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A protester wearing an EU flag stands at  Ukrainian President Yanukovych's countryside residence in Mezhyhirya, Kiev's region, Ukraine, Saturday, Feb, 22, 2014.  Ukrainian security and volunteers from among Independence Square protesters have joined forces to protect the presidential countryside retreat from vandalism and looting.

A Ukrainian man wears his flag in protest outside President Yanukovych's countryside estate.

PHOTOGRAPH BY ANDREW LUBIMOV  

Heidi Schultz and Taryn Salinas

National Geographic

Published February 25, 2014

A popular uprising has driven Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych out of office and into hiding. On Saturday, anti-government protesters accessed the once heavily secured presidential estate outside Kiev and discovered an opulent mansion, complete with helipad, golf course, yacht, half-built car museum, exotic birds from Burma, and a petting zoo.

Here are pictures of the palaces revealed when some of the world's most notorious leaders were ousted.

Picture of ostriches.
PHOTOGRAPH BY JULIA KOCHETOVA/SIPA/AP

Anti-government protesters find exotic ostriches as part of a private zoo on the grounds of Yanukovych's residence, known as Mezhyhirya.

Picture of the palace of former president Ceausescu.
PHOTOGRAPH BY BERND WEIEBROD, AP

Nicolae Ceaușescu was Romania's brutal communist ruler from 1965 until 1989, when he was overthrown in a revolution and killed with his wife by firing squad after the couple was found guilty of crimes against the state.

His Palace of the Parliament in Bucharest, believed to be the world's heaviest building—it's so large that it can be seen from space—is now a popular tourist attraction.

Picture of visitors viewing the bedroom of Imelda Marcos at the Santo Nino shrine.
PHOTOGRAPH BY ROMEO GACAD, GETTY IMAGES

Tourists view the bedroom of former first lady of the Philippines Imelda Marcos at the Santo Niño Shrine in her hometown of Tacloban. The palatial residence was one of dozens throughout the country built by her and husband President Ferdinand Marcos, who ruled the island nation from 1965 until a popular revolt forced the couple to flee in 1986.

Picture of a museum employee checking shoes of former Philippine first lady Imelda Marcos.
PHOTOGRAPH BY TED ALJIBE, AFP/GETTY IMAGES

Hundreds of pairs of shoes that belonged to former first lady of the Philippines Imelda Marcos are on display at the Marikina Shoe Museum in the shoe manufacturing district of the country's capital city Manila. Marcos's shoe collection became synonymous with the excess she and her husband exhibited in office.

Picture of the Tunisian presidential palace.
PHOTOGRAPH BY FRANCOIS LOCHON, GAMMA-RAPHO VIA GETTY IMAGES

Tunisian president Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali ruled for 23 years before stepping down in January 2011 during weeks of violent demonstrations over soaring unemployment and corruption. The protests and Ben Ali's overthrow were early flare-ups in what would become the Arab Spring.

Tens of thousands of belongings from Ben Ali's opulent palace in Carthage were put up for auction in 2012 to raise millions of euros for the government.

An aerial view of toppled Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein's Republican Palace.
PHOTOGRAPH BY MARWAN NAAMANI, AFP/GETTY IMAGES

Saddam Hussein, Iraq's despotic ruler for more than two decades, was toppled by a coalition led by the United States and United Kingdom in 2003. He built luxurious palaces in every corner of the country, including this one in the ancient city of Babylon. Turned into a training camp by American and Polish troops, tourists can visit the once glorious palace, and even spend their honeymoon in a chamber that reportedly was one of Hussein's bedrooms.

7 comments
Phoebe Wong
Phoebe Wong

interesting that the photos are all of non-western countries (well, ukraine is kind of western). not that western countries haven't had tyrants living in opulent palaces. ah yes, we call them kings.. and revere them now as we watch Prince William and Kate take money shamelessly from taxpayers in the UK.


and the louvre is now a museum, with french emperors admired for their architectural taste

David Keddy
David Keddy

Tremerndously interesting.  All of their riches and excesses could not forstall their various fates.  Perhaps there still is justice in our wonderful world.

Steven Reifman
Steven Reifman

These vestiges of power make wonderful artifacts, that must be a reminder of how far we have come in many ways in just a relatively few short years towards a democratic world. To think that the Ukraine was part of the Soviet Union such a short time ago. 

Yet Power will continue to be abused, it seems to come with the territory.

Phyllis Mangum
Phyllis Mangum

such opulent decadence is heartbreaking when you see how the common people live.

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