Alexander Lukashenko, absolute ruler of Belarus, is often referred to as the last dictator in Europe. And like every dictator worthy of the title, he has his own Mini-Me: his son Kolya, who dutifully wears a military uniform identical to that of his father while viewing the troops, and accompanies his father while visiting world leaders -- including President Obama.
Time will tell how little Kolya turns out after his father leaves or is forced from office.
But Children of Monsters, an engrossing new book from National Review's Jay Nordlinger, suggest several paths the boy may end up taking.
He may end up succeeding his father as dictator of Belarus, just like the son of Hafez al-Assad took over Syria, and North Korea has been run by three generations of Kims. Another possibility is that he may become a strident defender of his father's legacy, or he may renounce his father completely.
There is also the possibility that he could become a violent, drunken modern-day Caligula, similar to Nicu Ceausescu of Romania or Saddam's boys, the notorious Uday and Qusay Hussein. Uday Hussein's sheer depravity, as described by Nordlinger, was astonishing; he was a serial rapist who once kidnapped a bride from her own wedding, driving her new husband to suicide. After suffering serious injuries in a failed 1996 assassination attempt, Uday walked with the assistance of canes that slid open to reveal guns and swords.
The story of the Assads, next door in Syria, is even more compelling -- almost a Middle Eastern version of The Godfather. The brutal Hafez al-Assad groomed his oldest son, Bassel to succeed him, and many Syrians legitimately believed the handsome, highly intelligent heir apparent might gradually democratize the country.
But Bassel was killed in a car accident in 1994, leading Papa Assad to call home his next-oldest son: Bashar, then doing a residency in opthalmology at the Western Eye Hospital in London. He was more interested in photography than politics, but duty called, and today he has allegedly killed even more of his own countrymen than ISIS.
Other dictators' children were not so keen to follow in their fathers' footsteps. Kimie, daughter of the Japanese wartime leader Tojo, quietly settled into life as a student at the University of Michigan, married an American and moved to Honolulu, in the same state as Pearl Harbor.
And then there's Stalin's daughter Svetlana, who defected to the United States and loudly denounced her father, became disillusioned with America and returned to the USSR, and then re-defected to America again.
Nordlinger particularly admires Jaffar, son of Uganda's notorious Idi Amin, who followed his father to a comfortable life in Saudi exile but returned to his home country in 1990. Today Jaffar runs a foundation dedicated to bringing about reconciliation between those who clashed during his father's rule. Sometimes he defends his dad, but he is not afraid to meet and work with those who opposed and suffered under him.
But what about the ultimate dictator, the embodiment of evil, Adolf Hitler? As far as we know, the Führer never had any children -- but the late Frenchman Jean-Marie Loret spent much of his life believing he was Hitler's son, the result of his mother's brief relationship with a German soldier in 1917. His response was to wear a Hitler moustache. His own son Phillippe carried on the family tradition, hanging portraits of his alleged grandfather on the wall of his home and declaring, "Hitler is my family...what he did has nothing to do with me. He will always be family for me."
Most historians, for the record, doubt that Loret was really Hitler's son. Nordlinger, for his part, doesn't approve of some of the Lorets' behavior but also asks, "what if your mother, one fine day, told you that the father youy had always wondered about was actually Adolf Hitler -- a genocidal dictator whose name is a synonym for evil? That is a card dealt to virtually no one."
Being a dictators' child is indeed a card dealt to very few people, and it's fascinating to see the many different ways they've handled it. Maybe that's because we're still engrossed by the lives of people who've ruled others with an iron fist, and how they lost absolute power.
Indeed, people who live in lands once controlled by dictators are the most fascinated of all. Romano Mussolini, son of the Italian fascist, was an accomplished jazz pianist who performed under a pseudonym.
"But," according to Nordlinger, "he soon discovered that his real name was a draw, not a repellent."
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