The Deadliest Dictator Regimes In History

Nazi flagbearers in 1933.
Nazi flagbearers in 1933.

Dictatorships occur when the head of government has absolute control over every aspect of public and private actions. Dictators ensure this power by utilizing propaganda and enacting laws to protect their position. This type of government can have some advantages such as: fast decision making due to a lack of bureaucracy and low crime rates. The disadvantages however, far outway any advantage. Dictatorships are marked by and absence of balanced government, political and social instability, significant human rights violations, and massive numbers of deaths. The deadliest dictatorships are discussed below.

Deadliest Dictator Regimes in History

Maoist Catastrophe

Between 1946 and 1976, China suffered under the rule of Mao Zedong, a communist revolutionary who founded the People’s Republic of China. He ruled with an iron fist and led a great cultural revolution, also referred to as the “Great Leap Forward.” Mao proclaimed far-reaching land reform by converting large tracts of land into agricultural collectives for communal use. Private farming was prohibited and by 1958, private landholding was also illegal. Rural residents were forced into these collectives, and anybody who did not abide was prosecuted. The government taxed harvests and bought crops at fixed prices in order to stockpile grain against future famines. Millions of farmers were forced into iron and steel production to industrialize the nation. The Government forced several changes such as planting practices in an attempt to increase yields, but it resulted in disastrous declines of growth. Between 1959 and 1961, China suffered a great famine. The government did not evenly distribute grain, promising more to urban centers and only harvest surplus to rural workers. During this time, approximately 36 million people died. Mao was unpopular in cities and launched a political strategy, the “Hundred Flowers Campaign”, to increase his popularity. He requested ideas from urban residents concerning his policies and was met with extreme criticisms and protests. In response, he imprisoned anybody who did not agree with the communist approach. His time in power, known as the “Maoist Catastrophe,” caused a total of 47,263,517 deaths.

Nazi Holocaust

The second deadliest dictatorship in history occurred during the Nazi Holocaust under the power of Adolf Hitler. During this time, an estimated 13,674,790 people were killed. Hitler was preoccupied with the idea of a “pure” human race and in his mind, this did not include any person of the Jewish faith. Once the chancellor of Germany, after the death of the president in 1933, Hitler nominated himself to the position. The Nazi Revolution had lasted for six years before World War II began. Anyone against their political, racial, and religious ideologies was sent to concentration camps that were set up across the country. During the first year of the movement, some 27,000 people were housed in these camps. By 1939, Nazi forces had invaded Poland, creating Jewish ghettos where Jews were forced to live in overpopulated conditions filled with poverty, hunger, and disease. People from these fenced in neighborhoods were later shipped to concentration camps where they were worked to death or killed. People with mental illness and physical disabilities did not escape persecution and were also killed. The German occupation spread throughout Europe, rounding up anyone who was not of “Aryan” descent and sending them to Poland. Mass killing experiments were under way, and the entire movement was based on murder and destruction. Germany surrendered during World War II on May 8, 1945, one week after Hitler’s suicide.

Stalinist Terror

Another deadly dictatorship occurred in the Soviet Union from 1922 to 1952 under the rule of Joseph Stalin. This movement was similar to the Chinese Maoist Revolution in that it was an attempt to move the nation away from agricultural practices and into industrialization. Farmers who did not cooperate with the collectivization of farmland were killed. Millions of individuals died as a result of famine brought on by mismanagement of crops. Millions more were sent to forced labor camps where they were killed. In the late 1930’s, he initiated the “Great Purge” campaign in order to get rid of anybody he felt was a threat. In 1939, Stalin signed a non-aggression agreement with Hitler, promising to keep out of German controlled areas. He then invaded various countries throughout Europe. Two years later, Germany broke the pact and invaded the Soviet Union. By 1949, he had exploded a nuclear weapon, established several communist states in Eastern Europe, and in 1950, initiated the Korean War. His period of power resulted in approximately 13,038,405 deaths.

Other deadly dictators and the number of their victims are listed below.

The Legacy

The legacy of these dictators is one of infamy. The people in these countries were not freed from the cruel terror of these men until their deaths. Their names will forever by associated with destruction.

Mao Zedong died in 1976 after a long battle with declining health and Parkinson’s Disease. Some researchers do credit him with having improved literacy and education throughout China and improving gender equality by banning foot binding and allowing women to file for divorce.

Adolf Hitler committed suicide to avoid capture after Berlin was invaded by Soviet forces. His death passed without much public attention as the country was in the middle of losing the war. He left behind a completely decimated region after causing great human suffering and loss.

Joseph Stalin had deteriorating health after World War II and survived both a stroke and heart attack. In 1953, he went to bed and did not emerge from his room the next day. He was discovered late that night and doctors diagnosed him with a major stroke. He died four days later. His funeral was attended by more than one million people, and China called for a period of silence in his honor.

The Deadliest Dictator Regimes In History

RankEstimated Number Of VictimsEvent/DictatorLocationFromTo
147,263,517Maoist Catastrophe/Mao ZedongPeople's Republic of China19461976
213,674,790Nazi Holocaust/Adolf HitlerNazi occupied Europe19391945
313,038,405Stalinist Terror/Joseph StalinSoviet Union19221952
410,511,124The Nationalist Era in China/Chiang Kai-shekChina19281946
510,488,090Congolese Holocaust/King Leopold IICongo Free State18851908
69,317,081Japanese Imperial Oppression/Emperor Hirohito,Hideiki Tojo, and other autocratsIn and around East and South East Asia, Oceania and the Pacific18951945
72,039,657Khmer Rouge's Cambodian Holocaust/Pol Pot and OthersDemocratic Kampuchea19751979
81,989,284Young Turk's Ottoman Holocaust/Ismail Enver PashaOttoman Empire19131922
91,576,388North Korean Oppression/Kim IlsungNorth Korea19481994
101,161,895Tsardom of Nicholas the IIRussian Empire19001907

More in Politics