List of cults of personality

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This is a list of regimes of countries or individual leaders around the world which have been discussed in the media or academia as having created a cult of personality. A cult of personality uses various techniques, including mass media, propaganda, the arts, patriotism, and government-organized demonstrations and rallies to create an heroic image, of a leader, often inviting worshipful behavior through uncritical flattery and praise.[1]


Nur Muhammad Taraki of the ruling communist party served as President of Afghanistan from 1978 to 1979, when he told people to refer to him with titles such as the "Great Leader" and hung his portrait all across the Democratic Republic of Afghanistan.[2] In the 1990s, warlord general Abdul Rashid Dostum, who controlled most of northern Afghanistan, created a somewhat cult of personality in the region.[3]


Long time ruler of communist Albania Enver Hoxha had what the OECD called "an overwhelming cult of personality and an ultra-centralised, authoritarian form of decision-making".[4] Hoxha was widely portrayed as a genius who commented on virtually all facets of life from culture to economics to military matters. Statues were erected in cities. Each schoolbook required quotations from him on the subjects being studied. The ruling party of the time, the Party of Labour of Albania, honored him with titles such as Supreme Comrade, Sole Force and Great Teacher.[citation needed] When Hoxha died in 1985, Ramiz Alia took power. Robert D. McFadden of The New York Times wrote that Alia's policies of liberalization were "too little, too late", and the country descended into violent anarchy. Alia served one year in prison for corruption, but the anarchy prevented further charges from being brought against the former Communist regime.[5]


Juan Perón, elected three times as President of Argentina, and his second wife, Eva Perón (Evita), were immensely popular among many of the Argentine people, and to this day they are still considered icons by the leading Justicialist Party. Followers of the Peróns praised their efforts to eliminate poverty and dignify labor, while their detractors considered them demagogues and dictators. To achieve their political goals, the Peronists had to unite around the head of state. As a result, a personality cult developed around both Perón and Evita.[6]


Heydar Aliyev's cult of personality became a significant part of Azerbaijani politics and society after Heydar Aliyev came to power in 1993 and it continued after his death in 2003, when his son Ilham Aliyev succeeded him.[7][8] Aliyev, a former Soviet politburo member and the leader of Soviet Azerbaijan from 1969 to 1987, became the President of Azerbaijan in 1993. He then began to carefully design an autocratic system, with heavy reliance on family and clan members, oil revenues and patronage.[9]

In Azerbaijan, Heydar Aliyev is presented as the "Father of the Azeri nation",[10] often compared to Mustafa Kemal Atatürk.[11]


During the Vargas Era, the Brazilian Department of Information and Propaganda (DIP) promoted a Messiah-style image of Brazilian dictator Getúlio Vargas by broadcasting propaganda every day and by showing him as "saviour of the Brazilian people".

In recent years there has been a growing cult of personality in modern Brazil around the former Brazilian president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, promoted by the Workers' Party and more recently, around Jair Bolsonaro, promoted by right-wing militants.[12]


Portrait of Chiang Kai-shek on Tiananmen before the Communist takeover

A personality cult in the Republic of China was centered on the Kuomintang party founder Sun Yat-sen, and his successor, Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek.[citation needed] The personality cult of Chiang Kai-shek went further after the republican government fled to Taiwan. He was usually referred to as "Lord Chiang" (蔣公) in public and a space between the characters of his name and title was required in printed materials. Articles in textbooks and songs glorifying him were commonly seen in Taiwan before 1987.

Statue of Mao Zedong in modern China

The People's Republic of China under Chairman Mao Zedong can also be considered a cult of personality,[according to whom?] the most obvious symbol of which is his massive portrait situated on the north end of Tiananmen Square. The culture of the People's Republic of China before 1978 was highly influenced by the personality cult of Mao Zedong[citation needed] which reached its peak during the Cultural Revolution. Mao was referred to as "the great leader Chairman Mao" (伟大领袖毛主席) in public and he was entitled "the great leader, the great supreme commander, the great teacher and the great helmsman" (伟大的领袖、伟大的统帅、伟大的导师、伟大的舵手) in Cultural Revolution.[13] Badges and books of his quotations were mass-produced. Most people were required to recite the Quotations of Chairman Mao and printed material at that time usually quoted Mao's words in bold as well as in the preface. The Loyalty dance (忠字舞) was also introduced during the Cultural Revolution which lasted from 1966 to 1976.

The cult of personality continued for a short time after Mao's death. His successor, Chairman Hua Guofeng also practiced the cult of personality[citation needed] and he was referred to as "the brilliant leader Chairman Hua" (英明领袖华主席). Reforms in 1978 led to a deconstruction of Mao's cult status and the Chinese Communist Party under Deng Xiaoping and his successors such as Jiang Zemin and Hu Jintao were averse to a Mao cult of personality style of rule lest it recreate the chaos of the Cultural Revolution.

The rise and consolidation of power under General Secretary Xi Jinping has given way to a return to Mao-style personality cult centered around General Secretary Xi in state media and propaganda messages[14], with a political theory bearing his name being enshrined into the Communist Party's constitution in the 19th National Congress in October 2017.[15]


Former president Álvaro Uribe became the center of a Cult of Personality in Colombia in the later years of the country's armed conflict. Supporters refer to him as "The Great Colombian" in spite of his family's ties to the Medellín Cartel and the numerous human rights scandals that marred his presidency. After Uribe failed to amend the constitution that would allow him to stay in power for a third term in 2010, he founded a political party that uses the former president's silhouette as logo. The party's attempts to be named after its "only leader" were thwarted in 2012.[16]


Although it was reported that one of Fidel Castro's dying wishes was not to have buildings or streets named after him, and that statues of him not be erected, in order to avoid a cult of personality, it is generally believed[citation needed] that such a cult had already developed by the time of his death.[17][18][19]

Dominican Republic[edit]

Dominican President Rafael Trujillo enjoyed a large cult of personality during his tenure and even after his death. In 1936, the Dominican Congress voted to rename the capital of Santo Domingo to Ciudad Trujillo. The same thing was done with the San Cristóbal Province and Pico Duarte (the country's highest peak), with the latter being rebaptized as "Pico Trujillo". National personalities and politicians alike had praise for Trujillowith license plates that included slogans such as "¡Viva Trujillo!" being massed produced on all levels and put on the rears of cars. Commemorative coins and stamps were created after his presidency with his image on the front.


The Egyptian state practiced a Cult of Personality around Gamal Abdel Nasser during his rule. It has been alleged that the Egyptian media has created a personality cult around the current President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi.[20][21][22]

Equatorial Guinea[edit]

The first president of Equatorial Guinea, Francisco Macías Nguema, was the centre of an extreme personality cult, perhaps fueled by his consumption of copious amounts of bhang[23] and iboga,[24] and he assigned himself titles such as the "Unique Miracle" and "Grand Master of Education, Science, and Culture". The island of Fernando Pó had its name Africanized after him to Masie Ngueme Biyogo Island; upon his overthrow in 1979, its name was again changed to Bioko. The capital, Santa Isabel, had its name changed to Malabo. In 1978, he changed the national motto of the Coat of arms of Equatorial Guinea to "There is no other God than Marcias Nguema".[25]

This tradition has been continued by Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo who has been accused of building his own personality cult. As evidence of this, in July 2003, the state-operated radio declared that Obiang was "the country's god" and that he had "all power over men and things." It added that the president was "in permanent contact with the Almighty" and that he "can decide to kill without anyone calling him to account and without going to hell." He personally made similar comments in 1993. Macías had also proclaimed himself a god.[26]

Obiang has encouraged his cult of personality by ensuring that public speeches end with well-wishing for himself rather than end with well-wishing for the republic. Many important buildings have a presidential lodge, many towns and cities have streets commemorating Obiang's coup against Macías, and many people wear clothes with his face printed on them.[27][28]

Like his predecessor and other African dictators such as Idi Amin and Mobutu Sese Seko, Obiang has assigned to himself several creative titles. Among them are "gentleman of the great island of Bioko, Annobón and Río Muni."[29] He also refers to himself as El Jefe (the boss).[30]


Under the Vichy Regime, a puppet government installed by the Nazis, the leader, Marshal Philippe Petain, was known to have a cult of personality around himself[citation needed]. A song was made just for him called "Maréchal nous voila!" (lit. Marshal, Here We Are!) and was mandatory for all school children to learn.

French Indochina[edit]

Cambodian schoolchildren in French Indochina at one point in the early 1940s began their school-day with prayers to Marshal Philippe Pétain of Vichy France, opening with the words, "Our father, which art our Leader, glorious be thy name... deliver us from evil."[31]


Adolf Hitler, Führer ("leader") of Nazi Germany, was referenced by Nazi propaganda in a number of honorary titles (Supreme Judge of the German People, First Soldier of the German Reich, First Worker of the New Germany, Greatest Military Commander of All Time, Military Leader of Europe, High Protector of the Holy Mountain, etc.). Numerous works in popular music and literature featured Adolf Hitler prominently. Hitler was usually depicted as a heroic, god-like[citation needed] figure, loved, feared and respected by the German people.


Dictator François Duvalier fostered a personality cult around himself[32]:320 and he claimed that he was the physical embodiment of the nation. He revived the traditions of vodou, later on exploiting them in order to consolidate his power by claiming that he himself was a houngan, or vodou priest. In an effort to make himself even more imposing, Duvalier deliberately modeled his image on that of Baron Samedi. The most celebrated image from the time shows a standing Jesus Christ with a hand on a seated Papa Doc's shoulder with the caption "I have chosen him".[32]:330–332 In 1986, the Haitian constitution outlawed Duvalier-type personality cults.[32]:361


Mátyás Rákosi was surrounded by a cult of personality similar to that of Stalin.[33] This peaked on his 60th birthday in 1952, which was commemorated with a series of nationwide celebrations.[34][35] Many things were named after him, including:

After de-Stalinization, his name was dropped from all institutions in 1956.


India's first prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru was known to foster a personality cult around himself.[according to whom?] Many leaders opposed Nehru's style of functioning, his economic policies and his socialist agenda. C Rajagopalachari criticized the personality cult surrounding Nehru, saying that there should be an opposition group within the Congress because it was running with "accelerators and no brakes" without a true opposition. Rajagopalachari later formed the liberal Swatantra Party because of his opposition to Nehru's style of functioning.[36] The expression 'Nehruvian consensus' reflects the dominance of Nehruvian ideals, this dominance is considered to be a product of Nehru's personality cult and the statism that is associated with it, that is, the overarching faith in the state and the leadership.[37] The Congress party, led by Nehru's kin has been accused of propagating his personality cult.[38]


During the Guided Democracy era, there was a personality cult around President Sukarno. He was made president for life by the MPRS in 1963. His ideological writings on Manipol-USDEK and NASAKOM became mandatory subjects in Indonesian schools and universities, while his speeches were to be memorized and discussed by all students. All newspapers, the only radio station (RRI, government-run), and the only television station (TVRI, also government-run) were made into "tools of the revolution" and functioned to spread Sukarno's messages. Sukarno developed a personality cult, with the capital of newly acquired West Irian renamed to Sukarnapura and the highest peak in the country was renamed from Carstensz Pyramid to Puntjak Sukarno (Sukarno Peak).

Sukarno was popularly referred to as bung ("comrade"), and he painted himself as a man of the people who carried the aspirations of Indonesia and dared to take on the West.[39] Also, some other titles were given to him, like "Great Leader of the Revolution". When Suharto became president, Sukarno's cult and roles were erased by the new government in de-Soekarnoization policy.

The New Order government created some propaganda, in which President Suharto is depicted as the "main hero" during the 1949 General Offensive, as well as during the 30 September Movement. He was also granted the title of Bapak Pembangunan (Father of Development) in 1983.[40] In September 1998, four months after the fall of Suharto, Information Minister Yunus Yosfiah declared that the Pengkhianatan G30S/PKI film would no longer be compulsory viewing material, reasoning that it was an attempt to manipulate history and create a cult with Suharto as the protagonist.


Following the Iranian Revolution, a cult of personality developed around Supreme Leaders Ruhollah Khomeini and Ali Khamenei.[41][42] This is most evident in the ubiquitous visual depictions of both men.[43] According to Baqer Moin, as part of Khomeini's personality cult, he "had been transformed into a semi-divine figure. He was no longer a grand ayatollah and deputy of the Imam, one who represents the Hidden Imam, but simply 'The Imam'."[44] Khomeini's personality cult fills a central position in foreign- and domestically-targeted Iranian publications.[45] The methods used to create his personality cult have been compared to those used by such figures as Joseph Stalin, Mao Zedong and Fidel Castro, and it was encouraged by Khomeini himself (which was negatively noted by his enemies inside Iran).[46][47][48] Regarding Khamenei, Amir Taheri has written, "Like Khomeini before him, Khamenehi is the object of a massive cult of personality. Official flatterers describe him as a "Divine Gift to Mankind" or as the "Shining Sun of the Imamate." In official discourse, he is quoted more often than either Prophet Muhammad or the Koran itself. Objects which he has touched during provincial visits are collected and sold as icons..."[49]


As a sign of his consolidation of power as Iraq's dictator, Saddam Hussein's personality cult pervaded Iraqi society. He had thousands of portraits, posters, statues and murals erected in his honor all over Iraq.[50] His face could be seen on the sides of office buildings, schools and classrooms, airports, and shops, as well as on all denominations of Iraqi currency (the dinar). Saddam's personality cult reflected his efforts to appeal to the various elements in Iraqi society. This was seen in his variety of apparel: he appeared in the costumes of the Bedouin, the traditional clothes of the Iraqi peasant (which he essentially wore during his childhood), and even appeared in Kurdish clothing, but he also appeared in Western suits fitted by his favorite tailor, projecting the image of an urbane and modern leader. Sometimes he would also be portrayed as a devout Muslim, wearing a full headdress and robe, praying towards Mecca, but most often he was depicted wearing a military uniform.[51]

An international airport, a university, a bridge, a dam, a stadium, an art centre, a street, an urban district (Saddam-city), a rocket and other objects were named after him. Saddam even had many well-decorated (by golden flush toilets) palaces for his own private use. People brought many gifts to Saddam that were collected in a special palace. According to his order, every tenth brick of reconstructed ancient buildings (including Nebuchadnezzar's palace) was marked with his name or signature. His biography and his literary works were required reading in schools and Ba'ath party functioneers examined students' knowledge of them.[clarification needed] Many written songs, novels, scientific and propaganda articles were devoted to him. State TV was broadcast with his image in the background and a mosque at the corner of the screen and it very often showed him, or his hands being kissed by children and other people.

After the fall of his regime, made visible by the toppling of his statue on Firdous Square in Baghdad on April 9, 2003, all statues of Saddam were destroyed.[51] All other aspects of his cult were dissolved as well.[52]


Benito Mussolini in a poster promoted by fascist propaganda with the motto: "Win and we shall win"

The cult of Il Duce of fascist Italy Benito Mussolini was in many respects the unifying force of the fascist regime, acting as a common denominator for various political groups and social classes in both the fascist party and the wider Italian society. A basic slogan proclaimed that Mussolini was always right (Italian: Il Duce ha sempre ragione). Endless publicity revolved around him. He was generally portrayed in a macho manner, although he could also appear as a Renaissance man, a military man, a family man, or even as a common man. This reflected his presentation as a universal man, expert in all subjects; a light was left on his office long after he was asleep as a part of fascist propaganda in order to present him as an insomniac owing to his driven to work nature. Mussolini himself oversaw which photographs could appear, rejecting some, for instance, because he was not sufficiently prominent in a group. Legends of Mussolini defying death during the First World War and surviving assassination attempts were circulated in order to give the dictator a mythical, immortal aura. In addition to depicting Mussolini as being chosen by God, the regime presented him as having omnipotent, godlike or superhuman powers. His image proclaimed that he had improved the Italian people morally, materially, and spiritually. Even before his seizure of power, he was proclaimed the Duce in song. The war on Ethiopia was presented as a revival of the Roman Empire, with Mussolini as Augustus.

With the entry of media tycoon Silvio Berlusconi into Italian politics in the 2000s, some critics claimed that a new kind of cult of personality was in place, favored by Berlusconi's three national television networks and newspapers.[53] Moreover, the hymn of Berlusconi's movements Forza Italia and People of Freedom was Meno male che Silvio c'è, literally "Thank goodness for Silvio".[54][55] In addition to that, Berlusconi often described himself as the Jesus Christ of Italian politics.[56][57] These attitudes were seen by public opinion as clear examples of the new political style that Berlusconi brought into Italy, focused on the leader's charisma, cult of personality and media domination.[58] Silvio Berlusconi was Prime Minister of Italy for three terms and four governments. He governed the country for a total of almost ten years (less than one year in 1994–1995; five years in 2001–2006; and three and a half years in 2008–2011).



The former first President Nursultan Nazarbayev is the subject of a state sponsored personality cult in Kazakhstan, where he has assumed the title "Leader of the Nation".[59][60] After the president's resignation, the Parliament of Kazakhstan has voted to renamed their capital, Astana, into Nur-sultan as a 'tribute'.[61][62]


A cult of personality is centered around the founders of the Lao People's Democratic Republic, Kaysone Phomvihane and the less prominent Prince Souphanouvong since their deaths in the early 1990s as there were no personality cults bestowed to them during their time in power.[63] Kaysone's portrait is displayed on public government buildings as well as on Laotian Kip bills. There is a museum built in Vientiane in order to honor Kaysone's life. Statues are also erected in his honor. Souphanouvong's name and face are also seen in memorials, museums, and statues all across Laos, with a university being named after him in Luang Prabang. Due to Souphanouvong's past position as only a figurehead president and leader of the communist Pathet Lao movement with Kaysone holding the real power over Laos, the display of Souphanouvong's personality cult are seen with much lesser prominence than Kaysone.


A cult of personality devoted to Colonel Muammar Gaddafi existed in Libya during his rule.[64] His face appeared on a wide variety of items, including postage stamps, watches, and school satchels. Quotations from The Green Book appeared on a wide variety of places, from street walls to airports and even on pens, and they were also put to pop music for public release.

Gaddafi claimed that he disliked the personality cult surrounding him, but he tolerated it because the Libyan people adored him.[64] Biographers Blundy and Lycett believed that he was "a populist at heart".[64] Throughout Libya, crowds of supporters would turn up to public events at which he appeared; described as "spontaneous demonstrations" by the government, there are recorded instances of groups being coerced or paid to attend.[65]

He was typically late to public events, and he would sometimes not show up at all.[66] Although Bianco thought that he had a "gift for oratory",[67] he was considered a poor orator by biographers Blundy and Lycett.[68] Biographer Daniel Kawczynski noted that Gaddafi was famous for his "lengthy, wandering" speeches,[69] which typically involved criticizing Israel and the U.S.[66]

North Korea[edit]

The statues of Kim Il Sung (d.1994) and Kim Jong Il (d.2011) at the Mansudae Grand Monument in Pyongyang.(Photo of April 2012.)

The peer-reviewed academic journal North Korean Review, published by the Institute for North Korean Studies at the University of Detroit Mercy in Detroit, Michigan, United States, reports that "Like his father [Kim Jong-Il] during his lifetime, Kim Jong-un has so far avoided a cult of personality around himself that would include statues, street and place names, or images in pins or in apartments. He inherited, however, a few titles such as 'Great Sun of the 21st century,' 'Marshal,' or his father's title 'Great Leader' [widaehan ryŏngdoja]. The other 'Great Leader' [widaehan suryŏng] is still exclusively used for Kim Il-sung."[70]


Bust of Ferdinand Marcos in Tuba, Benguet, before it was destroyed by a bomb in 2002.

In the Philippines, many local politicians engage in some sort of cult of personality. The most famous are those of former President Ferdinand Marcos, who was dictator from 1972 to 1986 and the Aquino family. They are often branded as "epalitiko" by the media, which is a contraction of the words epal (slang for "attention-grabber"), and pulítiko ("politician"). They put their images and their names on billboards of government projects. They also print tarpaulins, usually with their images in order to establish a sense of connection with their constituents.[71][72][73] Senate Bill No. 1967 or Anti-Signage of Public Works Act, colloquially known as the Anti-Epal Bill, was filed by Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago on November 2011, and refiled again in July 2013 in an effort to stop the practice.[74]


A cult of personality developed in Poland around the figure of Józef Piłsudski, a Polish military commander and politician, starting from the interwar period and continuing after his death in 1935 until the present day. During the interwar period, Piłsudski's personality cult was propagated by the state media, which described him as a masterful strategist and a political visionary, and associated him with his role in regaining Polish independence in the aftermath of World War I, and his leadership in the ensuing Polish–Soviet War. It has survived decades of repression, particularly during the era of communist rule.

In modern Poland, Piłsudski is recognized as an important and largely positive figure in Polish history. Polish Independence Day is commemorated on November 11, the date when Piłsudski assumed power in Poland after the First World War. The Law and Justice party builds the cult of the deceased president Lech Kaczyński


Nicolae Ceaușescu and his wife Elena in 1986

In 1986 The New York Times reporter, David Binder stated that Romanian dictator Nicolae Ceaușescu presided over "a cult of personality that has equaled, or even surpassed, those of Stalin's Russia, Mao's China and Tito's Yugoslavia."[75]

Inspired by the personality cult surrounding Kim Il-sung in North Korea, it started with the 1971 July Theses which reversed the liberalization of the 1960s and imposed a strict nationalist ideology. Initially, the cult of personality was only focused on Ceaușescu himself; however, by the early 1980s, his wife Elena was also a focus of the cult even to the extent that she got credit for scientific achievements which she could never have accomplished. It remained in force until the overthrow of the regime in 1989 and the couple's execution.

Russia/Soviet Union[edit]

Russia has a very long history of worshiping rulers; as the Tsars were glorified as wise and gracious leaders, some historians take the line that the communist regime adapted this tradition.[76] In the era of Stalinism, the Soviet state fostered an extreme cult of personality around Joseph Stalin.

Chinese communists celebrate Joseph Stalin's 70th birthday, 1949.

Nikita Khrushchev recalled Marx's criticism in his 1956 "Secret Speech" denouncing Joseph Stalin and his cult of personality to the 20th Party Congress:[77]

Comrades, the cult of the individual acquired such monstrous size chiefly because Stalin himself, using all conceivable methods, supported the glorification of his own person.... One of the most characteristic examples of Stalin's self-glorification and of his lack of even elementary modesty is the edition of his Short Biography, which was published in 1948.

This book is an expression of the most dissolute flattery, an example of making a man into a godhead, of transforming him into an infallible sage, "the greatest leader", "sublime strategist of all times and nations". Finally no other words could be found with which to lift Stalin up to the heavens.

We need not give here examples of the loathsome adulation filling this book. All we need to add is that they all were approved and edited by Stalin personally and some of them were added in his own handwriting to the draft text of the book.[77]

Some authors (e.g., Alexander Zinovyev) have argued that Leonid Brezhnev's rule was also characterized by a cult of personality, though unlike Stalin, Brezhnev did not initiate large-scale persecutions in the country. One of the aspects of Leonid Brezhnev's cult of personality was his obsession with titles, rewards and decorations, leading to his inflated decoration with medals, orders and so on.[78] This was often ridiculed by the ordinary people and led to the creation of many political jokes.

Some journalists and Russian oppositionists argue that there is now a cult of personality around Vladimir Putin (see also Putinism). Currently, one-fourth of the Russian population believes that a cult of personality reminiscent of Soviet Union-era leaders has developed around Vladimir Putin, while another thirty percent believed that there were increasing signs of a personality cult surrounding Putin. Evidence of this includes food products named after him.[79] Other evidence of Putin's personality cult includes the existence of the Army of Putin, his own female fan club [80] as well as his involvement in action man publicity stunts.[79] According to the United States Government-funded Radio Free Europe, in December 2015, a Russian youth group by the name of "Network" published a book titled "World-Changing Words: Key quotes of Vladimir Putin", which has been compared to Mao Zedong's Little Red Book.[81]

In Chechnya, the head of the republic Ramzan Kadyrov has been accused of creating a cult of personality around himself.[82][83]

South Korea[edit]


Equestrian statue of generalissimo Francisco Franco in the Plaza del Ayuntamiento (City Hall Plaza) of Santander, taken down in late 2008

A cult of personality surrounded Francisco Franco during his Falangist regime. During his regime, he was depicted like a king, for example, he wore the uniform of a captain general (a rank traditionally reserved for the king), resided in the royal Pardo Palace, appropriated the kingly privilege of walking beneath a canopy, and his portrait appeared on most Spanish coins. Indeed, although his formal titles were Jefe del Estado (Head of State) and Generalísimo de los Ejércitos Españoles (Generalissimo of the Spanish Armed Forces), he was referred to as Caudillo de España por la gracia de Dios, (By the Grace of God, the Leader of Spain). Por la Gracia de Dios is a technical, legal formulation which states sovereign dignity in absolute monarchies, and it had only been used by monarchs before Franco used it himself.


Bashar al-Assad mural in Latakia, November 2011

As one of his strategies to maintain power over Syria, Hafez al-Assad developed a state-sponsored cult of personality.[84][85][86][87][88][89][90] Portraits of him, often depicting him engaging in heroic activities, were placed in every public space. He named myriad numbers of places and institutions in Syria after himself, and other members of his family. At school, children were taught to sing songs of adulation for Hafez al-Assad. Teachers would begin each school day with the slogan "Our eternal leader, Hafez al-Assad".[91] The personality cult that he developed portrayed him as a wise, modest and just leader of the country. This strategy of creating a cult of personality was continued by Hafez's son and the later Syrian president, Bashar al-Assad.[92][93]


A portrait of King Bhumibol Adulyadej adorns on the TMB Bank office building in Bangkok in 2006.

Thailand's former King Bhumibol Adulyadej (1946-2016) is officially venerated in a personality cult, both during his reign and after his death.[94] The Kingdom is disseminated with huge portraits of him, his son and successor King Vajiralongkorn, and other members of the royal family. He was also protected by lèse majesté laws which allow critics to be jailed for three to fifteen years.[95]


President of the Togolese Republic Gnassingbé Eyadéma had a personality cult of titanic proportions, including, but not limited to, an entourage of one thousand dancing women who sang and danced in praise of him; schoolchildren beginning their day by singing his praises;[96] portraits which adorned most stores; a bronze statue in the capital city, Lomé; $20 wristwatches with his portrait, which disappeared and re-appeared every fifteen seconds; and even a comic book that depicted him as a superhero with powers of invulnerability and superhuman strength.[97] In addition, the date of a failed attempt on Eyadéma's life was annually commemorated as "the Feast of Victory Over Forces of Evil."[98] Eyadéma even changed his first name from Étienne to Gnassingbé to note the date of the 1974 plane crash of which he was claimed to be the only survivor.[99]


A portrait of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk in Istanbul
A wall rug of Erdoğan at a rally of the Justice and Development Party

In Turkey, founder of the Turkish Republic Mustafa Kemal Atatürk is commemorated by a myriad of memorials throughout the country, such as the Atatürk International Airport in Istanbul, the Atatürk Bridge over the Golden Horn (Haliç), the Atatürk Dam, and Atatürk Stadium. His titles include Great Leader (Ulu Önder), Eternal Commander (Ebedî Başkomutan), Head Teacher (Baş Öğretmen), and Eternal Chief (Ebedî Şef). Atatürk statues have been erected in all Turkish cities by the Turkish Government, and most towns have their own memorial to him. His face and name are seen and heard everywhere in Turkey; his portrait can be seen in all public buildings, in all schools and classrooms, on all school textbooks, on all Turkish lira banknotes, and in the homes of many Turkish families.[100] At the exact time of his death, on every 10 November, at 09:05, most vehicles and people in the country's streets pause for one minute in remembrance.[101] In 1951, the Turkish Parliament issued a law (5816) outlawing insults to his reminiscence (Turkish: hatırasına alenen hakaret) or destruction of objects representing him, which is still in force.[102] A government website[103] was created to denounce the websites that violate this law, and the Turkish government as of 2011 has filters in place to block websites deemed to contain materials insulting to his memory.

The start of Atatürk's cult of personality is placed in the 1920s when the first statues started being built.[104] The idea of Atatürk as the "father of the Turks" is ingrained in Turkish politics and politicians in that country are evaluated in relation to his cult of personality.[105] The persistence of the phenomenon of Atatürk's personality cult has become an area of deep interest to scholars.[106]

Atatürk impersonators are also seen around Turkey much after Atatürk's death to preserve what is called the "world's longest-running personality cult".[107]

In recent years there has been a growing cult of personality in modern Turkey around current President of Turkey Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.


Golden statue of Saparmurat Niyazov atop the Monument of Neutrality in Ashgabat.

Saparmurat Niyazov, who was President of Turkmenistan from 1985 to 2006,[108] is another oft-cited cultivator of a cult of personality.[109][110][111] Niyazov simultaneously cut funding to and partially disassembled the education system in the name of "reform", while injecting ideological indoctrination into it by requiring all schools to use his own book, the Ruhnama, as their primary text, and like Kim Il-sung, there is even a creation myth surrounding him.[110][112] During Niyazov's presidency there was no freedom of the press nor was there freedom of speech. This further meant that opposition to Niyazov was strictly forbidden and major opposition figures have been imprisoned, institutionalized, deported, or they have fled the country, and their family members are routinely harassed by the authorities.[109] Additionally, a silhouette of Niyazov was used as a logo on television broadcasts,[113] Krasnovodsk town was renamed "Turkmenbashi" after him, and schools, airports and even a meteorite are also named after him and members of his family. Statues and pictures of him were also "erected everywhere".[114] For these, and other reasons, the US government said that by the time he died, "Niyazov's personality cult … had reached the dimensions of a state-imposed religion."[115]

Human Rights Watch, in its World Report 2012, says there is a cult of personality of President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow and that it is strengthening.[116] Agence France-Presse reports a developing personality cult.[117] Reporters Without Borders says the president is promoting a cult of personality around himself and that his portraits have taken the place of the ones of the previous president.[118]

United States[edit]

A number of scholarly papers and peer-reviewed articles have assessed the personality cult that some say has developed around U.S. president Donald Trump. One is in a paper that appeared in the 2016 American Political Science Association Annual Meeting. In the paper, Sarah Oates, from the University of Maryland Philip Merrill College of Journalism, and Wendy W. Moe, from the University of Maryland Robert H. Smith School of Business, discussed the subject broadly and then stated that "during the 2016 Presidential primaries, the 'cult of personality' candidate, Trump, won the primary."[119] Another is in a book by University of Dayton distinguished professor of history Larry Schweikart and political commentator and author Joel Pollak. In their book, How Trump Won: The Inside Story of a Revolution, they state that "some conservatives looked forward to Trump's defeat as a chance to rid the GOP of the insufficiently conservative insurgents who were bringing it to defeat by choosing a candidate who was a mere reality-show Hollywood celebrity, a lifetime liberal who was hijacking their party and their cause with a vain cult of personality."[120] A third was written by ethnologists Jonathan Rosa and Yarimar Bonilla who wrote, "although we do not minimize the devastating impact that [Trump] administration's policies will have, or the new president's ominous behavior, we are wary of exceptionalizing the current moment. Our goal is thus to deprovincialize Trump, that is, to locate his election within broader historical, political, and economic assemblages of which it is but one part."..."This effort might include [studying] Trump's xenophobia, bombast, and cult of personality, reminiscent of leaders in South Africa, Gambia, Uganda, Libya, and Zimbabwe."[121] Also, stressing Trumps's own actions towards strengthening his own cult of personality, University of London U.S. Centre on American Politics and Policy's Daniel Kato noted that "according to political theorist Hannah Arendt's thinking Trump may yet hunker down, drawing strength from the resistance to him, and continue to consolidate his cult of personality."[122]

Many articles, editorials, and even a number of elected officials on both ends of the political spectrum have noted Trump's emerging cult of personality,[123] while others have cited in particular his repeated claim that "the news media are the enemy of the people"[124] as one hallmark of such a central figure, deriving directly from Stalin's use of the phrase.[125]


A billboard of Hugo Chávez's eyes and signature in Guarenas, Venezuela.

In Venezuela, a cult of personality has been created around the late President Hugo Chávez, in which his supporters venerate him.[126] Chávez largely received his support through his charisma and by spending Venezuela's oil funds on the poor.[127] Since his death, his followers, known as "Chavistas"[128] refer to his death as a "transition to immortality", commonly calling Chávez the "eternal commander".[129] Among his followers, Chávez has been compared to holy figures, especially by his successor Nicolás Maduro.[130][131][132][133][134]

According to Tomas Straka of Andres Bello University, Chávez's cult of personality began following the 1992 Venezuelan coup d'état attempts which Chávez led, with Straka explaining that some Venezuelans "saw no solution to their most fundamental problems and they saw in Chávez a savior, or an avenger of those groups that had no hope".[135] Since the beginning of Chávez's tenure in 1999, the Venezuelan government manipulated the Venezuelan public with social programs depicting him as a great leader for the people.[135] The struggles that Chávez endured throughout his presidency, such as the 2002 Venezuelan coup d'état attempt, also drew compassion from his followers which boosted his support.[135] By the time of Chávez's death, speculation about potential Chavista reactions to his death were compared to the sorrow felt by those in North Korea who mourned the death of Kim Jong-il,[135] with one scholar of Latin America from the University of California Santa Barbara, Juan Pablo Lupi, stating that the creation of Chávez's cult of personality was "very well-staged, all this process of myth-making and appealing to the feelings and religious sentiment of the people. This is something that is quasi-religious".[126] The creation of Chávez's cult of personality was a strategy used by his government to maintain legitimacy before and after his death.[126][127]


Ho Chi Minh statue in front of the City Hall of Ho Chi Minh City

The Vietnamese communist regime has continually maintained a personality cult around Ho Chi Minh since the 1950s in the North, and it was later extended to the South after reunification, which it sees as a crucial part of its propaganda campaign surrounding Ho and the Party's past. Ho Chi Minh is frequently glorified in schools by schoolchildren. Opinions, publications and broadcasts that are critical of Ho Chi Minh or that identify his flaws are banned in Vietnam, and the commentators are arrested or fined for "opposing the people's revolution". Ho Chi Minh is even glorified to a religious status as an "immortal saint" by the Vietnamese Communist Party, and some people "worship the President", according to a BBC report.[136]

The former capital of South Vietnam, Saigon, was officially renamed Ho Chi Minh City on 1 May 1975, one day after its capture, which officially ended the Vietnam War.[136]


Josip Broz Tito (in power from 1945 until 1980) developed cult of personality around himself. His cult is described as a combination of a "peasant chief, protector and the legendary hero".[137] During his lifetime, his cult of personality included, among other things, naming places after him (including four cities), celebrations of his birthday (including Relay of Youth), widespread use of his portraits, writing his name in landscapes, so they can be seen from the air, etc.[138][139]


Mobutu Sese Seko used his cult of personality to create a god-like public image of himself in Zaire, which today is the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Mobutu created a totalitarian state, amassed massive wealth for himself and presided over the economic deterioration of his country and human rights abuses.

He used mass media communications to entrench his rule.[140]

Mobutu embarked on a campaign of pro-African cultural awareness and in 1972, he formally changed his name to Mobutu Sese Seko Nkuku Ngbendu Wa Za Banga ("The all-powerful warrior who, because of his endurance and inflexible will to win, goes from conquest to conquest, leaving fire in his wake.")[141]

Non-state actors[edit]

People's Mujahedin of Iran

People's Mujahedin of Iran has built a vast cult of personality around its leaders Masoud and Maryam Rajavi.[142]


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Further reading[edit]