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Top 10 World Changing Assassinations &
Influential Deaths


An Assassination is defined as the targeted killing of a public figure.  In the past,
numerous political murders have had direct influences on the world.  Assassinations can
lead to
government revolutions and coups.  I have composed a list of ten of the most
influential and world changing assassinations in modern history.  I have steered away
from including infamous cases such as JFK, Abraham Lincoln, John Lennon, and Martin
Luther King Jr.  I figured that everyone has heard these stories and many other important
political deaths have occurred in the 19th and 20th centuries.

10. George Tiller (1941-2009)


George Tiller was an American physician from Wichita, Kansas.  He was the medical
director for Women’s Health Care Services, which was one of three American hospitals
self-identified as providing late-term abortions, which is after the 21st week of
pregnancy.  In 1993, Tiller was shot in both arms by Shelley Shannon outside of his
office.  He suffered serious injuries, but survived the attack.  However, on May 31,
2009, George Tiller was shot and killed by anti-abortion activist Scott Roeder, as he
served as an usher during Sunday morning service.  Tiller was shot once in the head at
point blank range.  Roeder was arrested 170 miles away from the murder in suburban
Kansas City and was charged with first degree murder.  A few weeks following Tiller’s
death, his family announced that the clinic he operated would be closed down

Tiller's Assassin

Scott Roeder

9. Olof Palme (1927-1986)


Olof Palme was a Swedish politician and leader of the Swedish Social Democratic Party
from 1969 until his death in 1986.  Palme was the Prime Minister of Sweden on two
separate occasions, heading a Privy Council Government from 1969 to 1976 and a
cabinet government from 1982 until his death.  Olof Palme is one of the most famous
Swedes of the 20th century, on account of his 125-month tenure as Prime Minister and
fierce opposition to American foreign policy.  Olof Palme was often described as a
"revolutionary reformist.”  His socialist views, especially the drive to expand Labour
Union influence over business engendered a great deal of hostility among many
conservative Swedes.

Olof Palme was known for his harsh and emotional criticism of the United States over
the Vietnam War.  His opposition to the crushing of the Prague Spring by the Soviet
Union.  Palme criticized the Franco Regime in Spain and was campaigning against
nuclear weapons proliferation.  On February 28, 1986, Olof Palme was walking home
from the cinema with his wife when he was attacked and shot in the back at close range.
He was declared dead on the central Stockholm street of Sveavägen.  The crime remains
unsolved to this day.  Palme's murder was the first of its kind in modern Swedish history
and had a great impact across Scandinavia.

8. Anton Cermak (1873-1933)


Anton Cermak was born in Kladno, Austria-Hungary.  He immigrated with his parents to
the United States in 1874.  Cermak was elected to the Illinois state legislature in 1902
and voted chairman of the Cook County Democratic Party in 1928.  As an immigrant,
Cermak took advantage of the growing population of Poles, Czechs, Ukrainians, Jews,
Italians, and African Americans in the Chicago area.  He ran for mayor in 1931.  He also
took advantage of the publics growing frustration with mayor “Big Bill” Thompson and
his reputation of corruption and inability or unwillingness to clean up organized crime
in Chicago.  Cermak gained a 58% majority victory over Thompson in the election.

During this time in history Cermak’s political and organizational skills helped create one
of the most powerful political organizations in America.  He is considered the father of
Chicago's Democratic machine.  No Republican has held the office of mayor in Chicago
since Thompson's exit in 1931.  On February 15, 1933 President-elect Franklin
Roosevelt was shaking hands with Cermak at Bayfront Park in Miami, Florida, when
Giuseppe Zangara fired shots at the pair.  In what appeared to be a presidential
assassination attempt, Cermak was hit in the lung and would later die from his injuries.
FDR would go on to become a central figure in the 20th century, serving as United
States president from 1933-1945.

Cermak's Assassin

Giuseppe Zangara

7. Franz Ferdinand (1863-1914)


Franz Ferdinand was an Archduke of Austria-Este, Austro Hungarian, and Royal Prince
of Hungary and of Bohemia from 1889 until his death.  He was the heir to the Austro
Hungarian throne.  When he was only twelve years old, his cousin Duke Francis V of
Modena died, naming Franz Ferdinand his heir on condition that he add the name Este to
his own.  Franz Ferdinand thus became one of the wealthiest men in Austria.  On June
28, 1914, Ferdinand and his wife were shot to death in Sarajevo, the capital of the
Austro-Hungarian province of Bosnia and Herzegovina.  Ferdinand was hit in the
jugular and eventually bled to death.
The assassination was carried out by Gavrilo Princip, a 19-year-old boy who was a
member of Young Bosnia.  Ferdinand’s death was one of a group of assassinations
organized by the Black Hand, a secret society founded in Serbia.  Franz Ferdinand’s
death precipitated Austria-Hungary's declaration of war against Serbia.  This caused the
creation of the Triple Alliance and the Triple Entente Powers.  The groups would
ultimatley declare war on each other, starting World War I.

Ferdinand's Assassin

Gavrilo Princip

6. Ngo Dinh Diem (1901-1963)


Ngo Dinh Diem was the first president of South Vietnam.  He was in power from
1955-1963.  During the middle of the 1950’s the CIA and America were attempting to
help Diem strengthen his rule on Vietnam.  The US Navy program Operation Passage to
Freedom saw over one million North Vietnamese move south.  The majority of these
people were Catholics, as Diem was a strong catholic supporter and promoter.  In 1955,
elections were held and campaigning for Diem’s opponent Bảo Đại was prohibited.
Diem won the election with 98.5% majority vote, although many claim the vote was
fixed.  Diem's rule is categorized as authoritarian and nepotistic.  He modeled the Can
Lao secret police's marching style and torture styles on Nazi designs.  The regime
relations with the United States gradually worsened.

Ngo Dinh Diem was also becoming greatly hated by the majority Buddhist population,
which felt they were being forced into beliefs of Christianity and away from their
spiritual roots.  On November 1, 1963, General Dương Văn Minh and his
co-conspirators overthrew the South Vietnamese government.  The United States gave
secret assurances to the generals that the U.S. would not interfere with the coup.  Ngo
Dinh Diem was captured and executed in the back of an armored personnel carrier by
Captain Nguyen Van Nhung.  After Diem's assassination, South Vietnam was unable to
establish a stable government and numerous coups took place during the first several
years after his death.  While the U.S. continued to influence South Vietnam's
government, the assassination bolstered North Vietnamese attempts to characterize the
South Vietnamese as supporters of colonialism.  Ultimately, it helped create more
content as the North felt that America was now controlling the South.

5. Laurent-Désiré Kabila (1939-2001)


The Democratic Republic of the Congo is a country located in Central Africa.  It is the
third largest country by area in Africa
and the 19th most populous nation in the world.
In 1965, Mobutu Sese Seko became the President of Zaire.  While in office, he formed
a totalitarian regime, which attempted to purge the country of all colonial cultural
influence.  Mobutu Sese Seko was in power for almost 32 years.  In May of 1997
Laurent-Désiré Kabila overthrew the dictator and became President of Zaire and
changed the countries name to the Democratic Republic of the Congo.  Kabila took
control of the capital city, denounced the constitution, and liberated the country.  Kabila
had been a committed Marxist, but his policies at this point were a mix of capitalism
and collectivism.  Some hailed Kabila as representing a "new breed" of African
leadership, but others characterized his government as authoritarian, corrupted, and
accused him of human rights abuses.

However, by 1998, Kabila's former allies in Uganda and Rwanda had turned against him
and backed a new rebellion of the Rally for Congolese Democracy (RCD).  Kabila was
shot to death during the afternoon of January 16, 2001 by one of his own staff, Rashidi
Kasereka, who was then killed.  The killing was part of a failed coup attempt.  A major
investigation ensued and when all was said and done 25 people were sentenced to death
for being involved with the conspiracy to kill Laurent-Désiré Kabila.  After the
assassination Kabila’s son Joseph became President of the Democratic Republic of the
Congo, where he remains today.

4. Rajiv Gandhi (1944-1991)


In 1947, India gained its independence.  Three years later the Constitution of India was
created.  The preamble of this constitution defines India as a sovereign, socialist, and
secular republic.  During this time the Nehru-Gandhi family took control of the Indian
National Congress.  Indira Gandhi soon became the first female Prime Minister of
India.  She had two sons Rajiv and Sanjay Gandhi.  While adhering to its strong socialist
policies India was not growing with the rest of the world.  The country was being
economically isolated.

In 1984, Indira Gandhi was assassinated by her body guards.  Upon her death, Rajiv
Gandhi became the 9th and youngest Prime Minister of India.  He began leading in a
direction significantly different from his mother’s socialism; he promoted economic
liberalization.  He improved bilateral relations with the United States, expanded
economic and scientific cooperation, and reduced import quotas, taxes, and tariffs on
technology-based industries.  On May 21, 1991 Thenmuli Rajaratnam, a member of the
Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, strapped a bomb to herself and while she bent down
to touch Rajiv’s feet she detonated a bomb killing him instantly.  Since Rajiv’s death
India’s economy has become the second fastest growing major economy in the world,
creating thousands of jobs and opportunity for the citizens.

Gandhi's Assassin

Thenmuli Rajaratnam

3. William McKinley (1843-1901)


William McKinley was the 25th President of the United States and last veteran of the
American Civil War to be elected.  McKinley was a national Republican leader and used
high tariffs on imports as a formula for prosperity.  His presidency is known for
upholding the gold standard and promoting cultural pluralism among ethnic groups.
McKinley introduced many new advertising style campaign techniques and handily
defeated William Jennings Bryan in the 1896 presidential election.  After much
hesitation, the Spanish-American War was fought during McKinley’s presidency;
ultimately he was reelected in 1900.  He also presided over the annexation of Hawaii in

On September 6, 1901, the president and Mrs. McKinley attended the Pan-American
Exposition in Buffalo, New York.  McKinley was in the Temple of Music greeting the
public when Leon Frank Czolgosz fired two shots at him.  The first shot grazed his
shoulder, but the second went through his stomach, pancreas, and kidney.  On September
14, eight days after being shot, William McKinley died from gangrene surrounding his
wounds.  William McKinley was the third U.S. president to be assassinated in office.
The others being Abraham Lincoln and James A. Garfield.  John F. Kennedy was also
assassinated in 1963. 

McKinley's Assassin

Leon Frank Czolgosz

2. Anwar El Sadat (1918-1981)


Muhammad Anwar Al Sadat was a senior member of the Free Officers group that
overthrew the Muhammad Ali Dynasty in the Egyptian Revolution of 1952.  The
revolution was initially aimed at overthrowing King Farouk I.  The movement soon
moved to abolish the constitutional monarchy and establish a republic. In 1970, Anwar
El Sadat became the third President of Egypt.  During Sadat’s presidency he changed
Egypt’s political direction.  He departed from some of the economic and political
principles of Nasserism, reinstituting the multi-party system, and launched the Infitah.
Infitah is a word meaning “open door” and refers to Anwar El Sadat’s policy to open up
private and foreign investment in Egypt.  Anwar El Sadat became an Egyptian hero for
his bravery and leadership during the October War of 1973, where he regained the
triangular peninsula of Sinai.

In 1979, Sadat visited Israel and helped create the Egyptian-Israeli Peace Treaty, which
basically abolished the state of war that had existed since the 1948 Arab-Israeli War.
The peace treaty was not popular with the Arab world and Islamists.  It resulted in
Egypt being expelled from the Arab League, a ban that was not lifted until 1989.  Anwar
El Sadat was in constant fear from various Islamic groups and the Egyptian Islamic
Jihad.  Despite the protection of four layers of security, on October 6, 1981, Anwar El
Sadat was assassinated by a group of radicals lead by Khalid Islambouli.  He was
attending the annual victory parade in Cairo when a truck approached the front of the
presidential reviewing stand. Suddenly, a group a men began throwing grenades and
firing assault rifles at the president.  Islambouli ran towards Sadat and shot him point
blank, while various members of the crowd surrounded his body with chairs hoping to
protect him from the barrage of bullets.  It was the first time in Egyptian history that the
head of state had been assassinated by an Egyptian citizen.

Anwar El Sadat's Assassin

Khalid Islambouli

1. Nicholas II and Family (1868-1918)


Nicholas II was the last Emperor of Russia, Grand Duke of Finland, and claimed the title
of King of Poland.  He ruled from 1894 until his abdication on March 15, 1917.  His
reign saw Imperial Russia go from being one of the foremost great powers of the world
to an economic and military disaster.  As leader he approved the Russian mobilization
of August 1914, which marked the first fatal step into WWI.  Nicholas II was abdicated
after the February Revolution of 1917.  He and his family were imprisoned and guarded
day and night.
On July 17, 1918, Nicholas II, his wife, his son, and his four daughters were taken into a
room and killed by firing squad.  The squad was composed of seven Communist
soldiers from Central Europe, and three local Bolsheviks, all under the command of
Bolshevik officer Yakov Yurovsky.  The assassins made sure to assemble a quick
demise of the Russian Romanov dynasty.  In 1981, Nicholas and his immediate family
were recognized as martyred saints by the Russian Orthodox Church outside Russia.  On
August 14, 2000, they were canonized by the synod of the Russian Orthodox Church as
passion bearers. 


Mophizzle - February 3, 2011

Well organized... Well done.

Copyright The List Blog - Top 10, All Rights Reserved, Posted August 9, 2009