10 terrible dictators you've probably never heard of, including Enver Hoxha

2024-01-24 19:26:00, Blog CNA
10 terrible dictators you've probably never heard of, including Enver Hoxha
Enver Hoxha

Everyone knows Hitler, Stalin, Mao and Pol Pot. But there have been many other kings, emperors, military dictators, generals, presidents for life than only them. The world doesn't care as long as these people are smart enough to keep their genocidal and repressive policies within their borders. And fortunately for all but those within their own impoverished countries, most of the men on this list were more interested in amassing personal wealth or hiding from perceived threats than conquering their neighbors. Unfortunately, this means that they stayed in power far longer than they deserved and did not always face justice. But that doesn't mean you shouldn't know about them. Let's take a look at some of history's worst but darkest dictators.

10. U Ne Win

10 terrible dictators you've probably never heard of, including Enver Hoxha

U Ne Win, the enigmatic Burmese military leader, tormented his native Burma as its dictator from 1962 to 1988. Often characterized by his eccentricities, he implemented a series of strange economic policies, including the infamous decision in 1987 to demonetized most of the country's currency overnight, leading to the chaos known as the "8888 Uprising". Despite his autocratic rule, Ne Win's peculiar actions and unpredictable behavior created a magnetic mystique around him.

For example, he loved numerology and famously chose the number nine as his lucky number. He also regularly consulted astrologers and even changed the country's governing laws to conform to his superstitions. U Ne Win's mix of authoritarianism and eccentricity makes him a more attractive leader than most. But that doesn't change the fact that he was a brutal, ruthless autocrat. As is almost universally the case, U Ne Win's policies led to widespread poverty and chaos in his country. But unlike almost every other dictator, he resigned because of it in 1988.

9. Jean-Bedel Bokassa

10 terrible dictators you've probably never heard of, including Enver Hoxha

As if Africa had not suffered enough, the poor, neglected, historically exploited continent has also suffered from its authoritarians. Jean-Bédel Bokassa called himself Emperor of the Central African Republic and brought nothing but chaos, cruelty and death. He emerged as one of Africa's most prominent and eccentric dictators of the 20th century. Coming to power through a military coup in 1966, Bokassa later crowned himself in a lavish coronation ceremony that bankrupted his impoverished nation.

Notorious for his extravagant lifestyle, Bokassa was rumored to have maintained a personal zoo of rare animals, including white tigers and elephants. Additionally, his claim to fame includes allegations of cannibalism, a sensational allegation that may or may not be supported by facts. Bokassa's rule ended in 1979 when France intervened, overthrowing his empire and restoring the republic. Despite his oppressive rule, the peculiarities of Bokassa's imperial escapades contribute to his unique status among the pantheon of eccentric dictators.

8. Francisco Macias Nguema

Francisco Macías Nguema, the self-styled "One Miracle" and the first President of Equatorial Guinea, took power in 1968 through a coup d'état. Macías transformed his country into a one-party state. Nicknamed the "African Idi Amin", Macía's eccentricities became a hallmark of his reign. His erratic behavior ranged from ordering the execution of perceived enemies to creating outlandish policies such as banning the use of vehicle lubricants to save money.

Like many autocrats, Marcías was known for his paranoia and unleashed a reign of terror marked by arbitrary arrests, executions and a widespread culture of fear. His obsession with personal security reached insane heights, as he believed that enemies were conspiring against him from within his own party and even from his own shower. His level of eccentricity and brutality culminated in a reign that left Equatorial Guinea economically devastated and socially torn apart. But he was not entirely wrong when he was targeted by other power-hungry groups. But he was too blind to see that his paranoia and brutality contributed to his downfall. Macías was overthrown in a coup in 1979. We guess it's true what they say - those who live by the sword will also die by it.

7. Saparmurat Niyazov

10 terrible dictators you've probably never heard of, including Enver Hoxha

When he came to power in 1985, Saparmurat Niyazov brutalized Turkmenistan with a mix of authoritarian rule and eccentric personal cult. Niyazov maintained an iron grip on his impoverished nation until his death in 2006. Often referred to as "Turkmenbashi" or "Father of the Turkmens," he pursued an extravagant cult of personality, saturating public spaces with statues and portraits his and renaming the months and days of the week after his family members. As a normal, suitable man who can be trusted with power.

Niyazov's outlandish decrees reached new heights of absurdity, including banning ballet, opera and gold teeth, and renaming months to honor historical and cultural events. His rule was characterized by delusions of grandeur and a series of financially reckless infrastructure projects, such as a massive artificial lake in the Karakum desert, which Turkmenistan could not afford. While his regime brought a modicum of stability to Turkmenistan, Niyazov's eccentricities and cult of personality made him one of the worst and most eccentric authoritarians ever to rule a Central Asian country with an iron grip.

6. Alberto Fujimori

10 terrible dictators you've probably never heard of, including Enver Hoxha

Alberto Fujimori, Peru's former president, took office in 1990 and quickly gained popularity for implementing economic reforms that stabilized Peru's hyperinflation and fought corruption. However, his presidency also became synonymous with authoritarian practices and human rights violations.

In a surprising turn of events in 1992, Fujimori dissolved the Peruvian Congress, claiming it was riddled with corruption, and took control of the judiciary. This action was met with support for the fight against corruption and criticism for undermining democratic institutions. Fujimori's eccentricities were evident in his unorthodox governing style and sometimes blatant behavior, but his administration also successfully fought terrorism, most notably capturing the leader of the Shining Path guerrilla group.

Fujimori's presidency ended in scandal in 2000 when a corruption scandal involving his intelligence chief, Vladimiro Montesinos, came to light, leading to his resignation and subsequent exile to Japan. He wasn't the most brutal dictator on our list, but he doesn't exactly deserve statues built in his honor.

5. Hissene Habre

10 terrible dictators you've probably never heard of, including Enver Hoxha

Hissène Habré, the former president of Chad, is a controversial figure whose rule was characterized by brutality and widespread human rights abuses. Taking power in 1982, Habré ruled Chad until he was overthrown in 1990. His regime used torture, political repression and ethnic violence to maintain control.

Habré's eccentricities were often overshadowed by these gross human rights violations. His political opponents were harshly treated and the notorious secret police, the Directorate of Documentation and Security (DDS), was implicated in numerous human rights abuses. Habré's government was accused of executing thousands of political prisoners and committing atrocities against specific ethnic groups, contributing to a legacy of fear and distrust.

In 2016, Hissène Habré was convicted by a special court in Senegal of crimes against humanity, war crimes and torture during his rule. His trial marked an important moment in international justice, as it was the first time that a former African head of state was held responsible for human rights violations by another country's legal system.

4. Islam Karimov

10 terrible dictators you've probably never heard of, including Enver Hoxha

Islam Karimov, Uzbekistan's first president, maintained a firm grip on power from the country's independence in 1991 until his death in 2016. Known for his authoritarian rule, Karimov maintained control through a combination of political repression and a cult of carefully cultivated personality.

Karimov's eccentricities were evident in his attempts to form a cult of personality around himself, portraying an image of a strong and wise leader. His policies, however, were often criticized for human rights abuses, including censorship, torture, and the suppression of political opposition. The infamous Andijan massacre in 2005, where government forces violently dispersed protesters, may be the most infamous episode here.

Despite these controversies, Karimov's administration managed to maintain stability in Uzbekistan and pursue economic reforms. The country experienced relative economic growth during his tenure, but this came at the expense of political freedoms and human rights. After Karimov's death, Shavkat Mirziyoyev succeeded him as president, introducing some cautious reforms and signaling a departure from the repressive tactics of the past.

3. Nicolae Ceausescu

10 terrible dictators you've probably never heard of, including Enver Hoxha

Nicolae Ceausescu, General Secretary of the Romanian Communist Party and President of Romania, held power from 1965 until a dramatic and humiliating fall in 1989. Initially gaining popularity for his opposition to the Soviet occupation of Czechoslovakia in 1968, the regime of Ceausescu gradually evolved into one marked by increasing repression, a cult of personality and economic mismanagement.

Ceausescu's eccentricities became apparent in his later years. He pursued grandiose projects such as the People's House, a massive palace in Bucharest, which became a symbol of his wealth amid widespread poverty. His regime implemented policies that severely restricted personal freedoms, including strict censorship, extensive surveillance, and a ban on contraceptives. The Securitate, the secret police, played an important role in suppressing dissent.

In the 1980s, Ceausescu implemented austerity measures to pay off foreign debts, leading to extreme shortages of basic goods. This, along with his efforts to increase the country's population through a pro-natalist policy, further strained the economy and deepened public discontent.

In December 1989, a wave of protests brought the Ceausescu regime to a brutal end. Ceausescu and his wife, Elena, were captured, summarily tried and executed on Christmas Day 1989.

2. Mobutu Sese Seko

10 terrible dictators you've probably never heard of, including Enver Hoxha

Mobutu Sese Seko, born Joseph-Désiré Mobutu, was president of Zaire (now the Democratic Republic of the Congo) for more than three decades, from 1965 to 1997. His rule, like most dictators on this list, was characterized by brutal authoritarianism, corruption and systematic robbery of the country's resources.

Mobutu came to power through a coup in 1965, overthrowing the government of Patrice Lumumba. After taking control, he quickly established a one-party state and consolidated power, adopting a policy of "Zairianization" that involved replacing colonial-era names with African ones.

Under Mobutu's rule, Zaire became synonymous with corruption and mismanagement. He amassed a large personal fortune as the country's economy deteriorated. His leadership style was characterized by a cult of personality, exemplified by his leopard-skin hat and an odd title, "The Guide". He maintained control through the military and a widespread intelligence apparatus.

Despite early support from the West during the Cold War, Mobutu's international standing declined as allegations of human rights abuses and corruption intensified. In 1997, rebels overthrew Mobutu, marking the end of his rule. Mobutu went into exile and died of cancer in Morocco in 1997.

1. Enver Hoxha

10 terrible dictators you've probably never heard of, including Enver Hoxha

Enver Hoxha was the leader of communist Albania from the end of World War II in 1944 until his death in 1985, making him one of the longest-serving heads of state in the 20th century. His leadership was characterized by a rigid Stalinist ideology, extreme isolationism and a fervent commitment to building a socialist utopia. Surprisingly, it didn't work.

Hoxha first came to power as the head of the partisan resistance against the Italian and German invaders during World War II. After the war, he became chairman of the People's Assembly and then Prime Minister. In 1946, Albania officially became a People's Republic and in 1948, Hoxha severed ties with Yugoslavia, marking the beginning of his country's isolation from the Western and Eastern blocs.

Hoxha brought extreme repression, censorship and a widespread surveillance apparatus to the country. He ordered the collectivization of agriculture and the industrialization of the country, often at the expense of personal freedoms and economic efficiency. Perhaps one of the most prominent aspects of Hoxha's rule was the construction of thousands of bunkers throughout Albania, reflecting his obsession with perceived external threats.

Hoxha's death in 1985 led to the fall of the Albanian communist regime in 1992./ TopTenz

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