By Skyler Hardegree

Most Brutal Dictators In Modern History So Far

DICTATOR - noun - a ruler with total power over a country, typically one who has obtained control by force.


There have been many dictators throughout history, but we have created a quick list of the most brutal ones in modern times so you don't have to learn about them all. That would be too much work and you got things to do.

To rank them, we considered 3 things: amount of people killed outside of warfare, the average amount of people killed per year based on how long they ruled, and the brutality of their death tolls. Death toll alone doesn't make you the most brutal.




pol pot

Years In Power: 3

Deaths Responsible For (outside of warfare): 2 Million

Death Average Per Year: 666,000

Un-fun Fact: Failed his high schools entrance exam even after being given some of the best Cambodian-French education.


Pol Pot was a Cambodian revolutionary born May 19th, 1925 who ruled Cambodia for about 3 years from 1976 to 1979. So how many people did Pol Pot kill? During his rule he was responsible for 2 million deaths of his own people. While this might seem low compared to other dictators, this was almost 25% of the entire population and was called the Cambodian genocide.

Pol Pot started by relocating his entire urban population to the countryside to forcefully work on collective farms. Pot then abolished all money and forced everyone to wear the same black clothes. Hunting or foraging for food was illegal as that was seen as individualistic behavior and children over 7 would no longer live with their parents and would instead all live together with government instructors. Fun times.

Due to these policies there were some groups fighting back. Assassinations attempts spawned paranoia which lead to a purge of opponents of the government. People were sent to a new prison converted from a school and then tortured and executed. A lot of people also died from starvation due to government policies.

There were even Pol Pot fanatics doing the "governments will" killing people they didn't like and eating their livers. The government probably enjoyed this as they did nothing to stop it.

Eventually Vietnam invaded Cambodia and Pol Pot was pushed out of the Prime Minister position. Pot, still having influence, ordered the assassination of a political foe. His followers killed that foe and his 13 family members and aides. Pol Pot was later arrested and placed under house arrest. He died of heart failure on April 15th 1998 supposedly from suicide by pill overdose after learning he was to be handed over to the United States.

There are still people who preform cult like actives at his tomb and steal pieces of his bones for talismans. They will claim that they will then dream of Pol Pot and then win the lottery or be cured of an illness.......sure Jan.




joseph stalin

Years In Power: 30

Deaths Responsible For (outside of warfare): 9 Million

Death Average Per Year: 300,000

Un-fun Fact: Wasn't even Russian. Was born in Georgia.


Born Ioseb Besarionis dze Jughashvili December 18th, 1878. Joseph Stalin was the leader of the Soviet Union and the Red Army and was in power from 1922 to 1952. The amount of death he is responsible for has changed and can still be debated as the Soviets we not as keen at good record keeping as their nazi counterparts were.

So how many people did Stalin kill? It use to be agreed upon by historians that he killed over 20 million people. But since the fall of the Soviet Union there have been many archives made available to be studied. Some historian have changed this number to around 9 million after going over these archives. Though this is still debated we are going to use the 9 million death figure.

The Gulag camps were one of the most deadly places to be during the Stalin era. They were forced labor camps or prisons and included petty criminals, political prisoners, and prisoners of war (POWs). Even something as simple as making a joke about the government could get you thrown in a gulag camp with no trial needed. Some camps were worse than others but an estimated 1.7 million people died due to the Gulag during Stalins rule.

There was also the Great Purge which was a campaign by Stalin to solidify his ruling power due to paranoia that political rivals sought to unseat him or assassinate him. Stalins secret polices would imprison, torture, and execute people they deemed a threat to his power. This policy killed around 1 million people. 

Stalin would also be responsible for massive famines, deportations, massacres, and political repressions that lead to the rest of his death toll. 

Stalin died on 5 March 1953 of a cerebral hemorrhage ending his brutal dictatorship.




Mao Zedong

Years In Power: 27

Deaths Responsible For (outside of warfare): 45 Million

Death Average Per Year: 1.6 Million

Un-fun Fact: Considered bathing and brushing your teeth a "waste of time".


Mao Zedong AKA Chairman Mao was the communist founder and leader of the Peoples Republic Of China from 1949 to 1976. Like many on our list, the death toll is debatable but we are going with the most recent estimate. How many people did Chairman Mao kill you ask? About 45 million people.

The main cause of death under Mao was a great famine brought on by a policy called The Great Leap Forward. This policy was meant to reconstruct China into a communist society. Farming now had mandatory quotas and it was illegal to have a private farms. Not following these policies would result in forced labor or something called "struggle sessions", which was when someone was humiliated, beaten, and tortured by people they were close to, usually at their place of work.

Though a vast majority of Maos death toll was starvation due to famine, there was still 2.5 million deaths due to beatings and torture for defying the government, reporting real harvest numbers, refusing to hand over the last of their food, trying to flee, begging for food, or even offending officials in any way.

So even though most of the deaths under Chairman Mao weren't purposeful killings and mainly from bad policies, and though its reported that most Chinese citizens say Mao's accomplishments (defeating imperialism and ending civil wars) outweigh his mistakes, you still make the list of brutal dictators when your policies lead of the worst famine in history. 

 Moa died from a third heart attack on September 9th, 1976.




adolf hitler

Years In Power: 12

Deaths Responsible For (outside of warfare): 19 Million

Death Average Per Year: 1.6 Million

Un-Fun Fact: Was a failed artist and architect who probably only had one testicle. 


You know him, you hate him, you wish you could kill him as a baby. This one is no surprise. Born 4/20 1889 in Austria, he ruled over Germany with his Nazi party from 1933-1945. He started the biggest war in modern history with the Axis powers, but couldn't finish it. The Allies took care of that part.

The murders he is responsible for, outside of warfare, mainly have to do with his warped vision of race and superiority. He is responsible for the attempted mass extinction of the jewish people during the holocaust. He also ordered the murder of Soviet civilians, Soviet prisoners of war, non-jewish Polish civilians, Serb civilians, people with disabilities, gypsies, repeat criminal, and homosexuals. 

His methods were especially brutal. He wanted the people he put to death to suffer. The genocide was organized and executed by Heinrich Himmler and Reinhard Heydrich and they came up with a way to murder people on a massive scale. 

Outside of shooting, starvation, or death by disease, many people were killed in gas chambers. This is where many people were locked in a room that would be filled with a deadly type of gas. Up to 6,000 victims were gassed each day at Auschwitz alone. 

Luckily this brutal dictator was in over his head with the war he started and wasn't a military genius like he pretended to be. Hitler shot and killed himself on April 30th 1945 in an underground bunker as Soviet troops closed in.

Hitler was responsible for more deaths per year than any other dictator on this list based on the amount of time he ruled. He was executing these murders purposefully and committing genocide as fast as he could while making the people suffer at the same time. All these facts combine to make Adolf Hitler the most brutal dictator in modern far.