Ever wonder what it would be like to be a dictator and call all the shots? It’s a job with good benefits, fantastic pay, and great health coverage. You don’t answer to anyone and possibly eventually get international amnesty. But here’s a word of warning to would-be dictators everywhere: dictators don’t always die the most pleasant and peaceful deaths. From body malfunctions and getting shot to getting hung and having their body dug up and re-executed, here are 25 Dictators Who Died Horribly Unfortunate Deaths.
Muammar Gaddafi (Libya)
Thanks to mobile phone technology, Gaddafi’s capture and death at the hands of rebel militias was broadcast across the world. The video showed him being beaten and then sodomized with a bayonet before being shot several times.
Saddam Hussein (Iraq)
A video was leaked of Saddam’s hanging in which his executors could be heard insulting him. He also had a huge hole in his neck which led many to question the manner in which he was actually executed.
Caesar (Roman Empire)
Betrayal is never a fun feeling, and being stabbed to death by your supposed friends definitely ranks pretty high in the list of deaths-that-really-aren’t-cool. In case you aren’t up on your Roman history, Caesar went to work one day and was then stabbed 23 times by several Roman senators. Only 1 stab wound would be considered fatal, and it’s believed he died from blood loss from his wounds after the conspirators fled.
While betrayal isn’t fun, blowing your own brains out in an underground bunker definitely isn’t the most peaceful way to go, either.
Executed by firing squad, his body along with that of his mistress and several other people were hung upside down from an Esso gas station in Milan while crowds spit on them and threw rocks. (Yes, they were already dead.)
When you live a life of paranoia and kill all your closest allies, you’re likely to die alone…which is exactly what happened to Stalin. Since his guards were too afraid to enter his quarters, they ended up finding him on the floor, covered in urine and barely hanging onto life. Suffering a cerebral hemorrhage, people still question whether or not he may have been poisoned. Either way, he died a slow and painful death over the course of the next few days.
Mao Zedong (China)
While his death wasn’t violent in the conventional sense, Mao suffered three heart attacks and eventually died at 82. A heartless dictator murdered by his own heart. How ironic.
Nicholas II of Russia (Russia)
Nicholas the Bloody ended up being executed along with his entire family in a basement by Bolshevik executioners. His young children, wife, and servants were executed along with him.
Kim Il-Sung (North Korea)
Here’s another heartless dictator who died at the hands of his own heart. If you haven’t noticed, there’s a trend here. Dictators either die of knives and bullets…or heart attacks.
With an emphatically poetic ending, yet another heartless dictator died as his heart failed him. What his death lacked in violence, it made up for in irony.
Nicolae Ceausescu (Romania)
When the Romanian people turned on him, his power quickly failed. He was arrested, tried, and executed by firing squad along with his wife. Unfortunately for him, the death penalty was abolished the following year.
Idi Amin (Uganda)
While his name may not be as recognizable as Stalin, Hitler, or Caesar, Amin ruthlessly massacred an estimated 300,000 people and exiled all Indian and Pakistani citizens during his 8 year rein. He was never fully brought to justice for all his crimes, and he actually lived quite comfortably in exile until his death. However, he reportedly died of organ (kidney) failure.
Xerxes I (Persia)
You know you’re bad when your own bodyguard (Artabanus) kills you.
Anwar Sadat (Egypt)
The Egyptian strongman was shot point blank by several assault rifle wielding soldiers during a military parade. Numerous others were injured during the attack.
Park Chung-Hee (South Korea)
When you live by the sword, you die by the sword. Like Caesar, Park was assassinated by one of his closest friends, Kim Jae-gyu, head of the Korean Central Intelligence Agency
Maximilien Robespierre (France)
In spite of being a revolutionary and one of the most prominent figures in the French Revolution, Maximilian eventually found himself under the very guillotine he so happily used on others. It just goes to show, simply fighting for a righteous cause (in this case democracy) isn’t enough. You have to fight righteously as well, otherwise history may not be so kind to you, regardless of your intentions.
Samuel Doe (Liberia)
Ion Antonescu (Romania)
This Romanian strong man was tried and executed by firing squad for being complicit to numerous genocides and killings.
Vlad the Impaler (Wallachia)
He didn’t get his name for nothing. Known for impaling his enemies and bathing in their blood, Vlad was the inspiration for the legend of Dracula. He was eventually killed during battle; his body was then chopped into pieces, and his head was sent to his enemy, Mehmed II.
Kōki Hirota (Japan)
Although he remains the only civilian to be executed by the International Military Tribunal for the Far East, he was killed by hanging for being complicit and presiding over Japanese war crimes during World War II. (If you’re wondering why we’ve including him on this list, he had been Prime Minister before these events, from 1936-37.) It just goes to show, keeping bad company can cost you your head…literally.
Enver Pasha (Ottoman Empire)
Known for perpetrating the Armenian Genocide, there are conflicting accounts of how Enver died. Most of them, however, involve him being shot and decapitated, both of which are quite violent ways to die.
Josip Broz Tito (Yugoslavia)
Often seen as a benevolent dictator, it seems that even the “good guys” can’t escape suffering. Although Tito’s death wasn’t violent in the conventional sense, circulation problems in his legs required his left leg to be amputated. Shortly thereafter he died of gangrene.
Pol Pot (Cambodia)
Killing nearly 25% of his own population, Pol Pot died while under house arrest by his own group (Khmer Rouge). Rumors persist that he either committed suicide or was poisoned. Either way, he died at the hands of his colleagues, which is a recurring theme on this list.
Hideki Tojo (Japan)
As Prime Minister of Japan, Hideki ordered the strike on Pearl Harbor. He paid for it with his life, however, when he was executed for war crimes following World War II.
Oliver Cromwell (England)
Considered a defender of liberty by some and a regicidal dictator by others, either way Cromwell died of natural causes. But that wasn’t the end. His body was eventually exhumed and subjected to a post-humous execution. That’s right, he was executed after he was already dead. You know you’ve really made enemies when something like that happens.
Photos: 25-20. wikimedia commons (public domain), 19. pixabay (public domain), 18. wikimedia commons (public domain), 17. Nicor, Kim Il Sung portrait Grand People’s Study House cropped, CC BY-SA 3.0, 16-15. wikimedia commons (public domain), 14. Archives New Zealand, Idi Amin -Archives New Zealand AAWV 23583, KIRK1, 5(B), R23930288, CC BY 2.0, 13-5. wikimedia commons (public domain), 4. wikimedia commons (public domain), 3. Unknown, PolPot, Unknown, 2-1. wikimedia commons (public domain)