I’ve been on a huge history kick lately. I’ve been watching movies based on historical incidents, shows with historical aspects, and reading various material out there with historical elements. It’s easier to focus on the glaring downside of political leadership. For example, dictators who kill with impunity their own people. While it’s more advantageous to focus on the present and the situations nations and people face today, the past is just as important. Given the differences of views and jockeying for power within and between the political parties and factions, let’s hope for the best, concerning today’s political climate. As I recently was told, sometimes you have to disconnect from what is happening on the political stage because the issues will always be there. Piggybacking on this, changing the angle you’re standing at sometimes helps your perception of the issues. While they may be the world’s most talked about political leaders and dare I say influential (mostly bad than good), how they came into power and retained power is fascinating. Here are the top ten deadliest dictators according to World Atlas. They rank in the order of the number of lives taken, which ranges from the low millions to almost 50,000,000 million (close enough, right?) people, and the worst part is some of them believed they did nothing wrong.
#1 Mao Zedong
“When there is not enough to eat, please starve to death. It is better to let half the people die so that the other half can eat their fill.”
Mao Zedong was the Chairman of People’s Republic of China from 1946 to 1976. He is responsible for killing around 47,263,517 of his own people. Of the 47.2 million that died, 36 million was from starvation. It is known as the Maoist Catastrophe. Zedong died in 1976 after a heart attack.
#2 Adolf Hitler
“How fortunate for leaders that men do not think.”
Adolf Hitler was the Chancellor of Germany and then Führer of Nazi Germany. He is responsible for killing an estimated 13,674,790 Jewish Europeans and those he deemed a threat to the “Germanic Europe” he envisioned. It is known as the Nazi Holocaust, but Soviets, Poles, Roma, Disabled, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Gays, Blacks, and opponents died as well. Hitler died in 1945 by suicide although some believe he escaped with Ava Braun.
#3 Joseph Stalin
“Death is the solution to all problems. No man – no problem.”
Joseph Stalin was the General Secretary and revolutionary of the Soviet Union. He is responsible for killing about 13,038,405 of his own people. It is known as the Great Purge, meaning he killed anyone who was a threat, but the Gulag and famine killed millions as well. Stalin died in 1953 of a cerebral hemorrhage.
#4 Chiang Kai-shek
“We live in the present, we dream of the future, and we learn eternal truths from the past.”
Chiang Kai-shek was the military leader and politician of Republic of China. He is responsible for killing around 10,511,124 of his own people under Nationalist rule including Taiwanese during the White Terror. Chiang died of natural causes in 1975.
#5 Leopold II
“I do not want to miss a good chance to getting us a slice of this magnificent African cake.”
King Leopold II of the Belgians was the sovereign of Congo Free State. He is responsible for killing an estimated 10,588,090 Congolese Africans. He brutalized the inhabitants of Congo through starvation, forced labor, and violent deaths. Leopold II died in 1909 of natural causes.
#6 Hirohito and Hideki Tojo
“They do not depend upon mere legends and myths. They are not predicated on the false conception that the Emperor is divine and the Japanese people are superior to other races.”
“It goes without saying that when survival is threatened, struggles erupt between peoples, and unfortunate wars between nations result.”
Emperor Hirohito and Prime Minister Hideki Tojo were the leaders of Japan. They are responsible for killing about 9,317,081 under Imperialist rule from East and Southeast Asia, Oceania, and the Pacific. Hirohito died of duodenal cancer in 1989 and Tojo died in 1948 by execution (hanging).
#7 Pol Pot
“Since he is of no use anymore, there is no gain if he lives and no loss if he dies.”
Pol Pot was the leader of Kampuchea (now Cambodia). He is responsible for killing around 2,039,657 under Khmer Rouge regime. It is known as the Cambodian Holocaust with mass executions, forced labor, and malnutrition. Pot died in 1998 of natural causes but other ways suggested have not been confirmed.
#8 Enver Pasha
“You are greatly mistaken. We have this country absolutely under our control. I have no desire to shift the blame onto our underlings and I am entirely willing to accept the responsibility myself for everything that has taken place.”
Enver Pasha was Triumvir of the Ottoman Empire (also known as Turkish Empire). He is responsible for killing about 1,989,284 as leader of the Young Turk Revolution. It is known as the Armenian Holocaust, which were those who lived in the Ottoman Empire. Pasha died in 1922 by the Russians although accounts vary of who killed him.
#9 Kim Il-sung
“The most important thing is our war preparations is to teach all our people to hate U.S. imperialism. Otherwise, we will not be able to defeat the U.S. imperialists who boast of their technological superiority.”
Kim Il-sung was the leader of North Korea. He is responsible for killing an estimated 1,576,388 of his own people due to oppression from labor camps, starvation, and executions. Kim died in 1994 of a heart attack.
#10 Nicholas II
“I am not ready to be a tsar. I know nothing of the business of ruling.”
Nicholas the II was the Czar of the Russian empire. He is responsible for killing around 1,161,895 of his own people although this number seems low. His ineffective leadership during the Russian and Austrian war led to massive casualties, as well as deaths resulting from worker revolts. Nicholas the II died in 1918 by a firing squad along with his immediate family.
This is by no means exhaustive because when you account for world leaders that aren’t dictators and/or probably care to preserve their political image a little better, especially in today’s world, the offshoots to this are many when you account for other variables. For the sake of time, simplicity, and statistics, these were the leaders that consistently rank among the top as ruthless and/or careless dictators year after year.