The Rise of Totalitarian Rulers Instructions

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The Rise of Totalitarian Rulers

Read the descriptions of the totalitarian rulers below. When you are done, complete the graphic organizer on the back of the page, summarizing the factors that allowed these rulers to gain power and characteristics of their rule.


After World War I, people in Italy were disappointed, humiliated and angry that their country did not get land promised to Italy by the Allies for entering the war. Italy had no more colonies overseas and was seen as a “lesser” power in Western Europe. Italy suffered a great deal of damage in the war, and after the fighting was over the country faced widespread unemployment and poverty. Benito Mussolini, a newspaper editor, founded the Italian Fascist party in 1919, and vowed to make Italy stronger and more stable...similar to the power of the Roman Empire that Italy was home to nearly two thousand years prior. Mussolini and his party were dynamic, powerful speakers, who captivated their audiences and fired them up. Fearing a civil war, Italian King Victor Emmanual III agreed to let Mussolini take over and start a new government. Mussolini became the Premier of Italy in October 1922. After Mussolini took power, he moved to crush his political opponents and crack down on opposition. He set economic policies that favored wealthy industrialists and landowners. His fearsome secret police force – the Black Shirts – ensured loyalty to his rule in all parts of the country. In 1925, he declared himself dictator and outlawed all political parties except his Fascist party. He censored (restricted) negative press being published against him or his political party. He demanded sacrifices be made for the good of the nation, such as punishing women who did not give birth to sons. Most of all, he demanded extreme nationalism – unconditional love and pride for Italy – which inspired an “us against the world” mentality.


After World War I, Germany was humiliated and had a weak democratic government. The government had to pay $30 billion to the Allies in reparations for the war – money it did not have. So the government kept printing money, but the more it printed, the less the money was worth. This inflation caused people to have to spend a wheelbarrow full of money just to get a loaf of bread and many people faced starvation. The Great Depression only made the German economy worse and unemployment soared. People were also very angry about the Treaty of Versailles, which took territory from Germany, greatly limited its armed forces and laid all the blame for WWI on Germany. In the early 1920s, Adolf Hitler became leader of the Nazi political party. He promised to throw out the Treaty of Versailles and make Germany strong again. Though he was a dynamic speaker, Hitler at first did not win much new support for his Nazi party. But as Germany’s economy collapsed in the Great Depression, more and more people started listening. By 1932, the Nazis were the largest political party in Germany. In January 1933, the German President made Hitler chancellor. After taking office, Hitler quickly moved to expand his control and within a few years, he was able to gain absolute power in Germany. He enforced his power by pressuring government leaders to fall in line or else lose their positions. He re-educated all young people by teaching them military skills and absolute loyalty to the nation. He censored (restricted) the press and deployed his brutal secret police force – The Gestapo - all over the country to ensure loyalty. But overall, his main focus was on rebuilding Germany’s broken economy by re-industrializing and re-militarizing. Through these acts, he knew he could bring Germany back to the powerful position it was in prior to World War I.hitler

During World War I, Russia was losing millions of men in World War I, its economy was in shambles and it was ruled by the ineffective absolute monarch Tsar Nicholas II. After the Russian Revolution in 1917, a political party known as the Bolsheviks took power. The Bolsheviks were led by a man named Lenin and promised “peace, land and bread.” When Lenin died in 1924, Stalin gained popularity by continuing these policies and by portraying himself as a “man of the people”. Stalin focused on improving conditions in Russia, a policy he called “socialism in one country”. By 1928, Stalin had leadership of the Soviet government, but he did not achieve absolute power until the late 1930s. He did this by forcing out all rival political parties, and punishing them for disloyalty. Stalin then pushed his people to increase farm and industry output. He believed that Russia was lagging far behind other powerful nations and was stuck in the past. In his first Five Year Plan (1928-1933) for economic recovery, he collectivized the farms, meaning all small farms were merged together into large ones where farm machinery could be used. The government would then take all grain produced by those farms to sell to other nations for profit. He was basically stealing food from his own people in order to “improve” the economy. He also demanded that Russia’s millions of peasants make huge sacrifices for the good of the nation: work hard on farms, in mines and in factories to help the country grow stronger. Furthermore, he censored the press, spent millions to build up Russia’s weak military, and enforced extreme nationalism with his loud and intimidating speeches and fearsome secret police force: the NKVD.

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