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Mass killings under communist regimes

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Mass killings occurred under several twentieth-century Communist regimes. Death estimates vary widely, depending on the definitions of deaths included. The higher estimates of mass killings account for crimes against civilians by governments, including executions, destruction of population through man-made hunger and deaths during forced deportations, imprisonment and through forced labor. Terms used to define these killings include "mass killing", "democide", "politicide", "classicide" and a broad definition of "genocide". The controversial estimates in Stéphane Courtois's introduction[1] to The Black Book of Communism and by Martin Malia suggested a total death toll of between 85 and 100 million people.[2][nb 1][nb 2]



Several different terms are used to describe the intentional killing of large numbers of noncombatants.[nb 3][6][nb 4][nb 5] The following terminology has been used to describe mass killings of unarmed civilians by Communist governments, individually or as a whole:

  • Genocide – under the Genocide Convention, the crime of genocide generally applies to mass murder of ethnic rather than political or social groups. Protection of political groups was eliminated from the UN resolution after a second vote, because many states, including Stalin's USSR,[9] anticipated that clause to apply unneeded limitations to their right to suppress internal disturbances.[10] Genocide is also a popular term for mass political killing, which is studied academically as democide and politicide.[11] Killing by the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia has been labeled genocide or auto-genocide and, more controversially, the deaths under Leninism and Stalinism in the USSR and Maoism in China have been investigated as possible cases. In particular, the famines in the USSR in the 1930s and during the Great Leap Forward in China have been "depicted as mass killing underpinned by genocidal intent."[12][nb 6] According to Alexandra Laignel-Lavastine, "historians and philosophers close to politically liberal groups" in Europe, especially in Romania, have made the term Communist Genocide a part of the vocabulary.[13]
  • Politicide – the term politicide is used to describe the killing of groups that would not otherwise be covered by the Genocide Convention.[14] Barbara Harff studies "genocide and politicide", sometimes shortened as geno-politicide, to include the mass killing of political, economic, ethnic and cultural groups.[11][nb 7] Manus I. Midlarsky uses the term politicide to describe an arc of mass killings from the western parts of the Soviet Union to China and Cambodia.[nb 8] In his book The killing trap: genocide in the twentieth century Midlarsky raises similarities between the killings of Stalin and Pol Pot.[16]
  • DemocideR. J. Rummel defines democide as "the intentional killing of an unarmed or disarmed person by government agents acting in their authoritative capacity and pursuant to government policy or high command".[17] According to him, this definition covers a wide range of deaths, including forced labor and concentration camp victims; killings by "unofficial" private groups; extrajudicial summary killings; and mass deaths due to the governmental acts of criminal omission and neglect, such as in deliberate famines, as well as killings by de facto governments, i.e. civil war killings.[17] This definition covers any murder of any number of persons by any government,[17] and it is equally applicable to mass killings perpetrated by communist regimes.[18] [19]
  • Crime against humanityKlas-Göran Karlsson uses the term crimes against humanity, which includes "the direct mass killings of politically undesirable elements, as well as forced deportations and forced labour". He acknowledges that the term may be misleading in the sense that the regimes targeted groups of their own citizens, but considers it useful as a broad legal term which emphasizes attacks on civilian populations and because the offenses demean humanity as a whole.[7] Jacques Semelin and Michael Mann[20] believe that crime against humanity is more appropriate than genocide or politicide when speaking of violence by Communist regimes.[21]
  • Classicide – Michael Mann has proposed the term classicide to mean the "intended mass killing of entire social classes".[22][nb 9] Classicide is considered "premeditated mass killing" narrower than genocide in that it targets a part of a population defined by its social status, but broader than politicide in that the group is targeted without regard to their political activity.[24]
  • RepressionStephen Wheatcroft notes that, in the case of the Soviet Union, terms such as the terror, the purges, and repression are used to refer to the same events. He believes the most neutral terms are repression and mass killings, although in Russian the broad concept of repression is commonly held to include mass killings and is sometimes assumed to be synonymous with it, which is not the case in other languages.[6]
  • Mass killingErvin Staub defined mass killing as "killing members of a group without the intention to eliminate the whole group or killing large numbers of people without a precise definition of group membership. In a mass killing the number of people killed is usually smaller than in genocide."[25][nb 10] Referencing earlier definitions[nb 11], Joan Esteban, Massimo Morelli and Dominic Rohner have defined mass killings as "the killings of substantial numbers of human beings, when not in the course of military action against the military forces of an avowed enemy, under the conditions of the essential defenselessness and helplessness of the victims".[29] The term has been defined by Benjamin Valentino as "the intentional killing of a massive number of noncombatants", where a "massive number" is defined as at least 50,000 intentional deaths over the course of five years or less.[30] This is the most accepted quantitative minimum threshold for the term.[29] He applies this definition to the cases of Stalin's USSR, the PRC under Mao, and Cambodia under the Khmer Rouge, while admitting that "mass killings on a smaller scale" also appear to have been carried out by regimes in North Korea, Vietnam, Eastern Europe, and Africa.[31] Frank Wayman and Atsushi Tago use the term mass killing from Valentino and concluded that, even with a lower threshold (10,000 killed per year, 1,000 killed per year, or even 1 killed per year), "autocratic regimes, especially communist, are prone to mass killing generically, but not so strongly inclined (i.e. not statistically significantly inclined) toward geno-politicide."[11][nb 12]
  • Holocaust – the United States Congress has referred to the mass killings collectively as "an unprecedented imperial communist holocaust"[32][33] while the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation established by the United States Congress refers to this subject as the "Communist holocaust".[34] The term Red Holocaust has been used by German historian Horst Möller.[35] American professor Steven Rosefielde has published a book on this subject titled Red Holocaust.[36] According to Alexandra Laignel-Lavastine, "historians and philosophers close to politically liberal groups" in Europe, especially in Romania, have made the term Red Holocaust a part of the vocabulary.[13] The usage of this metaphor is condemned as an attempt to usurp and undermine the history of European Jews.[37]


A pile of stones in Germany placed as a memorial to people killed by communist governments

Discussion of the number of victims of Communist regimes has been "extremely extensive and ideologically biased".[7]

Modern historical studies estimate a total number of Stalinism repression deaths during the Great Purge (1937–38) as 950,000 - 1,200,000. These figures take into account the incompleteness of official archival data and include both execution deaths and Gulag deaths during that period.[nb 13] Modern data for the whole of Stalin's rule was summarized by Timothy Snyder, who concluded that Stalinism caused six million direct deaths and nine millions in total, including the deaths from deportation, hunger, and Gulag deaths.[nb 14]

The results of a demographic study of the Cambodian genocide demonstrated that the nationwide death toll in 1975-1979 amounted to 1,843,000-1,871,000, or 21 to 24 percent of the Cambodian population before the Khmer Rouge took power.[40] According to Ben Kiernan, the number of deaths caused by executions us still unknown, because many victims died because of starvation, disease and overwork.[40]

Although any attempt to estimate a total number of victims of communism depends greatly on definitions,[41] several attempts to compile previously published data have been made.

  • In his introduction to the Black Book of Communism (1999), Stéphane Courtois gave a "rough approximation, based on unofficial estimates" approaching 100 million killed.[nb 15] In his foreword to the book, Martin Malia noted "a grand total of victims variously estimated by contributors to the volume at between 85 million and 100 million."
  • According to Benjamin Valentino in 2005, the estimates of the number of non-combatants killed by Communist regimes in the Soviet Union, People's Republic of China, and Cambodia alone ranged from a low of 21 million to a high of 70 million, and the total number of people killed by communist regimes was up to 110 million.[43][nb 16]
  • In 2005, R. J. Rummel revised his estimate of total Communist democide between 1900 and 1999 upward by 38 million to "about 148,000,000", due to recent publications about Mao's role in China's Great Famine.[44]

The criticisms of some of the estimates were mostly focused on three aspects: (i) the estimates were based on sparse and incomplete data, when significant errors are inevitable[19][46][17], (ii) some critics said the figures were skewed to higher possible values[47][nb 17][19], and (iii) some critics argued that victims of Holodomor and other man-made famines created by communist governments should not be counted.[49][19][50]

Proposed causesEdit

Political system and ideologyEdit

Many scholars, such as R. J. Rummel, Daniel Goldhagen,[51] Richard Pipes,[52] and John N. Gray[53] consider communism as a significant causative factor in mass killings.[54] Klas-Göran Karlsson writes that "Ideologies are systems of ideas, which cannot commit crimes independently. However, individuals, collectives and states that have defined themselves as communist have committed crimes in the name of communist ideology, or without naming communism as the direct source of motivation for their crimes."[55]

According to Rudolph Joseph Rummel, the killings committed by communist regimes can best be explained as the result of the marriage between absolute power and an absolutist ideology – Marxism.[56] "Of all religions, secular and otherwise," Rummel positions Marxism as "by far the bloodiest – bloodier than the Catholic Inquisition, the various Catholic crusades, and the Thirty Years War between Catholics and Protestants. In practice, Marxism has meant bloody terrorism, deadly purges, lethal prison camps and murderous forced labor, fatal deportations, man-made famines, extrajudicial executions and fraudulent show trials, outright mass murder and genocide."[57] He writes that in practice the Marxists saw the construction of their utopia as "a war on poverty, exploitation, imperialism and inequality – and, as in a real war, noncombatants would unfortunately get caught in the battle. There would be necessary enemy casualties: the clergy, bourgeoisie, capitalists, 'wreckers', intellectuals, counterrevolutionaries, rightists, tyrants, the rich and landlords. As in a war, millions might die, but these deaths would be justified by the end, as in the defeat of Hitler in World War II. To the ruling Marxists, the goal of a communist utopia was enough to justify all the deaths."[57]

In his book Red Holocaust, Steven Rosefielde says that communism's internal contradictions "caused to be killed" approximately 60 million people and perhaps tens of millions more, and that this "Red Holocaust" – the peacetime mass killings and other related crimes against humanity perpetrated by Communist leaders such as Joseph Stalin, Kim Il Sung, Mao Zedong, Ho Chi Minh and Pol Pot—should be the centerpiece of any net assessment of communism. He states that the aforementioned leaders are "collectively guilty of holocaust-scale felonious homicides."[58]

Prosecutor General Andrey Vyshinsky (centre), reading the 1937 indictment against Karl Radek during the 2nd Moscow Trial

Robert Conquest stressed that Stalin's purges were not contrary to the principles of Leninism, but rather a natural consequence of the system established by Vladimir Lenin, who personally ordered the killing of local groups of class enemy hostages.[59] Alexander Yakovlev, architect of perestroika and glasnost and later head of the Presidential Commission for the Victims of Political Repression, elaborates on this point, stating that "The truth is that in punitive operations Stalin did not think up anything that was not there under Lenin: executions, hostage taking, concentration camps, and all the rest."[60] Historian Robert Gellately concurs, saying: "To put it another way, Stalin initiated very little that Lenin had not already introduced or previewed."[61] Said Lenin to his colleagues in the Bolshevik government: "If we are not ready to shoot a saboteur and White Guardist, what sort of revolution is that?"[62]

Anne Applebaum asserts that, "without exception, the Leninist belief in the one-party state was and is characteristic of every communist regime," and "the Bolshevik use of violence was repeated in every Communist revolution." Phrases said by Lenin and Cheka founder Felix Dzerzhinsky were deployed all over the world. She notes that as late as 1976, Mengistu Haile Mariam unleashed a "Red Terror" in Ethiopia.[63]

Literary historian George G. Watson saw socialism as conservative, a reaction against liberalism. In The Lost Literature of Socialism, he cites an 1849 article written by Friedrich Engels called "The Hungarian Struggle" and published in Marx's journal Neue Rheinische Zeitung, stating that the writings of Engels and others show that "the Marxist theory of history required and demanded genocide for reasons implicit in its claim that feudalism, which in advanced nations was already giving place to capitalism, must in its turn be superseded by socialism. Entire nations would be left behind after a workers' revolution, feudal remnants in a socialist age, and since they could not advance two steps at a time, they would have to be killed. They were racial trash, as Engels called them, and fit only for the dung-heap of history."[64][nb 18] Watson's claims have been criticised by Robert Grant for "dubious evidence", arguing that "what Marx and Engels are calling for is ... at the very least a kind of cultural genocide; but it is not obvious, at least from Watson's citations, that actual mass killing, rather than (to use their phraseology) mere 'absorption' or 'assimilation', is in question."[65] Historian Andrzej Walicki, talking about Engels' 1849 article and citing Watson's book, has said, "It is difficult to deny that this was an outright call for genocide."[66]

Benjamin Valentino writes that mass killings strategies are chosen by Communists to economically dispossess large numbers of people.[67] "Social transformations of this speed and magnitude have been associated with mass killing for two primary reasons. First, the massive social dislocations produced by such changes have often led to economic collapse, epidemics, and, most important, widespread famines. ... The second reason that communist regimes bent on the radical transformation of society have been linked to mass killing is that the revolutionary changes they have pursued have clashed inexorably with the fundamental interests of large segments of their populations. Few people have proved willing to accept such far-reaching sacrifices without intense levels of coersion."[68]

According to Jacques Semelin, "communist systems emerging in the twentieth century ended up destroying their own populations, not because they planned to annihilate them as such, but because they aimed to restructure the 'social body' from top to bottom, even if that meant purging it and recarving it to suit their new Promethean political imaginaire."[69]

Failure of the rule of lawEdit

Eric D. Weitz says that the mass killing in communist states are a natural consequence of the failure of the rule of law, seen commonly during periods of social upheaval in the 20th century. For both communist and non-communist mass killings, "genocides occurred at moments of extreme social crisis, often generated by the very policies of the regimes."[70] They are not inevitable but are political decisions.[70]

Stephen Hicks of Rockford College ascribes the violence characteristic of twentieth-century socialist rule to these collectivist regimes' abandonment of protections of civil rights and rejection of the values of civil society. Hicks writes that whereas "in practice every liberal capitalist country has a solid record for being humane, for by and large respecting rights and freedoms, and for making it possible for people to put together fruitful and meaningful lives", in socialism "practice has time and again proved itself more brutal than the worst dictatorships prior to the twentieth century. Each socialist regime has collapsed into dictatorship and begun killing people on a huge scale."[71]

The Black Book of Communism claims an association between communism and criminality—"Communist regimes ... turned mass crime into a full-blown system of government"[72]—and says that this criminality lies at the level of ideology rather than state practice.[73]

Other claimsEdit

Martin Malia called Russian exceptionalism and the War Experience general reasons for barbarity.[74] The University of Oklahoma political scientist Allen D. Hertzke zooms in on the ideas of British Catholic writer and historian Paul Johnson. According to him, "the attempt to live without God made idols of politics and produced the century's 'gangster statesmen' – Stalin, Hitler, Mao, Pol Pot – whose 'unappeasable appetite for controlling mankind' unleashed unimaginable horrors. Or as T.S. Eliot puts it, 'If you will not have God (and he is a jealous God) you should pay your respects to Hitler or Stalin.'"[75]

The Russian and world history scholar John M. Thompson places personal responsibility directly on Joseph Stalin. According to him, "much of what occurred only makes sense if it stemmed in part from the disturbed mentality, pathological cruelty, and extreme paranoia of Stalin himself. Insecure, despite having established a dictatorship over the party and country, hostile and defensive when confronted with criticism of the excesses of collectivization and the sacrifices required by high-tempo industrialization, and deeply suspicious that past, present, and even yet unknown future opponents were plotting against him, Stalin began to act as a person beleaguered. He soon struck back at enemies, real or imaginary.[76]" Historian Helen Rappaport describes Nikolay Yezhov, the bureaucrat in charge of the NKVD during the Great Purge, as a physically diminutive figure of "limited intelligence" and "narrow political understanding.... Like other instigators of mass murder throughout history, [he] compensated for his lack of physical stature with a pathological cruelty and the use of brute terror."[77]

States where mass killings have occurredEdit

Soviet UnionEdit

Sign for the Memorial about Repression in USSR at Lubyanka Square. The memorial was erected by the human rights group Memorial in the USSR in 1990 in remembrance of the more than 40,000 innocent people shot in Moscow during the "years of terror".

After the Soviet Union dissolved, evidence from the Soviet archives became available, containing official records of the execution of approximately 800,000 prisoners under Stalin for either political or criminal offenses, around 1.7 million deaths in the Gulags and some 390,000 deaths during kulak forced resettlement – for a total of about 3 million officially recorded victims in these categories.[nb 19]

Estimates on the number of deaths brought about by Stalin's rule are hotly debated by scholars in the field of Soviet and communist studies.[79][80] The published results vary depending on the time when the estimate was made, on the criteria and methods used for the estimates, and sources available for estimates. Some historians attempt to make separate estimates for different periods of the Soviet history, with casualties for the Stalinist period varying from 8 to 61 million.[81][82][83] Several scholars, among them Stalin biographer Simon Sebag Montefiore, former Politburo member Alexander Nikolaevich Yakovlev and the director of Yale's "Annals of Communism" series Jonathan Brent, put the death toll at about 20 million.[nb 20][nb 21][nb 22][nb 23][nb 24][nb 25][nb 26] Robert Conquest, in the latest revision (2007) of his book The Great Terror, estimates that while exact numbers will never be certain, the communist leaders of the USSR were responsible for no fewer than 15 million deaths.[nb 27]

According to Stephen G. Wheatcroft, Stalin's regime can be charged with causing the "purposive deaths" of about a million people, although the number of deaths caused by the regime's "criminal neglect" and "ruthlessness" was considerably higher, and perhaps exceed Hitler's.[6] Wheatcroft excludes all famine deaths as "purposive deaths," and claims those that do qualify fit more closely the category of "execution" rather than "murder."[6] However, some of the actions of Stalin's regime, not only those during the Holodomor but also Dekulakization and targeted campaigns against particular ethnic groups, can be considered as genocide, [92][93] at least in its loose definition.[94]

Genocide scholar Adam Jones claims that "there is very little in the record of human experience to match the violence unleashed between 1917, when the Bolsheviks took power, and 1953, when Joseph Stalin died and the Soviet Union moved to adopt a more restrained and largely non-murderous domestic policy." He notes the exceptions being the Khmer Rouge (in relative terms) and Mao's rule in China (in absolute terms).[95]

Red TerrorEdit

Red Terror was a period of political repression and executions carried out by Bolsheviks after the beginning of the Russian Civil War in 1918. During this period, the political police, the Cheka had conducted summary executions of tens of thousands of "enemies of the people".[96][97][98][99] Many victims were 'bourgeois hostages' rounded up and held in readiness for summary execution in reprisal for any alleged counter-revolutionary provocation.[100] Many were put to death during and after the suppression of revolts, such as the Kronstadt rebellion and the Tambov Rebellion. Professor Donald Rayfield claims that "the repression that followed the rebellions in Kronstadt and Tambov alone resulted in tens of thousands of executions."[101] A large number of Orthodox clergymen were also killed.[102][103]

The policy of decossackization amounted to an attempt by Soviet leaders to "eliminate, exterminate, and deport the population of a whole territory," according to Nicolas Werth.[104] In the early months of 1919, some 10,000 to 12,000 Cossacks were executed[105][106] and many more deported after their villages were razed to the ground.[107] According to historian Michael Kort, "During 1919 and 1920, out of a population of approximately 1.5 million Don Cossacks, the Bolshevik regime killed or deported an estimated 300,000 to 500,000".[108]

Soviet famine of 1932–1933Edit

Soviet famine of 1932–33. Areas of most disastrous famine marked with black.

Within the Soviet Union, forced changes in agricultural policies (collectivization), confiscations of grain and droughts caused the Soviet famine of 1932–1933.[109][110][111] The famine was most severe in the Ukrainian SSR, where it is often referenced as the Holodomor. A significant portion of the famine victims (3.3 to 7.5 million) were Ukrainians.[112][113][114] Another part of the famine was known as Kazakh catastrophe, when more than 1.3 million ethnic Kazakhs (38% of all indigenous population) died.[115][116] Many scholars say that the Stalinist policies that caused the famine may have been designed as an attack on the rise of Ukrainian nationalism,[117] and thus may fall under the legal definition of genocide (see Holodomor genocide question).[109][118][119][120]

The famine was officially recognized as a genocide by the Ukraine and other governments[121][nb 28] In a draft resolution, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe declared the famine was caused by the "cruel and deliberate actions and policies of the Soviet regime" and was responsible for the deaths of "millions of innocent people" in Ukraine, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Moldova and Russia. Relative to its population, Kazakhstan is believed to have been the most adversely affected.[122] Regarding the Kazakh catastrophe, Michael Ellman states that it "seems to be an example of ‘negligent genocide’ which falls outside the scope of the UN Convention of genocide."[94]

Great Purge (Yezhovshchina)Edit

Stalin's attempts to solidify his position as leader of the Soviet Union lead to an escalation in detentions and executions of various people, climaxing in 1937–38 (a period sometimes referred to as the "Yezhovshchina," or Yezhov era), and continuing until Stalin's death in 1953. Around 700,000 of these were executed by a gunshot to the back of the head,[123] others perished from beatings and torture while in "investigative custody"[124] and in the Gulag due to starvation, disease, exposure and overwork.[nb 29]

Vynnytsa, Ukraine, June 1943. Mass graves dating from 1937–38 opened up and hundreds of bodies exhumed for identification by family members.[126]

Arrests were typically made citing counter-revolutionary laws, which included failure to report treasonous actions and, in an amendment added in 1937, failing to fulfill one's appointed duties. In the cases investigated by the State Security Department of the NKVD (GUGB NKVD) October 1936 – November 1938, at least 1,710,000 people were arrested and 724,000 people executed.[127]

Regarding the persecution of clergy, Michael Ellman has stated that "...the 1937–38 terror against the clergy of the Russian Orthodox Church and of other religions (Binner & Junge 2004) might also qualify as genocide".[94] Citing church documents, Alexander Nikolaevich Yakovlev has estimated that over 100,000 priests, monks and nuns were executed during this time.[128]

Former "kulaks" and their families made up the majority of victims, with 669,929 people arrested and 376,202 executed.[129]

National operations of the NKVDEdit

In 1930s, the NKVD conducted a series of national operations, which targeted some "national contingents" suspected in counter-revolutionary activity.[94] A total of 350,000 were arrested and 247,157 were executed.[130] Of these, the Polish operation, which targeted the members of already non-existing Polska Organizacja Wojskowa appears to have been the largest, with 140,000 arrests and 111,000 executions.[94] Although these operation might well constitute genocide as defined by the UN convention,[94] or "a mini-genocide" according to Montefiore,[130] there is as yet no authoritative ruling on the legal characterisation of these events.[94]

Great purge in MongoliaEdit

In the summer and autumn of 1937, Joseph Stalin sent NKVD agents to the Mongolian People's Republic and engineered a Mongolian Great Terror[131] in which some 22,000[132] and 35,000[133] people were executed. Around 18,000 victims were Buddhist lamas.[132]

Soviet killings during World War IIEdit

Victims of Soviet NKVD in Lviv, June 1941.

In September 1939, following the Soviet invasion of Poland, NKVD task forces started removing "Soviet-hostile elements" from the conquered territories.[134] The NKVD systematically practiced torture, which often resulted in death.[135][136]

The most notorious killings occurred in the spring of 1940, when the NKVD executed some 21,857 Polish POWs and intellectual leaders in what has become known as the Katyn massacre.[137][138][139] According to the Polish Institute of National Remembrance, 150,000 Polish citizens perished due to Soviet repression during the war.[140][141]

Plaque on the building of Government of Estonia, Toompea, commemorating government members killed by communist terror

Executions were also carried out after the annexation of the Baltic states.[142] During the initial phases of Operation Barbarossa, the NKVD and attached units of the Red Army massacred prisoners and political opponents by the tens of thousands before fleeing from the advancing Axis forces.[143]

Mass deportations of ethnic minoritiesEdit

Soviet leader Joseph Stalin and Lavrenti Beria (in foreground). As head of the NKVD, Beria was responsible for mass deportations of ethnic minorities.

The Soviet government during Joseph Stalin's rule conducted a series of deportations on an enormous scale that significantly affected the ethnic map of the USSR. Deportations took place under extremely harsh conditions, often in cattle carriages, with hundreds of thousands of deportees dying en route.[144] Some experts estimate that the number of deaths from the deportations could be as high as one in three in certain cases.[nb 30][145] Regarding the fate of the Crimean Tatars, Amir Weiner of Stanford University writes that the policy could be classified as "ethnic cleansing". In the book Century of Genocide, Lyman H Legters writes "We cannot properly speak of a completed genocide, only of a process that was genocidal in its potentiality."[146]

People's Republic of ChinaEdit

The Chinese Communist Party came to power in China in 1949, when Chinese communist revolution ended a long and bloody civil war between communists and nationalists. There is a general consensus among historians that after Mao Zedong seized power, his policies and political purges caused directly or indirectly the deaths of tens of millions of people.[147][nb 31] Based on the Soviets' experience, Mao considered violence necessary to achieve an ideal society derived from Marxism and planned and executed violence on a grand scale.[149][150]

The first large-scale killings under Mao took place during land reform and the counterrevolutionary campaign. In official study materials published in 1948, Mao envisaged that "one-tenth of the peasants" (or about 50,000,000) "would have to be destroyed" to facilitate agrarian reform.[150] Actual numbers killed in land reform are believed to have been lower, but at least one million.[149][151] The suppression of counterrevolutionaries targeted mainly former Kuomintang officials and intellectuals suspected of disloyalty.[152] At least 712,000 people were executed, while 1,290,000 were imprisoned in labor camps.[153]

A large portrait of Mao Zedong at Tiananmen

Benjamin Valentino says that the Great Leap Forward was a cause of the Great Chinese Famine, and that the worst effects of the famine were steered towards the regime's enemies.[154] Those labeled as "black elements" (religious leaders, rightists, rich peasants, etc.) in any earlier campaign died in the greatest numbers, as they were given the lowest priority in the allocation of food.[154] In Mao's Great Famine, historian Frank Dikötter writes that "coercion, terror, and systematic violence were the very foundation of the Great Leap Forward" and it "motivated one of the most deadly mass killings of human history."[155] His research in local and provincial Chinese archives indicates the death toll was at least 45 million, and that "In most cases the party knew very well that it was starving its own people to death."[156] In a secret meeting at Shanghai in 1959, Mao issued the order to procure one third of all grain from the countryside. He said: “When there is not enough to eat people starve to death. It is better to let half of the people die so that the other half can eat their fill.”[156] Dikötter estimates that at least 2.5 million people were summarily killed or tortured to death during this period.[157]

Sinologists Roderick MacFarquhar and Michael Schoenhals estimate that between 750,000 and 1.5 million people were killed in the violence of the Cultural Revolution, in rural China alone.[158] Mao's Red Guards were given carte blanche to abuse and kill the ones perceived to be enemies of the revolution.[159] For example, in August 1966, over 100 teachers were murdered by their students in western Beijing.[160]

According to Jean-Louis Margolin, writing in The Black Book of Communism, the Chinese Communists carried out a cultural genocide against the Tibetans. Margolin states that the killings were proportionally larger in Tibet than China proper, and that "one can legitimately speak of genocidal massacres because of the numbers involved."[161] According to the Dalai Lama and the Central Tibetan Administration, "Tibetans were not only shot, but also were beaten to death, crucified, burned alive, drowned, mutilated, starved, strangled, hanged, boiled alive, buried alive, drawn and quartered, and beheaded."[161] Adam Jones, a scholar specializing in genocide, notes that after the 1959 Tibetan uprising, the Chinese authorized struggle sessions against reactionaries, during which "...communist cadres denounced, tortured, and frequently executed enemies of the people." These sessions resulted in 92,000 deaths out of a population of about 6 million. These deaths, Jones stresses, may be seen not only as a genocide but also as 'eliticide' – "targeting the better educated and leadership oriented elements among the Tibetan population."[162]

Cambodia (Democratic Kampuchea)Edit

Skulls of victims of the Khmer Rouge regime in Cambodia.
Infants were fatally smashed against the Chankiri Tree (Killing Tree) at Choeung Ek, Cambodia.[163]

The Killing Fields were a number of sites in Cambodia where large numbers of people were killed and buried by the communist Khmer Rouge regime, during its rule of the country from 1975 to 1979, immediately after the end of the Vietnam War. Researcher Craig Etcheson of the Documentation Center of Cambodia suggests that the death toll was between 2 and 2.5 million, with a "most likely" figure of 2.2 million. After 5 years of researching some 20,000 grave sites, he concludes that "these mass graves contain the remains of 1,112,829 victims of execution."[164] The number of suspected victims of execution found across 23,745 mass graves is estimated at 1.3 million according to a 2009 academic source; execution is believed to account for roughly 60% of the full death toll during the genocide, with other victims succumbing to starvation or disease.[165] A study by French demographer Marek Sliwinski calculated slightly fewer than 2 million unnatural deaths under the Khmer Rouge out of a 1975 Cambodian population of 7.8 million; 33.5% of Cambodian men died under the Khmer Rouge compared to 15.7% of Cambodian women.[166]

Helen Fein, a genocide scholar, notes that, although Cambodian leaders declared adherence to an exotic version of agrarian communist doctrine, the xenophobic ideology of the Khmer Rouge regime resembles more a phenomenon of national socialism, or fascism.[167] Henri Locard argues that the "fascist" label was applied to the Khmer Rouge by their enemy, the Vietnamese communists, as a form of "revisionism," but that repression under the Khmer Rouge was "similar (if significantly more lethal) to the repression in all communist regimes."[166] Daniel Goldhagen explains that the Khmer Rouge were xenophobic because they believed the Khmer were "the one authentic people capable of building true communism."[168] Sociologist Martin Shaw described the Cambodian genocide as "the purest genocide of the Cold War era".[169] Steven Rosefielde claims that Democratic Kampuchea was the deadliest of all communist regimes on a per capita basis, primarily because it "lacked a viable productive core" and "failed to set boundaries on mass murder."[45]

In 1997 the Cambodian Government asked the United Nations assistance in setting up a genocide tribunal.[170][171][172] The investigating judges were presented with the names of five possible suspects by the prosecution on July 18, 2007.[170] On September 19, 2007 Nuon Chea, second in command of the Khmer Rouge and its most senior surviving member, was charged with war crimes and crimes against humanity, but not charged with genocide. He will face Cambodian and foreign judges at the special genocide tribunal.[173]


Mass killings have also occurred in Vietnam[174] and North Korea[175]. It has been suggested that there may also have been other mass killings (on a smaller scale) in communist states such as Bulgaria, Romania and East Germany, although lack of documentation prevents definitive judgement about the scale of these events and the motives of the perpetrators.[176]

According to Benjamin Valentino, most regimes that described themselves as Communist did not commit mass killings.[43] However, some mass killings may have occurred in some Eastern European countries, although insufficient documentary evidence makes it impossible to make a definitive judgement about the scale, intentionality and the causes of those events.[177]



According to Benjamin Valentino, available evidence suggests that between 50,000 and 100,000 people may have been killed in Bulgaria beginning in 1944 as part of agricultural collectivization and political repression, although there is insufficient documentation to make a definitive judgement.[176] Dinyu Sharlanov, in his book History of Communism in Bulgaria, accounts for about 31,000 people killed under the regime between 1944 and 1989.[178][179]

East GermanyEdit

Immediately after World War II was won, a denazification commenced in occupied Germany specifically, including the regions the Nazis had annexed. In the Soviet occupation zone, NKVD established prison camps, usually in abandoned concentration camps, and interned alleged Nazis and Nazi German officials, but also some landlords and Prussian Junkers. According to files and data released by the Soviet Ministry for the Interior in 1990, all in all, 123,000 Germans and 35,000 citizens of other nations were detained. Of these prisoners, a total of 786 people were shot and 43,035 died of various causes. Most of the deaths were not direct killings, but caused by outbreaks of dysentry and tuberculosis. Death to starvation did also occur on a notable scale, in particular from late 1946 to early 1947, but these deaths does not appear to be deliberate killings, as food shortages were widespread in the Soviet occupation zone. The prisoners of the "silence camps", as the NKVD special camps were called, did not have access to the black market and was unable to get food other than what they were handed by authorities. Some prisoners also died because of execution and perhaps torture. In this context, it is unclear if the prisoner deaths in the silence camps can be categorized as mass killings. It is also unclear how many of the dead were Germans, or East Germans, or of other nationalities.[180][181]

According to Valentino, between 80,000 and 100,000 people may have been killed in East Germany beginning in 1945 as part of denazification by the Soviet Union, but many other scholars agrees that these figures are inflated.[176][182]

In 1961, the East German GDR erected the Berlin Wall, following the Berlin crisis. Even though crossing and visits to both East Germany and West Germany was possible for motivated and approved travellers, thousands of East Germans tried to defect by crossing the wall illegally. Until the wall's demolition in 1990, and the reunification of Germany, as much as 5,000 East Germans succeeded in that attempt, while an estimated 239 people died, most of which were shot by East German guards.


According to Valentino, between 60,000 and 300,000 people may have been killed in Romania beginning in 1945 as part of agricultural collectivization and political repression.[176]

Democratic People's Republic of KoreaEdit

According to R.J. Rummel, forced labor, executions, and concentration camps were responsible for over one million deaths in the Democratic People's Republic of Korea from 1948 to 1987;[183] others have estimated 400,000 deaths in concentration camps alone.[184] Pierre Rigoulot estimates 100,000 executions, 1.5 million deaths through concentration camps and slave labor, 500,000 deaths from famine, and 1.3 million killed in the Korean War.[185] Estimates based on the most recent North Korean census suggest that 240,000 to 420,000 people died as a result of the 1990s famine and there were 600,000 to 850,000 excess deaths in North Korea from 1993 to 2008.[186] The famine, which claimed as many as one million lives, has been described as the result of the economic policies of the North Korean government,[187] and deliberate "terror-starvation".[188] In 2009, Steven Rosefielde stated that the "Red Holocaust" "still persists in North Korea" as Kim Jong Il "refuses to abandon mass killing."[189]

Democratic Republic of VietnamEdit

According to recent scholarship based on Vietnamese and Hungarian archival evidence, approximately 15,000 suspected landlords were executed during North Vietnam's land reform from 1953 to 1956.[nb 32][191] The North Vietnamese leadership planned in advance to execute 0.1% of North Vietnam's population (estimated at 13.5 million in 1955) as "reactionary or evil landlords," although this ratio could vary in practice;[190][192] dramatic errors were committed in the course of the land reform campaign.[193] Vu Tuong states that the number of executions during North Vietnam's land reform was proportionally comparable to executions during Chinese land reform from 1949 to 1952.[190]

Valentino attributes 80,000–200,000 deaths to "communist mass killings" in North and South Vietnam, compared to 110,000–310,000 "counterguerrilla mass killings" committed by the U.S. and South Vietnam during the Vietnam War.[194]


The communist Pathet Lao overthrew the royalist government of Laos in December 1975, establishing the Lao People's Democratic Republic. The conflict between Hmong rebels and the Pathet Lao continued in isolated pockets. The government of Laos has been accused of committing genocide against the Hmong,[195][196] with up to 100,000 killed out of a population of 400,000.[197]

Democratic Republic of AfghanistanEdit

Although it is frequently considered as an example of communist genocide, the Democratic Republic of Afghanistan represents a borderline case, according to Frank Wayman and Atsushi Tago.[11] Prior to the Soviet invasion, the PDPA executed between 10,000 and 27,000 people, mostly at Pul-e-Charkhi prison.[198][199][200] After the invasion in 1979, the Soviets installed the puppet government of Babrak Karmal, but it was never clearly stabilized as a communist regime and was in a constant state of war. By 1987, about 80% of the country's territory was permanently controlled by neither the pro-Communist government (and supporting Soviet troops) nor by the armed opposition. To tip the balance, the Soviet Union used a tactic that was a combination of "scorched earth" policy and "migratory genocide": by systematically burning the crops and destroying villages in rebel provinces, as well as by reprisal bombing of entire villages suspected of harbouring or supporting the resistance, the Soviets tried to force the local population to move to the Soviet controlled territory, thereby depriving the armed opposition of their support.[201] Benjamin Valentino attributes between 950,000 and 1,280,000 civilian deaths to the Soviet invasion and occupation of the country between 1978 and 1989, primarily as counterguerrilla mass killing.[202] By the early 1990s, approximately one-third of Afghanistan's population had fled the country.[203][nb 33] M. Hassan Kakar says that "the Afghans are among the latest victims of genocide by a superpower."[205] Mass graves of executed prisoners have been exhumed dating back to the Soviet era.[206]

People's Democratic Republic of EthiopiaEdit

Mengistu Haile Mariam, the former communist leader of Ethiopia

Amnesty International estimates that a total of half a million people were killed during the Red Terror of 1977 and 1978.[207][208][209] During the terror groups of people were herded into churches that were then burned down, and women were subjected to systematic rape by soldiers.[210] The Save the Children Fund reported that the victims of the Red Terror included not only adults, but 1,000 or more children, mostly aged between eleven and thirteen, whose corpses were left in the streets of Addis Ababa.[207] Mengistu Haile Mariam himself is alleged to have killed political opponents with his bare hands.[211]

Legal prosecution for genocide and genocide denialEdit

Katyn 1943 exhumation. Photo by International Red Cross delegation.

Ethiopia's former ruler Mengistu Haile Mariam has been convicted of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity and sentenced to death by an Ethiopian court for his role in the Red Terror, and the highest ranking surviving member of the Khmer Rouge has been charged with those crimes.[173][212][213][214][215] However, no communist country or governing body has ever been convicted of genocide. Ethiopian law is distinct from the UN and other definitions in that it defines genocide as intent to wipe out political and not just ethnic groups. In this respect it closely resembles the distinction of politicide.[216]

According to the laws of the Czech Republic, the person who publicly denies, puts in doubt, approves or tries to justify Nazi or Communist genocide or other crimes of Nazis or Communists will be punished by prison of 6 months to 3 years.[217] On November 26, 2010, the Russian State Duma issued a declaration acknowledging Stalin's responsibility for the Katyn massacre, the execution of over 21,000 Polish POW's and intellectual leaders by Stalin's NKVD. The declaration stated that archival material “not only unveils the scale of his horrific tragedy but also provides evidence that the Katyn crime was committed on direct orders from Stalin and other Soviet leaders."[218]

In August 2007, Arnold Meri, an Estonian Red Army veteran and cousin of former Estonian president Lennart Meri, faced charges of genocide by Estonian authorities for participating in the deportations of Estonians in Hiiumaa in 1949.[219][220] The trial was halted when Meri died March 27, 2009, at the age of 89. Meri denied the accusation, characterizing them as politically motivated defamation: "I do not consider myself guilty of genocide," he said.[221]

On July 26, 2010, Kang Kek Iew (aka Comrade Duch), director of the S-21 prison camp in Democratic Kampuchea where more than 14,000 people were tortured and then murdered (mostly at nearby Choeung Ek), was convicted of crimes against humanity and sentenced to 35 years. His sentence was reduced to 19 years in part because he had been behind bars for 11 years.[222]

Debate on faminesEdit

Authors including Seumas Milne and Jon Wiener have criticized the emphasis on communism and the exclusion of colonialism when assigning blame for famines. Milne argues that if the Soviets are considered responsible for deaths caused by famine in the 1920s and 30s, then Britain would be responsible for as many as 30 million deaths in India from famine during the 19th century, and he laments that "There is a much-lauded Black Book of Communism, but no such comprehensive indictment of the colonial record".[223] Weiner makes a similar assertion while comparing the Ukrainian famine and the Bengal famine of 1943, stating that "Churchill's role in the Bengal famine seems similar to Stalin's role in the Ukrainian famine."[224] The scholars Stephen G. Wheatcroft, R. W. Davies and Mark Tauger reject the idea that the Ukrainian famine was an act of genocide or intentionally inflicted by the Soviet government.[225][226]

Benjamin Valentino writes that, "Although not all the deaths due to famine in these cases were intentional, communist leaders directed the worst effects of famine against their suspected enemies and used hunger as a weapon to force millions of people to conform to the directives of the state."[227] Daniel Goldhagen says that in some cases, deaths from famine should not be distinguished from mass murder: "Whenever governments have not alleviated famine conditions, political leaders decided not to say no to mass death – in other words, they said yes." He claims that famine was either used or deliberately tolerated by the Soviets, the Germans, the communist Chinese, the British in Kenya, the Hausa against the Ibo in Nigeria, Khmer Rouge, communist North Koreans, Ethiopeans in Eritrea, Zimbabwe against regions of political opposition, and Political Islamists in southern Sudan and Darfur.[228]

Pankaj Mishra questions Mao's direct responsibility for famine noting that "A great many premature deaths also occurred in newly independent nations not ruled by erratic tyrants." Mishra cites Nobel laureate Amartya Sen's research demonstrating that democratic India suffered more excess mortality from starvation and disease in the second half of the 20th century than China did. Sen wrote that “India seems to manage to fill its cupboard with more skeletons every eight years than China put there in its years of shame.” [229] [230]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ "...with a grand total of victims variously estimated by contributors to the volume at between 85 million and 100 million."[3]
  2. ^ USSR: 20 million deaths; China: 65 million deaths; Vietnam: 1 million deaths; North Korea: 2 million deaths; Cambodia: 2 million deaths; Eastern Europe: 1 million deaths; Latin America: 150,000 deaths; Africa: 1.7 million deaths; Afghanistan: 1.5 million deaths; the international Communist movement and Communist parties not in power: about 10,000 deaths.[4]
  3. ^ "Mass killing and Genocide. No generally accepted terminology exists to describe the intentional killing of large numbers of noncombatants."[5]
  4. ^ "‘Crimes against humanity’ is a linguistically and logically cumbersome term when the aim is to analyse physical violence perpetrated by individual groups, institutions and states against specific victim groups in their own country, which is essentially the case in the context of communist regimes’ crimes against humanity. In addition, it is not in keeping with the terms that have long been used by the academic community. Naturally, the work of creating an inventory includes examining the terms used in practice by researchers in their analyses, and it is reasonable to assume that every time, every society and every paradigm has its own terms to refer to the crimes of communist regimes. Nonetheless, it is possible to establish at this early stage that researchers have long used the word terror to describe the crimes of the Soviet communist regime, regardless of the framework of interpretation to which they adhere. Although the extent to which the mass operations and forced deportations of specific ethnic groups ordered by Stalin before and during the Second World War can be defined as genocide is debated, there is agreement among researchers that the term ‘terror’ is the best reflection of the development of violence in Bolshevik Russia and in the communist Soviet Union under Lenin and Stalin. As a result, terror will be the term most frequently used here in analysing the Soviet communist criminal history. On the other hand, the term terror is seldom used to describe the mass killings in Cambodia between 1975 and 1979, which may be because it is less clear that the actual intention and stated motive of the Khmer Rouge was to terrorise people into submission. The term genocide, however, is relatively widely accepted and established in describing the systematic and selective crimes of the communist regime in Cambodia, although the use of this term is not entirely uncontroversial. Therefore, in analysing the criminal history of Cambodia, this term will be used in precise contexts dealing with the killing of a category of people, whereas more neutral terms such as mass killing and massacre are used to refer to the general use of violence. The terminology used in the Chinese criminal history is dealt with in detail as part of the section on China." ... "In the Soviet case, as Klas-Göran Karlsson so rightly notes, there is an ‘established term’ for the crimes of the regime, namely ‘terror’ – and this is used almost regardless of the general frameworks of interpretation employed by individual researchers. In the same way, he notes that ‘the term genocide is established and accepted as a description of the crimes of the Khmer Rouge’. In the case of the People’s Republic of China, however, there are no equivalent terms that are accepted or generally established in the academic community and that can be made use of in a research inventory. Bibliographies and search engines all speak their own clear language: those who carried out research on Maoism in its day made very limited use of words such as terror and genocide, and neither do these terms appear among the key terms that carry implicit clear explanations and are therefore regularly used by current foreign and Chinese historians."[7]
  5. ^ "'Classicide', in counterpoint to genocide, has a certain appeal, but it doesn't convey the fact that communist regimes, beyond their intention of destroying 'classes' - a difficult notion to grasp in itself (what exactly is a 'kulak'?) - end up making political suspicion a rule of government: even within the Party (and perhaps even mainly within the Party). The notion of 'fratricide' is probably more appropriate in this regard. That of 'politicide', which Ted Gurr and Barbara Harff suggest, remains the most intelligent, although it implies by contrast that 'genocide' is not 'political', which is debatable. These authors in effect explain that the aim of politicide is to impose total political domination over a group or a government. Its victims are defined by their position in the social hierarchy or their political opposition to the regime or this dominant group. Such an approach applies well to the political violence of communist powers and more particularly to Pol Pot's Democratic Kampuchea. The French historian Henri Locard in fact emphasises this, identifying with Gurr and Harff's approach in his work on Cambodia. However, the term 'politicide' has little currency among some researchers because it has no legal validity in international law. That is one reason why Jean-Louis Margolin tends to recognise what happened in Cambodia as 'genocide' because, as he points out, to speak of 'politicide' amounts to considering Pol Pot's crimes as less grave than those of Hitler. Again, the weight of justice interferes in the debate about concepts that, once again, argue strongly in favour of using the word genocide. But those so concerned about the issue of legal sanctions should also take into account another legal concept that is just as powerful, and better established: that of crime against humanity. In fact, legal scholars such as Antoine Garapon and David Boyle believe that the violence perpetrated by the Khmer Rouge is much more appropriately categorised under the heading of crime against humanity, even if genocidal tendencies can be identified, particularly against the Muslim minority. This accusation is just as serious as that of genocide (the latter moreover being sometimes considered as a subcategory of the former) and should thus be subject to equally severe sentences. I quite agree with these legal scholars, believing that the notion of 'crime against humanity' is generally better suited to the violence perpetrated by communist regimes, a viewpoint shared by Michael Mann."[8]
  6. ^ "...the majority of deaths resulted not from direct execution, but from the infliction of 'conditions of life calculated to bring about [the] physical destruction' of a group, in the language of Article II(c) of the Genocide Convention."[12]
  7. ^ "The two important scholars who have created datasets related to this are Rummel (1995) and Harff (2003). Harff (sometimes with Gurr) has studied what she terms 'genocide and politicide', defined to be genocide by killing as understood by the Genocide Convention plus the killing of a political or economic group (Harff & Gurr, 1988); the combined list of genocides is sometimes labeled 'geno-politicide' for short. Rummel (1994, 1995) has a very similar concept, 'democide', which includes such genocide and geno-politicide done by the government forces, plus other killing by government forces, such as random killing not targeted at a particular group. As Rummel (1995: 3-4) says, 'Cold-blooded government killing ... extends beyond genocide'; For example, 'shooting political opponents; or murdering by quota'. Hence, 'to cover all such murder as well as genocide and politicide, I use the concept democide. This is the intentional killing of people by government' (Rummel, 1995: 4). So Rummel has a broader concept than geno-politicide, but one that seems to include geno-politicide as a proper subset."[11]
  8. ^ "Indeed, an arc of Communist politicide can be traced from the western portions of the Soviet Union to China and on to Cambodia."[15]
  9. ^ "Mann thus establishes a sort of parallel between racial enemies and class enemies, thereby contributing to the debates on comparisons between Nazism and communism. This theory has also been developed by some French historians such as Stéphane Courtois and Jean-Louis Margolin in The Black Book of Communism: they view class genocide as the equivalent to racial genocide. Mann however refuses to use the term 'genocide' to describe the crimes committed under communism. He prefers the terms 'fratricide' and 'classicide', a word he coined to refer to intentional mass killings of entire social classes."[23]
  10. ^ "In contrast to genocide, I see mass killing as 'killing (or in other ways destroying) members of a group without the intention to eliminate the whole group, or killing large numbers of people' without a focus on group membership."[26]
  11. ^ In the Encyclopedia of Genocide (1999), Israel Charny defined generic genocide as "the mass killing of substantial numbers of human beings, when not in the course of military action against the military forces of an avowed enemy, under conditions of the essential defenselessness and helplessness of the victims."[27] In the 2006 article "Development, democracy, and mass killings", William Easterly, Roberta Gatti and Sergio Kurlat adopted Charny's definition of generic genocide for their use of "mass killing" and "massacre" to avoid the politics of the term "genocide" altogether.[28]
  12. ^ "Our term, 'mass killing', is used by Valentino (2004: 10), who aptly defines it as 'the intentional killing of a massive number of noncombatants'. The word 'noncombatants' distinguishes mass killing from battle-deaths in war, which occur as combatants fight against each other. The 'massive number' he selects as the threshold to mass killing is 'at least fifty thousand intentional deaths over the course of five or fewer years' (Valentino, 2004: 11-12), which of course averages to at least 10,000 killed per year." ... " One reason for selecting these thresholds of 10,000 and 1,000 deaths per year is that we find that in the Harff data on geno-politicide, which are one of our key datasets, there are many cases of over 10,000 killed per year, but also some in which between 1,000 and 10,000 are killed per year. Therefore, analyzing at a 1,000-death threshold (as well as the 10,000 threshold) insures the inclusion of all the Harff cases. Valentino chooses 50,000 over five years as 'to some extent arbitrary', but a 'relatively high threshold' to create high confidence that mass killing did occur and was deliberate, 'given the generally poor quality of the data available on civilian fatalities' (Valentino, 2004: 12). We believe that our similar results, when we lower the threshold to 1,000 killed per year, are an indication that the data in Harff and in Rummel remain reliable down even one power of ten below Valentino's 'relatively high' selected threshold, and we hope that, in that sense, our results can be seen as a friendly amendment to his work, and that they basically lend confidence, based on empirical statistical backing, for the conceptual direction which he elected to take." ... "Within that constant research design, we then showed that the differences were not due to threshold either (over 10,000 killed per year; over 1,000; or over 1). The only remaining difference is the measure of mass killing itself - democide vs. geno-politicide."[11]
  13. ^ "The best estimate that can currently be made of the number of repression deaths in 1937–38 is the range 950,000–1.2 million, i.e . about a million. This is the estimate which should be used by historians, teachers and journalists concerned with twentieth century Russian—and world—history".[38]
  14. ^ "All in all, the Germans deliberately killed about 11 million noncombatants, a figure that rises to more than 12 million if foreseeable deaths from deportation, hunger, and sentences in concentration camps are included. For the Soviets during the Stalin period, the analogous figures are approximately six million and nine million."[39]
  15. ^ USSR: 20 million deaths; China: 65 million deaths; Vietnam: one million deaths; North Korea: two million deaths; Cambodia: two million deaths; Eastern Europe: one million deaths; Latin America: 150,000 deaths; Africa: 1.7 million deaths; Afghanistan: 1.5 million deaths; the international Communist movement and Communist parties not in power: about 10,000 deaths.[42]
  16. ^ "Communist regimes have been responsible for this century's most deadly episodes of mass killing. Estimates of the total number of people killed by communist regimes range as high as 110 million. In this chapter I focus primarily on mass killings in the Soviet Union, China, and Cambodia - history's most murderous communist states. Communist violence in these three states alone may account for between 21 million and 70 million deaths. Mass killings on a smaller scale also appear to have been carried out by communist regimes in North Korea, Vietnam, Eastern Europe, and Africa."[43]
  17. ^ "But most of these problems pale in significance opening and closing chapters, which caused occasioned a break among the Black Book authors. (...) Courtois's figures for the Soviet Union, Vietnam, and Latin America go far beyond the estimates of the authors themselves, as does Courtois's final body count. (...) But two other theses created considerable consternation and have come to be associated with The Black Book: the figure of 100 million deaths and the parallel with Nazism. They became central in the debate that followed. (...) In articles and interviews Werth and Margolin pointed out how, in the service of this goal, Courtois distorted and exaggerated: Werth's total, including the Civil War and the famine of 1932-1933 had been five million less than Courtois's "mythical number," while Margolin denied having spoken of the Vietnamese Communists being responsible for one million deaths.52 Interviewed in Le Monde, Margolin likened Courtois's effort to "militant political activity, indeed, that of a prosecutor amassing charges in the service of a cause, that of a global condemnation of the Communist phenomenon as an essentially criminal phenomenon." Both rejected the comparison between Communism and Nazism.[48]
  18. ^ "Among all the large and small nations of Austria, only three standard-bearers of progress took an active part in history, and still retain their vitality — the Germans, the Poles and the Magyars. Hence they are now revolutionary. All the other large and small nationalities and peoples are destined to perish before long in the revolutionary world storm. For that reason they are now counter-revolutionary." (...) "There is no country in Europe which does not have in some corner or other one or several ruined fragments of peoples, the remnant of a former population that was suppressed and held in bondage by the nation which later became the main vehicle of historical development. These relics of a nation mercilessly trampled under foot in the course of history, as Hegel says, these residual fragments of peoples always become fanatical standard-bearers of counter-revolution and remain so until their complete extirpation or loss of their national character, just as their whole existence in general is itself a protest against a great historical revolution. Such, in Scotland, are the Gaels, the supporters of the Stuarts from 1640 to 1745. Such, in France, are the Bretons, the supporters of the Bourbons from 1792 to 1800. Such, in Spain, are the Basques, the supporters of Don Carlos. Such, in Austria, are the pan-Slavist Southern Slavs, who are nothing but the residual fragment of peoples, resulting from an extremely confused thousand years of development." (...) "The Magyars are not yet defeated. But if they fall, they will fall gloriously, as the last heroes of the 1848 revolution, and only for a short time. Then for a time the Slav counter-revolution will sweep down on the Austrian monarchy with all its barbarity, and the camarilla will see what sort of allies it has. But at the first victorious uprising of the French proletariat, which Louis Napoleon is striving with all his might to conjure up, the Austrian Germans and Magyars will be set free and wreak a bloody revenge on the Slav barbarians. The general war which will then break out will smash this Slav Sonderbund and wipe out all these petty hidebound nations, down to their very names. The next world war will result in the disappearance from the face of the earth not only of reactionary classes and dynasties, but also of entire reactionary peoples. And that, too, is a step forward." - The Magyar Struggle
  19. ^ Stephen G. Wheatcroft gives the following numbers: During 1921–53, the number of sentences was (political convictions): sentences, 4,060,306; death penalties, 799,473; camps and prisons, 2,634397; exile, 413,512; other, 215,942. In addition, during 1937‒52 there were 14,269,753 non-political sentences, among them 34,228 death penalties, 2,066,637 sentences for 0–1 year, 4,362,973 for 2–5 years, 1,611,293 for 6–10 years, and 286,795 for more than 10 years. Other sentences were non-custodial.[78]
  20. ^ "Perhaps 20 million had been killed; 28 million deported, of whom 18 million had slaved in the Gulags."[84]
  21. ^ "Between 1929 and 1953 the state created by Lenin and set in motion by Stalin deprived 21.5 million Soviet citizens of their lives."[85]
  22. ^ "My own many years and experience in the rehabilitation of victims of political terror allow me to assert that the number of people in the USSR who were killed for political motives or who died in prisons and camps during the entire period of Soviet power totaled 20 to 25 million. And unquestionably one must add those who died of famine—more than 5.5 million during the civil war and more than 5 million during the 1930s."[86]
  23. ^ "More recent estimations of the Soviet-on-Soviet killing have been more 'modest' and range between ten and twenty million."[87]
  24. ^ "U.S.S.R.: 20 million deaths."[88]
  25. ^ "Estimations on the number of Stalin's victims over his twenty-five year reign, from 1928 to 1953, vary widely, but 20 million is now considered the minimum."[89]
  26. ^ "We now know as well beyond a reasonable doubt that there were more than 13 million Red Holocaust victims 1929–53, and this figure could rise above 20 million."[90]
  27. ^ "Exact numbers may never be known with complete certainty, but the total of deaths caused by the whole range of Soviet regime's terrors can hardly be lower than some fifteen million."[91]
  28. ^ 19 (according to Ukrainian BBC: "Латвія визнала Голодомор ґеноцидом"), 16 (according to Korrespondent, Russian edition: "После продолжительных дебатов Сейм Латвии признал Голодомор геноцидом украинцев"), "more than 10" (according to Korrespondent, Ukrainian edition: "Латвія визнала Голодомор 1932–33 рр. геноцидом українців")
  29. ^ "The best estimate that can currently be made of the number of repression deaths in 1937–38 is the range 950,000–1.2 million, i.e., about a million. This estimate should be used by historians, teachers, and journalists concerned with twentieth century Russian—and world—history."[125]
  30. ^ In one estimate, based on a report by Lavrenti Beria to Stalin, 150,000 of 478,479 deported Ingush and Chechen people (or 31.3 percent) died within the first four years of the resettlement. See: Kleveman, Lutz. The New Great Game: Blood and Oil in Central Asia. Jackson, Tenn.: Atlantic Monthly Press, 2003. ISBN 0-87113-906-5. Another scholar puts the number of deaths at 22.7 percent: Extrapolating from NKVD records, 113,000 Ingush and Chechens died (3,000 before deportation, 10,000 during deportation, and 100,000 after resettlement) in the first three years of the resettlement out of 496,460 total deportees. See: Naimark, Norman M. Fires of Hatred: Ethnic Cleansing in Twentieth-Century Europe. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 2001. ISBN 0-674-00994-0. A third source says a quarter of the 650,000 deported Chechens, Ingush, Karachais and Kalmyks died within four years of resettlement. See: Mawdsley, Evan. The Stalin Years: The Soviet Union 1929–1953. Manchester, England: Manchester University Press, 2003. ISBN 0-7190-6377-9. However, estimates of the number of deportees sometimes varies widely. Two scholars estimated the number of Chechen and Ingush deportees at 700,000, which would have the percentage estimates of deaths. See: Fischer, Ruth and Leggett, John C. Stalin and German Communism: A Study in the Origins of the State Party. Edison, N.J.: Transaction Publishers, 2006. ISBN 0-87855-822-5.
  31. ^ "Mao’s responsibility for the extinction of anywhere from 40 to 70 million lives brands him as a mass killer greater than Hitler or Stalin, his indifference to the suffering and the loss of humans breathtaking."[148]
  32. ^ "Clearly Vietnamese socialism followed a moderate path relative to China. ... Yet the Vietnamese 'land reform' campaign ... testified that Vietnamese communists could be as radical and murderous as their comrades elsewhere."[190]
  33. ^ "The pattern of Soviet military operations strongly suggests that population relocation was a significant part of Soviet counterinsurgency strategy in Afghanistan. Although direct evidence of Soviet intentions is limited, most analysts and observers of the war have concluded that the Soviets adopted an intentional policy of attacking villages in areas of high guerrilla activity in the effort to force the population into flight. Free-fire zones were established in depopulated areas, permitting Soviet troops to shoot anything that moved. In addition to killing tens of thousands in attacks on villages, this policy eventually produced one of the most massive refugee movements in modern history. Approximately 5 million people out of a total prewar population of between 15.5 and 17 million had fled the country by the early 1990s, the great majority across the border to Pakistan. Two million more were displaced within Afghanistan. Many refugees died during the difficult journey over mountain passes to Pakistan."[204]


  1. ^ Ghodsee, Kristen (2017). Red Hangover: Legacies of Twentieth-Century Communism. Duke University Press. p. 140. ISBN 978-0822369493. 
  2. ^ Pipes (2001) "Communism," p. 158.
  3. ^ Malia, Martin (1999). "Foreword". In Courtois, Stéphane Courtois; Kramer, Mark. The Black Book of Communism: Crimes, Terror, Repression. Harvard University Press. pp. ix–xx. ISBN 9780674076082. Retrieved 24 August 2015. 
  4. ^ Courtois (1999) "Introduction" p. x
  5. ^ Valentino (2005) Final solutions p. 9
  6. ^ a b c d Stephen Wheatcroft. The Scale and Nature of German and Soviet Repression and Mass Killings, 1930–45. Europe-Asia Studies, Vol. 48, No. 8 (Dec. 1996), pp. 1319‒1353.
  7. ^ a b c Karlsson, Klas-Göran; Schoenhals, Michael (2008). Crimes against humanity under communist regimes – Research review (PDF). Forum for Living History. p. 111. ISBN 978-91-977487-2-8. 
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