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Comrade Stalin's 50th birthday celebrations.

"Please, gentle Eva,
Will you bless a little child?
For I love you,
Tell Heaven I'm doing my best,
I'm praying for you,
Even though you're already blessed."
— "Santa Evita", from Evita by Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice

A cult of personality refers to the massive adulation of a political or historical figure. The Other Wiki defines it as "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." Often the subjects of cults of personality are treated as gods, held responsible for the good things affecting a country, policies are tied to a certain figure and epoch. The cult may often claim outlandish accomplishments for the subject in order to bolster their popularity. On the other hand, heroic stories about the subject's life may be endlessly repeated in order to reinforce the cult. They generally double as a Snowballing Threat since more subjects increase their manpower.

Cults as frequently represented in fiction are self-created but in practice, cults can also be developed independently of the subject's active will and desire. After a person's death, the new cult is hijacked by parties or other factions so as to claim a certain tradition, which otherwise does not really exist in the present for them to claim, and so give their new and fresh ideas an aura of legitimacy and continuity in the eyes of the people, who otherwise would see the new team as merely a political outsider and new upstart. Cults often derive from new regimes and revolutions. It is also present in the kingdom and The Empire where a new ruler, if he is an Unexpected Successor, The Conqueror, The Usurper, or *gasp* a woman, would need to go out of their way to make their ideas presentable and acceptable to the people with memories of the Ye Goode Olde Days before this upstart with their fancy new ways arrived. In this manner, a cult of personality is merely a highly cunning PR stunt.

The word "cult" is usually used to refer to a small religious group, but it can also mean "devotion to a saint" in Christianity and this is where the phrase comes from. It was first used in a political sense by Karl Marx, but was popularised by Nikita Khrushchev when he denounced Stalin in 1956. It is also distinct from state-sponsored cults and government enforced religious policies and reforms. A Cult of Personality is distinctly political in character and is usually identified as a common feature of 20th Century dictatorships such as Nazi Germany, North Korea, Maoist China and Stalinist Russia.

When the ruler running a Cult of Personality takes one step further to declare themselves a god (where they may or may not literally become one), it may result in a God-Emperor.

See Self-Made Myth for self-made cults.


Examples:

    open/close all folders 

    Anime & Manga 
  • Cardfight!! Vanguard G:
    • Youichiro Kanzaki was this for the United Sanctuary branch while he was running the place. All the members of the branch — mostly teens and pre-teens — had taken his "Weakness is a Sin!" philosophy to heart, willingly undergoing Training from Hell and chanting the slogan as something akin to a Survival Mantra (or Madness, depending on how you see it), and Kanzaki was the epitome of strength. Even when he publicly lost to Chrono Shindou and quit his job, there are still people who worship him and closely followed his activities.
    • Jaime Alcaraz admits at one point that to Aqua Force users, Leon Soryu is something akin to God for reviving the clan, and goes on full The Knights Who Say "Squee!" mode when near him.
  • In Chainsaw Man, the titular hero ends up with a fan club that evolves into one of these, calling themselves the "Chainsaw Man Church for World Peace". The whole thing is revealed to be masterminded by the Famine Devil, and in order to quell their influence and retain control over the nation the corrupt Japanese government tries to strongarm Denji into retiring. It's later revealed to have been an elaborate Genghis Gambit by Fami to make Denji stronger through humans' fear by having her followers wreak havoc in his name.
  • In DARLING in the FRANXX, Papa, the leader of APE, is seen as an almost god-like figure by the plantations. This devotion gets to the point of the plantations' parasites saying prayers to him prior to meals.
  • Expecting to Fall into Ruin, I Aim to Become a Blacksmith: All-Loving Hero Kururi, after being wrongly imprisoned in a Penal Colony, takes charge using Asskicking Leads to Leadership and manages the prisoners so well and fairly that they develop what looks very much like a cult. He later gets given the prisoners by the Crown Prince, to help make a railroad through his domain, but since they can't get along with regular workers, he makes the prisoners his Army of Thieves and Whores.
  • Gundam:
    • Universal Century gives us several Zeonic personality cults, modeled on Zeon Zum Deikun (after his death), the Zabi family (especially Gihren), Lady of War Haman Kahn, and Ace Pilot Char Aznable (who is also Zeon Zum Deikun's son and heir).
    • Mobile Suit Victory Gundam's Zanscare Empire gives us Queen Maria's cult, which is secretly organised and controlled by Fonse Kagatie.
    • Mobile Suit Gundam Wing's OZ has Treize Khushrenada, who is so charismatic and revered that when the Romefeller Foundation attempts to demote him OZ splits into two factions, one of which calls itself the Treize Faction and seems to have no goal other than to restore Treize to power.
  • Rebuild World: Katsuya, a Satire of the Stock Shōnen Hero, enters the story popular with his fellow young hunters and followed by a Battle Harem. When Viola asks the Femme Fatale Carol why she didn't try to seduce Katsuya despite having met him, Carol explicitly describes the friends around Katsuya as a cult which feels terrifying to deal with. This cult, mainly represented by the women who force their way into his unit, eventually extends to literally hundreds of hunters and dominates his Private Military Company Drankam. This is the result of a Psychic Link network from him being an old world connector. The reason he developed this and not Akira, is because he's open hearted instead of paranoid. The link involves shared emotions to a degree and makes the people in it Not Himself. They fall unconscious when Katsuya dies, and most survivors form a Renegade Splinter Faction bent on getting revenge on Akira.
  • JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: Dio Brando (or as he renamed himself, just DIO) has such insane charisma that he, despite being basically a recently awakened vampire in the contemporary world, with no money or occupations, obtained a large following alongside extensive monetary resources in a short amount of time. He has followers from various parts of the globe willing to kill and die for him, to the point the most fanatical ones are willing to commit suicide on his word. His remaining right-hand man, Enrico Pucci, was willing to orchestrate a complex plan that Dio entrusted him with alongside avenging his fallen friend's death. Dio's charisma is outright compared to Hitler's and other tyrants of history.

    Comic Books 
  • Doctor Doom has built one around himself: the people of Latveria revere him. Or else.
  • Similar to Dr. Doom above, Magneto has built one of these around himself in the mutant community, to the point where even after multiple failures he is still seen by a good portion of mutants as their best hope for survival. He even led a group for a time, the Acolytes of Magneto, that worshiped him as a mutant messiah.
  • Nemesis the Warlock: Tomas de Torquemada builds the Termight death cult entirely around his person and forces everyone to worship him as the immortal god-dictator of mankind. Sometimes this is Played for Laughs by combining this with The Merch — Terrans can buy Torquemada's memoirs, Torquemada posters, Torquemada action movies, Torquemada busts, and Torquemada pillows and pyjamas!
  • In Peanuts, Schroeder is a near-obsessive fan of Ludwig van Beethoven.
  • The Transformers: More than Meets the Eye: The DJD has built a cultish structure around Megatron, which proves problematic when Megatron pulls a Heel–Face Turn and rejects the Decepticon cause.

    Fan Works 
  • Discussed in Shadows over Meridian. When Jade reveals that she plans to have the people of Meridian want Phobos back on the throne, Raythor and Miranda point out that Phobos is not loved by the people, with Phobos bitterly admitting that Elyon had that even before she set foot on Meridian. But as Jade retorts, the people don't love Elyon, they love the idea of her; they were not used to the idea of a man on the throne, and believed that once she was crowned, Elyon would take things back to normal or bring a utopia. Jade then explains how for all of Phobos' faults, he was trained as a noble and brought peace (if a fragile one) to the realm between the different races. The Rebellion then destroyed that peace, while Elyon is a normal Earth girl with no training to rule, allowing the Rebellion to cause problems for the commoners with their obsessive rooting out of any suspected Phobos loyalists. Jade believes that all they have to do is reveal Elyon's failings to the public, and her reign will fall apart.
  • Two Letters: The new Ladybug is widely admired throughout Paris, with everyone proudly declaring they support their heroine. Partly because her fanatic followers find anyone who doesn't do so extremely suspicious. Ladybug is also more than happy to turn her fans against anyone who displeases her. When Bob Roth stops paying into her secret Protection Racket, a stray remark about how he "doesn't support her" wrecks his record empire; a sculptor who produced a statue she disliked was run out of town after she complained about how they made her look 'homely'.

    Film — Live-Action 
  • The dystopia in Equilibrium centers around the mythical figure of "Father." The movie was heavily influenced by the work of George Orwell.
  • An unintentional example appears in Joker (2019), after Arthur kills three violent drunks on a train in self-defence (because they were beating him up). The lower-class public rallies behind the murders, since they were of wealthy WayneTech employees, and it is believed mistakenly that the killer was a vigilante who targets Gotham's corrupt monied class. Arthur finds that his clown persona is idolized as a symbol of economic and social inequality in Gotham, and once he completes his transformation into the Joker, comes to revel with his violent followers and the destruction they cause.
  • X-Men: Apocalypse: En Sabah Nur emphasizes his god-like qualities to draw in potential followers. Bryan Singer highlights the character's role as a cult leader.
    "He's also a false god, which makes him kind of like a cult leader. So Oscar Isaac and Simon Kinberg not only studied religion but also studied the nature of cults and how they function."
  • In Zack Snyder's Justice League, Darkseid is the dreaded Evil Overlord of Apokolips, and his palace is adorned with stained glass depicting his face.

    Literature 
  • George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four created "Big Brother," who was always watching. Citizens were brainwashed to love him as a father figure and devote their lives to his glory.
  • The Belgariad: has two examples; Zandramas and Urvon who both rally up the Angarak race to their personal cult by claiming to be the prophesied Child of Dark and therefore candidates for godhood.
  • A Clockwork Orange: Alex adores classical music in general and Ludwig van Beethoven particularly (the film distills it just to Beethoven).
  • Frank Herbert intended Dune to be a deconstruction of this (and in the process invoking another trope), with Paul Muad'dib becoming trapped by the popular perceptions of him, leading to his Fallen Hero status and his son Leto becoming a literally inhuman tyrant for thousands of years.
    • Ironically, the book itself has almost become one, some fans call it the "sci-fi bible." The book has gone on to be considered an absolute masterpiece.
  • "Heroic" (or perhaps rather anti-heroic) example in Victoria, if somewhat downplayed. While he is never seen overtly encouraging it himself, William Kraft's followers gradually come to consider him a demigod of sorts, and build up a veritable cult around him. Toward the end of the story, he is all but literally worshiped by the masses much like FDR once was — or Hitler, to use a less favorably tinged example — and the mere public statement of his views is enough to significantly impact popular opinion on major national issues.
  • In Overlord (2012), the denizens of Nazarick treat Ainz as an infallible God-Emperor, due to being programmed during their origins as NPCs to be loyal to the player members of the guild, of whom Ainz is the only one left. To his credit, Ainz is uncomfortable with the worship and keeps trying to encourage them to think more for themselves beyond automatically deferring to his will.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Black Mirror: The Waldo Moment presents a Britain 20 Minutes into the Future where one forms around a cartoon bear running in a by-election as a joke. The animator and voice actor for Waldo quickly finds himself being subsumed by his alter-ego, and then things go From Bad to Worse. The story ends with Waldo losing the by-election, but his influence over the public is such that he can incite violence against politicians and he eventually becomes a figurehead for new world order. Waldo's creator ends up a homeless alcoholic who gets tasered and beaten by police for throwing a bottle at a Waldo poster. The Fridge Horror of this is that Stalin was a mortal man and his cult died with him; Waldo is a cartoon character who can live forever as long as the people behind him keep bringing in new voice actors to play him.
  • Cassandra from Doctor Who has this sort of relationship with her followers, with Chip even worshiping her as a god-like figure. She is an openly narcissistic and power drunk character, but in a bit of a subvertion, she does values the loyalty of her followers.
  • The Following has a cult centered around James Carroll, who is himself cultishly devoted to Edgar Allen Poe.
  • Game of Thrones: Season 5 introduces the High Sparrow, a rare anti-hero/ambiguously villainous version of this type of normally malevolent group leader. He leads the Sparrows, a group of hardline religious fanatics that are not above beating up prostitutes or forcing people to walk naked through the streets as 'atonement' but are also a humble medicating order helping the poor and downtrodden in King's Landing.
  • Severance (2022): Kier Eagan, the founder of Lumon Corporation, seems to be something of a godlike figure for the severed workers. The employee handbook (the only book they are allowed to red) is formatted like a Bible and filled with his quotes. The severed floor is adorned with artwork depicting him, and at one point Ms. Cobel thanks him the same way one would thank God. She even has a shrine to him in her home to which she prays. There is even a hymn to the "chosen one Kier", which Ms. Cobel sings in an eerily cult-member-like manner, right before dispensing office discipline.
  • Snowpiercer: Many of the passengers hold Mr. Wilford in reverence as the one who created Snowpiercer and perpetually works to keep the engine eternal. More heavily shown if you watch the show with subtitles, as it capitalizes the pronouns when people refer to him, a trait usually reserved for talking about God.

    Magazines 
  • British satirical magazine Private Eye skewered excitable people in the ruling Conservative Party who, during The '80s, were explicitly saying that any criticism of Margaret Thatcher, however slight, was tantamount to treason. They ran a spoof of Commando war comics where Thatcher was elevated to The Fuhrer, mighty beloved leader and guardian of the Thousand Year Right, where Tory Party conferences became uniformed affairs held at Nuremberg. This was to make the point that a cult of personality focused on an infallible strong leader is not a healthy thing for any country to have, least of all a notional democracy.

    Music 
  • The band Living Colour has a song called ''Cult Of Personality" which discusses this trope and name-drops relevant individuals such as Mussolini and Gandhi.

    Theatre 
  • Evita: The title character (a former First Lady of Argentina, who came from a poor background) becomes the subject of this.

    Tabletop Games 
  • The early Imperium in Warhammer 40,000 managed one of the more ironic ones. The Emperor of Mankind was explicitly anti-religious and rejected any claims about his own divinity... but had no problem being treated with an excess of awestruck respect. Characters in the early Horus Heresy books constantly refer to him as "the Emperor, beloved by all", if that helps contextualise the obsessive devotion he instilled into the early Imperium. It's really not surprising that, despite his avowed rejection of godhood, the underground cult that deified him became the state religion following his confinement on the Golden Throne; the general culture was already primed to treat him like a god, even if he rejected the specific title of "god".

    Video Games 
  • The BioShock series uses this, somewhat with Rapture's Andrew Ryan, but most prominently with Columbia's Zachary Comstock, who uses giant posters, statues, buildings, and audio messages to spread his message and paint himself as an all-knowing Messiah.
  • Borderlands 2: Handsome Jack is the Joker CEO version of Comstock; the only thing he does more thoroughly than inflicting pain on the "bandit" citizens of Pandora is plastering his masked face persona across everything Hyperion. EVERYTHING.
  • The Horatio race in Endless Space is a race made entirely of billions of clones of one insane rich man, Horatio. He's essentially worshipped by them, to the point that one available hero is a Horatio that escaped being destroyed for being "aberrant" due to having similar qualities to him.
  • Fallout:
    • This trope appears as a perk in Fallout and Fallout 2, where it makes NPC reactions positive regardless of your Karma Meter, allowing you to talk to NPCs that you've royally pissed off. Note that due to karma not actually affecting NPC reactions, the perk is functionally useless.
    • Fallout: New Vegas: Caesar's Legion is a cult following Caesar himself. Legionnaires are brought up (or brainwashed, if they're not born into it) being taught that Caesar is the Son of Mars, charged with conquering the entire world to bring civilization and purpose to land otherwise concerned with nothing but meaningless survival. Caesar himself realizes that this model will almost certainly result in the Legion collapsing with his death, and so is attempting to conquer New Vegas so that he can transfer the cult to the city and have his legacy survive him.
  • Final Fantasy Tactics features Saint Ajora, a man who made miracles and helped the people before a Corrupt Church silenced him. As he died, a lightning bolt struck the church and the city was washed away in a great flood. Then again, this may have been Bloody Angel Ultima's disguise as a Dark Messiah to lead the public in a Path of Inspiration.
  • The Sith Empire in Knights of the Old Republic is less of an actual Sith empire, as it's made up of aspiring Sith Lords, Dark Jedi note , and Republic defectors who are all fanatically loyal to the Sith Lord Darth Revan and his apprentice Malak. This was intentional on Revan's part, as prior to retcons by Star Wars: The Old Republic his plan was to use his Sith cult to erode the moral authority of the True Sith religion and culture while conquering the Republic in order to develop it into a force strong enough to resist them militarily.
  • Phantasy Star III has mankind being split into two factions: Orakians and Layans, named for the two legendary heroes, Orakio and Laya. They've been at war for a thousand years, with Orakians using androids and raw hardy strength to combat the Layans' tamed monsters and magical techniques.
  • A key part of the Forsaken in World of Warcraft is their blind obedience to Sylvanas which was second only to revenge on the Lich King. Her face is the dominating feature of the forsaken icon, their Elite Mooks are to a man Expys of her, a female Elf, in a primarily human organization. Actually enforced by Sylvanas herself, who pushes the narrative that she's the only one who cares about them and all the livings want them dead(er), to the point that, in Before the storm, she killed anyone who had even a non-negative interaction with their living relatives, because letting them be would undermine her power.

    Visual Novels 
  • In Danganronpa 2: Goodbye Despair, it is revealed that the students, save for Nanami, were members of Ultimate Despair, a personality Apocalypse Cult devoted to the original Ultimate Despair herself, Junko Enoshima. Such was their devotion that when Junko died, the surviving Ultimate Despair members chopped up her body and replaced their own body parts with hers. Kuzuryu took one of her eyes in order to 'see her despair', while Nagito Komaeda chopped off his hand and attached one of her hands to the stump. By far the most disturbing is one member (heavily implied to be Mikan) trying to bear children using Junko's corpse.

    Webcomics 
  • Unsounded: Queen Maharaishala Sonorie of Cresce is extremely popular among her people, controls the press and has her portrait above an offering table in homes and shrines across the country. The near worship of the queen is not universal, there are plenty who are upset with her because she is not more on their northern neighbor, but it is very prevalent. She works hard to maintain her kind ethical motherly image and hides the less savory work she oversees.

    Web Original 

    Western Animation 
  • Implemented by Timmy's Dad in The Fairly Oddparents episode "Father Time". Timmy destroys his father's childhood trophy with heat vision so he goes back in time to stop his dad from winning the race that got him the trophy in the first place. Timmy succeeds, but his father is sent to Dictator School as punishment for losing the race and Timmy returns to his time to find that his dad now rules the world, and forces everyone to only think happy thoughts, always smile, and call him "father", reinforcing this with video surveillance and billboards claiming that "Dad is always watching!"
    Dad: Aaaaand here's where I'd put my trophy... IF I HAD ONE!
  • Twilight Sparkle of My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic has had to endure some of this since her ascension to princess-hood in the Season 3 finale "Magical Mystery Cure". Particularly in the Season 4 episode "Twilight Time" where a group of schoolchildren begins giving the Cutie Mark Crusaders attention because they have a private study session with the Princess of Friendship and all of the kids really just want to rub shoulders with Twilight.
  • The Helenists in Neo Yokio are obsessive fan girls that revolve their fashion and lifestyle around Helena. They eventually transform into an actual cult when they attempt to sacrifice Kaz in a ceremony to summon demons so they could be possessed just like Helena was.
  • Ninjago: Dragons Rising: Empress Beatrix of the Imperium, whose painting hangs on every wall of every room. Any mention of her by her subjects is instantly met with a reverent "all glory to the good empress!" She's also a nutcase who passes down laws like giant shoulderpads being mandatory on weekdays, and singing off-key being punishable by public humiliation.
  • She-Ra and the Princesses of Power: Horde Prime is a conqueror and destroyer of worlds whose only non-robot servants are numerous clones of himself. He does not allow his clones to have individual personalities or free will, instead conditioning them to treat him as a god and themselves as mere extensions of his power.
  • In The Simpsons episode "Kiss Kiss Bang Bangalore", Homer Simpson travels to India after the Nuclear Plant is outsourced, where he becomes corrupted and takes over, establishing himself as a God. The rest of the family travel to India where they meet Mr. Burns, who takes them in his boat to the plant. When they reach the plant, they find all of the workers chanting to Homer and that they have painted his face on a large silo. Homer is dressed like Mola Ram from Temple of Doom and the workers are bowing to him as he sits on a throne. Turns out they just liked Homer's American labor benefits of personal days, coffee breaks, and "mylar balloons on your birthday."
  • In Steven Universe, all of the Homeworld Gems literally live to serve the Diamond Authority. Peridot expresses confidence that they're literally perfect, and she's probably not alone. This is seen a bit more frighteningly at the end of Season 3, where several Gems show the detrimental effects on someone's sanity this can have, and how fanatical they are to their Diamonds despite the Diamonds clearly not returning their devotion.

     Real Life 

General

  • While their followers are quick to contest the notion, many religions create a cult of personality around their gods and especially the human founder of their belief system, deifying them to the point where they're treated as practically infallible: Christians have Jesus, Jews have Moses and Abraham, Muslims have the Prophet Muhammed, Buddhists have Siddhartha Gautama, Scientologists have L. Ron Hubbard and Majority of Raelians have Raël (Claude Vorilhon).
    • Special mention goes to Jesus, whom Christian doctrine describes as having been completely free of sin to the point where he appears to have been physically incapable of sinning.
    • Exaggerated with Prophet Muhammad in particular. There is an entire field known as Hadith which involves recording and spreading Prophet Muhammad's words and actions, encouraging the ummah (the Muslim community the world over) to follow his advice and to follow him in his actions. Unlike most versions of the trope, they discourage depicting him in pictures and take it very seriously.
  • The concept of the Cult of Personality has classical origins. In Ancient Egypt and Rome, Pharaohs and Emperors were deified and made into godlike figures for the people to worship. There were taboos in Roman society against deification while the person was alive but Emperors worked around it to their advantage.

Africa

  • Francisco Macías Nguema, first president of Equatorial Guinea, developed an extreme cult of personality, assigning himself titles like "Unique Miracle" and "Grandmaster of Science and Culture". His portrait was placed in every church, and priests were ordered to thank him before mass.
  • Nelson Mandela personally opposed cults of personality upon himself all his life, but this did not stop people venerating him as an anti-apartheid activist. Statues of him and schools and places named after him exist today both inside and outside South Africa. His neighbors Sam Nujoma of Namibia and Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe also maintain similar cults based on their reputation as anti-colonial fighters, and in the case of Mugabe was also considered by some as an African deity.

The Americas

  • In spite of his various atrocities, Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet is still well-regarded today among some conservative and alt-right circles, both inside and outside Chile, for his introduction of neoliberal economic reforms and aggressive persecution and even killings of socialists and communists, as seen by the "free helicopter rides" memes floating around the sewers of the internet. The fact that his economic experiments caused a major economic crisis requiring government intervention is often conveniently ignored.
  • Subverted with Cuba's two most iconic dictators, Fulgencio Batista and Fidel Castro. The two didn't bother cultivating personality cults for themselves, although unofficial ones formed anyway. Batista was referred to as 'My General' among his supporters and had statues of himself put up all across Cuba. Castro instead favored a cult of his friend and fellow revolutionary Che Guevara, who himself is an almost messianic figure amongst many communists as an aspiration, and heavily promoting the existing personality cult of Cuban national hero, revolutionary poet José Martí. Castro officially forbade any personality cult of himself and banned the building of statues of him in Cuba, but it didn't stop the Communist Party from giving out portraits of him, putting his face on street art, or having government officials weep in the presence of Castro (who usually reacted by giving them one of his famous bear hugs.)
  • In the United States, George Washington and Abraham Lincoln are certainly eligible for being featured on this page. They are highly regarded by many Americans as the most perfect presidents they ever had, to the point that Washington is believed to have "never told a lie" and Lincoln is nicknamed "Honest Abe"; pointing out the political and ethical shortcomings the two actually displayedsuch as... is a good way to draw ire from most Americans who aren't history buffs.
    • In general, mass media-age American presidential campaigns (since The '40s or The '50s at least) involve promoting a cult of personality around a particular candidate. Those elected have this endure in cultural memory even after their candidacy, years in office, and oblivion in the form of ads, memes, and catch-phrases. Franklin Delano Roosevelt and John F. Kennedy are well-known examples, but Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton, Barack Obama, and Donald Trump are not far behind in terms of promoting campaigns that revolved around images, posters, logos, and appeals to personality and image to get people to vote for them. Even ultimately unsuccessful campaigns, such as those of Barry Goldwater, Hillary Clinton, and Bernie Sanders, have attempted this.
      • One of the more notable examples, this has been attempted (apparently successfully) by Donald Trump, who was the country's 45th president, to the point where after he lost the 2020 election, he railed over and over again that it was rigged against him, which his committed base then ate up. He then whipped up his supporters at a rally-turned-riot on January 6th, 2021, leading to a mob of them breaching the Capitol building to try and stop the election certification for Joe Biden, causing a sizable amount of destruction and five deaths (one Trump supporter and four police officers). Even well after Biden was formally certified, his most rabid followers still believed that the election was illegitimate (even after election officials from both parties said the win was legitimate) and that he would be reinstated at some point in the near future. Even before that day, however, Trump had a rabid fanbase that disbelieved every news outlet except ones that Trump voiced his support for, claimed he had been sent by God to "save" America, and is the greatest president ever. Alongside Trump himself, conspiracy theories have also fueled this, particularly the QAnon conspiracy that alleges that the Democratic Party is full of Satanist cannibal pedophiles that Trump would arrest and have executed at any moment. Presently, the enduring belief among Trump's personality cult is that any problem in America today would be instantly fixed if he returned to power — that, in Trump's words back in his 2016 campaign, "[he] alone can fix it".

Asia

  • Zig-zagged with the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia. In their initial years in power, Pol Pot and his associates remained anonymous, preferring using pseudonyms like "Brother Number 1", "Brother Number 2", and so on. A cult of personality only emerged around the time open war broke out with Vietnam.
  • In China:
    • Mao Zedong used to be the center of a major personality cult. Though still held in high regard and also mummified and put on display, the worship is not as fanatical as during his lifetime. In fact, much of the contemplation for Mao lies with nostalgia for The '50s and The '60s from which those that grew up in that era would reminisce over the zealous cult that was developed during Mao's lifetime. His successor Deng Xiaoping deliberately avoided having further cults of personality forward, in order to prevent the disaster that was the Cultural Revolution.
    • More recently, Xi Jinping has been building one to rival Mao's, under the guise of fighting corruption. A recent addition of the Chinese Constitution was Xi Jinping Thought where writings and speeches in China must adhere to what is liked by Xi Jinping and his party.
  • In Indonesia, Sukarno, the first President, promoted a cult of personality, where his writings and speeches were compulsory discussions around universities, while government ran radio and TV stations constantly broadcasted his propaganda. Several landmarks and buildings in Indonesia were named after him.
    • After Sukarno's fall in 1966, Suharto also promoted his own cult of personality to a lesser extent. His regime exaggerated his military accomplishments and justified the genocidal massacres of Chinese-Indonesians and suspected communists that brought his to power, and like Sukarno, his propaganda was required reading for students. While Suharto's cult of personality was largely dismantled after his fall in 1998, many conservative politicians still attempt to revive his image as a strongman who defended his country from foreign interference.
  • In Iran, a cult of personality developed around Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, and after his death, Ali Khamenei. Their quotes are often used along with those of The Qur'an and the Prophet Muhammad.
  • Imperial Japan fostered one around its Emperor up until roughly the Humanity Declaration by the Shōwa Emperor (Hirohito) at the behest and request of the American occupation government. Afterwards, he became a figure of post war stability and democratization, but nowhere near to the often-suicidal levels of devotion he had been receiving prior to the end of the war. That said, the extent to which Hirohito's cult saw him as a Physical God or God-Emperor appears to be disputed based on Western and Japanese definitions of cults and Godhood, meaning his treatment was either at home here or more appropriate for the latter trope.
    • Post-war Japanese leaders mostly lacked appeals to personality due to their short lengths in office and relatively conservative positions. Only Shinzo Abe has attracted a significant following among Japanese nationalists aka Netto-uyoku due to his proposal at remilitarizing Japan, overhauling the Japanese economy, and eventual assassination in 2022, making him a martyr for their cause. In contrast, the Japanese public was shocked by the revelations of Abe's connections with the Unification Church which led to his assassination, to the degree that many opposed his state funeral.
  • In North Korea, dictators Kim Il-sung and Kim Jong-il are worshiped as gods. Literally! There are giant statues of them everywhere and almost every activity is done in celebration of the "Great Leaders". The works of Marx, Engels, and Lenin were even de facto banned in favor of only reading the Kims' ideological tracts. Of course, their corpses are also mummified and put on display. The current leader Kim Jong-un is venerated as the "Great Successor". Their familial succession has been compared to a monarchy.
    • Even the flowers are named after them, which the aforementioned Sukarno began as admiring praise for Kim Il-sung.
  • In the Philippines, a segment of Rodrigo Duterte's supporters adore him so much that they are sometimes considered eligible to this trope, due to said segment justifying everything he does. This, suffice to say, has made him one of the most controversial figures in the history of the nation.
    • One of Duterte's predecessors, Ferdinand Marcos, also was the subject of a personality cult, and is portrayed as a war hero, a strong leader, and a wise man. Marcos was affectionately called as "Apo Lakay", meaning "Wise Elder" in the Ilocano language in which Marcos was a native speaker of. He was even portrayed together with his wife Imelda as a Filipino version of Adam and Eve (Malakas and Maganda), lit. Strength and Beauty in some official portraits, and built a monument of himself based on Mount Rushmore. There is overlap between the supporters of Marcos and Duterte, due to the latter having a positive opinion of Marcos and had the former president be given a heroes' burial. His son, Bongbong Marcos, was elected as the President of the Philippines in 2022 and did his best to rehabilitate his late father's image.
  • Chiang Kai-shek had statues of himself put up all around Taiwan, which were mostly torn down after his death. The fact that numerous statues were set up to him was used as an argument that he wasn't a dictator- he actually publicly decried them later on, but darn it, people insisted on erecting statues to him all over the place. Chiang also had coins minted with his face on them, large portraits of himself put up whenever possible, and children were taught to laud him as the savior of the nation in schools. His son Chiang Ching-kuo emulated him to lesser success.
  • Timur the Lame was an Islamic warlord from Central Asia that created an image of legend and myth around himself to justify his conquests as he could not declare himself caliph, the supreme and spiritual leader of Islam, since the post was already taken by the Abbasids, nor he could consider himself a khan since he wasn't descended from Genghis Khan. He claimed he wanted to reunite Genghis Khan's conquests that were taken by usurpers such as the Ottomans, Mamluks, and Persians, and that he was favored by God due to his successful campaign as conqueror, and he amassed one of the largest armies of that time period for these very reasons.
  • Hồ Chí Minh enjoys a personality cult to this day in Vietnam, though not as much for socialism (which isn't considered a priority in Vietnam anymore) as much as he is a revolutionary hero and Vietnamese patriot, ironically akin to how Americans would consider George Washington. Shrines to him can be found around the country. For cultural context: Vietnam's folk religion involves ancestor worship, and deification/canonization of military heroes. Trần Hưng Đạo, a general who successfully led resistance efforts against Yuan-Mongol armies, is a good example of a worshiped hero. Hồ's avuncular public image and politician/military leader status qualifies him for worship, as an honorary family member to the entire nation and as a savior from foreign domination. It hews closely to the "devotion to a saint" definition above. Similar to Lenin, he did not want to be mummified and put on display. His comrades promptly ignored his will, which stipulated that he was to be cremated and the ashes spread through the country so he could forever be with his family (i.e. the whole nation). The result is the Hồ Chí Minh Mausoleum and Museum in Hanoi, which preserved his corpse, as well as his living space and workplace. It's a popular location for field trips nationally so that schoolchildren can be taught about his legacy, and adults who lived through the war can get a chance to see the man they fought for.

Europe

  • From France:
    • No pre-20th Century dictator took as much of an active interest in building and promoting a Cult than Napoléon Bonaparte. From very early in his career as Revolutionary General, Bonaparte used his considerable skills as a writer and published regular bulletins to his army building a particular style of address and relationship with his soldier. He also befriended Jacques-Louis David (the famous Revolutionary painter who had fallen into political disrepute over his association with Maximilien Robespierre) and commissioned him to paint several portraits of him, many of which became iconic and were widely distributed across Europe. As dictator, he had near total control over the press and his propagandists greatly enhanced and added to his already considerable military prowess by inventing whole battles, while sliding over some of his mistakes and near misses. He continued to build his cult even after his defeat at Waterloo, where he dictated memoirs in Saint Helena to an admirer that self-consciously painted him as a reflective tragic figure, courting himself a lot of sympathy in the process.
    • During The French Revolution, the government often tried to promote a series of new cults of personalities to create new symbols of legitimacy but kept failing:
      • The revolutionary regime promoted the Pantheon, which was an attempt to make a cult of several intellectual figures like Voltaire and Jean-Jacques Rousseau. When Mirabeau, the great statesman and leader of the early years of the Revolution, died, he was interred into the Pantheon. Then it was revealed that he had secretly corresponded with the King and indulged in corruption, and this tarnished his reputation and eventually, they disinterred his body and threw him out of the Pantheon and even years later despite being rehabilitated, his remains are lost.
      • Jean-Paul Marat was the most vocal and controversial political pamphleteer of the Revolution and the voice of the militant radical Paris. When he was assassinated, the Jacobin Club (which was formerly quite critical of Marat and tried to keep him at arm's length) promoted a cult of personality around him, with busts of Marat taking the place of Jesus Christ in many churches across France, street names and ships renamed after him, and a famous painting by revolutionary propagandist Jacques-Louis David that was widely printed across France. When Mirabeau was chucked out of the Pantheon, Marat was interred in his place, but a few months later, the new regime phased out the Marat cult and kicked Marat out of the Pantheon as well.
      • Robespierre, ironically enough, was quite critical of cults of personality and personally affected a highly self-conscious modesty that avoided excessive flattery and personal displays. When he did promote cults, he ensured that they revolved around values rather than people and featured common people (such as the runaway Child Soldier Viola and Bara, who were included in "Le chant du depart"). He also promoted the Deist-Nationalist Festival of the Supreme Being, the biggest and most widely attended revolutionary festival, that he personally presided leading many around him to suspect he was installing a cult around himself, leading to his downfall.
  • Unsurprisingly, Adolf Hitler made one for himself in Nazi Germany. Squares, ships and the like would be named after him, pictures of him were all over the place, and "Heil Hitler" virtually displaced the usual "Hello!" in common parlance, although in his case, it was often driven by the attempts of various lower-level Nazis to flatter him or attract his attention. While this guaranteed that none of the power-thirsty underlings in his inner circle could easily replace him, it also backfired on him spectacularly. As the war dragged on he clearly started believing it himself, now convinced that he was some sort of divine Wagnerian hero and the greatest military mastermind who ever lived. This set him apart from someone like Stalin, who seems to have cynically perpetuated his own cult of personality but was still practical enough to recognize his shortcomings on military matters, whereas Hitler overruled his generals constantly until only Yes-Men were left.
  • Romania had three flavors of personality cults in the 20th century: The monarchist Carol II, the fascist Ion Antonescu, and the communist Nicolae Ceaușescu. Despite their conflicting ideologies, all three are venerated in some form by Romanian nationalists today.
  • In the case of Rome, the man who started a cult that in many ways anticipates the 20th Century model is Pompey the Great. As general in Judea and military governor in the Eastern Mediterranean, Pompey had coins printed with his image on it, despite being a general and not authorized to do that. He also encouraged his entourage to compare him to Alexander, and even called himself "the Great" and imitated Alexander by founding towns named after him like Pompeiia and Magnopolis. Pompey even encouraged cults worshiping him as a God. He then invested heavily in promoted infrastructure and theaters with his name attached to it. Others like Julius Caesar and especially Augustus took it even further, with Augustus being closer to an Orwellian despot than anyone after him. Incidentally, Stalin, an avid reader of classical history, was a major fan of Augustus.
    Mary Beard: One of his most significant and lasting innovations was to flood the Roman world with his portrait: heads stamped on the small change in people's pockets, life-size or larger statues in marble and bronze standing in public squares and temples...This was on a vastly bigger scale than anything of the sort before...about 250 statues, not to mention images on jewels and gems, found right across Roman territories and beyond, from Spain to Turkey and Sudan, show Augustus in many different guises, from heroic conqueror to pious priest.
  • The Soviet Union elevated their founder, Vladimir Lenin, to almost divine stature. Countless statues, paintings, streets, cities were named after him. His corpse was mummified and put on permanent display in Moscow.
    • Initially, Lenin and the Bolsheviks did not want to build such a cult, and Lenin repeatedly insisted that he be buried in Petrograd (ci-devant Saint Petersburg) without fuss, and the party initially wanted to honor his wishes. However when they kept his body for public display, there was a huge mass of people coming from the countryside to pay a visit, and the Bolsheviks hesitantly started constructing a makeshift mausoleum of wood before finally building a permanent structure in Russian Constructivism style (albeit one modeled on Egyptian and Babylonian tombs). Contrary to general belief, Stalin wasn't involved in the counsel which was overseen by the very powerful head of Cheka Felix Dzherzinsky, which finally decided to mummify Lenin and put him on display. The cult of Lenin which came after his death led to the renaming of Petrograd into Leningrad (which lasted till the end of the Cold War). Later observers noted that this cult was rooted in Russia's traditions of venerating Orthodox saints, who were often put on display and indeed internally many Communists opposed it on these same grounds.
    • Josef Stalin's cult was more deliberately created and something which Stalin took great interest in promoting and preserving. Ships, cities, buildings, and a prize (the Order of Stalin, which was later renamed Order of Lenin) were named after him. After his death, Nikita Khrushchev made a process to de-stalinize the Soviet Union, so statues and cities were destroyed and renamed and only the cult of Lenin survived. Ironically in modern Russia, Stalin remains a cult figure for Russia nationalists, less for his socialist policies and more for his role in defeating Nazi Germany and presiding over the country at the height of its power. Stalin privately expressed irritation with his own cult, and as per a well-known anecdote, mocked it in an exchange with his son:
      Stalin's Son: But I am a Stalin too.
      Josef Stalin: No you're not. You're not Stalin and I'm not Stalin. (Indicates portrait of himself) That is Stalin. Stalin is Soviet power. Stalin is what he is in the newspapers and portraits, not you, no, not even me.
    • Vladimir Putin can probably rival Stalin's use of this concept when it comes to The New Russia, having turned himself into a Memetic Badass who is absolutely beloved by the Russian people at large, who think he can do no wrong.
  • From the United Kingdom:
    • Winston Churchill is well regarded as a great wartime leader in the United Kingdom, not to mention being a skilled orator and Nobel Prize laureate. He topped the list of 100 Greatest Britons, with some politicians even heralding him as the father of the modern Western world. This turned him into a larger than life figure after his death, while his more unpleasant episodes, such as his support of eugenics, concentration camps in Kenya, indifference to a deadly wartime famine in British India (which killed several million there), and military blunders such as the Gallipoli campaign, are generally not mentioned. However, his depictions in former British colonies, especially India, is usually less positive.
    • Margaret Thatcher is to UK Conservatives what Reagan is to US Republicans: beloved by Tories for her introduction of neoliberal policies, dismantling of "inefficient" public sectors through privatization, and aggressive confrontation of striking unionists and the Soviet Union. To various working class Britons as well as Welsh and Scots, she is pretty much the devil incarnate who dismantled the country's coal industry and their associated communities, and that's not mentioning her support of Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet and hostility towards LGBT Britons. Even her funeral divided the country: while she was given a £10 million state funeral in London, protesters flocked elsewhere to protest her legacy and held impromptu street parties, and the song "Ding Dong, the Witch is Dead!" topped the charts.
  • Josip Broz Tito fostered one for himself in Communist Yugoslavia as both the father of the socialist state and more importantly, a figure of South Slavic unity given the multiple ethnic groups within his state. In fact, his death and the demise of his personality cult gave one less thing for the Yugoslav peoples to agree on in the buildup to The Yugoslav Wars. While not state enforced in any post-Yugoslav nation today, Tito still enjoys relative popularity for South Slavic and socialist "Brotherhood and Unity", a phrase popular in Yugoslavia.

Oceania

  • Australian Politics tends to avert this in regards to the major party leaders, as the majority of Australians see them as either corrupt, incompetent or just bland. The minor parties on the other hand tend to play it straight.
    • Pauline Hanson of the One Nation party is one of the most infamous. Her platform is based on preserving Australian values (i.e. promoting racism, homophobia, etc. as free speech), having an opinion on every single topic and then trying to vilify anyone more qualified than herself and playing the Working-Class Hero image to the hilt despite being in politics since The '90s and seldom doing any visible work.
    • Mining magnate Clive Palmer is a similar example. During every election he'll start a political party where the platform is built less around policy and more around chanting "Freedom" and "you can't trust the major parties". When the party does take a stance on an issue, it's usually based less on consensus and more on Palmer's whims.
    • In recent years, independents have gained increasing levels of popularity. Sydney-based independent Zali Steggal is one of the more famous ones, managing the impressive feat of unseating a former Prime Minister and being able to convince affluent Liberal voters that renewable energy is a good idea.

Non-political

  • While not a politician per se, the late Diana Spencer, former Princess of Wales, was a widely beloved figure with not just the British public, but with the whole world over due to her extensive charity work, Nice Girl public persona (to the point of hugging AIDS patients at a time when people were still frightened of and ignorant of how the disease was spread), candid openness of her own troubles in interviews (such as her unhappy marriage to Prince Charles and mental health struggles) and beautiful looks. Her untimely death via car crash in 1997 brought about a massive outpouring of grief from people all over the globe and she was posthumously described as "The People's Princess", being credited for being the face of a new generation of The British Royal Family.
  • Michael Jackson is a notable non-political example. Quite a few pop stars have been elevated to legendary proportions by their fans, especially if they died relatively young — Elvis Presley was the most prominent example for decades, followed closely by John Lennon. But Jackson actively cultivated this trope in his lifetime, pushing the Forced Meme of "The King of Pop" and casting himself as a great humanitarian and Friend to All Children. (Consider this.) Moreover, he encouraged fans to regard anything negative reported about him as nothing more than persecution by the sinister mass media. This worked; after his death they went publicly berserk, and the mythologizing around him only continues to grow — as do conspiracy theories and harassment/demonization of those perceived as his enemies (in particular, multiple people who have accused him of sexually abusing them when they were young boys). This reached the point where after the reevaluation of Jackson's public legacy that the Leaving Neverland documentary spawned in 2019, the man's cult of personality responded with such intensity that it drowned out the documentary and led to it and its claims falling by the wayside by the end of the year.
  • As generations of British schoolchildren will tell you: British teachers have created a cult of personality around William Shakespeare. Every pupil has been forced to appreciate Shakespeare's genius over the centuries, even when talking about passages from his works that amount to elaborate dick jokes.

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