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Governments have murdered hundreds of millions of their citizens and those under their control. The questions are, then, how is this Democide defined, is genocide included, how many have been killed.

Genocide: among other things, the killing of people by a government the deliberate and systematic destruction, in whole or in part because of their indelible group membership (race, ethnicity, religion, language, or national group).

Politicide: the murder of any person or people by a government because of their politics or for political purposes. Politicide has three related but distinct meanings. It can mean a gradual but systematic attempt to cause the annihilation of an independent political and social entity, such as the destruction of the apartheid system in South Africa.

Mass murder: The indiscriminate killing of any person or people by a government. (in military contexts, sometimes interchangeable with “mass destruction“) is the act of murdering a large number of people, typically at the same time or over a relatively short period of time.

Democide: The murder of any person or people by a government, including genocide, politicide, and mass murder. In the 20th century, democide passed war as the leading cause of non-natural death.

PoliticidesAgamemnon: “My dear Menelaus, why are you so chary of taking men’s lives? Did the Trojans treat you as handsomely as that when they stayed in your house? No; we are not going to leave a single one of them alive, down to the babies in their mothers’ wombs–not even they must live. The whole people must be wiped out of existence, and none be left to think of them and shed a tear.”
—-Homer, Iliad

A death constitutes democide if it is 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. It is also democide if these deaths were the result of such authoritative government actions carried out with reckless and wanton disregard for the lives of those affected (as putting people in concentration camps in which the forced labor and starvation rations were such as to cause the death of inmates). It is democide if government promoted or turned a blind eye to these deaths even though they were murders carried out “unofficially” or by private groups (as by death squads in Guatemala or El Salvador). And these deaths also may be democide if high government officials purposely allowed conditions to continue that were causing mass deaths and issued no public warning (as in the Ethiopian famines of the 1970s). All extra-judicial or summary executions comprise democide. Even judicial executions may be democide, as in the Soviet show trials of the late 1930s. Judicial executions for “crimes” internationally considered trivial or non-capital, as of peasants picking up grain at the edge of a collective’s fields, of a worker for telling an anti-government joke, or of an engineer for a miscalculation, are also democide.

I have found that in the vast majority of events and episodes democide is unambiguous. When under the command of higher authorities soldiers force villagers into a field and then machine gun them, there should be no question about definition. When a group armed by the government for this purpose turn the teachers and students out of their school, line up those of a particular tribe and shoot them, it is surely democide. When all food stuffs are systematically removed from a region by government authorities and a food blockade is put in place, the resulting deaths must be democide. Sad to say, most cases of government killing in this century is that clear. The number of deaths will be hazy for many of these cases; the perpetrators and intent will not.



Truth will come to light; murder cannot be hid long
—-Shakespeare, Merchant of Venice

What are the differences and similarities between democide and genocide? As defined, elaborated, and qualified in Chapter 2 of Death By Government, democide is any murder by government–by officials acting under the authority of government. That is, they act according to explicit or implicit government policy or with the implicit or explicit approval of the highest officials. Such was the burying alive of Chinese civilians by Japanese soldiers, the shooting of hostages by German soldiers, the starving to death of Ukrainians by communist cadre, or the burning alive of Japanese civilians purposely fire-bombed from the air by American airmen.

Genocide, however, is a confused and confusing concept. It may or may not include government murder, refer to wholly or partially eliminating some group, or involve psychological damage. If it includes government murder, it may mean all such murder or just some. Boiling all this down, genocide can have three different meanings.

genocideOne meaning is that defined by international treaty, the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide. This makes genocide a punishable crime under international law, and defines it as:

any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such:

(a) Killing members of the group;
(b) Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group;
(c) Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part;
(d) Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group;
(e) Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.

Note that only the first clause includes outright killing, while the other clauses cover non-killing ways of eliminating a group. I will call this definition of genocide the legal meaning, since it is now part of international law.

Other Democide Related Documents On This Site


Nontechnical:“Democide vs genocide. Which is what?”

“War isn’t this century’s biggest killer”

“How many did communist regimes murder?”


Professional:“Democide in totalitarian states: mortacracies and megamurderers”

“The Holocaust in comparative and historical perspective”

Graduate Syllabus on Repression and Democide


Statistical:“Power kills: genocide and mass murder”

“Power predicts democide”


Books:Lethal Politics

China’s Bloody Century

Democide: Nazi Genocide and Mass Murder

Death By Government

Statistics of Democide (entire)




Other Method Related/Applied Documents On This Site


On Methods:Understanding Correlation

event data collection


Application of Correlation/Factor Analysis“Libertarianism and International Violence”

“Libertarianism, Violence Within States, and the Polarity Principle”

Statistics of Democide

Vol. 2: The Conflict Helix

Vol. 4: War, Power, Peace

Power Kills

“The Conflict Helix and the Probability of a Korean War,”

“Power kills: genocide and mass murder,”

“Power predicts democide,”

“Is collective violence correlated with social pluralism?”


Application of Event Data Collection“Libertarianism and International Violence”

“Libertarianism, Violence Within States, and the Polarity Principle”

Vol. 2: The Conflict Helix

Vol. 4: War, Power, Peace

“Is collective violence correlated with social pluralism?”


Application of Democide Collection Methods and Resulting EstimatesLethal Politics

China’s Bloody Century


Statistics of Democide

“Power kills: genocide and mass murder,”

“Power predicts democide,”



Murder By Government–Democide

Definition of Democide (Genocide and Mass Murder)

Category:Mass murder in the United States