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A dictatorship is a form of government in which all (or nearly all) of the ruling power is possessed by one person or one ruling entity. This absolute power is often enforced through extreme measures and may come with laws viewed as rather strict by other forms of government. It is also worth noting that the person or entity with the ruling power often is not held accountable by Constitutional limitations or other governing bodies.

The History Behind Dictatorships

A dictatorship is a more recent form of government as far as world history goes, not rising to prominence until the 19th and 20th centuries. However, it was during this time that it became one of the top two forms of government around the globe, the other being constitutional democracy. This was, in large part, due to the rapid decline of monarchies. Latin America specifically saw a rise in dictatorships after Spain relinquished its rule of their former colonies. Most dictators at this time were military officers or privatized army leaders who easily overtook the new and unstable governments and appointed themselves in office. Similarly in Africa after World War II, weakened African governments that had seen their connections and aid from Western nations lowered considerably were then overthrown by self-appointed military dictators.

Still, some of the best known dictators in history were the totalitarian dictators during World War II (totalitarianism is where the state seeks to control nearly every aspect of life for its citizens). Adolf Hitler, for example, rose to power as dictator of Nazi Germany after the country’s economy was considerably weakened in the first world war. He remains infamous for having been at the center of the Holocaust and World War II.  Rather than be tried for crimes against humanity or be assassinated like numerous other dictators before him, Hitler took his own life at the end of the war.

Modern Dictatorships

Though dictatorships are no longer nearly as prevalent as they once were thanks to the growth of parliamentary republics and democracies (among other forms of government), there are still some in existence today. However, the true number of them may be difficult to measure, since what some may consider a dictator may be considered a democratically elected leader by others (Russian president Vladimir Putin is one example). Still, one of the best known modern day dictators is North Korea’s Kim Jong-Un, who took power in 2011 after the death of the country’s former dictator, his father Kim Jong-Il.