25 Deadliest Dictators Throughout History

Posted by , Updated on April 23, 2024

Absolute power results in unequivocal corruption. When there are no systems of checks and balances, laws, or appropriate institutional structures in place, autocrats and despots can quickly accumulate power, leading to vast devastation. Regrettably, there are times when politicians and leaders decide to pursue their own course (frequently, much to the public’s dismay). These unrelenting tyrants, ranging from communist leaders to tribal autocracies, prioritize their personal ambitions for dominance, power, and eternal remembrance over the sanctity of life. This brings us to the 25 Most Dangerous Dictators in History.


Robert Mugabe

robert mugabe

President Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe is said to have risen to power via electoral deception and fearmongering. In one election where he did not receive any votes in a certain province, he orchestrated the killing of over 20,000 civilians by fabricating stories of rebellion and treason. During his time in office, over 3.1 million Zimbabweans lost their homes, jobs, and livelihood due to his “land reform program,” aka bulldozing any village that voices dissent.


Vlad III


This tyrant’s association with vampires and Dracula are well placed. Vlad III killed countless numbers of people and delighted in violence and the cruel treatment of prisoners and rebels. He enjoyed impaling his victims and supposedly even bathed in their blood.


Kim Jong-Il

kim jong il

Kim Jong-Il had nearly a quarter million people arrested during his rule and is directly responsible for the starvation and deaths of million of North Koreans.


Idi Amin Dada

idi amin

Even though Idi Amin Dada ruled Uganda for only eight years from 1971 to 1979, he took full advantage of his time in command, putting his wrath on full display. Roughly half a million people lost their lives due to extrajudicial killings and genocide during this time.


Vladimir Lenin

vladmir lenin

Probably no one in history has received more assassination attempts than Vladimir Lenin. Of course, given that he instituted the “Red Terror,” or the systematic elimination of millions of people including members of his own political party, this should come as no surprise.


Emperor Hirohito

emperor hirohito

Emperor Hirohito reigned in Japan during World War II and although the accusations made against his leadership are not as significant as some others on this list, the debate still rages as to whether or not he was responsible for the war crimes committed by his military and how much control he really had.


Koki Hirota

koki hiroata

Like Emperor Hirohit, Koki’s ability and power to affect the atrocities committed by the military were questionable. Unlike Hirota, however, he was executed for war crimes that included being privy to information that could have prevented numerous atrocities.


Leonid Ilyich Brezhnev


Being a communist leader for the Soviet Union, it should come as no surprise that Leonid Brezhnev fit right into the senselessly violent shoes of his predecessors, Stalin and Lenin. His leadership was  marred with the blood of genocide against the Moldovans, Volga Germans, Cossacks, Poles, and even Armenians.


Chiang Kai-shek


As the successor of Sun Yat-sen, Chiang Kai-shek of China was a very formidable leader whose ideals, goals, and dreams were for the sake of giving China a whole new government, away from the common ground of Communism which had lasted for so many years. He was known as the “White Terror,” purging the opposition for better leadership and country stability. All in all, roughly 1 million died as a result of his initiatives.


Kaiser Wilhelm II

kaiser willhelm

Kaiser Wilhelm II was the last emperor of Germany up until 1918. Know for his inability to control the military and inept command, he probably wasn’t nearly as deadly as he was incapable. Nevertheless, his time as emperor caused the deaths of millions.


Ho Chi Minh


Ho Chi Minh became president of North Vietnam by means of violence and fear. Another dictator who seemed to be trigger happy with his land reforms, over 100,000 people were executed as a result. Others who experienced famine and seclusion in war camps numbered over 1 million.


Yakubu Gowon


Yakubu Gowon was the leader of Nigeria at the time when oil was found in the Niger delta, which was also pursued by Ojukwu of eastern Nigeria. Although both sides signed the “Aburi Accord,” it did nothing to create peace. Gowon’s ruthless military tactics in the ensuing war led to the deaths of over 1 million civilians.


Mengistu Haile Mariam


Mengistu Haile Mariam of Ethiopia had no qualms about eliminating anyone he considered to be opposition. When he gave his introductory speech, he announced death to the revolution and to the EPRP (Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Party). He showed his conviction to his the message by throwing three bottles filled with blood from his pedestal. He also initiated the movement to kill thousands of “Kebeles” on the streets, garroting the resistance to death, and even taxing families when requesting for the return of the dead bodies of their loved ones. Overall, he left about 1.5 million deaths in his wake.


Kim Il Sung

kim il sung

Sick and delusional, Kim Il Sung of North Korea led a nation using force, aggression, and deception. He lost so much respect from his people that he ended up blaming the US for the nation’s suffering, spreading the news that the biggest superpower had spread an epidemic throughout the countryside. To make it more convincing, he killed 1.6 million of his own people.


Saddam Hussein

saddam hussein

Saddam Hussein was a well-known leader that instigated numerous conflicts in his lifetime. He instituted mass genocide against the Kurds, Shabaks, Assyrians, Mandeans, and other ethnic groups who rebelled against his leadership and fought several wars against Iran and Kuwait, with the death toll climbing to about 2 million in total.


Ismail Enver Pasha


Of the many dictators that have killed in the quest for power, perhaps Ismail Enver Pasha was one of the most unique. He was the leader of the Young Turk Revolution and became more powerful as he led the Ottoman Empire in World War I and the Balkan Wars. But despite his experience on the battlefield, he was still very bad at leading an army as he lost battle after battle. What’s even worse is that he killed over 1.5 million Armenians and over 1 million people of other races just to compensate for his shameful loss in Sarikamish.


Omar al-Bashir

omar al-bashir

As President of Sudan, Omar al-Bashir was the ruler that negotiated the end of the Sudanese Civil War by giving in to what the Sudan People’s Liberation Army was requesting. Although what he did was considered fair and noble, the agreement directly led to wars in Darfur that claimed the lives of about 400,000 people due to violence and starvation.


Pol Pot

pol pot

As communist leader of Cambodia, Pol Pot envisioned a country that would be equal by any means. So he thought of sending city people to the farms and the farm people to the city. As expected, he did not get the results he wanted, so he then resorted to punishing people and depriving them of their right to education, medication, and nutrition. He even executed about 2.5 million who were not following his ideals.


Yahya Khan


General Agha Mohammad Yahya Khan was very active during the Second World War and became the third President of Pakistan. As expected, he instituted martial law and ruthlessly led a war against Eastern Pakistan. His policies left millions dead.


Nicholas II

nicholas II

Anti-Semitic, idealistic, and very violent, “Bloody Nicholas,” as he was sometimes called, cost Russia 3 million lives.


Hideki Tojo


When he was assigned to be general in the Imperial Japanese Army, Hideki Tojo was not content with his position, so he also assumed the position of Prime Minister, Army Minister, Home Minister, Foreign Minister, Education Minister, and Commerce Minister…talk about a lot of responsibility. He also made ties with the Nazis hoping that he would rise to power alongside Hitler. Due to his relentless acts of attacking other Asian countries, he was directly responsible for the deaths of over 5 million individuals.


Josef Stalin

joseph stalin

Josef Stalin became the leader of Soviet Union after Lenin died in 1924 and launched government programs that would make the country more progressive. His attempt to move to the new economy, however, led to the starvation of nearly 10 million people. With many intellectuals and activists not in favor of his leadership, Stalin also launched the “Great Purge,” killing every person who opposed him and his ideals.


Leopold II


As a colonial leader of Belgium, Leopold II was famous for essentially enslaving and killing nearly 15 million Congolese under the guise of his Congo Free State. Other European powers granted him the territory to improve the lives of its inhabitants. Instead, he used them for his own personal gain and committed some of the worst atrocities in history.


Adolf Hitler

adolf hitler

To most people, Adolf Hitler does not need much of an introduction as he was famous for being the leader of the Nazis – a German party that was responsible for the deaths of over 17 million people including 6 million Jews. After leading the entire world into war as well as committing numerous war crimes, he certainly deserves a spot on this list.


Mao Zedong

mao zedong

Famous for being one of the communist leaders of the Republic of China beginning around World War II, Mao Zedong was a ruler who thirsted for power. In his first five years, he killed about 4 to 6 million people by indiscriminately sentencing them to death. His policies also starved about 20 million, and on top of that, he had numerous enemies of the state executed.

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