8 Genocides of the 20th Century That You Might Not Know About

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Genocides are considered to be the worst atrocity a state or world leader can commit. They are condemned by every international body, and the scars of some of history’s worst genocides continue to be felt the world over. There are some genocides that do not get the attention of others, some that are hidden by the countries who wish to hide their past, and some that simply did not catch the world’s attention until it was too late.

While the Jewish Holocaust, the Ukrainian Famine, and the Rwandan genocide have since become rallying cries for those who proclaim “never again,” genocides continue to happen again and again. Here are some 20th century genocides that are not as well known as others, but continue to echo throughout the countries they affected.

Srebrenica Genocide Memorial. Wikipedia

Bosnian Genocide

In the 1970s, the Republic of Yugoslavia was a liberal communist regime that was led by the dictator Josip Broz Tito. He maintained tight control over the various ethnic groups within the country and promoted a “greater Yugoslavia.” This maintained peace throughout the country during his 35 years as leader. After his death in 1980, there was a power vacuum that instantly pitted the ethnic groups against each other as they vied for control. Slobodan Milosevic from Serbia rose to power in 1987 and promoted the idea of Serb-dominated state that worried the other 6 regions of Yugoslavia.

Tensions between the different ethnic groups, Serbs, Croats, and others, were too great to simply be resolved peacefully. War broke out throughout the Yugoslavian regions. Bosnia-Herzegovina, as the most ethnically heterogeneous of the regions, was the location of the worst warfare and ethnic cleansing. The Serb-dominated government sought to remove the Bosniak and Croat presence from what they believed was Serbian territory. The Serbians followed a devastating plan of attack in city after city as they moved through Bosnia-Herzegovina.

The Serbs would first urge any Serbian residents to leave and then they would commence bombing the city with artillery. Next the leaders of the town would be executed. Afterward the elderly, women, and children would be separated from the men and older boys. The men and older boys would be executed while the rest would be sent to brutal concentration camps.

The UN responded to the crisis by setting up safety zones such as Srebrenica. Since the UN forces were not allowed to fire back unless in self-defense and they were poorly armed, their “protection” did very little. This was proved when Serbian forces murdered 7,000 men and boys in Sreberenica in the largest massacre in Europe since World War II. Eventually the genocide ended when Bosniaks and Croats joined forces against the Serbs. Estimates for the genocide put the death toll at over 100,000, with millions displaced.

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  • thatpageguy

    Well, to be pedantic, most of the examples here are not genocides, but ethnic cleansing. I think it’s important to be aware of the distinction and not cheapen the term of genocide by using it incorrectly. Genocide means the deliberate attempt to totally destroy a group which is defined by its race, nationality, religion, or ethnicity. That means deliberate mass killing, as with the Holocaust. Ethnic cleansing means the removal and taking of land and possessions of a targeted group. Ethnic cleansing may involve large amounts of killing, but the elimination of the group is not the intent. For example, the US treatment of Native Americans was ethnic cleansing and not genocide. Ethnic cleansing is much more common than genocide. The two should not be confused.

    • Stephanie Schoppert

      You are welcome to view that distinction if you wish. Nearly everyone of these is recognized by the IAGS, the UN, scholars and western states. Nanking is the obvious distinction but was included because while it was not exactly state sponsored genocide it was obvious that the men there intended to bring about the deaths of every person in that city simply because of who they were.
      The Bosnian genocide in Srebrencia is recognized as a genocide and part of a wider ethnic cleansing campaign during the war. The ICJ made an interesting distinction between the two in saying that the forced deportation of a group cannot be termed genocide and is rather ethnic cleansing. However, acts of ethnic cleansing can be termed genocide if those acts ‘deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part.’ The fact that many of these genocides involved death marches that knowingly caused the deaths of those forced to participate in them tilts these forms of ethnic cleansing more toward the side of genocide rather than forced deportation.
      It is certainly an interesting debate but I am sure for those who suffered through these atrocities and continue to fight for recognition from the countries responsible it is a distinction without a difference.

    • Kurchatov

      Congrats. You just intellectually masturbated.

  • Eric Bjerregaard

    The Turkish gov’t can take their lies and shove them. What they did to the Armenians and are trying to do to the Kurds is disgusting.

  • Richard Burzlaff

    https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/d49ee24d7fb3587c09b6d1dda058ca22288ccf42e71de9bd20e15c6df76da4c3.jpg From 1915 to 1949 the Russian and Soviet governments committed a genocide against the Russland Deutsche (Germans living in Russia), killing somewhere between 800,000-1,000,000.

  • Vlad Polchaninoff

    Don’t forget the systematic genocide of Serbians by Croatian Ustashi

  • GumbaJ

    Mass murder by any name is still killing by means of war. It’s hideous and wrong. All for the acquisition of territory inhabited by others.

  • Hmmm . . And I heard that America was the “Great Satan” . . . While having our own failures and challenges, it seems that I recall something about the United States coming to the aid of some of the people who suffered under the reign of these madmen.