Russia has had many dictators throughout its history, including Ivan the Terrible, Peter the Great, Vladimir Lenin and Joseph Stalin. Most Westerners consider Russian President Vladimir Putin a dictator as well.
Ivan the Terrible (1530-1584) centralized the Russian government and greatly expanded Russia's empire through a ruthless series of military conquests. He was the first man crowned "Tsar of all the Russians."
Peter the Great (1672-1725) might be classified as a benevolent dictator due to his efforts to open the nation to Enlightenment ideas and reforms. Under Peter's rule, Russia became a true world power.
Vladimir Lenin (1870-1924) was a socialist revolutionary who overthrew the old Tsarist regime, effectively ushering in the Soviet era of Russian history. Lenin's nationalization of private land, industry and business led to decades of suffering under Communist despotism.
Joseph Stalin (1878-1953) is a name synonymous with dictatorship. Although effective in guiding his country to victory over Nazi Germany in WWII, Stalin would visit untold horrors on his own people in the form of mass imprisonments, forced labor internment and political purges.
Vladimir Putin (1952-) is Russia's current autocrat as of 2014. A former KGB official, Putin has orchestrated a series of sham elections and undemocratic power grabs in order to ensure himself permanent control over the Russian state. His rule has marked the end of the democratic hope that existed for Russia in the wake of the Soviet Union's collapse. His tenure as Russia's leader has been characterized by an increasingly confrontational stance toward the Western world and an aggressively expansionist policy aimed at restoring the old Soviet sphere of influence.