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A dictatorship is defined as an autocratic form of government in which the government is ruled by an individual, the dictator, without hereditary ascension. It has three possible meanings:

  • Roman dictator are a republic political office of the Roman Republic. Roman dictators were allocated absolute power during times of emergency. Their power was originally neither arbitrary nor unaccountable, being subject to law and requiring retrospective justification. There were no such dictatorships after the beginning of the 2nd century BC, and later dictators such as Sulla and the Roman Emperors exercised power much more personally and arbitrarily.
  • A government controlled by one person or a small group of people.
  • In contemporary usage, dictatorship refers to an autocratic form of absolute rule by leadership unrestricted by law, constitutions, or other social and political factors within the state.

For some scholars, dictatorship is a form of government that has the power to govern without consent of those being governed, while totalitarianism describes a state that regulates nearly every aspect of public and private behavior of the people. In other words, dictatorship concerns the source of the governing power (where the power comes from) and totalitarianism concerns the scope of the governing power (what is the government). In this sense, dictatorship (government without people's consent) is a contrast to democracy (government whose power comes from people) and totalitarianism (government controls every aspect of people's life) opposes pluralism (government allows multiple lifestyles and opinions). Though the definitions of the terms differ, they are related in reality as most of the dictatorship states tend to show totalitarian characteristics. When governments' power does not come from the people, their power is not limited and tend to expand their scope of power to control every aspect of people's life.

Examples of distinctive titles adopted by dictators Edit

Disparate authoritarian political leaders in various official positions assumed, formally or not, similar titles suggesting the power to speak for the nation itself


In the 1930s and 1940s Edit

Such titles used by heads of state and/or government during the Second World War include:

  • Führer ("Leader" or "Guide") Adolf Hitler, from 1934 to 1945 dictator of Germany.
  • Duce (from Latin dux meaning "guide") Benito Mussolini, from 1925 to 1943 dictator of Italy.
  • Vodca ("Leader") monsignor Jozef Tiso, from 1942 self-styled, in Slovakia, President 1939 - 1945 (acting to 26 October 1939).
  • Naczelnik Państwa (Chief of State) Józef Piłsudski, dictator of Poland from 1926-1935.
  • Vozhd (Russian for "Chief" in reference to Stalin being the Chief or a guide to the working class) - referred to Soviet leader Joseph Stalin.

There was a Serbian Nationalist precedent, the style Vozhd in the uprising against the *Ottomans, meaning Chief (from 26 December 1808, Supreme Chief 14 February 1804 - 3 October 1813 George Karađorđe Petrović, b. 1762 - d. 1817).

  • Poglavnik Nezavisne Drzave Hrvatske ("Chief of the Independent State of Croatia") Ante *Pavelic, in power in Croatia 10 April 1941 - 6 May 1945
  • Vidkun Quisling, Fører ("leader", "guide"), Minister-president of the Nazi puppet government in Norway, and after Reichskommissar Josef Terboven the highest official in occupied Norway, reporting directly to Adolf Hitler.
  • Conducător ("leader"), a title used by Ion Antonescu in Romania.
  • Leider ("leader"), a title used by Anton Mussert, the leader of Nationaal-Socialistische *Beweging (National Socialist Movement) in the Netherlands. Though styled "leader" under the German occupation, he was not a real dictator as he had little actual power. In fact Arthur *Seyss-Inquart was in charge of the Netherlands on behalf of the nazi regime.
  • Nemzetvezető ("leader of the nation"), a title used by Ferenc Szálasi, the chief of the *Nyilaskeresztes Párt (Arrow Cross Party) who succeeded Miklós Horthy in Hungary.
  • Arhigos ("chief" or "leader"), a title used by General Ioannis Metaxas of Greece's 4th of August Regime.
  • Adipati ("chief of state" or "generalissimo"), the title used by Ba Maw of the Japanese satellite State of Burma
  • el Caudillo de España ("the Chieftain of Spain") Generalísimo Francisco Franco Bahamonde, *Jefe de Estado (Chief of State) and Prime Minister. He adopted this title for himself and came to power after winning the bloody Spanish civil war. During World War II he maintained the neutrality of Spain. In fact the titles of Franco and Salazar (in Portugal) were used officially and rather than personally (cf: "mein führer" or "mi duce" my duce and my fuhrer). It is alleged that it was often used as a protocolary title; preceded by By the Grace of God it would indicate that the Spanish People had been luckily spared from the Soviet invasion.
  • Other 'leaders' of contemporary political groups who never achieved power:
  • Capitanul 'The Captain' Corneliu Zelea Codreanu of the "Iron Guard" in Romania.
  • El Jefe 'The Chief' Jorge González von Marées of the Chilean Nacistas (Chilean-Spanish word for "Nazis"), who failed a coup d'état in 1938.
  • Vozhd 'Leader' Konstantin Rodzaevsky of the Russian Fascist Party, only active in exile in Manchuria, most admired Mussolini but saw action only in the anti-Communist service of the Japanese Empire.

the American Führer Fritz Kuhn.

  • Chief William Dudley Pelley of the U.S. Silver Legion of America.

Adrien Arcand, self-proclaimed Canadian Führer

  • Netaji (Leader) Subhas Chandra Bose, a messianic Indian nationalist, a former president of the Indian National Congress, he escaped British surveillance and went over to Germany, and from there went to Japan in a German U-boat and later, a Japanese submarine. While he commanded the Indian National Army and was the leader of the Provisional Government of Free India, which had limited and notional sovereignty over Axis controlled Indian territory, he was dependent on the Japanese, and overseas Indians for logistics, and military support. [1]

Tindis or Tandis (leader of a confederation of barangays) used by the Sakdalista Party leader Benigno Ramos during the Commonwealth of the Philippines (from 1935, under US sovereignty. In areas occupied by the Axis powers, some states or ethnic-cultural communities aspiring to national self-determination found they were not handed real power by their victorious German allies as they had hoped. Their nationalist leaders, too weak to gain control independently, were simply used as pawns.

Such Nazi collaborators include De Leider "leader" Staf De Clercq of the VNV (Flemish National League) in Flanders (the Dutch-speaking northern majority of Belgium), who had dreamed of a 'Diets' nation uniting Flanders, the Netherlands and Frans-Vlaanderen (the French part of historic Flanders, united with Belgium into one military occupation zone and Reichskommissariat). Even when the Germans decided in December 1944, after the allied breakthrough, to carve up Belgium, leaving only bicultural capital Brussels under the Reichskommissar, the post of Landsleider van het Vlaamsche Volk ('Land leader of the Flemish people') of the new Reichsgau (integral 'Germanic' part of the Reich, in this case merely on paper) (Flandern, Vlaanderen in Dutch; capital Anwerp) went to another collaborating party, Devlag, in the person of Jef Van de Wiele (1902 - 1979), 15 December 1944 - 1945, in exile in Germany as the Allied controlled all Belgium since September 1944; meanwhile in the Francophone south of Belgium, partially reconquered by German troops (December 1944 - January 1945), the equivalent post of Chef du Peuple Wallon ('Leader of the Walloon People'), at the head of the Reichsgau Wallonien, went to Léon Degrelle (in exile in Germany) of the Belgicist Rex Party.


Postwar Era and the Cold War Edit

In the postwar era, dictatorship became a frequent feature of military government, especially in Latin America, Asia, and Africa. In the case of many African or Asian former colonies, after achieving their independence in the postwar wave of decolonization, presidential regimes were gradually transformed into personal dictatorships. These regimes often proved unstable, with the personalization of power in the hands of the dictator and his associates, making the political system uncertain.

During the Cold War, the United States and the USSR managed to expand or maintain their influence zones by financing paramilitary and political groups and encouraging coups d'état, especially in Africa, that have led many countries to brutal civil wars and consequent manifestations of authoritarianism. In Latin America the threat of either communism or capitalism was often used as justification for dictatorship.


Individual cases Edit

In the Korean 'dictature of the proletariat' Kim Il-sung and Kim Jong-il of North Korea, who are both historically and geographically far removed from any European influence, have used the titles Great Leader and Dear Leader, respectively.

  • Muammar al-Gaddafi, the de facto Libyan head of state, uses the titles "Guide of the First of September Great Revolution of the Socialist People's Libyan Arab Jamahiriya" and "Brotherly Leader and Guide of the Revolution".
  • In Romania, Communist Party leader and president Nicolae Ceauşescu even had the same title, Conducător (Romanian for leader), as earlier dictator Marshal Ion Antonescu.

The Supreme Leader of Iran is iran's head of state and the commander of the armed forces. He is the supreme leader for life and according to the constitution of Iran he has absolute rights and authorities.

  • Some political leaders have used such titles as part of maintaining a personality cult, such as Başbuğ (commander) Alparslan Türkeş of the Turkish Nationalistic Front.
  • Saparmurat Niyazov, the late president for life of the Republic of Turkmenistan, and former leader of the Turkmen communist party and later of the Democratic Party of Turkmenistan (the country's only political party), assumed from 22 October 1993 the unique, paternalistic national title Turkmenbashi (Türkmenbaşy in Turkmen), which means "Head of (all) the Turkmens".

Such official titles must not be confused with informal or even ironical epithets bestowed by others, such as "El Máximo Líder" and El Comandante ("commander") were commonly used for Cuban Communist Party leader and revolutionary President Fidel Castro of Cuba.

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