Dictator was originally a title from Ancient Rome, which some modern regimes have used. I'm asking who was or is the most recent to do that.

  1. I'm just assuming it was probably a man since most rulers are men, especially prior to the last few decades. Happy to be proved wrong.

  2. This regime must call itself a dictatorship or the leader must call himself a dictator, not just be so called by others.

  3. It must have been in effective control of an area approximately as big as Luxembourg, for at least 2 months.

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat.
    – MCW
    Nov 10, 2021 at 18:44
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    "Happy to be proved wrong." I am not sure what to think of it... Nov 10, 2021 at 18:45
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    I mean if you can show that I'm wrong tell me, and I'm aware that I'm making an assumption.
    – Ne Mo
    Nov 10, 2021 at 19:21
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    The term 'Dictator' as far as I'm aware isn't gendered (?). Why even bother including point 1 in discussion? Nov 11, 2021 at 15:41
  • It didn't seem to pose an obstacle to the community producing some very good answers.
    – Ne Mo
    Nov 11, 2021 at 17:32

11 Answers 11


Perhaps that my own country (Portugal) is the answer. In 1926 we had a military revolution and in 1928 one the leaders of that revolution, general Óscar Carmona, was elected president of Portugal. The period from 1928 until 1933 was called by the political leadership of the country as Ditadura Nacional (which means “National Dictatorship”). It turns out that, unlike some of the other leaders of the 1926 revolution, general Carmona never intended to reinstate Democracy in Portugal.

Having said this, I am not aware of any occasion in which general Carmona described himself as “Dictator”.

In 1933, a new constitution was approved and the Portuguese regime became the “Estado Novo” (meaning “New State”).

  • This is the best answer, as we can be pretty confident this wasn't just lost in translation.
    – Ne Mo
    Nov 11, 2021 at 23:53
  • Well, the answer seems simply wrong though. As pointed out, there are still dictators (self-proclaimed such as Alexander Lukashenko) and others that clearly fit the definition
    – Mayou36
    Nov 12, 2021 at 14:28
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    After his inauguration George W Bush made a joke that a dictatorship would be fine as long as he was the dictator. Not very funny, but it wouldn't count because he did not think of himself as one. It's hard to tell from translation, but the Belarus and El Salvador answer seem to be similar (unfunny) jokes. On the other hand, Carmona et al were clearly not trying to be funny when they called their political system the national dictatorship.
    – Ne Mo
    Nov 14, 2021 at 19:30

"Was" is the wrong tense used here.

The basic task of the nation in the years to come is to concentrate its effort on socialist modernization. Under the leadership of the Communist Party of China and the guidance of Marxism-Leninism and Mao Zedong Thought, the Chinese people of all nationalities will continue to adhere to the people's democratic dictatorship and…

Constitution of The People's Republic of China — Preamble

My guesses here not to be proven by linked evidence include: that China is roughly a bit larger than Luxembourg, the "at least two months in power" criterion is fulfilled for the ruling party there.

This is not over, and you will be happy.

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    you will be happy
    – MCW
    Nov 8, 2021 at 14:02
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    I am moderately happy. I feel however that Xi Jinping would probably complain if someone called him a dictator, and try and say that dictatorship of the proletariat doesn't mean dictator like Robespierre. And note it says 'democratic dictatorship' whatever that's supposed to mean. However I've been on the site long enough to know it will land badly if I tag 'somewhere that calls itself a dictatorship, but not dictatorship of the proletariat' on to the end of my question at this point. So slack your rope, O hangman.
    – Ne Mo
    Nov 8, 2021 at 14:12
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    @NeMo Well, note how not even AH called himself dictator, but 'leader & chancellor', eg Pinochet just named himself President, in Libyi Colonel seems to have a better ring, while Ugandans must have been aware that 'dictator' is an ill-defined term, after hearing "His Excellency, President for Life, Field Marshal Al Hadji Doctor Idi Amin Dada, VC, DSO, MC, CBE, Lord of All the Beasts of the Earth and Fishes of the Seas and Conqueror of the British Empire in Africa in General and Uganda in Particular" … Nov 8, 2021 at 14:20
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    @Jos No, because he does not call himself a dictator.
    – Ne Mo
    Nov 9, 2021 at 12:57
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    I think this "people's democratic dictatorship" is a variation of the "dictatorship of the proletariat" which is a widespread term in socialist/communist theory (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dictatorship_of_the_proletariat). However this implies some degree of democracy (even if you only have a choice between different members of the same party), so it's not what you would normally call a dictatorship - although it can easily become one, such as Romania under Ceausescu, the USSR under Stalin etc. etc.
    – rob74
    Nov 10, 2021 at 8:07

Since 2019 the El Salvadorian President Nayib Armando Bukele Ortez is in office.

The current developments were characterised as

"precursor to a dictatorship," and a representative from the FMLN stating that the state is serving only one person, referring to Bukele. […]

Despite being described as an autocrat and an authoritarian, and despite self-proclaiming himself as the "Dictator of El Salvador," the "coolest dictator in the world," and the "Emperor of El Salvador," Bukele has retained a high approval rating throughout his presidency.

Some might say that he used this style "ironically". Fact remains: he called himself that way.


Alexander Lukashenko has been the president of Belarus since 1994. He called himself "the last and only dictator in Europe" in a 2012 interview.

Q: Some Western politicians call you a dictator. What is your reaction?

A: I ask myself what is a dictator? I don’t understand. It is some kind of terrible person, a bad person. But I am not frightening, I am not a bad person at all. ... I am the last and only dictator in Europe and indeed there are none anywhere else in the world.

However, I think the government of Belarus does not formally refer to itself as a dictatorship despite its autocratic behavior.

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    I think you or the translator misintepreted his words. He is likely saying he envies his own image in western propaganda. Something like sarcasm.
    – Anixx
    Nov 11, 2021 at 18:27

The Centrocaspian Dictatorship ruled from July to September 1918 in and around the city of Baku in current Azerbaijan. This anti-Soviet country was not recognised by any other and soon overrun/replaced by the Azerbaijan People's Republic. As far as I know, no more recent state (recognised or unrecognised) had the word dictatorship in the name of the country.

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    As an actual name for the whole shebang, the state itself, this is quite remarkable. My endorsement for this A. Nov 10, 2021 at 18:07
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    A small nitpick: Soviet Union did not exist in 1918, so the correct description would have been "anti-communist" or "anti-bolshevik" or something like that. Nov 11, 2021 at 18:09
  • @MoisheKohan anti-Soviet also would be OK.
    – Anixx
    Nov 11, 2021 at 18:29
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    @MoisheKohan Thanks, I wasn't aware the Soviet Union was founded only five years after the Russian Revolution. I have edited my answer.
    – gerrit
    Nov 11, 2021 at 21:51
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    Agreed, well done for finding somewhere that had dictatorship in the title of the country at such a late date.
    – Ne Mo
    Nov 13, 2021 at 10:05

Marxists have been using the term dictatorship of the proletariat in the positive sense long after the word become an grave insult for Western liberals. In the USSR, it was not until 1934 when XVII Congress of CPSU proclaimed that the socialism has won and the need for dictatorship of the proletariat is over. But it still was mentioned (as a matter of history, but still positively) in the USSR Constitutions of 1936 and 1977 and in the Party documents. Of course it did not mean in any way that the rule became less dictatorial - it was just the apparent change of rhetoric of the ruling party in the USSR in the 1930s.

In other countries, as shown in LangLangC's answer, the communists may keep the traditional rhetoric.

Note that ideologically (and in sharp contrast with the practice) Marxists were never fond of personal dictatorship, they always pointed out the difference between the good dictatorship of the proletariat and the evil dictatorships in the capitalist countries, and of course did not tolerate when anyone called their leaders for dictators.

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    Very good and quite fast
    – MCW
    Nov 8, 2021 at 15:58
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    Х Congress was in 1921. The XVII Congress in 1934 was called "Съезд победителей" (congress of victors/winners) and did NOT abolish dictatorship of the proletariat in any way shape or form. If anything, it strengthened the role of the state.
    – sds
    Nov 8, 2021 at 17:21
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    Thank you @sds, of course I meant the XVII congress. Anyway, the question is not about when the dictatorship ended, but when the dictators stopped to call themselves so. By the end of 1920s USSR became a party dictatorship, so d. of the proletariat was already a misnomer. So in 1930s this the official documents started to downplay the role of workers and peasants, instead promoting the ruling role of the Party (which was already overwhelming in practice, but not yet fully institutionalized). In this sense1930s .is a landmark, after that the elite did not call their rule a dictatorship
    – jmster
    Nov 8, 2021 at 17:51
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    I don't think that term was intended to designate anything like the kind of governing system we mean when we say "dictator." Basically the idea seems to be that the proletariat (the entire lower class of society) is the one giving orders, and nobody else has any say. That's (again in theory) a big difference from "this one dude is the one giving orders...". I think one can argue it counts since the d-word is used, but its being used in a more metaphorical sense, not straight with no chaser.
    – T.E.D.
    Nov 8, 2021 at 19:59
  • @T.E.D. That's really the problem with this ill-defined and too 'liberally used' word and its applied usage: is one of a Kim a dictator in a dictatorship? Most'd say yes? Is any Saud to be called that way? Never in public (state) conversation. But Assad's are 'D' again. Where is the diff in style & method? Some branding & ideology to nebulize reality, sure. Not materially. Same goes with 'rebels' vs 'terrorists'. Main exonymic criterion for this speech policy on othering: bein the evil other. Prime distinction in practical reality: US (read: 'our') ally, or not (or some pundit's pet…). Nov 8, 2021 at 21:45

@José Carlos Santos mentioned a period of military dictatorship, which is probably the most correct answer.

Nonetheless, the Dictatorship of Garibaldi (Italy), also answers your question, as he did call himself a dictator, as seen in the Decreto col quale il Generale Garibaldi assume la Dittatura in Sicilia

It should also be noted that those answers that mention the concept of dictatorship of the proletariat are erroneous if you want dictatorship as a political system. In Marxism, it is termed dictatorship because the state apparatus, as an instrument of class oppression, is used to exercise control by a social class over other social class(es). Thus, the existence of the opposite dictatorship of the bourgeoisie. As such, the term denotes a type of state of affairs in society, and not a political system. Hence, according to its proponents, the existence of, for example, the term democratic dictatorship of the proletariat, where democratic is used to refer to the political system, and dictatorship of the proletariat to the state of affairs.

  • If by democratic one means western-style liberal democracy, then the dictatorship of the proletariat is inherently undemocratic - it means suppressing rights of a part of the population (possibly more than a half of it - bourgeoisie, peasants, intelligentsia, etc.) According to Marx, liberal democracy, based on equal rights, is a political system designed to justify capitalism, for equal rights cannot guarantee real equality. His alternative is working councils (soviets in Russian), so that the power belongs to those who are actually involved in the production process.
    – Roger V.
    Oct 6, 2023 at 7:27

This may be not exactly an answer, but it may be useful. I have come upon a case of a leader's use of “Dictator” in 1898, later than Garibaldi, and as an official title, rather than a more informal self-description as has been shown of Presidents Lukashenko and Bukele of modern Belarus and El Salvador: Dictator Emilio Aguinaldo of the Philippines (Wikipedia). Wikipedia cites the National Historical Commission of the Philippines, which says that:

  • Aguinaldo led a “dictatorial government” from 24 May 1898, using the title “Dictator” until he changed it to “President” on 23 June 1898;
  • “By July 1898, the Filipinos liberated the provinces of Cavite, Laguna, Batangas, Pampanga, most of Bulacan and the suburbs surrounding Manila”.[1]

The first four provinces — Cavite, Laguna, Batangas, and Pampanga — have, within their modern borders (as of 2007),[2] a total of 867 424 hectares, or 8674.24 km², more than 3.35 times the 2586 km² of Luxembourg.[3]

However, with Aguinaldo's time as "Dictator" lasting from 24 May to 23 June, he fell one day short just over 50% short of the two-month minimum, and he didn't spend all of that time in control of all four of those provinces. On the other hand, if it is acceptable that the leader call himself a dictator at one time and control a Luxembourg-sized area for two months at a different time, then Aguinaldo may qualify still.

Someone familiar with Philippine history (which I am not) may be able to provide more detail (and maybe better sources than an understandably patriotic Web page of the Philippine government).

  • Excellent answer, thank you.
    – Ne Mo
    Jan 12, 2022 at 12:44
  • By the way, I would have preferred to let common sense define 'control', 'leader', 'country' and other everyday words, but I knew that if I didn't give an arbitrarily limited definition of them, the question would be closed. I'm glad you decided to answer the question.
    – Ne Mo
    Jan 13, 2022 at 15:52
  • From 24 May to 23 June is a day short of one month.
    – bof
    Jan 17, 2022 at 5:11

Douglas MacArthur as Supreme Commander of Allied Powers in Japan after WWII. President Truman gave him absolute power over Japan.

He might be described as a shogun (military dictator). Actually, according to wikipedia, "The Japanese subsequently gave MacArthur the nickname Gaijin Shogun ('The foreign Shogun') but not until around the time of his death in 1964".

In fact, he was a dictator in the roman way. Called to serve for the country and retire after completed the job.

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    Did he call himself a shogun?
    – Ne Mo
    Nov 11, 2021 at 22:41

I'd like to put forth another example of a country's current leader calling himself a dictator or rather his (plans for the) country a dictatorship:

During an official visit to Vienna in 2014, Vladimir Putin was asked what his plans for Russia looked like. He smiled and answered in German:


then he (seemingly) hastily injected:

Aber gute Diktatur.

(Dictatorship. … But good dictatorship.)

Vladimir Putin is known to be 'fluent' in German. On one hand, fluent (without apostrophes) may be a bit exaggerated, as high ranking people typically get more credit than actually deserved. On the other hand, according to his German Wikipedia article, he served as interpreter for Boris Jelzin in meetings with Helmut Kohl.
However his injection leaves little doubt that he knew what he was saying and how people could take it.

At the time, it was commented as him joking about his strong man image. I don't quite recall, if it was also around his official speech in German parliament (Bundestag) in 2001 or during consultations with German company leaders. He might have pulled that 'joke' multiple times.

I remember quite vividly that I saw video clips of both occasions in a documentary about Putin that analyzed his reign.

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    This would be improved as an answer if you could find some supporting references.
    – Steve Bird
    Feb 22, 2023 at 17:43
  • I'm aware of that. But as I said, "I don't have anything quotable at hand". My only starting point, would be to try and find an hour-long documentary in which this was like a one minute excerpt of.
    – NoAnswer
    Feb 22, 2023 at 17:48
  • I was able to track down the date of the visit to German parliament: 25.09.2001
    – NoAnswer
    Feb 22, 2023 at 18:07

I would assume Caesar.

Rome was, I believe, the last state that had this as an official title, so he would've called himself a dictator.

It used to be a title for a limited amount of time. The citizens would elect one to meet a crisis. He did want to become dictator for life, but as we know, this wasn't met with general approval, and specific action was taken to end his life (and dictatorship).

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    You might want to review this answer after looking at the other answers. There are clearly later examples than Caesar. Nov 10, 2021 at 2:59
  • Leader "must call himself a dictator". Not the case for the accepted answer. The other answer don't mention it, or explicitly state there's no evidence of that. You may want to review this question before downvoting
    – bytepusher
    Nov 11, 2021 at 0:17
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    Please note that I'm not one of those who downvoted your answer. Also, deficiencies in one or more answers do not justify deficiencies in other answers. Ortez seems to meet the criteria. Nov 11, 2021 at 4:10
  • Note that the Q asks "…or…", so an objection towards (the accepted) an answer based on one of two possibilities not matching seems invalid, especially since the second of the options of the Q's "or" is fulfilled there? Nov 11, 2021 at 15:59

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