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Democide

From Academic Kids

Democide is a term coined by political scientist R. J. Rummel in his book Death by Government to describe "the murder of any person or people by a government, including genocide, politicide, and mass murder". For example, government-sponsored killings for political reasons would be considered democide. Democide can also include deaths arising from "reckless and depraved disregard for life"; this brings into account many deaths arising through various neglects and abuses, such as mass starvation. However, Rummel himself uses a broader sense of government responsibility, including all kinds of "reason-result" relationships between a government action and the actual death of person. Moreover, in enumerating the number of democide victims, he does not require actual evidence of deaths as caused by the government; a statistical increase in fatalities is, for Rummel, effective proof.

While of relatively recent origin, the word has increased in usage, particularly by legal and social activists for human rights. It should, however, be noted that the term democide is not yet widely accepted. Furthermore, it is disputed whether the term, both in current use and as Rummel intended it, encompasses the deaths of soldiers in war.

Contents

Accusations of democide

For books, articles, data, and analyses regarding democide, see Rummel's website. [1] (http://www.hawaii.edu/powerkills/)

Accusations of mass killings by a government are relatively common. Less common are well-documented cases with enough evidence to support the accusation. Almost all accusations are disputed to some degree, although the evidence in some cases is stronger than in others. For instance, many of the figures cited in Death by Government, in which R.J. Rummel first coined the term, have been criticized for not taking into account numbers of deaths caused by the absence of government by means such as anarchy, civil disorder, or foreign invasion.

Some frequently used examples of democide include The Great Purges carried out by Joseph Stalin in the Soviet Union between 1934 and 1939, which led to an estimated 20 million deaths, and the actions of Mao Zedong in launching the Great Leap Forward in 1958, resulting in a famine which killed millions of people. These were not cases of genocide, because those who were killed were not selected on the basis of their race, but were killed in large numbers as a result of government policies.

Significant 20th century democides

The following based on Matthew White's web site [2] (http://users.erols.com/mwhite28/warstats.htm) lists the significant democides where the death rate can be estimated to exceed 1,000,000. Accurate figures are difficult to establish and many estimates tend to reflect particular biases. In speaking of the Rwanda and Burundi democides White concludes that the toll was "700,000 to 1,600,000 more or less". Several of these amounts, Mao's China, Stalin's USSR and others, include a significant portion of deaths due to famine, sometimes deliberate in order to punish rebellious areas. According to Amartya Sen, a prominent economist, no functioning liberal democracy has ever suffered a large scale famine, although this depends on how strict the definition of democracy is; for example, some argue that the Great Irish Famine of 1846 was a famine in democratic state.


  1. World War II (1937-1945) 55,000,000
  2. Mao's China (1949-1975) 40,000,000 (mostly famine)
  3. Stalin's Soviet Union (1924-1953) 20,000,000
  4. World War I (1914-1918) 16,800,000
  5. Nationalist China (1928-1937) 9,600,000
  6. Russian Civil War (1917-1922) 8,900,000
  7. Congo Free State (1886-1908) 8,000,000 (mostly disease)
  8. Warlord China (1917-1928) 6,800,000
  9. Indochina War (1946-1975) 5,000,000
  10. North Korea (1948-present) 4,600,000 (excluding the Korean War)
  11. Democratic Republic of the Congo (1998-present) 3,300,000
  12. Chinese Civil War (1945-1949) 3,000,000
  13. Nigeria (1966-1970) 3,000,000
  14. Korean War (1950-1953) 2,900,000
  15. Expulsion of Germans after World War II (1945-1947) 2,100,000 (disputed)
  16. Suharto's regime in Indonesia (1966-1998) 2,000,000
  17. Second Indochina War (1960-1975) 1,900,000
  18. Pol Pot's Cambodia (1975-1978) 1,800,000
  19. Sudan (1983-present) 1,500,000
  20. Ethiopia (1962-1992) 1,500,000
  21. Bangladesh (1971) 1,500,000
  22. Afghanistan (1979-2001) 1,400,000
  23. Mozambique (1975-1993) 1,100,000
  24. Mexico (1910-1920) 1,000,000
  25. Armenia (1915-1923) 1,000,000
  26. Rwanda and Burundi (1959-1995) 1,000,000
  27. Iran-Iraq War (1980-1988) 1,000,000

The listing of the Expulsion of Germans after World War II has been hotly disputed, since there is a significant problem to establish how many people died during evacuation. The dispute includes the high numbers associated with that historical event, the killed versus died attribute. Moreover, the very high number must have included people died or killed during WW2, when the process started.

The total of these is 196,500,000

Critics of Rummel's calculations

Professional historians point out that Rummel's methods of calculating death tolls are highly controversial. He compares the statistical data before and after a crucial date and derives conclusions about the number of killings which occurred in between. However, he fails to establish evidence of the actual killing. His results are partially based on statistical data which may be prone to errors. The above figures are based on many other calculations beside Rummel's.

External links

  • Rummel's website Power Kills (http://www.hawaii.edu/powerkills)

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