Salazar – shy dictator of Portugal – 1970

Salazar – shy dictator of Portugal – 1970

Interestingly, Salazar was chosen by Portuguese citizens as the Greatest Portuguese in history in a 2007 poll. His regime, despite its austerity, seemed to be quite successful.

António de Oliveira Salazar was the Portuguese Prime Minister for many years. He spent a full 36 years as Prime Minister of Portugal (from 1932 to 1968), and for a short time he was also the Acting President of the Republic. Because of his authoritarian rule, Salazar is sometimes referred to as a dictator. Nevertheless, it is interesting that the citizens of Portugal in a 2007 poll chose him as the Greatest Portuguese in history. His regime, despite its austerity, seemed to be quite successful. Even the American magazine Life in 1940 proclaimed him “the greatest Portuguese since the time of Henrik the Sailor” (a prince credited with great Portuguese maritime discoveries in the 15th and 16th centuries).

Salazar was born into a family of modest means, but of noble origin. As a young man, he considered becoming a priest, but still decided to study law. He holds a doctorate in law and specializes in the economic aspect of the profession. He became a professor at the University of Coimbra, the most distinguished in Portugal and one of the oldest in all of Europe (Coimbra is like the Portuguese Oxford or Cambridge).

At the age of 36, Salazar has already become the Prime Minister of Portugal. He was quite withdrawn, so some called him the Shy Dictator. Namely, unlike most dictators, he was not happy to give public speeches and did not build a cult of personality. Under his regime, Portugal escaped the horrors of the Spanish Civil War and World War II, and avoided communist rule.

He died on July 27, 1970, after spending two years in isolation. He was buried in the famous monastery of Jerónimos in Lisbon.

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