Genocides that Changed the World

The term “genocide” refers to the killing of a large number of people belonging to a certain group such as a nation. The aim of conducting genocide is to wipe off the nation and group while weakening its strategic position towards the historians. However, it is one action that is considered against the laws of war as many innocent people lose their lives during it. It can be rightfully said that genocides change the world and inter-country relationships while negatively impacting the global economy as well. 

Mass murder and Genocide are considered as a crime during the war. One of the main reasons why major regulations have been made against genocides is that they have impacted different countries in the worst possible ways with repercussions for years to come. 

Worst Genocides in History

Hiroshima and Nagasaki, 1945

One of the saddest events in the history of japan is known to be the atomic bombings at Hiroshima and Nagasaki which took place on 6th and 9th August 1945. The Allies of World War II, which comprised Poland, the United Kingdom, France, Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa were preparing for invading the Japanese mainland. The allies wanted Japanese forces to surrender without any conditions otherwise be prepared for an utter destructive action. 

The Hiroshima atomic bomb after 5 minutes of detonation.

After Japan ignored the ultimatum, the United States detonated two nuclear bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. It is said that more than 300,000 people died as a result of these two bombings. Both cities completely vanished and showed an utter destructive state. Furthermore, there were millions of people who were injured and devastated. The economic loss to individuals was high as many people lost their homes while the economy of Japan itself also suffered in a negative way. 

The worst part about these bombings was that people did not only suffered immediately but the consequences were borne for months after the bombings. People continued to die months after the bombings due to severe radiation and burns as the atmosphere of the entire city was changed. Even newborn babies had many defects. Unfortunately, even as of now, the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki have not been given the rank of genocide by the United Nations even though it was one. 

Ruins of Hiroshima.

The Holocaust, 1939 – 1945

If we talk about another great massacre that took place during the World War II period, it would be The Holocaust, an attempt by the German leader Adolf Hitler to eliminate all Jews from the Third Reich. The Holocaust is also known as The Shoah which resulted in the mass murder program of 6 million Jews in German-occupied Europe. As a result of this, about two-thirds of Europe’s Jewish population was killed. 

There were special extermination camps set up to carry out these killings. The harsh reality was that there were gas chambers and gas vans that were used to kill jews. Besides Jews, other specific ethnic groups were also killed which includes homosexuals, the disabled, religious preachers, Roma, and others as well. Mass shootings were also conducted in several states. The catastrophe is still regarded as one of the bloodiest genocides of all times.

Jews being killed at The Holocaust Genocide.  

Balangiga Massacre, 1901

By the time the US-Filipino war was at its peak, one of the main events was the Battle of Balangiga also termed as the Balangiga massacre. This was a battle where Filipinos had changed their strategy due to which they were able to empower the American troops. The attack happened early in the morning on September 28, 1901. The villagers who were supervising prisoners took control over the weapons of Americans and attacked them. 

This came as a shocking blow because most American soldiers were having breakfast at this time. The attackers were outnumbered against the Americans and even had weapons while the American forces were not having proper weapons as of that moment. There were about 40 casualties while the number of injured men were 22. However, the retaliation that was seen by the American forces on this attack was also on the extreme as they killed around 50,000 people after these attacks. 

Learn more about the Balangiga Massacre here – Balangiga Massacre, September 28, 1901

American soldiers who got killed in the Balangiga massacre.

Mao Zedong’s Regime, 1949 – 1976

Genocides have not only occurred in the west rather China and other countries have also seen massacres. During the rule of Mao Zedong between 1949 and 1976, about 70 million people were killed in the genocide movement. The attacks and mass killings ended right after the death of Mao Zedong in 1976. 

The genocide by Mao Zedong was based on eliminating his opponents as well as those who were alleged rightists. The Sufan Movement by Mao Zedong meant that all perceived opponents of Mao Zedong had to be eliminated. However, this wasn’t just it. Mao Zedong has been known to be controversial due to his severe policies which resulted in the death of millions. Some 30 million farmers died because Mao Zedong changed the policy of China from an Agri-based economy to an Industry-based economy. Many were sent to prison camps where they died. 

Mao Zedong conducted mass killings. 

Cambodian Genocide, 1975 – 1979

The Cambodian Genocide lasted for 3 years and 8 months Between 1975 and 1979. The nation directly under attack was the Cambodian nation where systematic persecution took place under the influence of Pol Pot, the communist party’s general secretary. The reason why this genocide took place was that Pol Pot wanted to push Cambodia towards communism but felt a mass resistance in achieving this. 

He, therefore, decided to overcome mass resistance by persecuting and eliminating people. Khmer Rouge officials and Pol Pot forced the people into prison camps, mass executions, physical abuse, and lack of treatment towards disease to exercise the genocide.

The Cambodian Genocide resulted in the killing of about 2 million people in three years. This number may not seem high with regards to the other genocides but when we compare it with Cambodia’s population, the figure is really high. 25% of the population of Cambodia was killed as a result of the Cambodian genocide. As a result of the genocide, many people tried to flee from Cambodia to other countries such as Thailand. The genocide ended when the Vietnamiese government overtook Cambodia. Members responsible for the genocide were later punished.

Circassian Genocide, 1864 – 1867

The Circassian Genocide was a mass murder and ethnic cleansing towards the Muslims belonging to Circassia. The shocking fact is that almost 75% of the total population of Circassia was forced, abused, and killed during this genocide, all of whom were Muslims. This makes 1.5 million Circassian. The events occurred right after the war between Russia and Circassia. Historians mark the Circassian Genocide as one of the worst ones of all time because of the cruel events that took place against the Muslims. 

The bellies of pregnant women were torn apart and babies were removed. These babies were then fed to dogs. The dead bodies were sometimes used for scientific experiments. Young girls and children were raped. Despite these crucial happenings, there was no major global organization taking action of this which is why the Circassian Genocide went on for 3 years. A large population was also deported as the country’s administration wanted a complete ethnic cleansing. The horrifying story of the Circassian Genocide is one sad story that has shaken many and creates awareness of the violence against particular ethnic groups.

Cartoon showing Circassian Genocide.  

Red Terror, 1918 – 1922

The Red Terror is also known as one major genocide that took place in the Soviet Union. This politically motivated campaign was carried out by the Bolsheviks. The Bolsheviks were members of the Communnist Party of the Soviet Union. Immediately after the beginning of the Russian war in 1918, the Red Terror genocide started with members of the Bolshevik secret police taking an active part in it. 

The total number of people who suffered due to the Red Terror genocide is estimated to be around 1.3 million with the total number of executions crossing 200,000. Sadly, the Red Terror genocide was justified in Soviet history as it was considered a wartime campaign. However, modern historians don’t consider it less than genocide and a crime for which many innocent people paid the price.  

Red Terror flag. 

Suggested Reading – Ultimate Guide to the Filipino-American War


Genocides are harsh and international organizations should play their part to make sure that no nation or organization indulges in genocides of any form. From the genocides that took place in Hiroshima to the Cambodian and Circassian genocides, we can conclude that most of these have been against humanity rather than being a particular nation.