Which Dictator Killed the Most People?

The infographic below compares some of the most tyrannical dictators in recorded world history. One drop of blood in the image symbolizes one million kills ordered.

Out of all the dictators on the list, Chairman Mao Zedong, who ruled China between March 20, 1943, and September 9, 1976, ranks the highest. Mao Zedong was the architect of a program called the great leap forward, which was a plan to transform the massive country from an agrarian economy into a socialist society through rapid industrialization and collectivization.

However, his attempt to rapidly transform society failed miserably and created a massive economic disaster, which resulted in a famine that killed millions. As with many other tyrants, Mao Zedong was also notorious for his strong-arm tactics against dissenters and anyone who criticized his policies. He is said to have killed at least 4 to 6 million people in his labor camps alone, and many more through his secret police organizations and food confiscation programs.

Joseph Stalin comes next on the list, and he also took many lives through famine and purges, just as Mao Zedong did. Stalin was the first Secretary of the Communist Party, and ruled from 1922 to 1953. Stalin made some of the same blunders that Mao did, by attempting to centrally control the economy. By attempting to centralize food production and labor, Stalin also caused a massive famine in his country.

Ukraine was one of the areas hardest hit by the famine, and some historians believe that Stalin intentionally caused the famine in Ukraine to weaken their culture. Some estimates for deaths in the Ukraine famine are as high as 10 million. Stalin also had a program that he named “the great purge” in which he attempted to kill anyone who disagreed with his policies.

Adolph Hitler is likely the most popular dictator on the list, who is known for his racist eugenics policies and expansionist military ambitions. This list attributed 17 million deaths to Hitler, many of which occurred in his horrific death camps.

Leopold II of Belgium is estimated to be responsible for as many as 15 million deaths. Leopold created a colony called the “Congo Free State” which was essentially a Belgian colony in the Congo. Once he got into power, he forced the indigenous population into forced labor and killed anyone who opposed him.

Also appearing on the list is Yakubu Gowon who was responsible for just over a million deaths in Nigeria. Mengistu Haile Mariam, who was also mentioned on the list, was the president of Ethiopia during the “Red Terror” campaign, which killed anywhere between 400,000 and 1.5 million people.

Kim Il Sung of North Korea, responsible for 1.6 million deaths, is the person who created the horrible situation that the country is in now.

Pol Pot, another notorious tyrant from recent history, was responsible for nearly two million deaths, most of whom were killed in forced labor camps. Pol Pot was the leader of the communist movement in Cambodia during the late 1970s. It is said that Pol Pot killed approximately 1/5 of the Cambodian population.

Ismail Enver Pasha was the leader of the Young Turk revolution, which is responsible for the Armenian genocide and a total of 2.5 million deaths. Hideki Tojo, the general of the Imperial Japanese Army, who was responsible for 5 million deaths, also made the list.

Surprisingly, Genghis Khan did not appear on the list. Genghis Khan was the founder and first Great Khan of the Mongol Empire, which became the largest contiguous empire in history after his death. He came to power by uniting many of the nomadic tribes of Northeast Asia. After founding the Empire and being proclaimed “Genghis Khan”, he launched the Mongol invasions that conquered most of Eurasia. According to a 2011 study, Genghis Khan killed such a large percentage of the human population that he actually altered the carbon footprint of the planet.

Memolition, the site that originally published the graphic, also posted the following disclaimer to clarify something in the image that could be misinterpreted:

“There is a mistake in this infographic. Turkey as a country exists since 1923, before that region the infographic refers to was known as an Ottoman Empire. Also, İsmail Enver Pasha wasn’t a dictator, he was a general in the Ottoman army and a leader of the 1908 Young Turk Revolution.”

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