Special Report

The Most Ruthless Leaders of All Time

Source: Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons

Ranavalona I
> Country: Madagascar
> Years in charge: 1828-1861

Ranavalona was known as the “Mad Queen of Madagascar” and “Ranavalona the Cruel.” She is said to have been the most ruthless queen in history. During her reign the country’s population was reduced by a half.

Source: Jean-Christophe Guillaume / Getty Images News via Getty Images

Leopold II
> Country: Belgium
> Years in charge: 1865-1909

King Leopold II of Belgium ruled the Congo Free State as a personal possession rather than as a colony. The population was reduced by a half due to executions, illness, and malnutrition during his reign.

Source: Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons

Mehmet Talat Pasha
> Country: Ottoman Empire
> Years in charge: 1913-1918

Mehmet Talat Pasha has been described as the principal architect of the 1915 Armenian Genocide. He was assassinated by an Armenian while living in exile in Germany in 1921.

Source: Keystone / Hulton Archive via Getty Images

Benito Mussolini
> Country: Italy
> Years in charge: 1922-1943

Benito Mussolini was the dictator who allied Italy with Adolf Hitler’s Germany, leading it to disaster and defeat in World War II.

Source: FPG / Hulton Archive via Getty Images

Joseph Stalin
> Country: Soviet Union
> Years in charge: 1922-1953

Joseph Stalin ruled the Soviet Union through terror for three decades. In that time tens of millions of his own people died due to purges, famine, and war.

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