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Template:Forms of government

A dictatorship is defined as an autocratic form of government in which the government is ruled by an individual, the dictator. It has three possible meanings:

  1. A Roman dictator was the incumbent of a 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.
  2. A government controlled by one person, or a small group of people. In this form of government the power rests entirely on the person or group of people, and can be obtained by force or by inheritance. The dictator(s) may also take away much of its peoples' freedom.
  3. 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.

In the 20th century and early 21st century, hereditary dictatorship remained a relatively common phenomenon.

For some scholars, a dictatorship is a form of government that has the power to govern without consent of those being governed (similar to authoritarianism), 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

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

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

Other 'leaders' of contemporary political groups who never achieved power:

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

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

  • In the North Korean hereditary dictatorship, 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.
  • Some researchers consider that in contemporary Russia one of the forms of dictatorship takes place [2].

Dictatorships in fiction

Dictatorship has sometimes been portrayed as the political system of choice for controlling dystopian societies, such as in:

See also

File:Democracy Index 2010.png

Democracy Index by the Economist Intelligence Unit, 2010. Countries marked in dark colors are authoritarian, and most often dictatorships. Most of current dictatorships are in Africa and Asia.

Further reading

  • Friedrich, Carl J.; Brzezinski, Zbigniew K. (1965). Totalitarian Dictatorship and Autocracy (2nd ed. ed.). Praeger.
  • Bueno de Mesquita, Bruce; Alastair Smith, Randolph M. Siverson and James D. Morrow (2003). The Logic of Political Survival. The MIT Press. ISBN 0-262-63315-9.


  1. Fay,Peter W. The Forgotten Army: India's Armed Struggle for Independence, 1942–1945, University of Michigan Press, 1993, ISBN 0-472-08342-2 / ISBN 81-7167-356-2
  2. Dr. Sergey Zagraevsky. About democracy and dictatorship in Russia

Template:Authoritarian types of rule

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