Benito Mussolini

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Who was Benito Mussolini?

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Benito Amilcare Andrea Mussolini was the first European fascist dictator and ruler of Italy from 1922-1943. He was born in 1883 in Predappio, Italy to a blacksmith and a schoolteacher. He was an intelligent child and enjoyed the philosophy of Marx, Kant, and Nietzche, but he was also very aggressive and was expelled from multiple schools for assaulting fellow students. He lived in Switzerland for some time and worked as a political journalist. Upon returning to Italy, Mussolini worked for several socialist newspapers before moving on to a nationalist periodical titled "The People of Italy." In 1915, he was drafted into the Italian army and injured.

Mussolini's experience with the army had a profound effect on him as he came to know the struggles of unemployed veterans. In 1918, he began speaking about his belief that Italy needed a dictatorship. By 1920, he was beginning to organize the "fighting bands" that would become known as the Blackshirts. By 1921, Mussolini and the Blackshirts had begun capturing parts of Italy by attacking local government. By October of 1922, the political and economic circumstances of Italy were collapsing and people were growing disheartened with the current government. Mussolini and his Fascists marched on Rome, causing King Victor Emmanuel to step aside and allowing Mussolini to take control and eventually declare himself dictator.

Mussolini began a campaign of social reform, public development, and virulent propaganda. With Adolf Hitler's rise to power in Germany, Italy had found a new ally, and in 1938 Mussolini began passing Anti-Semitic laws. While Mussolini wanted to avoid getting Italy involved in a major war, his entanglement with Nazi Germany and the nationalist, fascist sentiment he inspired in the Italian people made a war all but unavoidable. Mussolini joined the war in partnership with Germany in June of 1940, convinced the war would be over quickly. Until the end of the war, Italy suffered repeated defeats and invasions. 

The Italian people, as well as some of Mussolini's closest officials, soon began to lose faith in him. In July of 1943, the Grand Council of Fascism voted Mussolini out of power and brought King Victor Emmanuel back. After being removed from power, Mussolini lived for some time in Lombardy. He was eventually shot by a dissatisfied civilian, presumably the Communist leader Walter Audisio.

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