Get ready to discover a side of history’s most notorious figures that you never knew existed: their adorably quirky habits that will make you want to cuddle them like a teddy bear! Yes, even some of the most ruthless dictators in history had moments of cuteness that are impossible to ignore. So, put on your dictator-themed onesie and let’s dive in!
Saddam Hussein wrote romance novels
Really sappy ones too. Before he was found in a hole and hung from his neck while having someone record the snuff video, he was a jolly dictator who had hobbies. One of them was to write love stories on the side to show his softer side. When finding time out of his day to stop torturing people and shooting AK-47s into the air, he wrote the book Zabiba and the King.
Zabiba and the King was a piece of historical fiction that portrayed Iraq as Zabibah, the lead female in the story. She was abused and raped by her sadistic husband, who was very obviously an allegorical representation of the United States of America. The man who was to save Zabibah from further violation was a fair-haired man in love with her, and who equally obviously is — you guessed it — Saddam Hussein.
Seems like Saddam was no different from people who like to write bad fanfiction. And the story was as subtle as how Saddam had lived his life, which was the complete opposite of subtle.
Despite publishing the book anonymously, it was an Iraqi best seller and it is estimated that over one million copies were sold. Royalties, according to the back cover, were to go to “the poor, the orphans, the miserable, the needy, and [other] charities.” The artwork for the book, including the cover, were by one Jonathon Earl Bowser. He had not given Saddam Hussein permission and he didn’t receive any money, but according to his website the artist found it hilarious.
Other (known) novels by Saddam:
- The Fortified Castle – 713 pages, published in 2001. It concerns the delayed wedding of the Iraqi hero, who fought in the war against Iran, to a Kurdish girl. There are three characters: the two brothers Sabah and Mahmud and a young woman, Shatrin, who all go to the same university in Baghdad. Sabah is a war hero from the days of the Battle of New Qadisiyya (Iran–Iraq War), during which he was wounded in the leg and taken prisoner of war in Iran, from which he finally manages to escape with a few friends.
- Men and the City – 320 pages, published in 2002. Partially autobiographical and the hero of the story, a man named Saleh, is again obviously Saddam.
- Begone, Demons – Allegedly finished the day before U.S. forces invaded. This book tells the story of an ancient tribe which is invaded by another tribe (again with the allegories). The main part of the book focuses on three men: Isaac, Joseph, and Mahmoud. Isaac is a villain and traitor, while the other two are good. Isaac moves to a country west of the Dead Sea where he joins forces with a greedy Roman governor to make money at the expense of the local population. To keep their riches, they must for some reason build two towers, but are thwarted by Arab fighters.
Cat owner Mao Zedong loved opera and poetry
The founder of the People’s Republic of China is known for his brutal policies and tens of millions of victims. But he had plenty of kawaii:
- Opera enthusiast: Mao was an avid fan of traditional Chinese opera and reportedly enjoyed performing in amateur productions of his favorite plays. Mao was known to perform as an actor in his youth and even directed a few plays later in his life.
- Poet at heart: Mao was not only a great politician and military strategist, but he was also a poet. Mao’s poetry is known for its powerful imagery and strong emotions, and it reflects his views on politics and revolution. In his free time, Mao would often compose poetry, and his poems were often recited at public events.
- Cat lover: Mao was a cat lover and was known to keep several cats as pets. Mao was fond of cats because they are independent, self-sufficient, and good hunters. He was also known to give kittens as gifts to his close friends and colleagues.
Stalin was a gardener
What do you do when you need a break from butchering tens of millions of people for not being sufficiently left-wing? You tend to your flower garden, of course.
Kim Jong-il was really into basketball
Before he died, Kim Jong-il was both made fun of and talked about in hushed tones. What most didn’t know that he was a fan of basketball. In fact, he was perhaps one of Michael Jordan’s biggest fans. We’re talking about a leader of a brutal communist regime who enjoyed importing and imbibing $700,000 worth of Cognac every year.
So if he liked Michael Jordan, he’ll sure get Michael Jordan. He owned VHS tapes of every game that His Airness has ever played, and even invited him to North Korea for a friendly chat and a game. Of course, this is the dude known for kidnapping people from the outside, including Japanese citizens — and even a film director and his actress wife so they could make a Godzilla rip-off to add to North Korea’s glory (“Pulgasari,” 1985).
When Secretary of State Madeleine Albright visited North Korea, she brought a courtesy gift of a basketball signed by Michael Jordan himself. Kim Jong-il liked it so much that he put it in the newly-established Museum of International Understanding, which was actually built for the ball. That’s how much of a nutjob this dude was. Recently, Michael Jordan’s former teammate Dennis Rodman visited North Korea. He was welcomed by Kim Jong-il’s son and current leader Kim Jong-un. It does look like that the kid inherited his love of b-ball from his dad, and he was seen conversing with The Worm to some degree.
Hitler loved Disney characters
For those with a basic familiarity with the backlogs of history, they know that Adolf Hitler was a struggling artist before he turned to politics and showcased his talent for oratory and eventually became the dictator we know him as. One of the things he really liked, aside from gassing people, were Disney characters.
He liked sketches of them and even enjoyed the movies. He thought that Snow White was one of the best movies ever made. On the occasion of Hitler’s birthday in 1937, Goebbels gave his master eighteen Mickey Mouse films and his diary noted that Hitler “is pleased to no end.” (by the way, Goebbels considered Snow White a masterpiece.)
It does make you think about what might have happened if Hitler actually got accepted into that prestigious art school. Would he still have become the man we now know or just some angsty artist in the appendices of history? He might even have lived long enough to start a homepage for his art in the early days of the internet.
We’ll end it off with some lovely dictator Valentine’s memes.