history Bizarre Stuff That Dictators Collected  

Mike Rothschild
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Dictators typically rule by fear, intimidation, and making themselves the center of a cult of personality. But while doing so, they also tend to develop strange habits - and with the money to indulge those habits, you wind up with some collections of weird stuff. Most despots spend lavishly on clothes, cars, homes, and imported food. But not all of them pile up what these dictators have amassed.

While every dictator needs a palace, none had as many as Saddam Hussein had collected and nobody had as many shoes as Imelda Marcos, cars as the Shah, or fake military awards as Idi Amin. Dictator collections can be as concrete as gold guns, or as ephemeral as honorary titles. The important thing is that they be weird - and obtained through money stolen from starving people.

Here are some of the strangest things dictators collected - some of which you can even buy yourself!

Saddam Hussein is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list Bizarre Stuff That Dictators Collected
Photo: Brian Hillegas/flickr/CC-BY 2.0

Saddam spent lavishly on pretty much everything one can purchase, from gold toilets to cheetahs. But what Saddam collected more than anything else were palaces to hold the crap he bought. He had anywhere from 70 to 100 monstrous mansions built - one in every major Iraqi city. Just his eight main palaces held over 1,000 buildings and covered 12 square miles.

Built over two decades, they were given to party flunkies, family members, and mistresses, and each one was ornately built out of the finest marble, gold, and artwork. The palaces sit mostly in disrepair now, with some used by the US Army and others abandoned.
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Kim Jong-il is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list Bizarre Stuff That Dictators Collected
Photo: Mark Fahey/Wikimedia Commons

North Korea's dictator from 1994 to 2011 spent hugely on luxury goods, as well as 30,000 DVDs and tapes of Hollywood films. But Kim also collected something you couldn't put a price on: titles. As leader of a cult of personality, Kim's name was never to be mentioned without official superlatives. And there were a lot.

According to The Economist, Kim died with over 1,200 different titles bestowed on him, from variations on "dear leader" (great, brilliant, unique, etc.) to military honors that he didn't earn ("Glorious General, Who Descended From Heaven") to operatic nonsense like "Eternal Bosom of Hot Love," "Master of the Computer Who Surprised the World," and "Guardian Deity of the Planet." Even in death, he kept piling up titles, being named "Eternal General Secretary of the Party" in 2012.

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#56 on The Most Influential People of the Cold War

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Viktor Yanukovych is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list Bizarre Stuff That Dictators Collected
Photo: BBC Newsnight/Twitter

During his brutal four years as President of Ukraine, Yanukovych managed to do everything from censor the press and imprison opponents to cut benefits for Chernobyl cleanup workers. All the while, he was taking massive bribes and enriching himself with a private palace.

When Yanukovych was ousted, the palace was stormed by activists, who found the usual retinue of luxury cars, zoo animals, and garish gold crap. But they also found a collection of vodka bottles personally branded with Yanukovych's face.
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Mohammad Reza Pahlavi is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list Bizarre Stuff That Dictators Collected
Photo: Aytakan/Wikimedia Commons

While owning a fleet of luxury cars is standard issue for 20th century despots, Iran's last Shah before the Islamic Revolution took his need for speed to ludicrous heights. Pahvali, deposed in 1979, is said to have owned a staggering 3,000 cars, ranging from American muscle cars to a Rolls Royce from 1908, a Mercedes said to have been owned by Hitler, and even one-of-a-kind European models built just for him.

The cars were confiscated after the Revolution, but about 120 now sit in a National Museum, with thousands of others rotting away in warehouses, parks, or garages. A few have been sold off to collectors and celebrities.

Also Ranked

#57 on The Most Influential People of the Cold War

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