Benito Mussolini

Mussolini in 1939 Benito Amilcare Andrea Mussolini, , }} (29 July 188328 April 1945) was an Italian dictator who founded and led the National Fascist Party (PNF). He was Prime Minister of Italy from the March on Rome in 1922 until his deposition in 1943, as well as of Italian fascism from the establishment of the Italian Fasces of Combat in 1919 until his summary execution in 1945 by Italian partisans. As dictator of Italy and one of the principal founders of fascism, Mussolini inspired and supported the international spread of fascist movements during the inter-war period.

Mussolini was originally a socialist politician and a journalist at the ''Avanti!'' newspaper. In 1912, he became a member of the National Directorate of the Italian Socialist Party (PSI), but he was expelled from the PSI for advocating military intervention in World War I, in opposition to the party's stance on neutrality. In 1914, Mussolini founded a newspaper, ''Il Popolo d'Italia'', and served in the Royal Italian Army during the war until he was wounded and discharged in 1917. Mussolini denounced the PSI, his views now centering on Italian nationalism instead of socialism, and later founded the fascist movement which came to oppose egalitarianism and class conflict, instead advocating "revolutionary nationalism" transcending class lines. On 31 October 1922, following the March on Rome (28–30 October), Mussolini was appointed prime minister by King Victor Emmanuel III, becoming the youngest individual to hold the office up to that time. After removing all political opposition through his secret police and outlawing labour strikes, Mussolini and his followers consolidated power through a series of laws that transformed the nation into a one-party dictatorship. Within five years, Mussolini established dictatorial authority by both legal and illegal means and aspired to create a totalitarian state. In 1929, Mussolini signed the Lateran Treaty with the Holy See to establish Vatican City.

Mussolini's foreign policy was based on the fascist doctrine of "''Spazio vitale''" (trans: "living space"); which aimed to expand Italian possessions and the fascist sphere of influence. In 1923, Mussolini ordered the bombing of Corfu over an incident with Greece. That same year, Mussolini launched the Second Italo-Senussi war which lasted until 1932 and culminated in the Libyan genocide. He also annexed the city of Fiume into Italy after the Treaty of Rome in 1924 with Yugoslavia. Through the Tirana treaties, Mussolini turned Albania into an Italian protectorate. In 1936, Ethiopia was conquered following the Second Italo-Ethiopian War and merged into Italian East Africa (AOI) with Eritrea and Somalia. In 1939, Italian forces annexed Albania. Between 1936 and 1939, Mussolini ordered an intervention in Spain in favour of Francisco Franco during the Spanish Civil War. At the same time, Mussolini initially tried to retain much of the Versailles status quo by sending troops to the Brenner Pass to delay Hitler's Anschluss, and taking part in the Treaty of Lausanne, the Lytton Report, the Four-Power Pact and the Stresa Front. However, he ultimately alienated the democratic powers as tensions grew in the League of Nations, which he left in 1937. Now hostile to France and Britain, Italy formed the Axis alliance with Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan.

The wars of the 1930s, although victorious, had cost Italy enormous resources, leaving the country unprepared for the upcoming Second World War. Therefore, when Poland was invaded on 1 September 1939, Mussolini declared Italy's non-belligerence. However, on 10 June 1940, believing that Allied defeat was imminent, he decided to join the war on the side of Germany to share the potential spoils of victory. But after three more years of world war, the tide of the conflict turned in favour of the Allies. Following the invasion of Sicily and a motion of no confidence by the Grand Council of Fascism, King Victor Emmanuel III dismissed Mussolini as head of government and placed him in custody (25 July 1943). After the king agreed to an armistice with the Allies, on 12 September 1943 Mussolini was rescued from captivity in the Gran Sasso raid by German paratroopers and ''Waffen-SS'' commandos. After meeting with his fallen ally, Hitler made Mussolini the figurehead of a puppet state in German-occupied northern Italy, the Italian Social Republic (Salò Republic), which served as a collaborationist regime of the Germans in their fight against the Allies, now including the Kingdom of Italy, and the Italian resistance.

In late April 1945, with Allied victory imminent, Mussolini and his mistress Clara Petacci attempted to flee to Switzerland, but they were captured by Italian communist partisans and summarily executed on 28 April near Lake Como, and their bodies were strung up by the heels outside a service station in Milan. Provided by Wikipedia
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