Monday, December 31, 2018

To resume, or not?

Well, now that I have a little time on my hands, I realize I let my beloved dictator blog … uh … lapse a little bit.

OK. More than a decade. But that's neither here nor there. I still get visitors here for some unknown reason (perhaps they were searching for a late aughts zeitgeist on authoritarianism?), and maybe one of those intrepid souls could help me out: should I resuscitate Dictators Of The World?

The list of dictators I used to blog about has dwindled considerably in the past 10 years (which is good), except it could make for an understandably duller reader experience. I would hate to spend all of the oxygen only posting about dead dictators.

Choices, choices. Leave comments to help me out.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

OK, OK ...

I know, I know. I've been gone a while. OK! Four months. But I just needed to take a moment to pop in to say yes, I still receive and read new comments and to let readers know that if you would like to become a contributing editor for Dictators of the World, leave a comment expressing interest. I should have more time to update DotW soon, but until then, the quiet period here will continue just a bit longer.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Dictator fetes ... dictator.

In a move that startled absolutely nobody, Venezuelan caudillo Hugo Chávez has bestowed Venezuela's highest honor, The Order of the Liberator, on dictator Aleksandr Lukashenko of Belarus.

The award, given for "meritorious service to Venezuela" was given to Europe's last dictator shortly after Chávez's own attempt to become president for life was narrowly thwarted at the polls. Undaunted by Lukashenko's rotten records on press and political freedoms, Chávez gushed that Lukashenko's Belarus is "a model social state, like the one we are trying to create [in Venezuela]". Venezuelans will doubtlessly be overjoyed to learn that Chávez views Belarus as a political and social role model, which removes those final doubts some Chávez opponents had about leaving the country forever before they're locked up as political prisoners.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

The seven wonders of the totalitarian world

I know what you're thinking: only seven? Well, I didn't pick the list. Esquire magazine did. Why does a magazine devoted to women, cars and men's fashion care about totalitarian monuments? Your guess is as good as mine, but you can view their list right here.

Personally, I would have made room for North Korea's infamous Ryugyong hotel on this list. Maybe next time?

Monday, December 03, 2007

Dictator week!

Voters in Venezuela say no to Hugo Chávez's bid to become president for life, fueling speculation if the one time military coupster will bypass the ballot box next time and simply go the more traditional route to seizing unlimited power.

On the other end of the spectrum, Pakistan's military strongman Pervez Musharraf has stepped down from his military position, hoping to hang on in what's sure to be an insanely rigged election in January. Trading on the political unpopularity of his opponents won't hurt, either.

And lest he think we've forgotten about him, Vladimir Putin has secured his efforts to keep running Russia behind the scenes after his term as president ends. Czarism, anyone?

And yes, I'm back! It's been a busy couple of weeks for me, but everything has settled down. 2008 promises to be every bit the golden age for dictators that 2007 has been, and DotW will be here to enjoy every second of it.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Yes, we're still here.

I apologize for falling somewhat behind on DotW. I've been busy out there in the real world, and should have time for blogging again very soon.

As for dictator news, it's all Pervez Musharraf all the time lately, isn't it? I don't have very much to add on the man himself, but I'm certainly bemused by the editorial spin that paints the man as a creature of the Bush administration. Perhaps people have forgotten that America has, and forever will, back whichever dictator is holding the reins in Pakistan?

Monday, November 12, 2007

King Juan Carlos of Spain to Hugo Chávez: "Just shut up"

Someone forgot to tell Hugo that "fascist" is a real word with a real meaning in Spain, and who better to remind him than the king?

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Who's hot? Who's not?

HOT: Pervez Musharraf (Pakistan)

The general has been down so long, that anything looks like up to him. So when Musharraf declared martial law this week, even his innumerable enemies had to concede that Musharraf still has enough political juice to be reckoned with. Is the state of emergency a desperate move to retain power? Will his bizarre assault on Pakistan's judges and lawyers capture the imagination of the public? Will the scolding by the United States help, or harm his reputation with Pakistan's intransigent intelligence services?

He's got nowhere to go but down from here, but for today? The man is red hot.

NOT HOT: Robert Mugabe (Zimbabwe)

At long last, the world is getting ready for a Zimbabwe without Robert Mugabe. At 83 years old, he no longer has the energy or political will to keep control of the ruling ZANU-PF party. Could anyone have imagined five years ago that the ZANU-PF leadership would be talking about ousting Mugabe in a coup d'etat? Of course not. Mugabe's pitiful plans to run for re-election one more time are looking more and more like the pleas of a tired old man to go out on top. We're betting he'll be out long before the 2008 elections.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

When You Wish Upon A Dictator

You may have all noticed by now that most dictators are very, very fond of commissioning ridiculous, self-aggrandizing monuments. from Nicolae Ceauşescu's absurd Palace of the Parliament, the North Korean Kim dynasty's comically disastrous Rygyong Hotel, and Turkmenbashi's insanely creepy Rukhnama monument, dictators generally like to think big and expensive when scattering their legacy across the countryside.

So I was surprised to see how Kazakh dictator Nursultan Nazarbayev has bucked the trend by insisting on a more modestly sized project in the former capital of Almaty, ethereally called The Wishbook. The monument is a bronze memorial, ostensibly celebrating Kazakhstan's independence from the Soviet Union, and is graced with an imprint of Nazarbayev's own palm. It is said that anyone who puts his or her hand in the imprint will be granted a wish, doubtlessly due to the magical, nay, mystical all-seeing benevolence of Nursultan Nazabayev himself. The original Wishbook was recently stolen by scrap metal thieves, but the government managed not only to replace it in near record time, but have posted police to guard the monument around the clock to make sure thieves don't make off with the wishes of an entire country.

Perhaps it was vanity that prompted Nazarbayev to recreate the magic of The Wishbook, so he commissioned another similar monument for the country's new capital, Astana. Located at the top of the city's tallest building, The Padishah's Egg also features an imprint of Nazarbayev's palm, and will also grant wishes - but with a twist: the monument will play the Kazakh national anthem to confirm that the wish will be granted, and will only do so for "worthy" supplicants. When visiting Russian autocrat Vladimir Putin fondled The Padishah's Egg, the anthem dutifully played, indicating that his wish would soon be forthcoming. When a Kazakh government apparatchik on the losing end of an internal power struggle did the same, the monument remained uncomfortably and unmistakably silent - as if Nazarbayev himself were watching.

Frankly, if I had the chance, I'd wish that Nazarbayev would take a long, one-way camel trip into the middle of the desert, but what wish would you want Nursultan Nazarbayev to grant you, Dictators of the World readers?

UPDATE: Josh at knows what he'd ask Uncle Nazzy for: more giant yurts!

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Year Zero (odometer: 546,944 KM)

Fans of King of the Hill will recall that feisty family patriarch Cotton Hill is forever trying to raise a few bucks selling, what he claims, is Adolf Hitler's own personal canoe, which Cotton claimed to have seized as a war trophy.

Apparently, Cotton isn't alone on trying to cash in on a dictator's transportation. Someone recently put a 1973 Mercedes Benz stretch limousine allegedly belonging to the late Cambodian dictator Pol Pot (funeral pyre pictured) up on eBay with a minimum bid of $71,000 US. Or so the story goes, anyway. I searched exhaustively for the listing on eBay, but came up empty - it seems the sale ended late last night. The alleged ad copy, however, certainly caught my eye:

"For Sale - one classic 1973 Mercedes Benz Stretch Limousine ...previously used by one infamous owner - Pol Pot"

I'd buy it, if only to keep it in the garage ... right next to Hitler's canoe.

UPDATE: Want to buy the Lancia Astura given to Adolf Hitler by Benito Mussolini? It's up for sale, too.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

An urgent message from Omar al-Bashir

Sudanese dictator Omar al-Bashir, better known as the architect of the Darfur nightmare, has a message for all you Western busybodies:

Western nations have no ethics or morals and we will export it to them. These countries have the political, military and economic strength. We are strong with our values and we are waiting on Allah’s promise to obliterate them!
Thanks for clearing that up, your excellency.

UPDATE: Jimmy Carter will be talking to Omar al-Bashir personally to complain about the lack of appropriate immigrations and customs procedures in Sudan. Look out, Omar!

Monday, October 29, 2007

Chávez furious with Spanish pop star

Venezuelan caudillo Hugo Chávez has told Spanish pop star Alejandro Sanz, not in my house, motherfucker!

In 2004, Sanz told a reporter that he supported the recall referendum aimed at ousting Chávez, adding jokingly, "if that many people told me to quit singing, I would do so".

Fast forward to 2007, the Venezuelan government has canceled Sanz's appearance at a municipally owned and operated arena because of his three year old anti-Chávez comment. The Chavista Minister for Higher Education, Luis Acuna, blasted Sanz, saying:

If an artist comes to Venezuela to criticize Chávez and his movement, how do you think the people of this country would respond?
Judging by Sanz's immense popularity in Venezuela, the answer appears to be "just fine", but Luis Acuna went a step further by saying that from now on, the government will ban any event promoting "anti-educational" values from taking place in municipal venues. The sudden space freed up on the schedule can, and probably will be, filled by Chávez himself, who is fond of holding massive political rallies at the stadium.

Then again, Chávez's motivations may be somewhat more petty. While Sanz is a massively popular singer with a reputation as a ladies man, Chávez is short, squat, and has a face only Fidel Castro could love. And while Chávez has tried to branch out into a music career, for some reason, Sanz continues to outsell him, even in Venezuela. Perhaps Chávez would lighten up if someone would just buy his CD already?

Friday, October 26, 2007

Ribs, chicken, and a side of Kim Jong-Il

Ladies and gentlemen, DotW readers, meet Bobby Egan of Hackensack, New Jersey. Bobby is the owner of Cubby's Barbecue Restaurant, and besides his penchant for mouth watering baby back ribs, Bobby also has another passion - a passion for North Korea. So how did a man who makes a living slinging ribs take a shine to Kim Jong-Il's kingdom?

Bobby Egan's career in what can only be described as amateur diplomacy began over 20 years ago, when he contacted the Vietnamese mission to the United Nations and offered his services on repairing relations with Washington. Why the Hanoi government thought a guy who runs a rib shack could help thaw relations with the United States remains a mystery, but the Vietnamese, eager for a thaw, heeded Egan's advice about "coming clean" about the fate of US soldiers missing in action in Vietnam. Before it was all over, Egan was making trips to Hanoi (one of very few Americans to do so in the 1980s) and testifying before congress on the POW/MIA issue. None of Egan's leads ever panned out, but the rib man made his mark.

It wasn't long before the North Korean government picked up on Egan's volunteer work on behalf of Vietnam, and contacted them on how to improve their image with Washington. Egan's solution? Luring North Korea's infamously reclusive UN staff out to New Jersey for ribs, and tickets to see the New York Giants. After the death of Kim Il-Sung, Egan ingratiated himself with the new heads of the North Korean UN mission in New York, serving (by his own accounts) in roles from everything as a doorman to chauffeur. Somewhere along the way, the North Koreans began to use Egan as their point man for backroom negotiations with the US State Department, who were less than pleased with Egan's role with the North Korean government.

In 1996, a North Korean spy submarine became stranded in South Korean waters, letting loose a pack of 26 heavily armed North Korean commandos in South Korean territory. By the time it was all over, the commandos had killed 13 South Koreans, while 24 of the North Koreans had been killed, one captured, and one escaped. South Korea and the United States demanded an apology from Pyongyang, so the North Korean government threw Egan into the fray. Egan attempted to convince a gaggle of incredulous State Department officials to drop the demand of the apology in exchange for the release of five American prisoners of war rumored to still be held in North Korea. US President Bill Clinton's Asian affairs specialist, Colonel Charles "Jack" Pritchard, went to Cubby's in Hackensack to personally tell Egan to butt the hell out. Unfortunately for Egan, the United States got their apology from North Korea.

Pritchard's suggestion that Egan should stick to ribs has, apparently, fallen on deaf ears. Egan has resumed offering his advice to the North Koreans, even telling them that they should go ahead and conduct nuclear weapons testing in order to knock "Bush off his chair". The North Koreans went ahead and did just this, although the results haven't exactly thawed out relations with the United States as intended. The North Koreans, however, have rewarded Egan by making him the head of the United States of America-Democratic Republic of North Korea Trade Council, an organization that basically consists of Bobby Egan, because of the complete lack of trade ties between the US and North Korea. His bizarre dedication to helping the regime has also had another reward - a snazzy lapel pin bearing the image of the Dear Leader himself, Kim Jong-Il.

Quoth Egan, "I'm one of only two westerners to get this, me and some guy from Romania, I was told."

It makes me wonder just what that Romanian guy had to do to get his.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Lukashenko blasts Jews, but wants their money

The dictator of Belarus, Alexandr Lukashenko, made the news recently for his bizarre comments on Jews, both within Belarus and without.

Commenting in a radio interview on his recent visit to the city of Babruysk, Lukashenko said:

"It was scary to enter - it was a pigsty! That was mainly a Jewish town, and you know how the Jews treat a place they are living in."
When asked to elucidate, Lukashenko noted:
"Look at Israel, I've been there. Now I don't really want to offend anyone, but they don't care as much about cutting the grass, unlike in Moscow."
No Muscovite Jews were apparently available to comment on their landscaping habits. Lukashenko did, however, call on Jews to return to Babruysk, asking them to bring their money to revitalize the formerly Jewish city.

You know, because the Jews are all rich. Another image boost for Belarus courtesy of Alexandr Lukashenko.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Attack of the Super Soviet Apemen!

It's an old story, sure - but since it's an otherwise slow news day for dictator updates, DotW would be remiss if we didn't revisit the story of Soviet dictator Josef Stalin's plan to build an army of super Communist Apemen to attack and overthrow the bourgeois, decadent capitalist West.

The story begins in the early 1920s when Uncle Joe approached famed Soviet animal husbandry expert Ilya Ivanov with a startling proposition:

I want a new invincible human being, insensitive to pain, resistant and indifferent about the quality of food they eat ...
Now, some would argue that the bulk of the Soviet Red Army already fit this description, but Stalin was thinking big. The Politburo rubber stamped Stalin's directives for creating bioengineered soldiers, and ordered the Russian Academy Of Sciences to proceed with plans to create a "living war machine". Ivanov, who was not actually a crackpot unlike many of Stalin's pet scientists, pioneered horse breeding with his crude, but successful, artificial insemination techniques. So, Ivanov reasoned, if we can build a stronger, faster horse, we can certainly build a stronger, faster man.

The problem Ivanov faced is that selective breeding for humans is an extremely tricky business. Besides, even Russian soldiers drawn from the peasantry had, from time to time, been known to complain, feel pain, and even mutiny. So Ivanov took a page from Charles Darwin and looked to man's closest primate ancestor - the chimpanzee. Armed with a small fortune provided by the Politburo, Ivanov traveled to West Africa to collect the chimps and transport them back to the Soviet Union. At his hastily constructed breeding facility in Georgia, Ivanov repeatedly tried, and failed, to impregnate the chimps with human sperm samples. Moving on to plan two, peasant girls were "volunteered" for attempted impregnation with chimpanzee sperm.

Naturally, the harder Ivanov tried, the more he failed. When Stalin grew impatient and demanded a progress report, Ivanov knew his time was running out. In desperation, he tried (and failed) to obtain newer (somehow better?) monkeys from a Cuban heiress, but the story leaked to the Western press, and Ivanov became an international laughing stock. The jig was up. Failing Uncle Joe was bad enough without making the Soviet Union look bad, and Ivanov died shortly after his exile to Karaganda.

The moral? No man could make a monkey out of Josef Stalin.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Venezuelans reject glass Guevara gimmick

Venezuelan president Hugo Chávez is reportedly seeing red after ingrates demolished a pricey glass statue dedicated to the deader-than-a-doornail Ernesto "Che" Guevara.

A group describing itself as the "Patriotic Command of the Plateau" shot the glass statue six times, and thoughtfully left a note explaining their motive:

"We do not want a monument to Che, he is not an example for our children"

Considering for a moment that Che Guevara was an incompetent, bigoted terrorist, the protesters may be onto something with that sentiment. The real target, of course, is Chávez himself, and his endless love affair with all things relating to the Cuban revolution. Chávez has spent most of the month in Cuba, swooning over Che Guevara, and engaging in a romantic (if somewhat sickly) pas de deux with the zombielike remains of Fidel Castro. Chávez can't possibly be happy that one of his own ingrate peasants had the nerve to bring a token of his infatuation down to the ground in a sea of glass splinters, but that's the Venezuelan people getting all revolutionary on his ass, no?

Or perhaps it's simply a cry for attention? Hey, big spender, spend a little time with your electorate! With all the time Chávez has spent in Cuba during his rule, it's possible that the people just wanted to remind him which country he's actually president of! Either way, el caudillo hasn't seen fit to comment on the demolition of the Che memorial yet, but I'm sure there's a three hour televised rant on the subject coming soon.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Getting to know Iosef Dzhugashvili

Do recognize the unassuming young man in the picture? No? What if I told you his name - Iosef Dzugashvili. Does that help?


What if I told you his famous pseudonym: Koba. Would that tell you more?


Ok, it's time to let the cat out of the bag. The picture is of Josef Stalin, born Iosef Dzugashvili in the small town of Gori in then Russian Georgia. It's also Dzugashvili as opposed to his more ferocious and infamous adult incarnation that is the subject of Simon Sebag Montefiore's new book Young Stalin, a book the New York Times has cheekily (but not inaccurately) described as a portrait of the "dictator as a young poet-thug". Montefiore's book apparently expands on where Donald Rayfield and Robert Conquest have tread only briefly to provide what may be the most comprehensive biography yet of the man who would become Josef Stalin. While I haven't read Young Stalin yet, I certainly intend to do so soon, but I'd already learned about Iosef Dzugashvili surprised me at first, as it surprises everyone who first learns about the man who become the powerful man of the 20th century.

Unlike his German contemporary, the young Dzugashvili has a credible claim to being an artist, with a talent for Georgian poetry. Also unlike Hitler, Dzugashvili was a quick study and an adept student - when not rebelling against the monastery where he was educated. Though an avid reader, the young man was also a street brawler, who managed to intimidate with his brawn despite losing much of the use of an arm that withered after it was run over by a horse drawn carriage. Undoubtedly, a vicious streetfighting intellectual seems to be a contradiction in terms, but not for Dzugashvili, who quickly learned to hide his brains and overemphasize his strength - a decision that served him extremely well for the rest of his life. And when young Dzugashvili had finally morphed into Stalin, the Man of Steel, his Bolshevik rivals - especially Trotsky - bought into his ruse, continually underestimating him as some sort of uneducated, bloodthirsty country bumpkin. This image alone kept Stalin out of the picture while the party intellectuals fought each other for power, allowing Stalin to sit back and wait to see who would emerge victorious.

Stalin invented a ridiculous biography to obscure what were, frankly, his more interesting (if infinitely more humble) origins, and I eagerly await reading Young Stalin to learn yet ever more about the man behind the monstrous myth. Perhaps I'll even read it by candlelight on Halloween, just for the effect ..

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Bob Denard: dead as a doornail

While not a dictator, French mercenary Bob Denard was responsible for no fewer than eight military coup d'etats, including a mindblowing four in the Comoros Islands alone. Read his obituary here.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Chávez y Fidel por siempre

Watching three plus hours of Venezuelan autocrat Hugo Chávez's television call in show Aló, Presidente would bore men stronger and younger than ailing Cuban caudillo Fidel Castro to death. So you can imagine my surprise when the octogenarian recluse called in to Hugo's program to warble words of amor to the oil soaked political plutocrat who is almost single handedly financing the dying remnants of Castro's dictatorship.

Castro's call was prompted by an hour or so of Chávez singing hymns lionizing the deader-than-a-doornail Ernesto "Che" Guevara and the almost dead Fidel Castro. The Cuban dictator cooed words of loving encouragement to his pudgy protege, croaking "I am very touched when you sing about Che", prompting Chávez to excitedly squeal, "there is electricity in the air tonight!" Unfortunately, the standards of decorum were to slide even lower. Calling Fidel "the father of all revolutionaries", Hugo replaced God with Fidel Castro while riffing on the Lord's Prayer, a move that may ruffle some feathers in overwhelmingly Catholic Venezuela.

"Our father, who is in the water, earth and air ... you will never die. You remain forever on this continent and with these nations, and this revolution .... is more alive today than ever, and Fidel, you know it, we will take charge of continuing to fan the flame."

Even if Castro weren't already wearing a colostomy bag, it's uncertain that his mere mortal plumbing could remain unmoved by the avalanche of Chávez's affections. I think I may need to be excused for a moment myself.

Friday, October 12, 2007

We're #3!

Yes Uncle Joe, things are looking up for Dictators of the World! We've gone from a measly eighth ranking in a Google search for "world dictators" all the way up to third. So who's ahead of DotW? Goddamned Parade Magazine! Yes, the only blog devoted solely to dictators is still outranked by the website of a free Sunday newspaper insert "magazine" whose journalistic focus leans heavily towards asking celebrities how they feel about children and puppies. That reeeeally could hurt a guy's pride.

I'm currently working on a (non-Google bombing) way to outrank Parade's yearly dictator roundup on the search engine rankings, so with any luck, we'll be alone at the top, looking down on the rest of the peasants below us. Just like Uncle Joe.