Picking the seven craziest dictators in history is, unfortunately, quite the task. There are so many of them to choose from, and the atrocities they committed should have had them committed to a psych ward. How can one compare Adolph Hitler’s extermination of more than six million people to another despot’s decision to name a country’s capital airport and streets after himself as well as changing the names of the months, including one for his mother?
Craziest Dictators: No Bones About It
Saparmurat Niyazov of Turkmenistan is often cited as one of the world’s most deranged dictators. Among his actions after naming himself Turkmenbashi (Leader of All Ethnic Turkmen) and declaring himself president of Turkmenistan for life after the Soviet Union fell apart in 1991, Niyazov set out to create a new image for his country of five million by quite literally making it in his own image.
Giving Narcissus a run for his money, Niyazov named landmarks, streets and other public entities after himself—Turkembashi. He also changed the name for the month of April and his country’s word for ‘bread” to “Gurbansoltan edzhe”, in honor of his own staple, his mother. From that point until his death in December 2006, Niyazov ruled with an iron fist, passing a series of bizarre laws onto his hapless public: The Turkmenbashi’s face was legally required to appear on every clock, watch and the leader’s own brand of vodka. The country’s youth were encouraged to chew on bones to preserve their teeth instead of seeking dental treatment. Rural libraries were closed to discourage reading. It was forbidden for young men to grow long hair and beards.
Plus, car radios, lip syncing and recorded music were prohibited, among other verboten actions and items. Maybe the most fitting item named in his honor? A meteorite. When a 670-pound meteorite landed in Turkmenistan in 1998, scientists named the thick, destructive mass Turkmenbashi.
Craziest Dictators: This Guy Was Illin’
One need only watch videos of the forced public mourning in North Korea after the death of Kim Jong Il to see why its people are considered to suffer under one of the world’s most repressive governments. People who did not display just the right level of histrionics feared a harsh reprisal against them and their family. So, they were forced to put on a show of sadness for a man they should have detested, and who continued the tyranny of his equally unhinged father Kim Il Sung for 17 years.
During his reign as Supreme Leader of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (North Korea) until he died in 2011, Kim had up to 200,000 political prisoners sent to concentration camps in a country that woefully lacks freedom of the press, religion, political opposition and equal education. Psychiatrists have said Kim demonstrated the same diabolical characteristics as men like Hitler, Joseph Stalin, and Saddam Hussein. Professional opinions aside, Kim may have been deemed crazy by his actions alone.
While his people starved under economic sanctions, Kim lived a life of luxury with a 1,000-bottle wine cellar and special flights from Japan that brought the island’s most expensive cuts of sushi directly to Kim’s expanding belly. It has also been reported that Kim spent $20 million importing 200 new Mercedes Benz luxury sedans to North Korea to satisfy his lust for expensive cars. One of the most bizarre aspects of the late leader’s cult of personality were beliefs circulatedthrough his official biography: according to the text, North Korea’s “dear leader” neither urinated nordefecated, and had the power to control the weather.