We write history as a battle between heroes and monsters. But even the darkest shade of black retains a glimmer of light. Although the people on this list deserve their labels as history’s worst monsters, every one of them has done some good—and many in ways that still affect our lives today.
10. Joseph Stalin Doubled Russia’s Life Expectancy
Joseph Stalin ruled with an iron fist that terrorized Russia. He is responsible for the wholesale slaughter of 20 million of his own people. Life under Stalin, the statistics suggest, must have been brutish and short.
In reality, though, it was the exact opposite. During Stalin’s reign, the average Russian life span more than doubled from 32 to 68 years.
Before the communist revolution, Russia’s people lived horrid, peasant lifestyles. Stalin played a major role in getting them out of that. He introduced a series of five-year plans that worked wonders.
Under Stalin, employment doubled, industrial output increased by 40 percent, and the country experienced an annual growth rate of 18 percent. Free health care and education was granted to everyone, and diseases dropped to record lows.