The 5 Most Shockingly Insane Modern Dictators
As part of our ongoing effort to educate the world about the mind-boggling insanity of the world's dictators, here are five leaders who treated their countries as playthings for their own deranged minds.
Ne Win -- Head of State of Burma
Ne Win was the head of state of Burma from 1962 to 1981, and we're going to get this out of the way right now: He reportedly bathed in dolphin blood. He believed it restored his youth and vitality.
They're like a floating Club Med.
In general, Ne Win was superstitious to the point of insanity. He would cross bridges backwards, because he believed it would ward off evil. He consulted soothsayers on almost every aspect of his decision making, and they were crazier than he was. For instance, concerned that his regime was leaning too far left (being communist and all), Ne Win asked his soothsayers what he should do. They told him to change the entire country's roadways from left-lane driving to right. You know, to counter the leftness.
So, the next day, Ne Win promptly proclaimed that everybody had been driving on the wrong side of the road. Never mind that all the vehicles and intersections in Burma were designed with left-side driving in mind. The soothsayers know best!
Something tells us this man has cloves of garlic hanging from his dong.
The soothsayers also told Ne Win that nine was his lucky number, so from then on, he'd make new policies on days that had something to do with nine. Then he announced that he was going to change the currency into denominations of 15, 30, 45 and 90, so that he could live to be over 90 years old.
That may seem like a minor inconvenience until you realize he also decreed that the older, "unlucky" denominations would cease to be legal tender. Considering the fact that most Burmese hid their cash in biscuit tins, the entire country lost their savings overnight.
But hey! Look how colorful their buildings are.
What happened to him?
The denomination-changing dick move happened to be Ne Win's last. Everybody was so pissed off that the entire country completely flipped out. To calm the raging hordes demanding his blood, Ne Win had no choice but to step down, handing the reins to a guy called San Yu.
In his farewell speech, Ne Win bitterly warned the protesters that they were seriously not cool. In 2002, Ne Win's son-in-law launched a failed coup that was supposedly orchestrated by Ne Win. As a result, Ne Win was placed under house arrest, where he would die later that year. He had the last laugh, however, as true to his soothsayers' word, he lived to be 91. Holy shit, that means the dolphin blood thing is also true!
We've got this friend who says their tears can cure erectile dysfunction. He'll sell you a half liter for $50.
Enver Hoxha -- Leader of Albania
Enver Hoxha became prime minister of Albania in 1944, but Hoxha wasn't satisfied with just that insignificant post. So he took all the Cabinet jobs for himself, calling himself "Comrade-Chairman-Prime Minister-Foreign-Minister-Minister of War-Commander-in-Chief of the People's Army Enver Hoxha."
Hoxha forbade the ownership of color televisions and typewriters all the way until the 1980s, because they were a distraction from the true Albanian way of life, which was, of course, communism. The color television part wasn't that bad -- they became prevalent only in the 60s -- but godammit, the typewriter was invented in 1870. Then, he banned beards. You know, because they're incompatible with communism.
Like a lot of dictators, Hoxha would use doubles, as he feared assassination. But far be it from him to simply ask for volunteers. Hoxha kidnapped a dentist in rural Albania who looked sort of like him, then forced plastic surgery on him to make the resemblance even more uncanny. The poor guy had no choice in the matter; he had to leave his life behind and live on pretending to be the prime minister in hopes he would get shot (after the collapse of Hoxha's regime, that man vanished -- there is a book about his story).
More than he was afraid of assassination, Hoxha feared a Soviet invasion. Lots of people feared that back in those days, but Hoxha dealt with the threat in his own uniquely crazy way: He built 750,000 random bunkers all over the country. On one hand, Albania was a country of only 3 million, so this seems like overkill. But then you realize each bunker was only big enough to hold one person.
We're pretty sure you could fit at least a dozen college students in there.
What happened to him?
Totally nothing. Hoxha stayed in power until the day he died. Toward the end, he faded from public view and wrote over 60 books on how he was awesome and everything he did was right. He left behind a shattered Albania that was the poorest country in Europe.
You'd think a totalitarian dictator could track down a barber with better comb-over skills.
Those bunkers that he built were also surprisingly indestructible and stand till this day, reminding everybody that though Hoxha is dead, the remnants of his dickishness will continue to live on.
Nicolae Ceausescu -- First Secretary of the Communist Party of Romania
Nicolae Ceausescu attained power in 1965 by becoming the first secretary of the Communist Party of Romania after the death of his predecessor. Given that he was the leader of a late-bloomer communist country, you wouldn't think he'd have huge delusions of grandeur. You'd be wrong.
He was voted "Most likely to become a narcissistic dictator" in high school.
He called himself "Geniul din Carpati" ("The Genius of the Carpathians"). He even made a scepter for himself, prompting Salvador Dali to personally send a telegram to him making fun of said scepter. Of course, the deluded Ceausescu had no concept of satire and had Dali's letter published on the front page of the newspaper.
In 1980, Genius Ceausescu wanted a palace to further cement his godlike status. He planned it smack in the middle of the most historical part of town, and it required the destruction of 19 churches, six synagogues and 30,000 homes. Lauded as the biggest building in the world after the Pentagon, the project was ambitious to the point of stupidity. It cost Romania $10 billion and required a team of 700 architects. Or, put it this way: After his death, the palace was used as Romania's Parliament house ... and the entire Parliament is still only able to make use of 30 percent of the space.
They're able to hold some wild games of wall ball, though.
The thing is, the West was friendly to Ceausescu because he was so crazy that even other communists hated him. The British even knighted him, and France granted him its Legion of Honor.
Here Ceausescu isn't the creepiest person in the picture.
And here he's ... tied.
This only fed his mad delusions (really not such a good idea to bestow knighthood on a dictator version of Charlie Sheen), so he demanded that his nearly illiterate wife, Elena, be made a member of the New York Academy of Sciences and the Royal Institute of Chemistry. Back home, she was crowned "Comrade-Academician-Doctor-Engineer," and top scientists had to include her name in their research. He also proclaimed Nicu, his alcoholic, womanizing son, to be a "scientist of international reputation" and alleged that he had published several volumes on nuclear physics, proving to Romania once and for all that studying hard will get you nowhere.
What happened to him?
Ceausescu's utter obliviousness to the world in general also led him to be oblivious to how much his people hated him. In 1989, the entire country flipped out in an uprising. Ceausescu tried to calm the crowds with one of his many stammering speeches, but it only made the them angrier. Halfway through the speech, people started shouting and throwing things.
"You'd better run."
Ceausescu was captured days later, and in a hasty show trial, Ceausescu and his wife were taken outside and shot. And just to add insult to injury, the queen revoked his knighthood.
Kim Il Sung -- Eternal President of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea
If you ever wondered how North Korea's Kim Jong Il got so crazy, wonder no more. With a father like Kim Il Sung, it is a wonder that Jong Il is not in a straitjacket and commanding a roomful of troll dolls to be his army.
We blame his friends.
Kim Il Sung was the first president of North Korea after World War II, in 1945. His appointment by the Soviets demonstrated exactly how little they cared about the Koreans, because Kim wasn't very Korean at all (he had only eight years of formal schooling, and all of it in China -- he spoke so little Korean that he had to be coached during his first speech). The Soviets didn't realize he was nuts until he started the Korean War, which accomplished nothing beyond destroying half the country. And then, the man went truly apeshit.
He told his people that during WWII, he had taken part in more than 100,000 battles over 15 years. That computes to roughly 20 battles a day. Oh, and WWII lasted only six years. Do we even need to mention that in reality he hardly saw any combat in WWII? He also said that he could turn sand into rice and cross rivers on leaves, believing himself to be some sort of Korean Jesus.
If Jesus had cannons.
Kim then made 20 different "Kim Il Sung Badges" for people to wear, so that different classes could wear different badges. He had someone write a "Song of General Kim Il Sung." The first two bars were used as intervals in Korean radio and television, and in 2005, the Korean space program blasted that song into space, giving warning to aliens about the terribly contagious stupidity we have on Earth. In other words, he came up with the North Korean tradition of making propaganda a priority above food, education and sanity.But don't worry, he got what was coming to him ...
What happened to him?
Oh, wait. Kim died a fat and happy man in 1994.
Kim circa 1946.
Kim after he died.
A 10-day mourning period ensued, and hundreds of thousands of brainwashed Koreans came from all over the country to cry dramatically at the body. Thousands committed suicide, as obviously, there was no more reason to live.
In 1998, Kim Jong Il posthumously made his father the Eternal President of the Republic. Clearly, he could never fill those shoes.
Mao Zedong -- Chairman of the Communist Party of China
Mao Zedong became leader of the People's Republic of China when it was founded in 1949. We previously explained how he was responsible for one of the most disastrous policies in world history, the "Great Leap Forward." Basically, it entailed pulling all of his people off of farming to have them try to mill steel in their backyards instead. (Note: You cannot make steel in your back yard.) Millions starved.
That is, unfortunately, the tip of the Mao Zedong crazy iceberg.
We know the people in this image are mostly madmen, but check out that dude with the crazy long goatee. What a straight-up badass.
In the wake of that disaster, Mao's power was considerably shaken, so much so that two of his underlings, Liu Shaoqi and Deng Xiaoping, were able to wrest power from him. This, of course, infuriated Mao, who promptly began another disastrous campaign: the Cultural Revolution, which literally was a war against smart people.
Under the pretext that bourgeois elements were permeating a classless society, Mao banished his political opponents, such as Liu and Deng, to the countryside. Soon, however, Mao's definition of political opponents stretched to encompass "anyone who is smart." Universities were closed down, and professors and students were sent to the countryside to be "re-educated" through labor. The word "intellectual" became an insult. The only genius was declared to be Mao himself (people were taught to repeat the phrase, "Chairman Mao is a genius, everything the Chairman says is greatly true; one of the Chairman's words will override the meaning of ten thousand of ours.")
"Also, his image absolutely will not end up littering the floors of vintage shops worldwide."
And then there was Lei Feng. He was a completely unremarkable soldier who died in an unremarkable fashion after getting hit by a telephone pole. But Mao arbitrarily decided to declare him the nation's greatest hero. Various staged photos supposedly depicted him doing good deeds, and stories of his heroics were inserted into textbooks in every school. A diary belonging to him was "found," and it contained nothing but flowery praises for Mao.
Doves and submachine guns. China gets it.
Then Mao recruited high school students to his cause, calling them the Red Guards. Mao tasked these teenagers with correcting the bourgeois elements in society and effectively gave them a legal blank check to do it by whatever means they chose. This went exactly how you'd expect -- they started ransacking people's houses and beating them if they were found to own anything even remotely Western, such as ties.
As he got older, Mao started worrying about his own mortality and subscribing to the Taoist belief that having sex with virgins lengthens one's lifespan. Young girls were brought from all over the country to help him on this monumental task. Mao often had fivesomes or sixsomes and watched nude underwater ballet shows.
Even Enver Hoxha bows to Mao's monumental crazy.
He still died in 1976. We have to be honest, we're kind of surprised that didn't work.
Ethan Lou is a freelance writer. He blogs at ethanethan.tumblr.com, his Twitter is twitter.com/Ethan_Lou, and you can reach him at email@example.com.
For more insight into North Korea, check out 6 Reasons North Korea is the Funniest Evil Dictatorship Ever. Or learn about some fictional leaders worse than these guys in 6 Iconic Movie Leaders (Who Aren't Fit To Lead A Parade).
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