Democide is mass murder carried out by a government. Genocide is an example. So are the massacres carried out by the Mongols, the human sacrifice of prisoners of war by the Aztecs and the political purges of Stalin. It does not count those who die in battle or during an operation on a military target. Capital punishment does not count either.
Stalin, as a winner of the Second World War, helped to shape the meaning of the word genocide so that it condemned Hitler, who killed millions for racist reasons, but not himself, who killed millions for political reasons.
But the word democide itself was shaped by an anti-communist American, political science professor R.J. Rummel. So while it takes in the crimes of Hitler and Stalin it does not count wiping out the American Indians! Because aside from the Trail of Tears and some massacres amounting to no more than 15,000 dead, it was not American government policy! (He also hugely undercounts the democide of the Philippine American War.)
Despite that Rummel’s studies seem to be the most thorough done to date.
As murder, democide must be done on purpose. And as murder, reckless disregard for human life can count too. For governments that would mean things like driving people off their land, not stopping a famine when possible and sending people to wretched prison camps where many will clearly die.
A grey case is Mao’s Great Leap Forward. It led to a famine that killed tens of millions. Rummel at first did not count it as democide since it seemed that Mao changed his policies once he saw his mistake. But it later came out that Mao did not care – that the Communist Party had to force him to change course! So Rummel now counts it as democide.
More have been killed in democides than in war – even before the days of Hitler, Stalin and Mao. Rummel says that governments will kill when they think they can get away with it: power kills, absolute power kills absolutely.
Known democides of a million or more up to 1987 (I use Rummel’s middlie values where possible):
- 221 BC-1655: China: 31.0m
- 71 BC-476: Roman Empire: 1.0m
- 400-1900: Iran: 2.0m
- 940-1917: Russia (tsarist): 2.1m
- 1095-1272: Crusades: 1.0m
- 1110-1900: Turkey (Ottoman Empire): 2.0m
- 1206-1900: India: 4.5m
- 1215-1401: Mongols: 29.9m
- 1400-1800: Congo: 2.2m
- 1451-1870: European slave trade: 17.3m
- 1487-1521: Mexico (Aztecs): 1.0m human sacrifices
- 1492-1900: Latin America: 13.8m Amerindians
- 1570-1638: Japan: 1.5m
- 1600-1900: Caribbean: 10.0m slaves worked to death
- 1618-1648; Thirty Years War: 5.8m
- 1651-1987: British Empire: 1.1m (not counting slavery)
- 1681-1787: China: 2.0m rebellions against the Manchus
- 1800-1900: Brazil: 1.5m Amazon rubber companies
- 1826-1827: South Africa (Zulus): 1.5m
- 1850-1864: China: 12.0m Taipeng Rebellion
- 1860-1869: China: 3.0m Triad Rebellions
- 1900-1920: Mexico: 1.4m
- 1909-1918: Turkey: 1.9m
- 1917-1987: Russia (USSR): 61.9m
- 1923-1949: China (Maoist): 3.5m
- 1926-1949: China (KMT): 10.1m
- 1933-1945: Germany (Nazis): 20.9m
- 1936-1945: Japanese Empire: 6.0m
- 1944-1987: Yugoslavia (Tito): 1.1m
- 1945-1948: Poland: 1.6m
- 1945-1987: Vietnam: 1.7m
- 1948-1987: North Korea: 1.7m
- 1949-1987: China (PRC): 35.2m
- 1958-1987: Pakistan: 1.5m
- 1975-1979: Cambodia: 2.0m
Even by Rummel’s numbers slavery and genocide by whites killed 41.1 million before 1900 – more than were killed by the Mongols (29.9m) or anyone else up to that point except the Chinese (45.0m, though over a much longer period).