There is a zoo in New York in Bronx County. It is called The Bronx Zoo, the largest metropolitan zoo in the country by area. Popular for exhibiting a vast selection of animals from around the world, the zoo is also known for its wildlife conservation efforts.
But in 1963, the zoo became popular for yet another reason.
It was an exhibit that premiered in the zoo in April 1963 – an exhibit of the most extraordinary nature. Visitors could find the exhibit– titled The Most Dangerous Animal in the World – in the Great Apes House of the zoo. Below the title was a barred window above a description that said:
“You are looking at the most dangerous animal in the world. It . . . can exterminate entire species of animals. Now it has the power to wipe out all life on earth.”
Sure enough, no animal, except one, could fit the description. As the visitors looked into the window, they would find themselves gazing at a mirror. Indeed, they would realize they were looking at the most dangerous animal.
Not only the most dangerous, but humans are also the most ruthless and gruesome creatures that have ever walked on earth. Throughout history, humans have committed crimes so heinous, killed each other in such large numbers, and gone so bloody far to achieve selfish objectives that no other animal can ever come close to our feat.
What you are about to read are tales of the deadliest manslaughters the world has ever witnessed. Here are ten of the worst genocides in the history of humankind – bloody events that snatched the lives of millions of innocent people.
Mongol Conquests (13th century)
Lives lost: 30 – 60 million
As a general rule, war-induced casualties do not count as genocides in history. But the Mongol conquests become an exception, particularly due to their exceptionally ruthless nature.
At its peak, the Mongol dynasty was the second-largest dynasty in the world. But its large empire across Eurasia was built with the blood of tens of millions of people. The Mongols adopted a “surrender or succumb” attitude. Under the rule of Genghis Khan, they approached other territories and offered peace in exchange for surrender.
If a ruler declined, he would experience the wrath of the Mongol army. The extent to which Mongolians massacred the invaded territory goes unparalleled. As a result, the Mongol army is responsible for the wipeout of 11% of the then-world population.
The Holocaust (1941-45)
Lives lost: 4.2 – 7 million
It will be a crime to make a list of genocides and not include one of the gravest events in modern history. The Holocaust – Adolf Hitler’s plan of freeing Germany from the “Jewish rats” – was indubitably the most gruesome act against a single community.
As Hitler came to dictatorial power in 1933, he brought his devious plans into action. He began by boycotting Jewish businesses. Gradually, he spread widespread hatred against Jews among the Germans. As a result, Jews suffered segregation and a myriad of other atrocities.
However, the major crimes began in 1941 and continued till 1945. At least 6 million Jews and 5 million Romanis, Poles, Ukrainians, and other groups were gassed, starved to death, or shot down. The bone-chilling concentration camps are still a haunting memory among the Jews.
The Holodomor (1932-33)
Lives lost: 3 -5 million
You must have read and heard about famines. But the famine we are talking about is one of the most horrible. And that’s not only because it killed so many people but also because the government manufactured it.
In 1932, the Stalin-led USSR orchestrated a planned famine in present-day Ukraine. The administration forced the region’s people to abide by the government’s agricultural collectivization program. As a result, Ukrainians battled with an acute food shortage as nearly all of it was snatched by the administration.
Millions of people died of starvation. And the Soviet Union refused to accept famine aid from anyone who wanted to help. It is now evident that the government policies were an excuse to hide a completely artificial genocide.
Cambodian Genocide (1975-79)
Lives lost: 1.4 – 3 million
The Cambodian genocide stemmed from a civil war between 1975 and 1979. Pol Pot– the leader of the communist party The Khmer Rouge– attacked the nation’s capital in April 1975. And so began the four-year-long series of genocidal killings and oppression by the dictator.
Pot’s intentions were gross. He wanted all the people to abandon their existing traditions and start doing labor and farming. And worse, he resorted to brute force to make this fantasy a reality. In the following years, The Khmer Rouge administration killed anyone who tried to resist in any way.
The blunt atrocities and massacres killed millions of people– nearly a fourth of the then-Cambodian population. Fortunately, the invasion by Vietnam forces in 1979 ended the suffering.
Bangladesh Genocide (1971)
Lives lost: 3,00,000 – 3 million
On March 25th, 1971, the government of Pakistan launched a special military operation – Operation Searchlight. The operation aimed at massacring the people of East Pakistan (present-day Bangladesh).
The people of East Pakistan, outraged by the atrocities and discrimination by the government, wanted a separate nation. And the Pakistani government (mainly dominated by West Pakistan) wanted to curb political unrest in any way possible. What eventually followed were nine months of mass killings, rapes, and unprecedented suffering of the Bengali civilians.
Over 4,00,000 Bengali women were raped and tortured by Pakistani soldiers. And millions of innocent civilians, including activists, intellectuals, and professionals, were massacred and killed.
Though Pakistan has censored and altered much of the data, most experts unanimously consider the Bangladesh genocide one of the most gruesome planned and targeted genocides in history.
Circassian Genocide (1864-67)
Lives lost: 4,00,000 – 2 million
The Circassians call it Tsitsekun – a “massacre” whose memories still send shivers down the spine of anyone who reads them.
The Circassian genocide was a series of mass killings, executions, rapes, and other horrifying acts carried out on the Circassians. The Russian Empire wanted to expand southwards to the North Caucasus region. But as the Circassians– the native people of the region– opposed Russian aggression, the Russians resorted to genocidal killings.
Soon after the end of the Russo-Circassian War in 1864, Russian forces began the ethnic cleansing of the Circassians. In other words, it involved these two things: killings and deportations.
The Circassians were attacked, massacred, and thrown out of the land they had inhabited for thousands of years. In fact, it is estimated that the genocide wiped out up to 97% of the Circassian population.
Armenian Genocide (1915-17)
Lives lost: 6,00,000 – 1.5 million
The Armenian Christians in the Ottoman Empire had been the subject of discrimination and hatred long before 1915. But with the First World War, as the Ottoman Empire perished in defeat, Armenians became a bigger threat.
The Ottoman government feared that Armenians in Eastern Anatolia could be a threat to national security. And therefore, they started deporting the Armenians to concentration camps in Syria. The government not just deported the Armenians but also slaughtered them in large numbers along the way.
To date, the Israeli government denies recognizing the genocide. Nevertheless, as many as 1.2 million innocents lost their lives. And over 2,00,000 women and children underwent conversion.
Rwandan Genocide (1994)
Lives lost: 4,91,000 – 8,00,000
Besides being one of the deadliest genocides in history, the Rwandan genocide is also one of the most recent.
It all started on April 6th when someone shot a plane carrying the Rwandan president, killing everyone on board. Though the real killer remains unknown, the blame came upon the Tutsis– a minority community in the country. And the next day, Hutu extremists waged full-fledged attacks upon the Tutsi minority.
As the weeks rolled by, Rwanda witnessed targeted mass killings of the Tutsi and moderate Hutu people. The Hutu extremists took charge of the government and encouraged Hutu civilians to kill their Tutsi neighbors. As a result, hundreds of thousands of innocents suffered and succumbed to killings, rapes, and tortures.
The genocidal campaign finally ended on July 15th, after 100 days. But by then, millions had fled the country, while many others had become homeless.
The events described in this blog go down as some of the worst things humans have ever done – that too to fellow human beings. And while it is impossible to forget these genocides in history, we still have some hope for the future.
We are now definitely more civilized and less dangerous than we ever were. And we have begun to realize the importance of humanity, of coexisting together. Though nations still wage wars, and people still die due to atrocities, we can be confident that atrocities of such scale as mentioned above won’t happen again.
On that note, we only hope that we rise above these gruesome crimes and live together with peace and coordination.
Drop your thoughts in the comments below. If you like such information-rich blogs, keep coming back to The Countdown List – we have many more interesting blogs waiting for you!