Believe it or not, dictators are pretty poor at gunning down wild game, though they are in a position to decide the fate of many of their unhappy subjects.
If a personal cook of East German leader Erich Honecker is to be believed, the Communist leader almost always used to cheat on his hunting expeditions.
The cook, Jurgen Krause, is quoted by The Times as saying that official photographs of Honecker’s catch of hundreds of hares or stags in the 1970s and 1980s were far from the truth.
He says that most of the animals were shot in advance and came straight out of the deep freeze.
“While Honecker and his guests were wading through the woods, most of the hares had already been caught and strung up by professional hunters. Many had not even been properly defrosted,” Krause said.
Romanian dictator Nicolae Ceausescu was helped by secret agents who injected Valium into pots of honey to slow down the prey, and he loved to shoot bears.
Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev was assisted by Polish agents, who use to train a bison for six months to stroll from one side of a forest to another so that it was ready to be shot by the former.
If Brezhnev missed, the marksmen were placed in bushes down below to bring down the prey, which included wild boar, foxes and elk made fat and slow by being fed specially imported maize.
Cooks like Herr Krause were sworn to secrecy about the origin of the meat served up at the often drunken banquets.
“For that reason I was trained not only as a cook, but as a bodyguard,” said Herr Krause, 62, whose memoirs are being serialised in the German magazine Bild.
Perhaps the most astonishing revelation is how incompetent the military top brass were in handling guns. Soviet Marshall Yakubowski, who had organised the invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968, is said to have candidly admitted that he had not held a weapon since 1945, and did not know how they worked.