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Democide is a term coined by political scientist R. J. Rummel to describe "the murder of any person or people by a government, including genocide, politicide, and mass murder". It is distinct from genocide, as the targeted group may not be chosen for reason of nationality or ethnicity. For example, government-sponsored killings for political reasons would be considered democide. Democide can include deaths arising from "reckless and depraved disregard for life"; this brings into account many deaths arising through mass starvation.

While of relatively recent origin, the word has gained in use, particularly by legal and social activists for human rights. It should, however, be noted that the term democide is not yet widely accepted, and despite the clear difference from the formal definition of genocide, the term genocide is often misused broadly to refer to acts of democide. Although it is clearly Rummel's intent that the term democide should include war deaths, many have objected to the characterization of such deaths as murder.

Accusations of Democide

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 (this figure is disputed), and the actions of Mao Zedong in launching the Great Leap Forward in 1958, resulting in a famine which killed many million 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 [1] 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 include a significant portion of famine deaths.
  1. World War II (1937-1945) 51,000,000
  2. Mao's China (1949-1975) 42,000,000
  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
  8. Warlord China (1917-1928) 6,800,000
  9. North Korea (1948-now) 4,600,000 (not including the Korean War)
  10. Democratic Republic of the Congo (1998-now) 3,300,000
  11. Chinese Civil War (1945-1949) 3,000,000
  12. Nigeria (1966-1970) 3,000,000
  13. Korean War (1950-1953) 2,900,000
  14. German expulsions (1945-1947) 2,100,000
  15. Second Indochina War (1960-1975) 1,900,000
  16. Pol Pot's Cambodia (1975-1978) 1,800,000
  17. Sudan (1983-now) 1,500,000
  18. Ethiopia (1962-1992) 1,500,000
  19. Bangladesh (1971) 1,500,000
  20. Afghanistan (1979-2001) 1,400,000
  21. Mozambique (1975-1993) 1,100,000
  22. Mexico (1910-1920) 1,000,000
  23. Armenia (1915-1923) 1,000,000
  24. Rwanda and Burundi (1959-1995) 1,000,000
  25. Iran-Iraq War (1980-1988) 1,000,000
The total of these is 196,500,000