Tyrants: The Worlds Worst Dictators

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Lavish lairs: inside the homes of the world's worst dictators

As the architects of their own myths, Dikotter argues, they lied to themselves. The myth of a quasi-religious mystical bond between the people and their saviour was enabled by highly effective propaganda machines that assumed industrial proportions. The result was that entire populations were mobilised, or forced, to acclaim their leader and demonstrate their loyalty, "nations of prisoners condemned to enthusiasm".

When no one was certain who supported and who opposed the dictator, the cult reached its apotheosis.

People were fearful, obsequious, acquiescent or silent. The alternative was the fate of political opponents of the regime: exile, imprisonment or execution.

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Notwithstanding such widespread compliance, Dikotter tends to underplay the degree of genuine adulation, even love, that a great many citizens felt at particular historical moments, especially for that quartet of supreme rulers: Il Duce, der Fuehrer, Stalin Batiushka or "Little Father" and Chairman Mao. World leaders were also seduced.

Top 10 Ruthless Dictators

Churchill, for example, considered Mussolini "the Roman genius", and of Stalin, who had no shortage of international devotees, he said "I like him the more I see him". Similarly, shouting "Heil Hitler" while being shot was not uncommon. One reason the cult was so effective was that it provided the leader with protection. When things went wrong, blame was transferred to underlings; "if only he knew", victims often implored.


Asia's Worst Dictators

He can claim credit, more than Stalin or Hitler, for the biggest pyramid of corpses. How To Be A Dictator also documents mass murder, such as in Ethiopia, where almost 1 million died at the hands of Mussolini using mustard gas warfare in the s and then Mengistu, responsible for "Red Terror", civil war and famine in the s. Killing is the corollary of the cult. As Dikotter comments, "the greater the misery, the louder the propaganda". In developing their cults, many of our dictators learnt from each other.

Tyrants - The World's Worst Dictators - Read book online

Many also still exist in the Middle East. Syria's cruel leader Bashar al-Assad has waged a six-year civil war against rebels that has left some , dead. To do this he's used chemical weapons, as well as barrel bombs and cluster munitions. Thousands more of the minority, located in the country's rural west, have been dragged from their homes and forced across the border to Bangladesh while government soldiers destroy their towns. The leaders of central Asia's Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan fare no better. Kim Jong-un became North Korea's third "Supreme Leader" in aged just 26 and immediately took off where his father and grandfather - both murderous tyrants in their own right - left off.

Tyrants: The World's 20 Worst Living Dictators

He has executed scores of officials and extended family members who he deemed untrustworthy to effectively cement his grip on power and instill fear in anyone doubting his capability to reign. The heavy-smoking dictator - who is said to love European cheeses and Bordeaux's finest red wines - also rules with complete disregard for the famine killing thousands of his citizens. He also presides over the country's notorious gulags, where thousands of political prisoners are tortured, starved, worked to death, killed and raped. Russia's long-standing strongman is a dictator in all but name, having spent the past 18 pulling the strings of power in various forms.

Fresh from winning his latest rigged election, he has become embroiled in a standoff with the democratic world having likely ordered the poisoning of Sergei Skripal in Salisbury on March 4.

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Putin has also carried out land grabs of the Crimea, Ukraine, and parts of Georgia, and propped up dictator Bashar al-Assad's murderous regime in Syria. Domestically he's jailed political opponents on trumped up charges, where they face torture - including one particularly grim method of giving electric shocks to a prisoner's earlobes which is dubbed the "Phone Call to Putin".