Dictators and Authoritarian Regimes Between WW1 and WW2

“Do not be afraid to take a chance on peace, to teach peace, to live peace…Peace will be the last word of history.” ― John Paul II


Dictators and Authoritarian Regimes between WW1 and WW2 are the main subject of this search. The research is evenhandedly analyzed. One of the main purposes is that dictators will be conceptualized and Adolf Hitler (Germany), Mustafa Kemal Atatürk (Turkey) and Benito Mussolini (Italy) will be analyzed under authoritarian regimes. However, what the meaning of an authoritarian regime and what differences between an authoritarian regime and a totalitarian regime are given in this research.

And also, according to Webber, types of authority will be defined.

Keywords: Fascism, Turkey, Italy, Nazis, Weber, Second World War


Authoritarian regimes are those in which the public is not included in the political decision-making processes, excluded and the opposition is suppressed. Even if such regimes are based on a political party which is in power by taking the vote of a sufficient part of the people, it is a form of government that serves the interests of a minority by the people and not the administration for the people and the people.

In these regimes, when political participation is not mobilized by the ruling party, rebellion, political representation and ceremonies and opposition to support the parties and forces in power are accepted as sedition, mischief and power.

At this point, it is easy to understand what differences between an authoritarian regime and a totalitarian regime are. Totalitarian regimes are considered as where these processes are fully controlled, the political participation of the people is merely to support power in elections in the form of plebiscites, or to take part in demonstrations and demonstrations that support power, and the representation has to be made only for the support and legitimacy of those in power.

In addition, totalitarian regimes, as their name suggests, are regimes that aim at total, absolute control. Everyone is observed and rested every minute in every environment. Even people’s dreams will be determined by those in power. In the Soviet Union, children were assigned to their schools to report to the political authorities that their parents spoke at home. All sources of information will be under control, people will talk to each other, even gossiping without being heard, will not be without supervision. In authoritarian regimes, this kind of freedom is not accepted in totalitarian regimes, although there may be some privacy, perhaps due to insufficient political power.

Technically speaking, democracies are regimes where civil society is very strong and the state respects it. Totalitarian regimes are those where there is no civil society, and that every person and everyone is under the control of the state. Totalitarian regimes are governed by a political ideology that justifies these approaches. Authoritarian regimes are the practices between democracy and totalitarian regimes where civil society is weak and the state is widely spread. In some of them, there is no ideology that legitimizes the regime; the main emphasis of the regimes established especially after the military coup is the narrow and temporary targets such as establishing political stability.

Since the twentieth century, the vast majority of the political systems in the world have been practices that claim to be based on the public and thus produced by mass politics. In this respect, even the most totalitarian regimes, such as North Korea or the former Soviet Union, have sometimes made elections to prove that they are based on the people, and have provided plebiscite support in elections with one party and one list. Today, there are authoritarian and totalitarian regimes trying to prove their legitimacy through elections held in a variety of restricted competition conditions, and these are called competitive authoritarianism. Therefore, while the models of democracy have stabilized in recent years, various types of authoritarian practices have begun to emerge.

According to Max Weber, in his work on power and authority, he defines power as the ability to obey people and do things they do not desire, and examines authority in three types. Weber’s three types of authority consist of charismatic authority, traditional authority and legal-intellectual authority.

Traditional Authority

According to Weber, the first example of the power-authority relationship in the historical process is traditional authority. Traditions are the source of this type of authority. The management of the leader is accepted by the traditions and the practices can be arbitrary and personal. These people, who are leaders, acquire their authority through inheritance. They believe that these people are sacred. Since the person who holds the traditional authority is perceived as a master, the authorities are obeyed instead of the laws in the places where the traditional authority exists. Employees working under the leader are not official officials but personal servants of the leader. In societies where there is traditional authority, the condition that the orders given by the master are fulfilled depends on the conformity of these orders with the traditions.

Legal-intellectual Authority

The legitimacy of this type of authority is based on laws established according to rational principles. Unlike the traditional and charismatic type of authority, the reason people obey this type of authority is their belief in the rule of law. Leaders and bureaucrats of the type of legal-rational authority exercise their power within the limits of the laws and the rules set by these laws. The administrative apparatus of the type of legal-intellectual authority is bureaucracy. Leaders and bureaucrats are seen as servants of the people. As in the traditional type of authority, leaders are not given divine and sacred meaning. On the contrary, those who have the authority to give orders are considered legitimate as long as they act within the framework of rational rules. In this type of authority people actually obey rules, not leaders. People with commanding power are assigned to their positions in accordance with the rules laid down by law or by legal procedures. The authorities to which they are appointed are temporary and cannot possess them. As a result, the type of legal-intellectual authority derives its power and legitimacy from the rule of law.

Charismatic Authority

This type of authority is not considered in the historical process of traditional authority. Charismatic authority derives its legitimacy from the personal characteristics, divinity, heroic power of the leader. His commitment to the charismatic leader, to whom society accepts legitimacy, is complete. The key to commitment to the leader is the high belief in the extraordinary personal characteristics of charismatic authority. Social conditions play an important role in the emergence of charismatic authority type. The charismatic authority is created by society itself, especially in times of crisis and turmoil in which society has fallen. The qualities sought in charismatic leaders are not related to that leader’s social status and professional expertise. One of the most important facts that society expects from a charismatic leader is the degree of loyalty to them. Names like Hitler and Atatürk are examples of the charismatic authority type.

Dictators and Authoritarian Regimes Between WW1 and WW2

Nazi/Germany in 1933-1945

Hitler came by election and saw too early the separation of powers. First he gathered the powers of the parliament and then the government. It was not enough to become both prime minister and president. It was not enough, he became the Führer and his party became the state. Hitler soon made reforms such as revolution.

Adolf Hitler’s party, the National Socialist German Workers’ Party (NSDAP), received 44 percent of the vote in the March 5, 1933 elections and came out first. And Hitler enacted a law 19 years after he came to power by election, which handed over the powers of the German Parliament to him. By law, Hitler was entitled to ‘make law.’ The Authorization Act (Ermächtigungsgesetz), which gives Hitler the authority to make the law he wants, is also very ambitious: the Law on the Troubles of the People and the Empire.

The Assembly gave Hitler the dictatorship in its session of 24 March 1933 with the overwhelming majority of over 70 percent of parliamentarians. Not even one of the 81 German Communist Party (KPD) MPs voted. Because all of them were recently dismissed, many of them were taken into custody. Even some of the 120 deputies of the Social Democratic Party (SPD) had been expelled or sought after as deputies on charges of communist or traitor. Only 94 could come to parliament. Hitler had big plans, big targets. He did not want any obstacles, no formality, such as formal separation of powers ken when he was trying to achieve big goals.

Adolf Hitler, the Führer (the leader) of the Nazi party, formulated and articulated ideas known as Nazi ideology. Hitler, who thinks of himself as a deep and wise thinker, is convinced that he has found the key to understanding a remarkably complex world. He believed that a person’s so-called racial structure determines the character traits, attitudes, abilities and behavior of a person. According to Hitler, all groups, races, or nations (using these terms interchangeably) had in themselves personal characteristics that were constantly transmitted from one generation to the next. No individual could transcend innate racial qualities. All human history could be explained by racial struggle.

The Nazis described the Jews as a ‘race’. The Nazis, who regard the Jewish religion as irrelevant, have linked a wide range of negative stereotypes about Jews and “Jewish” behavior to a biologically determined hereditary phenomenon that, as in other races, spread the “Jewish race asına at the expense of other races to struggle for survival.

The Nazis’ ideological race concept, while classifying Jews as priority “enemies,, also targeted Roma (Gypsies), people with disabilities, Poles, Soviet prisoners of war, and other Germans of African origin to be persecuted, arrested and destroyed. The Nazis also identified political opponents, Jehovah’s Witnesses, homosexuals, and so-called asocial persons as enemies and security risks, both because they were consciously opposed to the Nazi regime and, in a certain way, their behavior did not conform to the perception of the social norm in the Nazis. They sought to abolish those who did not obey the traditions and rules in the country and the so-called racial threats through a continuous self-cleaning mechanism of German society.

Mustafa Kemal Atatürk/Turkey in 1920-1938

People are afraid of claiming that Atatürk is authoritarian because of legal obstacles. Even the so-called history of Kemalism does not deny the one-man dictation regime, they just dress it in the form of that was what should be done according to that period. He used the Islamic potential of the people to expel the enemies in the land, but when it came to establishing secularism or a secular system, he somehow managed to remove the dissenting voices as he could not get the support of the Muslim people. The best example of this is the Freedom Security Courts. There have also been more brutal and hidden massacres. As a result, the opposition has been silenced in a way that almost established a system like a king. There is no other party. Though we should not forget the support he received from the foreign outbreaks. Without the support of the British/French, these would be a bit difficult.

In the forms of autocratic government, the dictatorship is a form of power, a regime in which the government is under absolute control. For example, if this position was taken over from someone with a lineage, the person at the top is not called a dictator. For example, regimes where power is under the collective control of a narrow group are not oligarchs but dictatorships.

Dictatorship is basically a category of form of power. it is not an insult word for the current period. Mustafa Kemal is a dictator in terms of the way he came to power, the way he exercised and remained in power (such as the form of elections, the source of legitimacy of power). This cannot be an insult in itself. ‘Caesar was a dictator,’ how many people perceived it as an insult to someone who lived 2100 years ago. roman is called the imperial period, it is called historical context, etc. The irony for the dictation of the atatürk period is literally ironic, he is a period of concepts such as freedom, popular will, independence emerged in the empire and socialized in the environment and has become one of the endoktrine (jön Turks and the Unionists of the second Abdulhamid journalism and censorship against istibdad’ad; flag trenches etc.). Therefore, the dictatorship means failure for Mustafa Kemal to realize the ideals he promises, or to show the necessary sincerity, to mean contradiction with himself.

However, it should be noted that the history of mankind and the history of geographies spread over hundreds of thousands of years. In the Byzantine, Seljuk and Ottoman periods in Anatolia, after the end of the two thousand-year form of power, which was the ‘property of the dynasties as a country and people’, for a period of 15 years, the dictatorship of the person who put an end to it was a possible cost to be taken into consideration.

Benito Mussolini/Italy in 1922-1945

When he came to power, he had the support of the general right, especially the liberal sector. But then, the oppressive attitude that started with censorship in the press and publication was up to the regulation of the election system for its own party and finally to close the parties other than the fascist party. He was a politician who, even by the Hitler, perhaps the worst person of the last century, was exemplary and regarded by the democratic West as the best of evil. But the failure of a state as a human being and a soldier turned him into a German puppet in time, a dictator whose body was hanged in the square and finally a protagonist of one of the life stories of the most unsuccessful politicians in the world. In the first half of the 30s, the Italian fascists were in a mood that made fun of the Nazis’ ideology and did not take Nazism seriously. Moreover, Austria had a fascist / ultra-nationalist leader supported by Italy before joining Germany. After Anchluss, the Nazis and the Italians were broken. As the conflict between Italy and Germany evolved into a close relationship over time, mussolini and fascist italy became the ally little partner of the alliance and eventually became a puppet until its collapse.

Italian fascism is clearly a more flexible, less radical ideology than Nazism. of course it is racist, ultra-nationalist and expansionist, as it is in every branch of fascism. Italian Nazis never even fully internalized this anti-Semitist, ethnic cleansing and genocidal approach, even though the Nazis wanted to enforce anti-Semitist policies in Italy. Even in the alliance with the Nazis, Jewish individuals took part in bureaucratic positions and universities. In the literature, therefore, Italian fascism is referred to as generic fascism, while Nazism is considered to be similar but distinct.

In the summer of 1943, when the Allied forces invaded Sicily, the grand council of fascism withdrew its vote of confidence, and the king dismissed him.While he was taken to prison, an elite German contingent rescued him and later became the head of a provisional state in northern Italy, the Italian social republic. He continues to live as a puppet of Nazi Germany at the beginning of this state until he is captured and killed by the partisans towards the end of the war.


It is believed that fascism is the key to develop economy and to expand borders until World War 2. According to Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, Benito Mussolini and Hitler, who ruled as dictators, might contributed to the level of ecenomy but their authoritarian approaches to the people who had completely different identities resulted in many massacres. For instance, Jewish (almost seven million) were murdered by Nazis and Mussolini killed four hundred thousand people. In Turkey, fifty-five thousand people were judged in the Freedom Security Courts, one thousand three hundred and fifty-two people were executed and about forty thousand people were beaten.

“No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.” ― Nelson Mandela


  1. Robert Elgie, Semi-Presidentialism: Sub-types and Democratic Performance, (Oxford, London: Oxford University Press, 2011).
  2. Reinhard Bendix ve Seymour Martin Lipset (der.), Party Systems and Voter Alignments, (New York: Free Press, 1967) ve Lauri Karvonen, Stein Kuhnle (der.) Party Systems and Voter Alignments Revisited, (New York: Routledge, 2001).
  3. Neville, P. (2004). Mussolini. New York: Routledge.
  4. Mann, M. (2004). Fascists. New York: Cambridge University Press.
  5. Armaoğlu, F. (2010). 20. Yüzyıl Siyasi Tarihi. İstanbul: Alkım Yayınevi.
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