Mass killing

A mass killing, as defined by a genocide scholar Ervin Staub, is "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". This term is used by a number of genocide scholars because the term "genocide" does not cover mass killing events when no specific ethnic or religious group is targeted, and when perpetrators are not intended to eliminate of the whole group or its significant part. This article primarily discusses different models used by genocide scholars to explain and predict the onset of mass killing events.


According to Weiss-Wendt, any attempts to develop a universally accepted terminology describing mass killings of non-combatants was a complete failure Below are listed the terms used by genocide scholars to describe mass killings.
;Mass killing: Referencing earlier definitions, 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". 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. This is the most accepted quantitative minimum threshold for the term.
;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 anticipated that clause to apply unneeded limitations to their right to suppress internal disturbances. Genocide is also a popular term for mass political killing, which is studied academically as democide and politicide.
;Politicide: The term "politicide" is used to describe the killing of groups that would not otherwise be covered by the Genocide Convention. Barbara Harff studies "genocide and politicide", sometimes shortened as geno-politicide, to include the mass killing of political, economic, ethnic and cultural groups.
;Democide: R. 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". 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 in deliberate famines, as well as killings by de facto governments, e.g. civil war killings.
Rummel's "democide" concept is very similar to "geno-politicide", however there are two important differences. First, an important prerequisite for geno-politicide is government's intent to destroy a specific group. In contrast, "democide" deals with wider range of cases, including the cases when governments are engaged in random killing either directly or due to the acts of criminal omission and neglect.
Second, whereas some lower threshold exists for a killing event to be considered "geno-politicide", there is no low threshold for democide, which covers any murder of any number of persons by any government.
;Classicide: Proposed by Michael Mann to describe the "intended mass killing of entire social classes".

Dispossessive ''vs'' coercive mass killings

Benjamen Valentino, who sees ruler's motives as the key factor explaining the onset of mass killings, outlines two major category of mass killings, dispossessive mass killings and coercive mass killings. The first category included ethnic cleansing, killings that accompany agrarian reforms in some states led by communists, mass killings during colonial expansion, etc. The second category includes mass killings during counter-guerilla warfare, killings during the Axis imperialist conquests during the World War II, etc. Although Valentino does not consider ideology or regime type as an important factor that explains mass killings, he outlines communist mass killings as a subtype of dispossessive mass killings, which is considered as a complication of original theory his book is based on.

Global databases of mass killings

Two global databases of mass killings are currently available. The first compilation, by Rudolph Rummel, covers a time period from the beginning of the 20th century till 1977, and the second compilation, by Barbara Harff, combines all mass killing events since 1955. The Harff database is the most frequently used by genocide scholars. These data are intended mostly for statistical analysis of mass killings in attempt to identify the best predictors for their onset. According to Harff, these data are not necessarily the most accurate for a given country, since some sources are general genocide scholars and not experts on local history. A comparative analysis of these two databases revealed a significant difference between the figures of killed per years and low correlation between Rummel's and Harff's data sets. Tomislav Dulić criticized Rummel's generally higher numbers as arising from flaws in Rummel's statistical methodology.
Country and dateStartEndNature of episodeEstimated number of victimsRelated articles
SudanOct 1956Mar 1972Politicide with communal victims400,000–600,000First Sudanese Civil War
South VietnamJan 1965Apr 1975Politicide400,000–500,000South Vietnam
ChinaMar 1959Dec 1959Genocide and politicide65,0001959 Tibetan uprising
IraqJun 1963Mar 1975Politicide with communal victims30,000–60,000Ba'athist Iraq
AlgeriaJul 1962Dec 1962Politicide9,000–30,000
RwandaDec 1963Jun 1964Politicide with communal victims12,000–20,000
Congo-KinshasaFeb 64Jan 1965Politicide1,000–10,000
BurundiOct 1965Dec 1973Politicide with communal victims140,000
IndonesiaNov 1965Jul 1966Genocide and politicide500,000–1,000,000Indonesian mass killings of 1965–1966
ChinaMay 1966Mar 1975Politicide400,000–850,000
GuatemalaJul 1978Dec 1996Politicide and genocide60,000–200,000Guatemalan genocide
PakistanMar 1971Dec 1971Politicide with communal victims1,000,000–3,000,000
UgandaDec 1972Apr 1979Politicide and genocide50,000–400,000Genocides in central Africa
PhilippinesSep 1972Jun 1976Politicide with communal victims60,000
PakistanFeb 1973Jul 1977Politicide with communal victims5,000–10,000
ChileSep 1973Dec 1976Politicide5,000–10,000
AngolaNov 19752001Politicide by UNITA and government forces500,000
CambodiaApr 1975Jan 1979Politicide and genocide1,900,000–3,500,000Cambodian genocide
IndonesiaDec 1975Jul 1992Politicide with communal victims100,000–200,000
ArgentinaMar 1976Dec 1980Politicide9,000–20,000
EthiopiaJul 1976Dec 1979Politicide10,000
Congo-KinshasaMar 1977Dec 1979Politicide with communal victims3,000–4,000
AfghanistanApr 1978Apr 1992Politicide1,800,000
BurmaJan 1978Dec 1978Genocide5,000
El. SalvadorJan 1980Dec 1989Politicide40,000–60,000
UgandaDec 1980Jan 1986Politicide and genocide200,000-500,000Genocides in central Africa
SyriaMar 1981Feb 1982Politicide5,000–30,000
IranJun 1981Dec 1992Politicide and genocide10,000–20,000Casualties of the Iranian Revolution, 1988 executions of Iranian political prisoners
SudanSep 1983?Politicide with communal victims2,000,000
IraqMar 1988Jun 1991Politicide with communal victims180,000
SomaliaMay 1988Jan 1991Politicide with communal victims15,000–50,000
Burundi19881988Genocide5,000–20,000Hutu massacres of 1988
Sri LankaSep 1989Jan 1990Politicide13,000–30,000
BosniaMay 1992Nov 1995Genocide225,000Bosnian genocide
BurundiOct 1993May 1994Genocide50,000Burundian genocides
RwandaApr 1994Jul 1994Genocide500,000–1,000,000Rwandan genocide
SerbiaDec 1998Jul 1999Politicide with communal victims10,000

This list does not include deaths from the Great Chinese Famine and Great Leap Forward.

Explanation of the onset of mass killings

The term "mass killing" was proposed by genocide scholars in attempts to collect a uniform global database of genocidal events and identify statistical models for prediction of onset of mass killings.
Frank Wayman and Atsushi Tago use the term "mass killing" as defined by Valentino, and they concluded that, even with a lower threshold, "autocratic regimes, especially communist, are prone to mass killing generically, but not so strongly inclined toward geno-politicide".