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October 20, 2014

9 Most Deadly Genocides In History

While there are certainly no shortage of atrocities that would fit the bill for this list, I have decided to exclude many of the injustices that spanned decades or even centuries. As such, the colonizations of the Americas, Africa, and the westward expansion of the United States won’t appear on the list, despite the fact that they all boast numbers to claim the top spots in this list.

This list contains genocides that occurred under one regime, or over the span of a decade or less. While it may seem arbitrary, trying to sum up the injustices and massacres of the settlement in a paragraph seems not only difficult, but pointless. It’s hard enough to encapsulate those that occurred in a shorter time period.

So, at the risk of being a total buzzkill, here are the 9 worst genocides of the modern era. The numbers in parentheses to the side of the subheadings are the estimates of deaths, both low and high.

Happy Monday!

9. Assyrian Genocide (275,000-750,000)

World War I is shaping up to be a pretty turbulent era. You didn’t need to be a history scholar to know that, but the behind-the-scenes affairs ran much deeper than even the bloody trench warfare of the era. Since the Assyrian genocide happened concurrent with the Armenian genocide, it’s not often regarded separately. But when 300,000 people die for whatever reason, I’m going to make an executive decision and give it its own entry. In this instance, Christians were subjected to the wrath of others, which, as history dictates, is less frequent than many remember.

8. Decossackization (300,000-500,000)

While Cossacks fought on both sides (the Red and White armies) during the Russian revolution, the Red army—the victors in the struggle—dropped the hammer on the remaining Cossacks regardless of their affiliation, if only because their continued presence signified a threat to the new regime. As such, their holdings, land, and often their lives were considered property of the Red army, which ultimately caused the loss of hundreds of thousands of lives.

7. Armenian Genocide (300,000-1.5 Million)

Perhaps the second best-known holocaust after the WWII atrocity, the Armenian genocide stems from a bitter battle with Turkey that resulted in presumably over a million innocent lives lost. Unlike most genocides, this one has a precise starting date. The massacre began on April 24, 1915 when Ottoman (Turkish) forces arrested 250 dissident leaders in an effort to quell backlash against their forced relocation of Armenians to Syria. The forced relocation march was hundreds of miles, and many Armenians were denied food and water throughout the duration of the trip. Though the evidence is damning, Turkey to this day disputes the allegations of genocide, without much of a foot to stand on.

6. Russian Conquest of the Caucasus (400,000)

The reign of three Tsars (Alexander I, Nicholas I, and Alexander II) led to a war that lasted from 1817-1864. But the lion’s share of the genocide occurred in the later years, simply because Russia was busy fighting pretty much everyone during the early years, most notably Turkey and Persia. Leave it to the Russians to not only leave hundreds of thousands of men on the battlefield, but also to stop at nothing to seize the territory that they considered theirs.

5. Rwandan Genocide (500,000-1 Million)

In 1994, it’s estimated that Rwanda lost a staggering 20% of its population in systematic executions. The genocide stemmed from the Rwandan civil war, which pitted the Hutus regime against the rising rebel Tutsi faction. The assassination of the Hutu leader Juvenal Habyarimana caused a fierce Hutu retaliation. The Rwandan military and Hutu groups simply too vengeance against all Tutsi civilians, regardless of age or sex.

4. Expulsion of Germans after WWII (500,000–3 Million)

At the end of WWII, many of Germany’s neighbors were less-than-pleased with the country’s recent actions. So when the Nazi party fell, Germans owere on the move, both voluntarily and forcibly. German civilians were literally on the run from the advancing Red Army, which was closing in on their homeland, carrying a ruthless reputation. Refugees were run over by tanks, and long lines of civilians would be gunned down by low-flying aircraft. Many countries refused to harbor the refugees, and those that accepted them often kept them in toxic internment camps that offered little in the way of medical care or nourishment.

3. Cambodian Genocide (1.7-3 Million)

From 1975-1979, the Khmer Rouge, headed by dictator Pol Pot, conducted a reign of terror, causing the deaths of millions of Cambodians through executions, starvation, and forced labor. The Khmer Rouge had a very strange and twisted value system, teaching only basic math and writing, then instilling in children a revolutionary spirit, encouraging (or forcing) them to spy on their elders for the state. Eventually, the Khmer Rouge’s reign came to an end when Vietnam invaded the country, putting it under Vietnamese rule and ending the bloodbath.

2. Holodomor (2.5-11 Million)

This widespread Soviet famine was the result of an initiative that precipitated a forced collectivization of farmers in Russia and surrounding countries including the Ukraine and Kazhakstan, among others. Essentially, the government made private farming their own business, and in doing so refused to let even starving peasant farmers eat their own crops. Farming supplies were seized and stolen, leaving many unable to both sow and reap.

The famine lasted from 1932-1933, but the Soviet government made any discussion of it illegal until its dissolution in the early 1990’s, even blocking census records so that the public couldn’t measure the damage done.

1. Holocaust (4.2-10.5 Million)

This is perhaps the best-known holocaust due to its recent occurrence and the fact that we have lived in a fairly Eurocentric world the past few centuries. Of course, there’s also the fact that Adolph Hitler and his Nazis managed to wipe out more people (predominately continental Jews) than any other person or regime in recorded history. Most of the murders were committed by ruthlessly efficient concentration camps from 1938-1944, to which Jews were shipped as cargo or cattle aboard trains, then killed through starvation, illness, firing squad, or gas chambers.