Fidel Castro (b. 1926) was the revolutionary leader of Cuba from 1959 to his retirement in 2008. As the leader of Cuba, Castro established a communist dictatorship, closely aligned with the Soviet Union. Castro guided Cuba through decades of a U.S.-led embargo, the collapse of the Soviet Union, and several attempts to overthrow his regime.
Fidel Castro is the illegitimate son of a wealthy Cuban farmer, and at one time pursued a baseball career in the U.S. In 1945, he began studying law at the University of Havana, where he became increasingly motivated by leftist politics in opposition to the corrupt Cuban government. Increasingly active in social justice and revolutionary activities, Castro formed “The Movement” in 1952, aimed at overthrowing the Batista regime. From 1956 to 1959 he led a guerilla movement, eventually forcing Batista into exile, and becoming Prime Minister of Cuba in 1959.
At first, Castro’s government was not explicitly a Marxist state. It was not until after the Bay of Pigs invasion in 1961 that he formally established ties with the USSR. The 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis deepened this relationship, and led to the attempted economic isolation of the island by the U.S., an embargo only recently lifted. After leading Cuba for decades, Castro retired in 2008 due to declining health, giving power to his brother Raul.