The World's Most Notorious Despots

Updated February 21, 2017 | Factmonster Staff
The World's Most Notorious Despots

by Borgna Brunner

Top Ten Despots

Ivan the Terrible


Joseph Stalin

Adolph Hitler

Mao Zedong

Francois Duvalier

Nicolae Ceausescu

Idi Amin

Pol Pot

Idi Amin

Brutally authoritarian president of Uganda from 1971–79, Idi Amin oversaw the torture and murder of an estimated 300,000 of his own people. He orchestrated the persecution of the Lango and Acholi tribes, and expelled all 60,000 ethnic Asians from the country, thereby destroying the economy. He lined his own pockets with his country's wealth, and as an advocate of Islamic terrorism, was personally involved in the Palestinian hijacking at Entebbe in July 1976. With his bombast and buffoonery, he gained an international reputation as a parody of an African despot: he called himself "Conqueror of the British Empire" and the national heavyweight boxing champion of Uganda, for example, and claimed to have direct conversations with God. As amusing as his pompous antics were from afar, his savagery and repression have deeply scarred Uganda, in spite of its remarkable recovery under current President Yoweri Museveni. Today, Amin lives in a large marble villa in Saudia Arabia.

Pol Pot

Radical Marxist leader of Cambodia from 1975–79, who butchered his own people. The four years of nightmarish Khmer Rouge rule led to the state-sponsored extermination of citizens by its own government. Between 1 million and 2 million people were massacred on the "killing fields" of Cambodia or were worked to death through forced labor. Pol Pot's radical vision of transforming the country into a Marxist agrarian society led to the virtual extermination of the country's professional and technical class—anyone wearing glasses, for example, was murdered. Pol Pot died in 1998 without remorse, declaring, "My conscience is clear."

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