Date of Award

Summer 5-21-2021

Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


Political Science

First Advisor

Larry Berman

Second Advisor

Andrew Wedeman

Third Advisor

Kim Reimann


The thesis re-examines the utility of the charismatic leader’s cult of personality as a strategic power-enhancing tool by performing a cross-national comparative case study of three Asian personality cults – Kim Il Sung, Mao Zedong, and Ho Chi Minh. To what extent did these cult leaders possess the godlike powers that the cult of personality literature implies? The thesis finds support for the conclusion that increasing deification of a leader is not always positively correlated with a leader’s godlike powers, operationalized as a leader’s unilateral decision-making powers over national policies. Kim Il Sung’s cult was manipulated by family members for their benefit. Mao Zedong attempted to wield the power of the cult of Mao during the Cultural Revolution but could not control the Red Guards. The Communist Party of Vietnam utilized the cult of Ho Chi Minh to maintain the image of national unity while ignoring his policy directives.

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