Dictatorship Essential Questions

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Essential Questions: Why do people sometimes support dictators? Can a President of the United States ever take on a dictatorial role?

  1. Characteristics of Governments According to Reagan

Instructions: Read Ronald Reagan’s quote below and annotate it focusing on characteristics of Governments. After you finish your annotations, complete the Journal Entry -- Reagan.

How do governments remain in power? President Ronald Reagan offered his view.

Journal Entry - Reagan: How would you define dictatorship? Why might fear be a key part of the success of a dictatorship? Explain how each of the three governmental systems that Reagan talked about would fall.


II. Caesar as Dictator: His Impact on the City of Rome
Instructions: Read the article below and annotate it focusing on notable impacts Julius Caesar had on Rome. After you finish your annotations, complete the Journal Entry -- Caesar.

by Steven Fife published on 18 January 2012

During his reign as dictator from 49-44 BC, Julius Caesar had a number of notable impacts on the city of Rome.

One of the initial crises with which Caesar had to deal was widespread debt in Rome, especially after the outbreak of civil war when lenders demanded repayment of loans and real estate values collapsed. The result was a serious shortage of coinage in circulation as people hoarded whatever they had. Realizing the seriousness of the situation, Caesar ordered that property must be accepted for repayment at its pre-war value. He also reinstated a previous law which forbade the holding of more than 60,000 sesterces in cash by any one person. Caesar later cancelled all interest payments due since the beginning of 49 BC and permitted tenants to pay no rent for one year. While these measures still did not eliminate Rome’s debt, Caesar’s creative reaction to the problem helped to alleviate the debt in a way that satisfied both lenders and borrowers.

In addition to debt, Caesar had to deal with widespread unemployment in Rome. As a way to reduce the unemployment, the poor were offered a new life in Rome’s overseas colonies. Those who stayed behind and depended on a monthly supply of free grain suffered when Caesar cut the grain rations in half, limiting the number of receivers to 150,000 when 320,000 had been collecting them. Caesar did, however, arrange for better supervision of the city’s grain supply, and he also helped to improve access to grain from overseas by constructing a new harbour at Ostia and a new canal from Tarracina.

The construction of new public buildings also served as a method of reducing unemployment in the city, but there was another motivation for building major projects in Rome: Caesar wanted to enhance the city’s appearance after he realized how unimpressive Rome seemed in comparison to Alexandria, which was considered the greatest city of the Mediterranean. As a result, the Forum Julium was built to provide more space for lawcourts, and the Saepta Julia, situated on the Campus Martius, provided a large enclosure for voting. Caesar also ordered the construction of a new senate house after the previous one was used as Clodius’s funeral pyre in 52 BC. Additionally, he sought to divert the Tiber River away from Rome to prevent flooding and to add to the city’s area. He had also planned to build a grand temple of Mars, a theatre that would rival Pompey’s, and a library that would rival Alexandria’s. Caesar never saw any of the latter projects completed, however, as he was killed in 44 BC before any of them were finished.

Caesar’s impact on the city of Rome continued even after his death when, in his will, he stipulated that his villa, the gardens surrounding it, and his art gallery all be made public. He also distributed his wealth to the people of Rome, leaving 300,000 sesterces to each citizen. Overall, Caesar sought to make Rome a cultural and educational centre of the Mediterranean world by attracting intellectuals, doctors, and lawyers to the city. Indeed, the actions that he took over his time in power showed his devotion to Rome and his wish to bring stability and prosperity to the city.

Citation: Fife, Stephen. "Caesar As Dictator: His Impact on the City of Rome." Ancient History Encyclopedia. N.p., 18 Jan. 2012. Web. 26 Mar. 2016.
Journal Entry - Caesar: In your own opinion, how did Caesar’s impacts on Rome help him to win Roman citizens’ favor and achieve “dictator for life?”


III. Ivan the Terrible Biography

Tsar/Tsarina, Prince (1530–1584)
Instructions: Read the article below and annotate it focusing on Ivan’s ruthless means (activities) he used to create and maintain a centrally controlled government. After you finish your annotations, complete the Journal Entry -- Ivan.

Ivan the Terrible, or Ivan IV, was the first tsar of all Russia. During his reign (1533-1584), Ivan acquired vast amounts of land through ruthless means, creating a centrally controlled government.


The grandson of Ivan the Great, Ivan the Terrible, or Ivan IV, acquired vast amounts of land during his long reign (1533-1584), an era marked by the conquest of the khanates of Kazan, Astrakhan and Siberia. Ivan the Terrible created a centrally controlled Russian state, imposed by military dominance. Many believe him to have been mentally ill. One of his violent outbursts was perhaps the reason for his son's death.

Early Life

The first tsar of all Russia, Ivan the Terrible, or Ivan IV, had a complex personality. Intelligent yet prone to outbreaks of uncontrollable rage, Ivan's tragic background contributed to his infamous behavior. Not a lot of detail is known about his early life, and historians debate his accomplishments as a leader. However, it is generally agreed that his reign established the current Russian territory and centralized government for centuries to come.

The grandson of Ivan the Great, Ivan the Terrible was born Ivan Chetvyorty Vasilyevich on August 25, 1530, in the Grand Duchy of Muscovy, Russia, to members of the Rurik dynasty. His father, Basil III, died when he was 3 years old. His mother, Elena Glinskaya, ruled as regent until her death in 1538, when Ivan was 8. During this time, the realm rapidly degenerated into chaos as rival boyar (noble) families disputed the legitimacy of her rule.

The court intrigue and constant danger that Ivan was exposed to while growing up molded much of his ruthless and suspicious nature. Evidence indicates that Ivan was a sensitive, intelligent boy, neglected and occasionally scorned by members of the nobility who looked after him after his parents' death. The environment nurtured his hatred for the boyar class, whom he suspected of being involved in his mother's death. He reportedly tortured small animals as a boy, yet still managed to develop a taste for literature and music.

Tsar of Muscovy

In 1547, Ivan IV was crowned tsar of Muscovy. That same year, he married Anastasia Romanovna. In 1549, Ivan appointed a council of advisers, a consensus-building assembly who helped institute his reforms. During what is considered the constructive period of his reign, he introduced self-government in rural regions, reformed tax collection, and instituted statutory law and church reform. In 1556, he instituted regulations on the obligations of the boyar class in service of the crown.

In foreign policy, Ivan IV had two main goals: to resist the Mongol Golden Horde and to gain access to the Baltic Sea. Ultimately, he aimed to conquer all remaining independent regions and create a larger, more centralized Russia.

In 1552 and 1556, Ivan's armies crushed the Tartar khanates of Kazan and Astrakhan, respectively. This extended Muscovy control to the Urals in the east and the Caspian Sea in the south, creating a buffer zone against the Mongols. (Ivan commissioned St. Basil's Cathedral in Moscow's Red Square, built between 1555 and 1561, to commemorate the conquest of the Tatar city of Kazan.) Ivan was not as successful, however, at annexing Lithuania and gaining access to the Baltic: One of his advisers defected to Lithuania and led its army to defeat Ivan IV's offensive.

While his initial efforts were successful, Ivan the Terrible's methods disrupted the economy and culture. He seized private lands and redistributed them among his supported, and created a police force dressed all in black, astride black horses, that existed more to crush dissent than to keep the peace. Thusly, Ivan was not a popular leader, and his unpopularity would continue to grow over the next several years.

Reign of Terror

Upon the death of his first wife in 1560, Ivan IV went into a deep depression and his behavior became more erratic. His suspicion that she had been murdered by the boyars only deepened his paranoia. He left Moscow suddenly and threatened to abdicate the throne. Leaderless, the Muscovites pleaded for his return. He agreed, but on the condition that he be granted absolute power of the region surrounding Moscow, known as the oprichnina. He also demanded the authority to punish traitors and law breakers with execution and confiscation of property.

Over the next 24 years, Ivan IV conducted a reign of terror, displacing and destroying the major boyar families in the region, and earning the moniker by which he's now best known. (He's also known by the nickname "Grozny," which roughly translates as "formidable or sparking terror or fear.") It was during this period that Ivan beat his pregnant daughter-in-law, causing a miscarriage, killed his son in a subsequent fit of rage, and blinded the architect of St. Basil's Cathedral. It was also during this time that he created the Oprichniki, the first official secret Russian police force.

Death and Aftermath

In 1584, with his health failing, Ivan the Terrible became obsessed with death, calling upon witches and soothsayers to sustain him, but to no avail. The end came on March 18, 1584, when Ivan died of an apparent stroke. He had willed the kingdom to his unfit son, Feodor, whose rule spiraled Russia into the catastrophic Time of Troubles, leading to the establishment of the Romanov Dynasty.

When Ivan the Terrible died, he left the country in disarray, with deep political and social scars. Russia would not merge from the chaos until the reign of Peter the Great more than a century later.

Journal Entry - Ivan: How did Ivan create a centrally controlled government and what methods did he use to maintain control? In your own opinion, does a man’s psychological disposition play a role in his desire to gain power? Lord Akton says “Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” Is Lord Akton right or wrong? Explain your answer fully.

Citation: "Ivan the Terrible." Bio.com. A&E Networks Television, n.d. Web. 26 Mar. 2016.


IV. EXPLORATION: Reasons for Dictatorships
Instructions: Read Chapter 28, Section 2 and complete the web diagram below. After you finish reading and completing the web, complete the Journal Entry -- Loss of Faith in Democracy Leads to Rise of Dictators.

During times of turmoil and great change, people often turn to powerful leaders to solve
problems. As you complete the following journal entries, you will see how dictators
have risen and why people sometimes support dictatorships.

1. Reasons for Dictatorships: What circumstances gave rise to dictators in Europe after
World War I? Complete the web below. (Chapter 28, Section 2)

Reasons for

Journal Entry – Loss of Faith in Democracy Leads to Rise of Dictators
Why would citizens of a democracy lose faith in democratic political and economic institutions? How might a loss of faith lead to rule by dictators? In your own opinion, do you believe a loss of faith in democratic intuitions in the United States will ever lead to a rise of dictatorships? If so, why? If NOT, do you believe that our democratic intuitions are resilient and strong enough to withstand a loss of faith in democratic intuitions and will continue as a democracy? Why?


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2. Italy and Russia: A totalitarian state is a form of government in which a one-party
dictatorship tries to regulate all aspects of the lives of its citizens. (Chapter 28, Sections 2 and 3)

a. Complete this timeline to show the steps in the rise to power of Benito Mussolini.

Rise of Mussolini






b. Complete this timeline to show the steps in the rise to power of Joseph Stalin.

Rise of Stalin





3. WebQuest: Cooperation How did the WebQuest in which you investigated
dictatorship affect your view about why people support dictators?


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4. Cultural Revolution: Complete the chart below to show the impact of aspects of Mao
Zedong’s Cultural Revolution on Chinese society. (Chapter 30, Section 3)
Impact of Cultural Revolution on Chinese Society

Red Guards


Forced labor camps

Civil war

Did Mao’s Cultural Revolution strengthen or weaken his control over China? Explain.

5. Africa: a. Make generalizations about how one-party rule affected each of the following
elements after African nations gained independence. (Chapter 31, Section 3)

Political systems

• Economies

• Civil wars

• Regional conflict

b. Despite conflicts and divisions, why do you think people in the new African nations
often supported dictators?

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6. Iraq: a. Describe the outcome of these events in Iraq during the rule of Saddam Hussein.
(Chapter 32, Section 3)

• Saddam Hussein begins war with Iran.

• Iraq invades neighboring Kuwait.

• Saddam Hussein crushes revolts by minorities.

• UN imposes economic sanctions on Iraq.

• UN coalition forces invade Iraq.

b. Given the outcome of events under Saddam Hussein’s rule, why did he keep power
so long?

7. Latin America: Why would the following issues infl uence U.S. government support of
dictatorships or repressive governments in Latin America? Fill in the chart. (Chapter 33,
Section 4)


Reasons for U.S. Support

Cold war

Containment policy



Bring together what you have read in your textbook with the information you have

gathered online about this concept. On a separate sheet of paper, answer the essential
question: Why do people sometimes support dictatorships?


Concept Connector Journal - Dictatorship

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