10. Vladimir Putin

Putin is the current president of Russia and has been in power since 1999. He spent four years as Prime Minister from 2008 to 2012, though most experts believe he was still calling the shots. Putin is a strong man and one of the cruelest dictators, ruling Russia with a fierce grip. His presidency has been lamented by human rights groups and Western governments. Putin maintains a terrible domestic civil rights policy and viciously puts down political dissent and free speech. Not to mention, under his command Russia has engaged in military action in Georgia, Chechnya, and most notably the invasion and annexation of Crimea, thus violating Ukrainian sovereignty.

9. Robert Mugabe

Now in his seventh term of office as president of Zimbabwe is Robert Mugabe. Many political scientists and experts have cited massive electoral fraud and rigging in Mugabe’s favor during the 2013 election. According to both Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, Mugabe’s government systematically violates the right to shelter, food, freedom of movement and political expression. In addition, Mugabe made all acts of homosexuality illegal in Zimbabwe.

8. Muammar Gaddafi

Self-proclaimed “Brotherly Leader and Guide of the Revolution” of Libya for more than 50 years, Gaddafi was, at first, a widely supported leader after he led the September Revolution in 1969. However, as he consolidated power his regime became more authoritarian. His calls for Pan-Africanism were greatly overshadowed by his pitiful human rights record. During the Arab Spring, Gaddafi ordered his forces to fire on unarmed protesters calling for his resignation. The UN Human Rights Council called for an investigation into war crimes. Gaddafi was deposed and killed at the end of the Libyan Civil War.

7. Idi Amin

Amin’s paranoid administration was marred by rampant violence to his political enemies. UN observers estimate that 100,000 to 500,000 were persecuted and killed in Uganda under his reign. Amin’s victims were originally his direct political opponents and those who supported the regime that he fought to overtake. However, extrajudicial killings began to include academics, lawyers, foreign nationals and minority ethnic groups within the country.

6. Kim Jong Il

Kim Jong Il continued his father’s fearsome policy of official party indoctrination. North Korea currently ranks as one of the poorest nations on the planet, with millions facing starvation, disease and lack of basic human needs. Under Kim’s reign, North Korean military spending quadrupled, yet he refused foreign aid and did not invest in his country’s farms, thereby indirectly killing millions. Kim’s policy of mass internment through the use of labor camps and virtually no political debate makes him on of history’s worst despots.

5. Pol Pot

Pot was the dictator of Cambodia for 20 years from 1961 to 1983 as the leader of the Khmer Rouge government. His regime is characterized by the Cambodian genocide and the infamous “killing fields.” Pol Pot began a program of severe nationalization whereby he forced millions from urban areas into the countryside to farm and work on forced labor projects. Due to the forced labor, poor food and medical conditions, and the addition of massive amounts of state-sponsored killings, nearly 25 percent of Cambodia’s population died under Pol Pot’s rule.

4. Bashar al-Assad

As the current president of Syria, Assad’s authoritarian regime was called into question during the Arab Spring and cited for numerous civil rights violations including suppression of free speech, corruption and political freedom. Assad ordered massive crackdowns and thus triggered the ongoing Syrian Civil War. Government forces only grew more violent toward protesting Syrian citizens, and there have been allegations of chemical warfare. Assad has been accused of numerous human rights violations, war crimes and crimes against humanity.

3. Joseph Stalin

Stalin was the second leader of the Soviet Union. Though part of the original seven Bolshevik leaders, Stalin quickly consolidated sole power and became a tyrant. In the 1930s he pursued a policy of political upheaval known as “the Great Purge.” From 1930 to 1934, millions of Soviet citizens were imprisoned, exiled or killed. Stalin also pursued a policy of massive economic reforms that led to the deaths of millions due to famine and forced labor in Gulag camps.

2. Mao Zedong

Zedong was the first chairman of the Communist Party of China, and in terms of numbers of deaths during his reign, he tops the list. Nearly 70 million Chinese died during his rule. Zedong systematically broke down Ancient Chinese culture and nearly ended political dissent and freedom in China. His revolutionary economic policies during “the Great Leap Forward” resulted in one of the worst famines in modern history. In addition, Mao also implemented forced labor and public executions.

1. Adolf Hitler

Hitler was the Fuhrer of Nazi Germany from 1934 to 1945. Hitler tops the list of cruelest dictators because of his disturbingly systematic genocidal policies. A total of 5.5 million Jews and other “unwanteds” were deliberately targeted and executed in sanctioned ghettos, work camps and extermination camps. Hilter’s foreign policy and unrelenting desire to give the German people “room to live” was the major cause of World War II. Hitler also put down political dissenters and enemies as well as banning non-government sanctioned art, film, literature and teaching methods.

Joe Kitaj

Sources: Forbes, List 25, The Atlantic
Photo: Flickr

poverty_in_russiaEarlier this month, the International Business Times reported “critical” levels of poverty in Russia.

This can come as a surprise to a lot of people, mainly due to the fact that Russia is a part of the Group of 8, an elite group that compromises the eight most advanced economies in the world. Russia has an annual GDP of $2.3 trillion and unemployment hovers around 5.6 percent. These statistics do not paint a picture of poverty.

Given these circumstances, the use of the term “critical” to describe the poverty in Russia is baffling. The impetus to how Russia got here is woven into their annexation of the Ukrainian peninsula Crimea, and the subsequent reaction by the European Union and the United States.

On March 14 of last year, Russian President Vladimir Putin announced that his country would be annexing Crimea, citing the historical ties the peninsula has with Russia. Although Russia claims the Crimean citizens conducted a referendum to secede from Ukraine, NATO says it was illegal and “doesn’t count.” Samantha Powers, the U.S. ambassador to the UN, equated the annexation to “theft.”

In response, the European Union and the United States imposed sanctions on Russia’s finance, arms and energy sectors.

The sanctions, enacted last September, prevent Russia’s state banks from financing long-term loans in the European Union. Exporting military equipment and oil technology to Russia is also banned.

In addition, the Russian elite, many of whom control the businesses that have been impacted the hardest by the sanctions, have been subject to asset freezes and travel restrictions.

A year later, the sanctions have rippled through the Russian and European Union economies. Russian citizens living in poverty number around 22.9 million, roughly 3 million more than last year; this comprises 15 percent of the country. Although unemployment has remained stable, the inflation rate has soared and the value of the ruble, Russia’s currency, has plummeted along with wages.

In addition, the stark drop in oil prices, one of Russia’s main exports, has exacerbated the effects of the sanctions.

The Russian economy is expected to shrink three percent in 2015.

The leaders of NATO and the UN believe that this sends Russia a strong message that its annexation of Crimea, and support of pro-separatist forces in Ukraine, is unacceptable. However, the sanctions have affected more than Russia.

According to research by the Austrian Institute of Economic Research, the European Union economy will be adversely influenced by the sanctions. The report found that 2.5 million jobs will be cut, which would drain nearly 30 million euros from the economy.

Europe depends on Russia for 30 percent of its oil and gas supply. This has been problematic because the sanctions specifically targeted Russian oil and gas companies.

While the sanctions have slowed the Russian economy and isolated the country diplomatically, the residual, mostly negative, effects on some of the countries that imposed them have been counterintuitive.

NATO’s response to the Crimean annexation highlights how interconnected global markets are. Although many world leaders denounce Russia’s actions in Crimea and Ukraine as unacceptable, their response could affect the economic security of millions who have nothing to do with the situation but are living in poverty in Russia.

Kevin Meyers

Sources: BBC, Heritage, IB Times, Huffington Post 1, Huffington Post 2, Huffington Post 3
Photo: IB Times