At the outbreak of the First World War, the Ottoman government reckoned that Armenians, a century-old minority, though well-integrated into the empire, was a fifth column that would help fellow-Christian Russians defeat the Porte. Ensuing mass deportation and massacres
led, according to several sources
, to the death of 1,500,000 Armenians. The appellation of ‘genocide’ is still disputed.
To break Ukrainian resistance to collectivization, Stalin-led Soviet power took advantage of bad harvest in the early 1930’s to starve to death over 3 millions of Ukrainians
between 1932 and 1933. Holodomor
was only recognized in the late 1980’s and remains a subject of heated debate in Russian-Ukrainian relations.
A turning point in the Second World War, Stalingrad
is also one of the bloodiest battles of all times, exemplifying a stern disregard for human life. Some of the highest estimates
put the death toll at 1,520,000.
The commonly accepted number of 6 million Jewish fatalities in the Holocaust
actually comes from the prosecutor opening speech at Adolf Eichmann’s trial, in 1961. More precise figures from historians
put the death toll closer to 5 million. The search for historical accuracy should not be seen as an attempt to diminish the horror of the Shoah.
200,000 deaths is probably a conservative estimate
of the extent of the genocide of Romas
(also known as Tzigans, Gypsies, etc) during World War 2.
A little-known disaster of the Second World War concerns the Germans who fled Eastern Europe
to resettle in the area that is today’s Germany. They died because of the lack of retreat strategy on the Nazis’ side, but also from revenge killings, hunger and cold. The figure of 500,000 casualties is conservative, according to some historians
, who put the mark at one and a half million.
Despite Mahatma Gandhi’s calls to non-violence, the path to independence of the subcontinent led to intense violence during the Partition of India
and Pakistan in 1947. Half a million people
lost their lives due to religious violence and rioting.
Among the estimated 20 million victims of Stalin’s brand of communism, the Gulag System
contributed to 1,600,000 deaths between 1929 and 1953, according to Steven Rosefielde
. The death rate was especially high during the hardest purges, in 1933, 1937-38 and during the Great Patriotic War (WW2).
One of the first proxy wars between the US and the USSR, the Korean War
claimed around 3 million lives
, or 10% of the Korean population.
The Algerian War
wiped about 10% of the country’s population between 1954 and 1962, with a 960,000 death toll, according to French historian Benjamin Stora
. This war is famous for being one of the first and most successful campaigns of counter-insurgency. It also set a precedent for a democracy’s use of torture.
Between 1945 and 1975, wars in the Indochinese peninsula (Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia) have claimed close to 6 million lives in a continuous spill of violence. After the French unsuccessfully tried to tame a nationalist uprising, causing over a million deaths
in the process, Americans (but Soviet and Chinese forces had their share as well) got involved in a war that caused over 4 million casualties
Among the million casualties
resulting from the civil war that followed Nigeria’s Biafra secessionist policies, a third died of malnutrition. Another 3 million were displaced
. By its scale, its atrocities and its share of Western intervention, the Biafran War
is, sadly, not an exception in the list of African conflicts.
Although the number of 3 million casualties we used is probably exaggerated
, the Khmer Genocide
made Cambodia the place on earth closest to hell between 1975 and 1979. About 25% of the population was destroyed through famine, death camps, forced labor and executions.
The lower end of the estimates put the death toll of the Iran-Iraq War
north of 500,000
over the 8 years of the war. It somehow resembled World War I by its use of trenches, human wave attacks, chemical weapons and massive casualties.
The Rwandan Genocide
showed how a colonialist heritage, post-colonial interest, hateful use of mass media, cheap weaponry and international apathy could lead to close to a million deaths
in just 100 days.
In one of the bloodiest transitions that followed the collapse of communism, the Yugoslav Wars
took the lives of over 130,000 people
. Massacres started within a 2-hour drive from Austria’s posh ski resorts.
Nearly 2 million people
died in the Sudanese Civil War that led to the partition of the South of the country, to which must be added 300,000 casualties
of the war in Darfur. Civilians took a disproportionate share of the blow, dying from mass starvation and diseases as well as gunfire.
In spite of minimal media coverage, the Democratic Republic of Congo was the most lethal place on earth during most of the 2000’s and still is today, to some extent. The 3,900,000 casualties estimate we retained covers the time span from 1998 to 2004
. Since then, ceaseless violence continues to claim thousands of lives
Violence has been a fixture in the Caucasus ever since the Soviet Union disintegrated in 1991. Most hard hit in the 1990’s was secessionist Chechnya, which Moscow tried to gain back by force at the cost of over 160,000 lives
The North Korean Famine of the 1990’s starved between 1 and 3 million people
to death (we pictured 2 million). Today, famine remains a constant threat in North Korea.
2,977 people died
as a result of the 9/11 attacks
in the US. It remains, by far, the largest terrorism incident in history.
The US-led Iraq War
is responsible for over 100,000 documented deaths
. For all modern warfare’s sophistication, it is still 20% as lethal, on a yearly basis, as the Iran-Iraq war of the 1980’s.
Although data about the 10-year-long (and counting) War in Afghanistan
is rare and unreliable, estimates of 40,000 deaths
are closest to a comprehensive figure as we could find. Such data is in line with more recent
and more trustworthy counts.
Easily available weaponry from the US easily bought with money from cocaine addicts around the world made central America a more dangerous place than some countries in a state of war. So far, the Mexican Drug War
took 30,000 lives
If we were to rate conflicts according to press coverage, the Arab-Israeli conflict
would come first. It already cost around 50,000 lives
(two-third Palestinian) from 1950 to 2011.
The fight against immigration to Europe has taken the appearance of war: since the 1990’s more than 15,000
died in attempts to enter Fortress Europe. With live ammunition and thousand of troops
, European States support North African governments in this disproportionate battle against migrants.