Russia and defeat the Nazis. Yet, a man who killed up to 20 million people cannot use economic stability and modernization as a cover-up. Stalin was a wacko who promoted rape and genocide. We are not sure why Russians consider him to be one of the greatest men of their country.