While most of us enjoy a good dictator joke (tee hee, Mao Zedong), we're way more likely to do so over a foamy latte than right in the dictator's face, surrounded by armed members of his stormtroopers. Not because we're cowards or anything, we swear -- we just don't run into too many dictators in our day-to-day lives. Besides, we still need to talk to our downstairs neighbor about how loud he plays his music, and we're waiting for the right time.
And then there are these folks, who stared right into the eyes of heavily armed evil and slowly, purposefully, without ever breaking eye contact, raised both middle fingers.
The 73-Year-Old Man Who Played Chicken With the Entire Soviet Union
In 1968, Leonid Brezhnev, general secretary of the Soviet Union (the highest position in the land -- basically the king of Russia) was in his office minding his own business when Ludvik Svoboda, the president of Czechoslovakia (a symbolic position lacking real power, like "employee of the month" or "Joe Biden"), burst in and demanded that Brezhnev release the 26 Czechoslovakian political prisoners he was holding. Brezhnev said no, because Svoboda was 73 years old and had no authority -- what could he possibly do?
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He could invade with the entire Czech population, but the Soviet army wouldn't even notice.
The Badass Moment:
Svoboda pulled out a pistol, held it to his own head, and said, "If I kill myself, my blood will be on your hands, and no one in the world will believe you did not murder me."
Everyone in the room knew he was right: Czechoslovakia had recently established some progressive reforms to see if they could reboot communism into something less oppressive and murder-y. In response, Brezhnev launched some significantly more oppressive murder blitzes, invading with 500,000 troops, capturing the 26 politicians, and forcing them to sign the Moscow Protocol -- a commitment that would undo all of their work. The world didn't know all the fine details yet, but they understood that things were fairly tense between the two countries, so if a highly respected veteran of both world wars had shown up with a cannon blast in his forehead, it wouldn't have been great for the USSR's image.
Czech roulette uses every chamber.
The prisoners were released only hours later, and then immediately given vodka "so they could become human beings again." (That's not a joke, just an accurate description of how things happen in Russia.)