Representative government has been a luxury that relatively few people have enjoyed throughout human history.
And while the vast majority of dictators fall short of Hitler or Stalin-like levels of cruelty, history is rife with oppressors, war criminals, sadists, sociopaths, and morally complacent individuals who ended up as unelected heads of government — to the tragic detriment of the people and societies they ruled over.
Here’s a look at 22 brutal dictators that you may not of heard of.
SEE ALSO: The 25 most ruthless leaders of all time
Francisco Solano Lopez (Paraguay, 1862-1870)
Although he became a revered figure in Paraguay decades after his death, Paraguayan president and military leader Francisco Solano Lopez unwisely provoked neighboring Brazil and Argentina by meddling in a civil war in Uruguay in the mid 1860s.
After that war concluded, Brazil, Argentina, and the winning faction in Uruguay secretly agreed to a plan in which they would annex half of Paraguay’s territory.
Lopez rejected the “triple alliance’s” peace terms, incurring a full-on invasion.
What followed was a devastating conflict in which an overmatched Lopez conscripted child soldiers, executed hundreds of his deputies (including his own brother), incurred steep territorial losses, and triggered an eight-year Argentine military occupation.
By the time of Lopez’s death in battle in 1870 and the war’s subsequent end, Paraguay’s population had plunged from an estimated 525,000 to 221,000, and only 29,000 males over the age of 15 were left alive.
Jozef Tiso (Slovakia, 1939-1945)
A Catholic priest who led Slovakia’s fascist moment, Tiso was in charge of one of Nazi Germany’s numerous satellite regimes for almost the entirety of World War II.
Although arguably a less energetic fascist than the leaders of comparable Nazi puppet regimes, Tiso led a brutal crackdown after a 1944 anti-fascist rebellion.
He also, either facilitated or had first-hand knowledge of the deportation of the vast majority of the country’s Jews to Nazi concentration camps.
At the time, Slovakia had a Jewish population of over 88,000. However, by the conflict’s conclusion, nearly 5,000 were left in the country.
Döme Sztójay (Hungary, 1944)
Hungarian leader Miklós Horthy had been an ally of Nazi Germany, collaborating with Adolf Hitler’s regime in exchange for assistance in restoring Hungarian control over lands the country had lost as a result of World War I.
Horthy began attempting to chart an independent path from the Nazis as the German war effort flagged in 1944 and largely refused to deport the country’s Jews — triggering a Nazi invasion and Döme Sztójay’s installation as the country’s puppet leader even while Horthy officially remained in power.
During Sztójay’s six months as Hungary’s prime minister, more than 440,000 Jews were deported to concentration camps from Hungary in one of the last major forced population transfers of the Holocaust.
Sztójay, who had been Hungary’s ambassador to Nazi Germany for the decade leading up to World War II, was captured by American troops after the war and executed in Hungary in 1946.