Genocide Types

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Genocide Types

Genocide: Types of Genocide

Introduction to Genocide Types

Although every mass killing involves unique circumstances, certain underlying conditions are common to most genocides. The offending nation, or perpetrator, is usually a nondemocratic country that views the targeted group as a barrier or threat to maintaining power, fulfilling an ideology, or achieving some other goal. The perpetrators exclude the victim from their universe of obligation-that is, they believe that they do not have to account for or protect the victims, who are seen as inferiors, subhumans, or strangers. Most genocides occur during a crisis, such as a war, state breakdown, or revolution, that is blamed on the victims. In addition, the governments of other countries that might have interfered or deterred the genocide may support the perpetrator directly or indirectly by their lack of action.

Canadian scholars Frank Chalk and Kurt Jonassohn have identified four main types of genocide. These types can be called: (1) ideological, (2) retributive, (3) developmental, and (4) despotic. However, any genocide may have characteristics of more than one of these types.

The Nazi Holocaust, the Armenian massacres, and the Cambodian genocide are examples of ideological genocide. Most often, this type of genocide is committed in an effort to achieve an ideal social structure in which all members of society are alike or hold the same beliefs. Fascism and communism are the major 20th-century ideologies that seek to establish societies based on likeness. In these cases the governments in power instituted policies that led to mass deaths as part of a plan to achieve a country based on a single racial or ethnic group. The Holocaust, for example, was driven by the Nazi racial theory that Germans belonged to a superior race, which they called Aryans. The Khmer Rouge goal was to eliminate difference. They killed members of minorities-including all ethnic Vietnamese, many educated and urban people, some rural people, and anyone suspected of disloyalty to the Communist regime.

Retributive genocide is undertaken to eliminate a real or potential threat. It is most likely to occur when one group dominates another group and fears its rebellion or when the other group actually rebels. The attempted extermination of the Tutsi in Rwanda by the Hutu in 1994 is one example of this type of genocide. The Hutu tried to maintain control of the government in Rwanda by destroying the Tutsi.

Genocide undertaken for economic gain is known as developmental genocide. A government might use this type of genocide against people native to an area that the government wants to use for building, mining, and other development. An example of this type of genocide occurred in Paraguay in the late 1960s and early 1970s. To allow for the expansion of logging and cattle-raising enterprises in the nation’s interior, Paraguay’s government collaborated in the forced relocation and execution of an estimated half of the native Indian population.

Despotic genocide is intended to spread terror among real or potential enemies. The killings orchestrated by Ugandan presidents Idi Amin and Milton Obote during the 1970s and early 1980s are examples of this type of genocide. Both Amin and Obote ordered the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Ugandans belonging to groups who had opposed or who they feared might oppose their tyrannical rule.” (1)


Notes and References

Guide to Genocide Types

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