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Cult of personality

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A stadium crowd forms the image of North Korea's "Eternal Great Leader" Kim Il Sung

A cult of personality is a generally derogative term to criticize the worship of a single leader.

Personality cults are usually characteristic of totalitarian states, or post-revolutionary nations. The reputation of a single leader, often characterized as the "liberator" or "savior" of the people, is glorified to an almost divine level. The leader's picture is displayed everywhere, as are statues and other monuments to his greatness and wisdom. Slogans of the leader are plasterd on massive billboards, and books containing his speeches and writings fill up the bookstores and libraries.

The goal of a personality cult is to make the leader and the state seem synonymous, so it becomes impossible to comphrehend the existance of one without the other. It also helps justify the often harsh rule of the dictatorship, and propagandize the citizens into believing the leader is a kind and just ruler.

The creation of such a vast cult is often used in particular as a criticism of the regimes of Joseph Stalin and Mao Zedong. During the peak of their regins both leaders were portrayed as god-like omniscient rulers who were destined to rule their nation for all eternity. Their portraits were ordered to be hung in every home and public building, and many artists and poets were only allowed to produce works that glorified the leader. To justify this level of worship, both Mao and Stalin tried to come off as humble and modest and would often characterize their vast personality cults as nothing more than a spontaneous show of affection by their people. Stalin in particular used this excuse to justify the Communist Party's massive campaign of renaming things in his honor (see Stalingrad).

Other notable past personality cults included that of Kemal Ataturk's Turkey, and Saddam Hussein's Iraq.

Some current nations that feature personality cults include Saparmurat Niyazov's Turkmenistan and Kim Jong Il's North Korea.

It is important to note that a cult of personality is not necessarily universal among all totalitarian societies. In a few situtations there have been cases in which it is more beneficial to the regime for there to be little to no worship of the leader. For example, the Khmer Rouge and the Taliban were lacking in cults of personality and the leaders in these regimes were almost anonymous.



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