A dictatorship is an authoritarian type of office or government where there is absolute control by one person. In other words, the dictator has total power and rules everything. Explore these examples of some well-known dictatorship countries throughout history.
Dictatorships are all about total power. However, a dictator doesn’t call themselves a dictator. They might be a president, prime minister, king, or even parliament; however, this person or small group has totalitarian rule over the country. The key factor of a dictatorship is that the dictator is typically cruel to a people group or does not meet the needs of their country.
Dictatorships might happen non-violently, like how Hitler took over Germany with the “Enable Act” followed by the “Reichstag Fire Decree”. Most dictatorships, however, happen by force. For example, when a military dictatorship, junta, takes over a country.
Now that you know how a dictatorship happens, explore a few famous ones from around the world.
Throughout history, there have been several different dictatorships that have sprung up. Explore a few famous dictatorships, including where they were, time, and the dictator that ruled.
- Wallachia - 1456 to 1462 - Vlad III
- Soviet Union - 1917 to 1924 - Vladimir Lenin
- Soviet Union - 1964 to 1982 - Leonid Brezhnev
- Germany Empire - 1888 to 1918 - Kaiser Wilhelm Il
- Ottoman Empire - 1913 to 1918 - Ismail Enver Pasha
- Russia - 1894 to 1917 - Czar Nicholas II
- Soviet Union - 1924 to 1953 - Josef Stalin
- Belgium - 1885 to 1908 - Leopold II
- Nazi Germany - 1933 to 1945 - Adolf Hitler
- Belarus - 1994 to present - Alexander Lukashenko
Dictatorships don’t end in Europe. There have been several throughout history in Asia too. Some are even still going strong. Explore Asian dictatorships.
- China - 1943 to 1948 - Chiang Kai-shek
- North Vietnam - 1945 to 1969 - Ho Chi Minh
- Iraq - 1979 to 2003 - Saddam Hussein
- Iran - 1989 to present - Ayatollah Ali Khamenei
- Pakistan - 1969 to 1971 - General Agha Mohammad Yahya Khan
- Japan - 1941 to 1944 - Hideki Tojo
- People's Republic of China - 1949 to 1976 - Mao Zedong
- North Korea - 1948 to 1994 - Kim Il Sung
- North Korea - 1994 to 2011 - Kim Jong-il
- North Korea - 2011 to present - Kim Jong-un
- Democratic Kampuchea - 1975 to 1979 - Pol Pot
- Syria - 2000 to present - Bashar al-Assad
- Uzbekistan - 1991 to present - Islam Karimov
- Azerbaijan - 2003 to present - Ilham Aliyev
- Turkmenistan - 2006 to present - Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow
Among Africans past and present, you’ll find a smattering of dictatorships. Explore a few of the famous ones.
- Zimbabwe - 1980 to present - Robert Mugabe
- Sudan - 1989 to 2019 - Omar al-Bashir
- Uganda - 1971 to 1979 - Idi Amin Dada
- Rwanda - 1994 to present - Paul Kagame
- Nigeria - 1966 to 1975 - Yakubu Gowon
- Ethiopia - 1974 to 1991 - Mengistu Haile Mariam
- Egypt - 1954 - 1970 - Gamal Abdel Nasser
- Equatorial Guinea - 1979 to present - Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo
- Angola - 1979 to 2017- José Eduardo dos Santos
- Guinea-Bissau 1980-1984 and 2005 to 2009 - João Bernardo Vieira
- Cameroon - 1982 to present - Paul Biya
- Chad - 1990 to present - Idriss Déby Into
- The Gambia - 1994 to 2017 - Yahya Jammeh
- Zambia - 2011 to 2014 - Michael Sata
Last, but certainly not least, check out some of the dictators that have been in the Americas.
- Honduras - 1963 to 1971 and 1972 to 1975 - Oswaldo López Arellano
- Cuba - 2006 to present - Raul Castro
- Venezuela - 2013 to present - Nicolás Maduro
- Panama - 1983 to 1989 - Manuel Noriega
- Nicaragua - 1967 to 1979 - Anastasio Somoza Debayle
- Guatemala - 1954 to 1957 - Carlos Castillo Armas
- Peru - 1992 to 1993 - Alberto Fujimori
- Venezuela - 1999 to 2012 - Hugo Chávez
- Brazil - 1979 to 1985 - João Baptista de Oliveira Figueiredo
- Grenada - 1974 to 1979 - Eric Gairy
- Haiti - 1991 to 1994 - Raoul Cédras
While a dictatorship and an autocracy might sound similar, they have some very distinct differences. While both have a single leader, autocracies are typically passed down through family lines. Additionally, an autocratic leader holds the supreme power but does not typically wield it in an oppressive manner.
A dictator, on the other hand, usually oppresses the people and is generally punished when their dictatorship has been overthrown. While not a requirement, most dictators have a high rank in the military.