Cult of personality
A cult of personality arises when an individual uses mass media, propaganda, or other methods, to create an idealized, heroic, and, at times god-like public image, often through unquestioning flattery and praise. Sociologist Max Weber developed a tripartite classification of authority; the cult of personality holds parallels with what Weber defined as "charismatic authority". A cult of personality is similar to hero worship, except that it is established by mass media and propaganda.
The term "cult of personality" probably appeared in English around 1800-1850, along with the French and German usage. At first it had no political connotations but was instead closely related to the Romantic "cult of genius".
The political use of the phrase came first in 1877:
Neither of us cares a straw of popularity. Let me cite one proof of this: such was my aversion to the personality cult [orig. Personenkultus] that at the time of the International, when plagued by numerous moves [...] to accord me public honor, I never allowed one of these to enter the domain of publicity [...]
The terms "cult of personality" and "personality cult" were popularized by Khrushchev's Secret Speech of 1956. Robert Service notes that a more accurate translation of the Russian "культ личности" ("kul't lichnosti") is the "cult of the individual".
Throughout history, monarchs and heads of state were almost always held in enormous reverence. Through the principle of the divine right of kings, for example, rulers were said to hold office by the will of God. Ancient Egypt, Japan, the Inca, the Aztecs, Tibet, Thailand, and the Roman Empire (see imperial cult) are especially noted for redefining monarchs as god-kings.
The spread of democratic and secular ideas in Europe and North America in the 18th and 19th centuries made it increasingly difficult for monarchs to preserve this aura. However, the subsequent development of photography, sound recording, film, and mass production, as well as public education and techniques used in commercial advertising, enabled political leaders to project a positive image like never before. It was from these circumstances in the 20th century that the best-known personality cults arose. Often these cults are a form of political religion.
Personality cults were first described in relation to totalitarian regimes that sought to alter or transform society according to radical ideas. Often, a single leader became associated with this revolutionary transformation, and came to be treated as a benevolent "guide" for the nation without whom the transformation to a better future couldn't occur. This has been generally the justification for personality cults that arose in totalitarian societies of the 20th century, such as those of Adolf Hitler and Joseph Stalin.
Not all dictatorships foster personality cults, not all personality cults are dictatorships (some are nominally democratic), and some leaders may actively seek to minimize their own public adulation. For example, during the Cambodian Khmer Rouge regime, images of dictator Pol Pot (Saloth Sar) were rarely seen in public, and his identity was under dispute abroad until after his fall from power. The same applied to numerous Eastern European Communist regimes following World War II (although not those of Enver Hoxha and Nicolae Ceaușescu, mentioned below).
Juan Perón, elected three times as President of Argentina, and his second wife, Eva Duarte de Perón, were immensely popular among many of the Argentine people, and to this day they are still considered icons by the Peronist Party. The Peróns' followers praised their efforts to eliminate poverty and to dignify labor, while their detractors considered them demagogues and dictators. To achieve their political goals, the Peronists had to unite around the head of state. As a result, a personality cult developed around both Perón and his wife.
Heydar Aliyev's cult of personality became a significant part of Azerbaijani politics and society after Heydar Aliyev came to power in 1993 and continuing after his death in 2003, when his son Ilham Aliyev succeeded him. Aliyev, a former Soviet politburo member and the leader of Soviet Azerbaijan from 1969 to 1987, became the President of Azerbaijan in 1993. He then began to carefully design an autocratic system, with heavy reliance on family and clan members, oil revenues and patronage.
A personality cult in the Republic of China was centered on the Kuomintang party founder Sun Yat-sen, and his successor, Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek. The personality cult of Chiang Kai-shek went further after the republican government fled to Taiwan. He was usually referred as "Lord Chiang" (蔣公) in public and a Nuo tai were required in printed materials. Articles in textbooks and songs glorifying him were common to be seen in Taiwan before 1987.
The People's Republic of China under Mao Zedong can also be considered a cult of personality. Culture of the People's Republic of China before 1981 were highly influenced by the personality cult of Mao Zedong and went to a peak during the Cultural Revolution. Mao was referred as "the great leader Chairman Mao" (伟大领袖毛主席) in public and was entitled as "the great leader, the great supreme commander, the great teacher and the great helmsman" (伟大的领袖、伟大的统帅、伟大的导师、伟大的舵手) in Cultural Revolution. Badges and books of his quotations were largely produced. Most of people were required to recite the quotation of Mao and printed material at that time usually quote Mao's words in bold in preface. Loyalty dance (忠字舞) was also introduced in the Cultural Revolution from 1966 to 1976.
The cult of personality continued for a short time after Mao's death. His successor, Hua Guofeng also practised the cult of personality and was referred as "the brilliant leader Chairman Hua" (英明领袖华主席). Reforms in 1981 led to a deconstruction of his cult status and the Chinese Communist Party was averse to a cult of personality style rule lest it recreates the chaos of the Cultural Revolution.
French Indochina 
Cambodian schoolchildren in French Indochina at one point in the early 1940s began their school-day with prayers to Marshal Philippe Pétain, opening with the words, "Our father, which art our Leader, glorious be thy name... deliver us from evil".
North Korea 
Journalist Bradley Martin documented the personality cults of North Korea's father-son leadership, "Great Leader" Kim Il-sung and "Dear Leader" Kim Jong-il. While visiting North Korea in 1979 he noted that nearly all music, art, and sculpture that he observed glorified "Great Leader" Kim Il-sung, whose personality cult was then being extended to his son, "Dear Leader" Kim Jong-il. Kim Il-sung rejected the notion that he had created a cult around himself and accused those who suggested so of "factionalism". A US religious freedom investigation confirmed Martin's observation that North Korean schoolchildren learn to thank Kim Il-sung for all blessings as part of the cult. Evidence of the cult of Kim Il-sung continues into the 21st century (despite his death in 1994) with the erection of Yeong Saeng ("eternal life") monuments throughout the country, each dedicated to the departed "Great Leader", at which citizens are expected to pay annual tribute on his official birthday or the anniversary of his death. Recently the personality cult in North Korea has been expanded to include the son of Kim Jong il, Kim Jong-un.
During the Cold War, Romanian President Nicolae Ceaușescu presided over the most pervasive cult of personality within the Eastern Bloc. Inspired by the personality cult surrounding Kim Il-sung in North Korea, it started with the 1971 July Theses which reversed the period of liberalization of the 1960s and imposed a strict nationalist ideology. Initially, the cult of personality was focused just on Ceaușescu himself; by the early 1980s, his wife Elena was also a focus of the cult even to the extent that she got credit for scientific achievements that she could have never have accomplished. It remained in force until the overthrow of the régime in 1989.
Soviet Union 
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Comrades, the cult of the individual acquired such monstrous size chiefly because Stalin himself, using all conceivable methods, supported the glorification of his own person.... One of the most characteristic examples of Stalin's self-glorification and of his lack of even elementary modesty is the edition of his Short Biography, which was published in 1948.
This book is an expression of the most dissolute flattery, an example of making a man into a godhead, of transforming him into an infallible sage, "the greatest leader", "sublime strategist of all times and nations". Finally no other words could be found with which to lift Stalin up to the heavens.We need not give here examples of the loathsome adulation filling this book. All we need to add is that they all were approved and edited by Stalin personally and some of them were added in his own handwriting to the draft text of the book.
Some authors (e.g., Alexander Zinovyev) have argued that Leonid Brezhnev's rule was also characterized by a cult of personality, though unlike Stalin, Brezhnev did not initiate large-scale persecutions in the country. One of the aspects of Leonid Brezhnev's cult of personality was Brezhnev's obsession with titles, rewards and decorations, leading to his inflated decoration with medals, orders and so on. This was often ridiculed by the ordinary people and led to the creation of many political jokes.
As one of his strategies to maintain power over Syria, Hafez al-Assad developed a state-sponsored cult of personality. Portraits of him, often depicting him engaging in heroic activities, were placed in every public space. He named myriad numbers of places and institutions in Syria after himself, and other members of his family. At school, children were taught to sing songs of adulation about Hafez al-Assad. Teachers would begin each lesson with the song "Our eternal leader, Hafez al-Assad". In some cases, he portrayed himself with apparently divine properties. Sculptures and portraits depicted him alongside the prophet Mohammad, while, following her death, the government produced portraits of Assad's mother surrounded by a halo. Syrian officials were made to refer to him as the 'Sanctified one' (al-Muqaddas). The personality cult that he developed portrayed him as a wise, modest and just leader of the country. This strategy of creating a cult of personality was pursued further by Hafez's son and current president Bashar al-Assad.
In a 2004 article on personality cults, The Economist identified Togo's Gnassingbé Eyadéma as maintaining an extensive personality cult, to the point of having schoolchildren begin their day by singing his praises.
In Turkey, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk is commemorated by many memorials throughout the country, such as the Atatürk International Airport in Istanbul, the Atatürk Bridge over the Golden Horn (Haliç), the Atatürk Dam, and Atatürk Stadium. Atatürk statues have been erected in all Turkish cities by Turkish Government, and most towns have their own memorial to him. His face and name are seen and heard everywhere in Turkey; his portrait can be seen in all public buildings, in all schools and classrooms, on all school books, on all Turkish lira banknotes, and in the homes of many Turkish families. At the exact time of his death, on every 10 November, at 09:05 am, most vehicles and people in the country's streets pause for one minute in remembrance. In 1951, the Turkish Parliament issued a law (5816) outlawing insults to his reminiscence (Turkish: Hatırası) or destruction of objects representing him, which is still in force. A government website  was created to denounce the websites that violate this law, and the Turkish government as of 2011 has filters in place to block websites deemed to contain materials insulting to his memory.
Saparmurat Niyazov, who was President of Turkmenistan from 1985 to 2006, is another oft-cited cultivator of a cult of personality. Niyazov simultaneously cut funding to and partially disassembled the education system in the name of "reform", while injecting ideological indoctrination into it by requiring all schools to take his own book, the Ruhnama, as its primary text, and like Kim Il-sung, there is even a creation myth surrounding him. During Niyazov's presidency there was no freedom of the press nor was there freedom of speech. This further meant that opposition to Niyazov was strictly forbidden and "major opposition figures have been imprisoned, institutionalized, deported, or have fled the country, and their family members are routinely harassed by the authorities." Additionally, a silhouette of Niyazov was used as a logo on television broadcasts and statues and pictures of him were "erected everywhere". For these, and other reasons, the US Government has gone on to claim that by the time he died, "Niyazov’s personality cult...had reached the dimensions of a state-imposed religion".
Human Rights Watch, in its World Report 2012, says there is a cult of personality of President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow and that it is strengthening. Agence France-Presse reports a developing personality cult. Reporters Without Borders says the president is promoting a cult of personality of himself and that his portraits have taken the place of the ones of the previous president.
See also 
- Charismatic authority
- Imperial cult (ancient Rome)
- Imperial Presidency
- Narcissistic leadership
- Toxic leader
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