8 most brutal leaders in world history

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New Delhi: The ancient and medieval times were dominated by kings, emperors and warriors. Among them, some were benevolent and looked after the improvement of their subjects and were generous towards the enemy as well. On the other hand, some leaders have acquired immortality for themselves due to their brutality. In this article, we will learn about some of the most ruthless leaders in history.

Genghis Khan

Genghis Khan was one of the greatest conquerors in history. He was a benevolent ruler but the ruthlessness that he showed towards his enemy has become part of the legends. The founder and first khan of the Mongol Empire led an army that killed millions of people. His army destroyed the prosperous civilizations of China, Central Asia, and Persia and built mountains of corpses.

Attila the Hun

Attila was the ruler of the Huns from 434 till he died in March 453. Due to his brutality, he was one of the most dreaded enemies of the Western and Eastern Roman Empires. His army laid waste to the territories they invaded, particularly the Balkans. His empire expanded to present-day Germany, Russia, and Ukraine and he reportedly once remarked that grass would grow in the area walked by him.


Timur was the founder of the Timurid Empire and the first ruler of the Timurid dynasty. As a military commander, he was undefeated in wars and is considered to be one of the greatest generals ever. He was Genghis Khan’s descendant and saw himself as his heir. His army was feared throughout Asia, Africa, and Europe, and his military campaigns led to the deaths of millions of people. Scholars have often termed his military campaigns as genocidal.

Mary I of England

Mary I was the first queen regnant of England. She severely tried to reverse the Protestant reforms that had taken place during the reign of his father King Henry VIII. She was the Queen of England only for five years, from 1553 to her death in 1558. But even in that short span, she had more than 280 religious dissenters burned at the stake, for which she earned the name ‘Bloody Mary’.

Adolf Hitler

Adolf Hitler is an infamous historical figure who possibly needs no introduction. In the middle of the 1930s, Hitler rose to power in Germany as the leader of the Nazi party and established a totalitarian dictatorship. He started the World War II by invading Poland on September 1, 1939. He hated the Jews and aimed to wipe them out from the face of Earth. During his regime, the Nazis killed around six million Jews and millions of other victims. Hitler and the Nazi regime killed an estimated 19.3 million civilians and prisoners of war, not to mention that World War II which he started led to the death of over 25 million soldiers and civilians.

Pol Pot

Pol Pot was the dictator of Cambodia between 1976 and 1979. His government forced the urban population to relocate to the countryside and work on collective farms. His administration abolished money and forced everyone to wear the same black dress. Mass killings of perceived government opponents, along with malnutrition and poor medical care, led to the death of 1.5 to 2 million people. It was around a quarter of the population of Cambodia and the act of cruelty is known as the Cambodian genocide.

Leopold II of Belgium

Leopold II was the second King of the Belgians from 1865 to 1909 and his private project Congo Free State is a hallmark of his brutality. Atrocities and systematic brutality were carried out including murder, torture, forced labour, kidnapping, and the amputation of the hands of men, women, and children when the quota of rubber was not met. George Washington Williams, a US minister, called it a crime against humanity in a letter to Leopold. As per estimates, the population of Congo declined during Leopold’s rule by around 1 million to 15 million.

Idi Amin

Idi Amin was a military dictator and the President of Uganda from 1971 to 1979. He is said to be one of the most brutal despots in modern world history. He grabbed power through a military coup in 1971. In 1972, he expelled Asians from Uganda, most of whom were Indian-Ugandans, leading India to sever diplomatic relations with his regime. His rule was characterised by widespread killing, human rights abuses, political repression, ethnic persecution and extrajudicial killings. According to estimates, his brutality led to the death of 100,000 to 500,000 people.

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