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9 Progressive Things Applied by History’s Worst Monsters

Did you ever imagine these progressive ideas and things were invented by history’s worst people?

As much as there are remarkable people who are known to be pioneers of progressive thinking all around the world. However, there are not many people who look at the people who are believed to be the world’s most horrible people as some who could have been progressive. History has a habit of looking at its more important figures in black-and-white terms, making people either heroes or monsters by hyper-focusing on one aspect of their story.

And while some historical figures (and groups) have truly been monsters, they are also some of the people who have pioneered laws or supported movements that you would not have thought to associate with them. Do not get us wrong; everything these people have been accused of is horrible, and they should be condemned for it. But, besides all the bad, there was also some good in what they did, and people should know all facets of history.

We have gathered some of the most progressive thinkers who are mostly known for their cruelty to show you that not everything is black and white and that even the most horrible people can positively surprise you! From starting services and policies that are still used today to surprisingly being very lenient with controversial topics at the time, here are just some of the things they have done that you would have never associated with them in a million years!

Let us know which one of these horrible people has surprised you the most with their thinking and actions in the comments down below!

adolf hitler, progressive
Photo by Everett Collection From Shutterstock

#1 The Nazis

Nazis and progressives are diametrically opposed terms. Yet, for as much as they were horrible to everyone that did not fit their crazy definition of “purity”, they were surprisingly nice and gentle with animals. If you didn’t know already, Adolf Hitler was a vegetarian, and Joseph Goebbels, who was the “chief propagandist for the Nazi Party,” shared his views on wanting to end animal suffering. Thus, they introduced some of the most progressive and humane policies when it comes to animal handling. Surprisingly, they are still used today!

The Nazi party introduced laws about painless death for the animals in slaughterhouses, along with the ways in which we now prepare crabs and lobsters, in order to reduce their suffering tenfold. They even limited and regulated the butchering of livestock and banned live dissection of animals for research purposes, being the pioneers of that practice. This practice, called vivisection, is even now banned and controlled in most developed countries, and we owe that to the Nazis.

Unfortunately, they did not extend the same sympathy and benevolence when it came to humans, which is why some say that animals were treated better than people during the Third Reich.

#2 Aaron Burr

With the rise in popularity that Hamilton the musical had, a lot of the younger generations are aware of who Aaron Burr is. However, for those of us who paid attention to the history lessons, we know that Aaron Burr killed one of the founding fathers, Alexander Hamilton, without needing the musical to know this information. What is puzzling about this story is how Burr managed to get his position in the first place, as many don’t label him as progressive to begin with.

Prior to shooting Hamilton, Burr was actually quite popular. His popularity is attested by the fact that he was thought to be able to steal the election from Thomas Jefferson, and he almost succeeded. What made people love Burr was the fact that he was fighting for their rights.

Burr was able to find a legal loophole that allowed the poor to vote, as only landowners could vote at the time. He came up with a plan and set up land cooperatives, which allowed the poor people to register as landowners and thus allowed them to vote. This man who later became known as a murderer was also a champion of women’s rights! He made sure his daughter would be well educated, and he was always an avid supporter of “A Vindication of the Rights of Woman.”

You wouldn’t think someone who was responsible for the death of Alexander Hamilton would be a progressive thinker in some aspects, but he was when it came to certain causes!

#3 Genghis Khan

You may remember Genghis Khan from history lessons, as he was one of the most famous, feared, and known generals of the time. He ruled over the Mongolian people, and together with his army, they took over most parts of Asia and even Europe. Genghis Khan and his army were known for pillaging any city that wouldn’t bow down to them and committing atrocious acts like mindless killings and abusing women and children.

At the end of his reign, not only had he conquered about a quarter of the world’s available and known land, but he also managed to wipe out about 20% of the world’s population as well. The emperor was known as cruel and ruthless, and some even called him crazy, but he was also a master tactician and general, so the word “progressive” is weirdly attached to his name.

The reality is that the people who ended up under his rule were actually living quite peacefully, given their conditions. The Mongolian Khans, despite ravaging the lands, made sure that everyone they ruled was allowed religious freedom and valued people’s intelligence and actions rather than their convictions. Thus, there were known Muslims and Buddhists who held high positions in their government.

He is also to be thanked for the international postal service, as he was one of the pioneers of this service. Genghis Khan established about 1,400 post offices across China alone—not counting the ones in other regions! This is just part of what made the Mongolian empire so successful: the cultural and religious freedom allowed the countries to flourish, which in turn showed results in their economies as everything was going great!

Iraqi News Agency, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

#4 Saddam Hussein

Saddam Hussein was one of the United States’ most wanted men and greatest enemies. This man was dangerous and wielded a lot of power, with which he committed a string of atrocities and horrible acts, so labeling him as a monster is not far from the truth. If he’d gotten his hands on the weapons he sought out, he probably would have done even more harm than he did.

However, how can he be thought of as progressive? Surprisingly enough, under his rule, Iraq flourished and the lives of the people improved. He has been credited with improving the education system, as under him, Iraq has the best and most technologically advanced hospitals and universities in the Arab world. What’s more, all education and healthcare were free.

In addition, during the 10 years, he was ruling, the literacy rate improved drastically, from 52 percent to 80 percent. Despite all of these, all his horrible acts against his own people and others have left the Iraqi people with a sour taste in their mouth, which brought about Saddam Hussein’s fall, and they all celebrated his death. Even so, many of them could read the news of the fall of the dictator because of the policies he put forward.

#5 Mao Tse-tung

Mao Tse-tung is the late and most-known ruler of the Chinese Communist Party. He came to power after the 1949 Civil War, and he is famous for being the reason why more of his own people died under his rule than any other leader in history. During his rule, there was an event now known as the “Great Leap Forward,” which focused on the progress of the country but caused the deaths of more than 45 million people over a period of only four years.

His rule is littered with abuse of power, imprisonments, and a long period of starvation, and with such tragedy on his hands, you wouldn’t think him to be any more progressive than the people before him. The reality, however, is that his time was overall more peaceful than what was before his rule and what followed the dawn of the 20th century.

In the few decades after the start of the 20th century came the Warlord period, which was filled with wars, brutality, and violence. Once that period ended, Japan invited China, and after it came yet another civil war, making the whole country unstable and full of unrest.

Under Mao’s rule, not only were wars stopped and avoided on their territory but they were never threatened either. Their military is allegedly there to stop rebellious actions or states, and the way in which the People’s Republic of China shows support to other countries If not for him, there would have been no peace for the Chinese people, and we probably wouldn’t know China as it is today. The ways in which he achieved this peace are still horrific.

#6 Pope Alexander VI

Known in history as the “evil pope,” Pope Alexander VI was the very infamous patriarch of the House of Borgia. A dichotomy formed between his title and the infamy of his clan, as the Borgias were known for their cruelty, violent nature, hedonistic orgies, and, most of all, the way in which Alexader VI abused his power as head of the Catholic church. Over the years, both he as a figure and his family have become topics of fascination for the public, even getting a dramatized adaptation as an HBO show.

While the Borgias were known for being cruel, ruthless, and violent, Pope Alexander VI was a progressive figure when it came to religious acceptance and a hero to Jewish refugees. Back in 1492, when Spain was persecuting and expelling Jewish people from their lands, the Pope invited them to the Vatican, granting them both religious freedom and protection under his name. Try as they might, no one could change the Pope’s mind, and he kept all 9,000 people under his care.

Rumor has it that he did it specifically to spite the Spanish monarchy, yet no matter what his motivation was, it was still a progressive act at the time. And hundreds of people owe them their lives.

U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Jesse B. Awalt/Released, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

#7 Muammar Gadhafi was progressive?

Colonel Gadhafi can only be described as a monster. He was a cruel ruler, and when the people of Libya gathered the courage to stand up against him, he massacred his own people, bombing them and committing every possible war crime against anyone who dared to stand against him. As a result, all of the words that come to mind when you think of him are the furthest thing from progressive.

Yet, before he showed his true colors, Colonel Muammar Gadhafi showed that he was one of the leading thinkers in the region when it came to social policies and a progressive when it counted. He was a huge supporter of social quality and instated free and compulsory education for all children in Libya, regardless of gender, alongside free healthcare.

His next project was to establish state-mandated free housing, but he never got to see it implemented. When it came to women, they bloomed under his rule, as there was equal opportunity in all fields and industries. What’s more, he had women in all high-power positions, from military to government, even having his own specially commanded group of female bodyguards known as the “Amazons.”

While this does not excuse his atrocities and crimes against humanity, he was more progressive than any subsequent ruler of the country.

#8 Ivan the Terrible

If there is one of Russia’s most feared rulers to name, it must be Ivan the Terrible. As his name suggests, his actions have terrorized the Russian people since the man was extremely paranoid. He used to believe that his own people wanted to get rid of him and that even his family was conspiring to remove him from power, which ended up with him massacring his people and even killing his own son, making him famous for his horrible ways and twisted revenge plots!

However, despite how awful he was with people, he was really good for the nation. He installed an early prototype of constitutional monarchy, letting the provinces choose their officials in order to make up the regional offices. Also, he opened up routes for better access to different parts of the country, which opened up more farmland for peasants. With access to new trades and more production, the economy flourished under his rule.

Even later, after his death and Peter the Great’s coming into power, they still used the trade routes Ivan the Terrible set up, which led to the development of Russia into a major power. Without them, Peter the Great wouldn’t have been able to make the reforms that improved Russian quality of life and continued to lead them towards progress.

#9 Joseph Stalin

Ivan the Terrible is not the only one who managed to terrorize the Russian people during his rule. And anyone who has been at least half awake at a history lesson will remember the name Joseph Stalin. The iron-fisted ruler was the cause of the decimation of his people, managing to kill about 20 million of his own people! Looking at this number alone, you would not think that he was a progressive, but rather that the number actually shows a monster, and that life under him was pretty miserable, short, and brutal!

However, the historical facts show the complete opposite. During the time Stalin was ruling over Russia, life expectancy more than doubled, going from 32 to 68 years! This was because before the communists came into power (after the revolution), most of the Russian population was made up of peasants, living in horrible conditions.

Stalin devised a five-year plan that had one goal: improving the lives of the people and thus changing the country completely. And it turned out to be an amazing plan that saw great successes: industries flourished, increasing production and effectiveness by 40%, employment doubled, and the growth rate the country experienced annually went to 18%.

What’s more, Stalin made sure that education was free for everyone, and in order to combat diseases, he also made healthcare free. It seemed like during his time, as long as you didn’t oppose him, the life of the people only got better, which explains why the communist ruler was loved by a huge chunk of the population.

If you are looking for something lighter in nature, then maybe you should take a trip down memory lane! These vintage American winter pictures will take right back to childhood times!


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  1. For Stalin, once high school children asked what books by Lenin they should read and did not ask about his books. Some of them were killed. And Stalin’s policies caused millions to die of starvation. Those who were helped bowed to Stalin, if not they died.

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