Kim has long way to go to match those who wrote book on purges


For people familiar with the way dictators such as Stalin, Hitler and Mao methodically ousted their opponents, the purging and execution of North Korea’s second most senior official is nothing new. Here’s a look at how some despots of yesteryear used purges to quash dissent and cement their lock on power:

Josef Stalin: The Soviet leader arguably set the bar on 20th-century totalitarianism. But it took him years to gain full control after the death of Bolshevik icon Vladimir Lenin. Stalin and his cronies set up show trials in the late 1930s to convict and execute potential rivals — often with trumped up charges and forced confessions. Nikolai Bukharin was shot for spying; two other communist notables — Lev Kamenev and Grigory Zinoviev — were executed as alleged conspirators of Leon Trotsky, Stalin’s last and best-known rival.

Mao Zedong: Chinese Communist Party Chairman Mao led purges during the 1966-1976 Cultural Revolution. Perhaps the highest-profile target was Liu Shaoqi, the longtime Chinese president and revolutionary. Young supporters of the Cultural Revolution, known as Red Guards, ransacked Liu’s home, and he and his wife were dragged away for interrogation. Denied medical treatment as a “lackey of imperialism,” he died in 1969 of pneumonia.

Saddam Hussein: Hussein led at least two purges in Iraq. In 1968, the Baath Party regained power under the leadership of Gen. Ahmed Hassan al-Bakr. As his deputy, Hussein purged key party figures, but 11 years later he forced al-Bakr to resign — and hundreds of officials were executed.

Idi Amin: In the early 1970s, the erratic Ugandan dictator, who liked to have political prisoners hammer each other to death, reportedly appointed former Prime Minister Benedicto Kiwanuka as the country’s chief justice. But after a falling out between the two, Kiwanuka was arrested and killed in September 1972, according to a government-run newspaper.