Real Dictators

By Noiser Podcasts

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Reviews: 17

 Jan 16, 2022

 Oct 3, 2021

 Sep 22, 2021

 Sep 2, 2021
Excellent production.

 Aug 10, 2021


Real Dictators is the new podcast series hosted by Paul McGann that explores the hidden lives of history’s tyrants. New episodes every Wednesday. Follow Noiser Podcasts on Twitter for updates on our shows.

Episode Date
Turkmenbashy Part 2: Putin, Taliban, Internet Shutdown
Installed as leader of independent Turkmenistan, Saparmurat Niyazov constructs one of the most surreal regimes in all of history. Rebuilding the capital city in white marble, he puts his own mother at the forefront of public life. An absurd series of policies begins – nothing is exempt from Turkmenbashy’s whims. Even as the War on Terror lands on his doorstep, the tyrant seems unstoppable. But, somehow, opposition will emerge, culminating in a dramatic attempt on his life. A Noiser production, written & produced by Dan Smith. Research by Derek Henry Flood. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
Jan 26, 2022
Turkmenbashy Part 1: Soviet Stooge, Hermit Tyrant
Turkmenistan in Central Asia. Somewhere unremarkable, you might assume. But you’d be wrong. Away from prying eyes, an extraordinary story unfolded here. In the early 1990s, out of the rubble of the Soviet Union, a man called Saparmurat Niyazov creates a brand-new state. His regime will be a case study in modern tyranny, filled with bizarre pronouncements and barely believable laws. As ‘Turkmenbashy’, or ‘Head of the Turkmen’, Niyazov rules into the 2000s, sealing off his people from the outside world and turning Turkmenistan into a North Korea 2.0. But how does he get away with it? A Noiser production, written & produced by Dan Smith. Research by Derek Henry Flood. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
Jan 14, 2022
Idi Amin Part 6: The Entebbe Raid & Amin’s Exile
In the passenger hall at Entebbe Airport, 106 hostages are held at gunpoint by hijackers. But four military planes are on their way to conduct an audacious commando raid that will spark the beginning of the end for Idi Amin. After a fatally ill-judged war with Tanzania, the tyrant will finally be ousted. Leaving a grim legacy behind him, he’ll commence a surreal retirement thousands of miles away. A Noiser production, written & produced by Jeff Dawson. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
Dec 22, 2021
Idi Amin Part 5: Two Movies, Six Wives & Countless Headlines
Delving into Amin’s private life, we take in his many marriages, mistresses and children, as well as henchmen such as ‘Major Bob’ and ‘The Hangman’. Making a triumphant return to the boxing ring, the President seems in his element. But behind closed doors, frustration at his portrayal in the West is growing. Trying to wrest back control of his image, Amin participates in an extraordinary film about his own life. But while his PR blitz may paper over the cracks, the patience of the Ugandan people is being strained to the limit. A Noiser production, written & produced by Jeff Dawson. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
Dec 15, 2021
Idi Amin Part 4: Expulsion of the Asians
In a speech, Amin makes an extraordinary announcement – something he claims came to him in a dream. All Ugandans of Asian origin must sell up and leave the country within the next 90 days. Tens of thousands of citizens have had the rug pulled out from under their feet. Meanwhile, out in the countryside, supporters of Obote are massacred in their hundreds. In response, an army of exiles prepares to launch the first serious attempt on Big Daddy’s rule. A Noiser production, written & produced by Jeff Dawson. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
Dec 08, 2021
Idi Amin Part 3: ‘Big Daddy’ Seizes Power
Amin wages war on Buganda’s king, as the Obote administration firms up its grip on power. But all is not well. After Obote survives an assassination attempt by mere inches, rumours swirl as to the identity of the perpetrator. Brigadier Amin goes on an army recruitment drive, enlisting fellow men of the north. Sooner or later, Obote must leave Uganda to do business abroad. And when he does, who knows what might happen in his absence. A Noiser production, written & produced by Jeff Dawson. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
Dec 01, 2021
Idi Amin Part 2: End of Empire, Rise of Amin
In 1960, Prime Minister Harold Macmillan announces that independence is to be awarded to all of Britain's African colonies. Uganda and its 7 million people are now free. Idi Amin zooms up the military hierarchy, becoming the right-hand man of the nation's new leader, Milton Obote. Implicated in unspeakable atrocities against civilians, Amin dodges a court martial and sets himself up as a rogue arms dealer. He is indispensable as an enforcer. But Obote had better watch his back. A Noiser production, written & produced by Jeff Dawson. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
Nov 24, 2021
Introducing: Real Pirates
New Noiser release. Unpack the epic dramas of history’s most infamous buccaneers. Real Pirates takes you right into the heart of the action with immersive storytelling and pulse-racing tales, charting the lives of the legendary men and women who roamed the oceans. Who were they? What was life really like? Listen to the first episode right here, then search and follow Real Pirates for new episodes every Monday! Real Pirates is co-produced with Spotify and is exclusive - but free - on Spotify. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
Nov 19, 2021
Idi Amin Part 1: The Butcher of Uganda
From 1971 to 1979, President Idi Amin Dada devastated Uganda as the nation's military dictator. He sank the economy and deported an entire ethnic class. He slaughtered, by some estimates, up to half a million of his fellow citizens. All this while cultivating a persona of 'Big Daddy', the playful joker. He was depicted in the West as a buffoon. But this characterisation underestimated his mastery of communication and his extraordinary charisma. In a continent ravaged by empire, his bloody tale is part of a much larger story. Let's peel back the layers of the myth and explore the life of Africa's most infamous son. A Noiser production, written & produced by Jeff Dawson. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
Nov 17, 2021
Introducing: History Daily
On History Daily, we do history, daily. Every weekday beginning November 1st, Host Lindsay Graham (American Scandal, American History Tellers) takes you back in time to explore a momentous moment that happened ‘on this day’ in history. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
Nov 01, 2021
Introducing: Short History Of...
From the creators of Real Dictators comes a brand-new weekly show. Short History Of... gives you a front-row seat as history's most incredible moments play out right before you. In this taster episode, we're in Cuba. It's October 1962. Three men – Kennedy, Khrushchev and Castro – hold the fate of the planet in their hands. A dispute over missiles spirals out of control. All sides brace for war. How did it come to this? And just how close will the world come to nuclear Armageddon? This is a Short History of the Cuban Missile Crisis, Part 1. Search 'Short History Of...' in your podcast app and hit follow for weekly episodes. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
Aug 10, 2021
Colonel Gaddafi Part 8: Arab Spring, Gaddafi’s End
By early 2011, Libya is changing. The Arab Spring has started and leaders across North Africa and the Middle East are already succumbing to people power. The Gaddafi regime suddenly needs to tread very carefully indeed. A young lawyer from Benghazi organises a protest that will soon spread like wildfire. Before long, it will become something else entirely: a full-blown rebellion against Colonel Gaddafi’s rule. The man who has dominated Libya for four decades will become a fugitive, soon to meet one of the grisliest ends of any dictator in history. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
Aug 03, 2021
Colonel Gaddafi Part 7: 9/11 and the West’s New Friend
On September 11th, 2001, life in the West is transformed in an instant. Amidst the fall-out, Gaddafi spots an opportunity. To the surprise of many, he makes it his mission to rejoin the international fold. A new phase of surreal diplomacy begins as the Libyan dictator pitches his Bedouin tent on the front lawns of palaces and parliaments across the world. Muammar Gaddafi - the man of many masks - is transforming once again, this time into the West’s most eccentric ally. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
Jul 27, 2021
Colonel Gaddafi Part 6: The Lockerbie Bombing
In 1988, Gaddafi takes his terror to the skies, bringing down a passenger flight over Lockerbie, Scotland. The Boeing 747 - en route from Frankfurt to New York, via London - is destroyed with 270 fatalities. Gaddafi has reached a new level of villainy. Staffers at the Pentagon team up with Hollywood executives to shore up public opinion against the tyrant. Meanwhile, the Colonel himself begins an extensive re-brand. Shunned by the Arab world, his gaze shifts south - across the Sahara. Soon, in a bizarre ceremony, he will be crowned ‘King of Africa’. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
Jul 20, 2021
Colonel Gaddafi Part 5: President Reagan Launches Airstrikes
Gaddafi takes his terror onto the streets of London and Berlin. It seems nowhere is beyond his reach as Libyan agents hunt down his opponents across the globe. The Reagan administration launches retaliatory airstrikes, targeting the dictator and his inner circle. With the stakes higher than ever, the Libyan security network continues to stamp out dissent. Some 6,000 children are bussed to a sports arena where they bear witness to a gruesome lesson in tyranny. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
Jul 13, 2021
Colonel Gaddafi Part 4: The Munich Olympic Massacre
In Munich, West Germany, in the summer of 1972, there is a buzz of expectation. The city is preparing to host the Olympic Games. It’s a symbolic welcoming of the country back into the international fold. But this festival of sport will soon become a terrifying nightmare. The Munich massacre is one of many terrorist attacks to which Colonel Gaddafi will attach himself - as patron or cheerleader. As the Libyan leader tightens his grip on power at home, and exports terror abroad, tension with America is coming to breaking point. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
Jul 06, 2021
Colonel Gaddafi Part 3: Hero to Villain
Having seized power without a shot being fired, Muammar Gaddafi can’t quite believe his luck. Still in his twenties, he now finds himself leader of an oil-rich country. The pistol-toting ‘Colonel’ wastes no time kicking out the Americans and the British, wresting control of the petrochemical industry, and instigating a ‘Vengeance Day’ to deal with Libya’s colonial oppressors. Meanwhile, ordinary Libyans take a quantum leap in living standards. To many, Gaddafi seems a revelation, at least at first. But the cracks are already appearing. Things are about to spin off in a very different direction. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
Jun 29, 2021
Colonel Gaddafi Part 2: Gaddafi in London
In the 1960s, Libya gets rich on oil. But this new-found wealth is soon being siphoned off by the elites. As a result, many citizens begin to question their King’s authority. Among these dissenters is young Muammar Gaddafi. After joining the Royal Military Academy in Benghazi, Gaddafi is sent to England, where he roams the streets of Swinging London in flowing Bedouin robes. Soon, with his training complete, he returns home to Libya and readies himself for an audacious seizure of power. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
Jun 22, 2021
Colonel Gaddafi Part 1: Son of the Desert
‘Brother Leader’, ‘King of Kings’, ‘Falcon of Africa’… ‘The Most Dangerous Man in the World.’ Colonel Gaddafi was the Libyan tyrant who abused his people on an industrial scale, until he was murdered by them as they rose up against his rule. He was the revolutionary leader who freed his country from the shackles of empire only to squander its riches, turning Libya into the ultimate rogue state. To the West he was, alternately, a sponsor of global terror or a convenient ally. But where did it all begin? In the early 1940s, at the height of World War Two, a child is born in a Bedouin tented encampment in Libya’s desert west. From these humble origins, Muammar Gaddafi will go on to dominate global events for half a century. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
Jun 15, 2021
Francisco Franco Part 5: Life After the Dictator
In 1959, Franco marks 20 years as leader of Spain. Now, he embraces capitalism and paints himself as a moderniser. The country experiences rapid economic growth and becomes a leading holiday destination. Meanwhile, the regime tries to stamp out the embers of Republicanism wherever they still burn. Later, as he suffers ill health, Franco plans his own succession. The ailing Generalissimo headhunts and trains up a dashing young heir. But it remains to be seen whether this named successor will keep to Franco’s script. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
Jun 08, 2021
Francisco Franco Part 4: Fascist Firebrand to Cold War Warrior
The White Terror continues as Spain’s self-proclaimed strongman assumes power in Madrid. Herding his defeated enemies into concentration camps, Franco uses them to realise huge architectural projects, including the Valley of the Fallen. Declaring the start of a ‘glorious’ new era, ‘El Caudillo’ commissions a movie to tell the story of his own life. Die-hard Republican rebels continue to resist the Nationalists in the mountains. Meanwhile, in the aftermath of World War Two, Franco seeks to re-brand his regime, as he sets about winning over a brand-new ally: the United States. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
Jun 01, 2021
Francisco Franco Part 3: The Civil War and the White Terror
When Spain erupts into civil war in July 1936, Franco finds himself marooned far away in the Canary Islands. Two men meet for lunch at an upscale London restaurant, where they finalise a daring plan to assist him. Back on Spanish soil, Franco begins the process of conquering his homeland, butchering his enemies as he goes. He is aided by two key allies: Benito Mussolini and Adolf Hitler. As he closes in on Madrid, the tyrant-in-waiting is already laying the groundwork for a decades-long dictatorship. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
May 25, 2021
Francisco Franco Part 2: The ‘Little Major’ Terrorises Africa
In 1917, Franco is an up-and-coming army officer. He returns to northern Spain to assume command of a battalion. He starts attending Mass at 7AM every morning, as he begins a courtship with Carmen - a schoolgirl at a local convent. But before long, Franco is on the move once again. After an encounter with a charismatic army superior, Franco joins the Spanish Foreign Legion. Sent back to Africa as part of this new role, Franco manages to turn himself into a poster boy for colonial adventure - this despite his brutal treatment of the local Moroccan population. Meanwhile, separatist movements gather momentum across mainland Spain, as different regions reject the central government. The country lurches between wildly different political regimes. As Francisco Franco continues to climb the army’s ranks, Spain spirals towards civil war. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
May 18, 2021
Francisco Franco Part 1: Spain’s Buried Past
Today, Spain is Europe’s holiday capital. But beyond the sun-kissed veneer lie sinister secrets. When you think of European dictators two names usually spring to mind: Hitler and Mussolini. Francisco Franco’s name is often overlooked. Today, Spain is a vibrant democracy. But in living memory - from 1939 to 1975 - General Franco ruled the nation as dictator. Despite his bloody campaigns of civilian repression, Franco held power for decades and died peacefully in his bed at the ripe old age of 82. How was he able to commit such atrocities and get away with it? The story begins in the 1890s on Spain’s Atlantic coast, where Francisco Franco is born and raised. After joining the army, the young officer is posted to north Africa, where his desperation to make his name will nearly cost him his life. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
May 11, 2021
Adolf Hitler Part 7: The Day of Treason
In the final part of Hitler’s Early Years, the Nazi leader completes his journey from obscurity to treason. At the age of 34, Adolf Hitler launches his very own assault on power: the Munich Putsch. The aim is to seize control of Bavaria before marching north and taking the German capital, Berlin. Hitler dispatches SA shock troops to storm locations across Munich, while he himself locks and loads a pistol and prepares to hijack a political meeting. Will the Nazis succeed in taking over Germany? Or will they fail and fade back into obscurity? Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
May 04, 2021
Adolf Hitler Part 6: Hitler’s Secret Book
The Nazis’ media operation goes up a gear, as they seek to turn Hitler into an iconic, national figure. In a secret autobiography, Hitler directly compares his own political rise to Jesus’s resurrection. Two crises unfold in tandem, as French and Belgian troops cross Germany’s western border while the economy goes into meltdown. Knowing they stand to profit from this turmoil, the Nazis begin plotting their very own coup d’état. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
Apr 27, 2021
Adolf Hitler Part 5: The Stormtroopers Arrive
After observing a failed coup in Berlin, Hitler takes one vital lesson: he needs an army of his own. The Nazis create a paramilitary unit - the Sturmabteilung, or the SA. These hooligans turn Munich upside down as they take National Socialism onto the streets. Hitler begins assembling an executive team of allies and deputies, including an army insider with a stockpile of weapons, and a celebrity fighter pilot. Ernst Röhm and Hermann Göring will be pivotal figures in the Nazi Party for years to come. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
Apr 20, 2021
Adolf Hitler Part 4: The Spy Becomes the Nazi Leader
Hitler is sent undercover by the Bavarian Army to infiltrate a band of extreme nationalists. But their message resonates deeply with the spy, and he breaks cover to join their ranks. This German Workers’ Party will soon become the Nazi Party, and this new recruit will become their leader. Under his new mentor - a playwright and morphine addict called Dietrich Eckart - Adolf Hitler is finding his voice, and his march towards leadership is grinding into gear. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
Apr 13, 2021
Adolf Hitler Part 3: From Soldier to Propaganda Agent
Hitler gets the news he’s been dreading, as he learns that World War One has ended. The German people wrestle with the reality of defeat. Revolutions break out across the land, as the Kaiser’s regime is swept away. Discharged from hospital, Hitler returns home to Munich. While most troops are demobilised, Hitler is desperate to remain a soldier. He will do whatever it takes to keep his army job. The Allies gather in Paris to settle the tab for the Great War. Disenchanted and disillusioned, Hitler drinks in far-right conspiracy theories. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
Apr 06, 2021
Adolf Hitler Part 2: Hitler in the First World War
In June 1914, an assassination on the streets of Sarajevo disrupts the delicate balance of power in Europe. With Archduke Franz Ferdinand dead, the First World War explodes into action. Adolf Hitler, meanwhile, relocates to Munich. After dodging the Austrian draft, he soon embraces life as a German soldier. But then, while serving in Flanders in 1918, a traumatic injury threatens to end his rise to power before it has even begun. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
Mar 30, 2021
Adolf Hitler Part 1: Birth of a Führer
You may know something of the Hitler story. But there’s a decent chance you don’t know the half of it. We begin a deep dive into the early years of a man who became the very embodiment of evil. Peeling away Hitler’s own myths about his childhood, we explore how he emerged from obscurity to begin his political journey. The future German Führer isn’t born in Germany. He’s born next door, in Austria. Growing up in the borderlands, he clashes with his austere father but idolises his doting mother. The young Hitler abandons schoolwork and dedicates himself to the artistic life. He sets his sights on Vienna, where he hopes to make it as a painter. But then tragedy strikes. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
Mar 24, 2021
Introducing: Real Narcos Season 2 - Félix Gallardo
From the creators of Real Dictators comes Real Narcos, the show that takes you to the front line of the war on drugs. For Season 2, we're in Mexico. In 1985, Kiki Camarena is a US DEA agent on the trail of Félix Gallardo - the man known as the Mexican Godfather. But Camarena's kidnapping at the hands of the cartel will send shockwaves around the world. Search 'Real Narcos' in your podcast app and hit subscribe for weekly episodes. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
Jan 26, 2021
General Tojo Part 4: The End of World War II
In the final part of this story, the walls are beginning to close in on Japan’s wartime Prime Minister, General Hideki Tojo. He opts to take hands-on control of the remaining armed forces, despite minimal battlefield experience, and hatches a rogue scheme to knock the British out of the War. Staring down the barrel of defeat, Emperor Hirohito weighs up finally pulling the plug on his lead General. With Tojo forced out of office and on the run from the Allies in Tokyo, the end of World War II arrives. But its final chapter will change the world forever more. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
Dec 07, 2020
General Tojo Part 3: Attack on Pearl Harbor
Japan attacks the US naval base at Pearl Harbor in the opening salvo of the Pacific War. Caught unawares, President Franklin D. Roosevelt responds by ratcheting up America’s military capabilities at an astonishing rate. Already Prime Minister of Japan, Hideki Tojo now moves to take every significant government post for himself. As Japanese troops sweep through the Malay Peninsula, a military hospital in Singapore comes into their crosshairs. As thousands of Allied soldiers are interned in prisoner of war camps, they face conditions that beggar belief. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
Nov 30, 2020
General Tojo Part 2: Kill All, Burn All, Loot All
We return to Japan and the story of the workaholic army officer who rose through the ranks to lead his nation into total war. Hideki Tojo restores discipline to the military following the Aizawa Incident. He is promoted to Major General and rewarded with command of the secret police - the Kempeitai. The Imperial Japanese Army invades China and embarks on a campaign to terrorise the civilian population. Kempeitai operatives set up a research lab where they carry out horrific medical and weapons experiments, seeking a decisive edge over Japan’s enemies. This is only the beginning. Before long, spurred on by Prime Minister Tojo, the nation readies itself for war with the United States. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
Nov 22, 2020
General Tojo Part 1: The Young Samurai
General Hideki Tojo was the man who led Japan into World War 2 and oversaw some of the most horrific war crimes in recorded history. Tojo did not hold absolute power - his means of imposing his will were more nuanced than that. But he more than earns his place at this table. Ruling under a compliant Emperor, Tojo gathered power to himself. This is the story of the minister who outgrew his master, the bureaucrat whose relentless work ethic took him to the apex of Japan’s totalitarian military state. Hideki Tojo is born in 1884. Japan is an emerging power on the world stage, a nation growing in confidence and ambition. We chart Tojo’s upbringing through the 1880s and ‘90s, before the man they call “The Razor” begins his journey up the greasy pole of Japanese politics. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
Nov 16, 2020
Papa Doc Part 3: Vampire of the Caribbean
François Duvalier has created a terrifying cult of personality around himself. Not only is he President for Life; he claims to be an immaterial being - a spirit that will hover over Haiti even after his body dies. With near-godlike status achieved, his thoughts turn to his legacy. The groundwork is laid for the President’s son, Jean-Claude, to inherit power. This young man they call “Baby Doc” sits waiting in the wings. Meanwhile, regime loyalists devise increasingly sinister and corrupt methods to line their own pockets. Our contributors reflect on the legacy of Papa Doc - a name that will forever haunt the nightmares of Haitians. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
Sep 09, 2020
Papa Doc Part 2: Haiti’s Dictator vs JFK
Ensconced in the Presidential Palace, Haitian dictator “Papa Doc” Duvalier crushes an attempted coup without mercy. Spooked by this near miss, Duvalier forms his own private militia called the Tonton Macoute. They take their name from a terrifying bogeyman of Haitian mythology and will go on to kill as many as 60,000 Haitians. Desperate to prevent communism taking hold in the Caribbean, the United States initially helps to prop up Papa Doc’s administration. Better the devil you know… But as the horrors of the regime become unavoidably clear, President Kennedy decides the time has come to lay down a marker. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
Sep 02, 2020
Papa Doc Part 1: The Voodoo Tyrant
Just a few hundred miles south of Florida, across the Caribbean Sea, lies Haiti. From 1957 to 1971, this tropical island nation was ruled by a would-be demigod. For 14 years, François Duvalier - better known as “Papa Doc” - wielded the twin powers of state violence and voodoo. His embezzlement of foreign aid turned an economy rich with potential into the poorest country in the West. Real Dictators takes you behind the scenes of Papa Doc’s maniacal regime. His victims and adversaries tell the story of the medical doctor who became the butcher of his people. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
Aug 26, 2020
Mao Zedong Part 3: The Cultural Revolution
Mao’s ‘Cultural Revolution’ sets out to purge the minds of an entire population. At the same time, the Supreme Leader continues to live a life of debauchery and excess - as the man who used to be his personal physician remembers. Mao’s propaganda machine seems invincible. But as the Chairman ages and his health deteriorates, the security of his legacy is anything but ensured. Eyewitnesses to his brutality reflect on what Mao means to China today, more than 40 years after his death. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
Aug 11, 2020
Mao Zedong Part 2: The ‘Great Leap Forward’
With an army of devoted followers, Mao Zedong comes down from his hilltop headquarters and engages his Nationalist enemies in battles across China. Finally, victory belongs to the Communists. Crowds flock to Beijing’s Tiananmen Square, as Mao walks on stage to rapturous applause. With China in a mess after years of Nationalist rule, Mao is greeted by many as a hero. But life under the new Chairman is about to get a whole lot worse. Installed as Supreme Leader, Mao sets about revolutionising the way his people live, work and think. His ‘Great Leap Forward’ is intended to be an economic masterplan. Instead, it incurs an inconceivable death toll - driving people across the land to the wildest extremes of human behaviour. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
Aug 04, 2020
Mao Zedong Part 1: The Peasant’s Son Who Craved Power
In the centre of China’s capital city, Beijing, lies a corpse that no one dares remove. It’s been 44 years since Mao Zedong’s body was laid to rest in the grandiose Chairman Mao Memorial Hall. He may be gone but he is not forgotten. To some, he’s the father of modern China. To many others, he’s a sadistic thug - a man willing, even happy, to sacrifice millions of lives in pursuit of power and economic dominance. Mao Zedong is born in Hunan Province in 1893. Growing up on his father’s farm, he consumes books and ideas. He becomes a devoted left-wing activist. Mao’s rise to the top of the Communist Party is littered with violent outbursts, setting the tone for the decades to come. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
Jul 28, 2020
Joseph Stalin Part 3: Hitler Attacks
Stalin’s regime hits the rocks when Adolf Hitler launches Operation Barbarossa and invades Russia. Nazi tanks plough towards Moscow in a devastating advance. Stalin’s legacy is forged in this fight to the death. In his final years, the strongman succumbs to cardiac problems. His tools for progress have been famine, slavery and execution. Yet to this day, some of his countrymen and women lionise him as the man who turned Russia into a superpower. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
Jul 14, 2020
Joseph Stalin Part 2: The Secretary Becomes Dictator
With the First World War underway, Stalin’s journey to becoming a brutal dictator grinds into gear. After the War, Russia is turned upside down. Stalin thrives in the chaos, masterminding a string of elaborate takedowns of his rivals. Rising to party leader, Stalin visits a ruthless purge on his enemies. The dreaded secret police cleanse the country of so-called traitors. Rural society collapses under this onslaught. But Stalin’s brutality does not go unchallenged. The peasants revolt, while a showdown with his own wife at a dinner party has tragic consequences. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
Jul 08, 2020
Joseph Stalin Part 1: The Young Bank Robber
Joseph Stalin - the “man of steel” - was the party secretary who plotted a route to absolute power, becoming head of the Eastern Bloc and, in time, chief nemesis of the United States. But how did a man from the Georgian frontier of the Russian Empire do it? In 1917, the 300-year-old Romanov Dynasty collapses. The communist Bolsheviks storm the Winter Palace and seize power. From this band of revolutionaries, a future bloody dictator - a man with an extraordinary backstory - begins to emerge. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
Jul 01, 2020
Kim Jong-il Part 3: Nuclear Armed
Installed as dictator, Kim Jong-il builds an all-powerful state that rules the lives and minds of its people without mercy. North Korea is wracked by famine. The people adapt to survive - we hear from one man who flouted the rules on trade and commerce and paid a horrific price. With the country starving, lurid rumours emerge about how the ‘Dear Leader’ spends his leisure time. And Kim Jong-il begins work on an arsenal of nuclear weapons that will spook the world and pave the way for his own son’s ascent to power. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
Jun 24, 2020
Kim Jong-il Part 2: Time to Make a Movie…
Kim Jong-il has risen to become head of North Korean propaganda, under the rule of his strongman father. Now, he hatches an audacious plan to turn North Korea into a filmmaking powerhouse. South Korea’s finest actress and leading director are kidnapped and find themselves on boats bound for the North. Elsewhere, Kim launches a charm offensive at the armed forces, readying the ground for his coronation. And his father dies, leaving the path to power seemingly clear. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
Jun 15, 2020
Kim Jong-il Part 1: Birth of North Korea
Kim Jong-il built a volatile rogue state with nuclear missiles trained on its enemies – all while living a life of the utmost luxury. In the first episode of Real Dictators, we piece together the early life of this tyrant and that of the country he came to rule. Kim Jong-il is born during World War Two. His father – Kim Il-sung – fights the Japanese and helps found the state of North Korea. After the War, son and nation grow up together, as Kim Jong-il begins his own rise to power. Historians trace Kim’s early years, while defectors from North Korea reflect on the propaganda they grew up with. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
Jun 08, 2020
Trailer: Real Dictators
How does a single human being convince thousands to kill for them and millions to turn a blind eye? Real Dictators is the new podcast series hosted by Paul McGann (Dr Who, Luther, Withnail and I) that explores the hidden lives of history’s tyrants. We encounter the American-trained doctor, “Papa Doc” Duvalier, who used modern medicine to convince the people of Haiti that he was a Voodoo god. There’s Kim Jong-il, who developed nuclear warheads alongside blockbuster movies. There’s Mao Zedong – the peasant’s son who transformed China, presiding over the catastrophic Great Chinese Famine and the bloody Cultural Revolution. And Joseph Stalin, the man who turned Russia into a superpower and set the stage for the Cold War, while upending and destroying the lives and livelihoods of millions of his own people.  Real Dictators fuses immersive, dramatic storytelling with interviews with world-renowned experts. The voices of historians sit alongside an array of regime insiders such as Jang Jin-sung – a former psychological warfare officer for Kim Jong-il – and François Benoit, a survivor of ‘Papa Doc’ Duvalier’s reign of terror. New episodes each Wednesday from May 2020. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
Apr 11, 2020