The term ethnic cleansing refers to various policies of forcibly removing people of one ethnic group. At one end of the spectrum, it is virtually indistinguishable from forced emigration and population transfer, while at the other it merges with deportation and genocide.
At the most general level, however, ethnic cleansing can be understood as the forced expulsion of an "undesirable" population from a given territory as a result of religious or ethnic discrimination, political, strategic or ideological considerations, or a combination of these.
Some political commentators avoid use of the term, which they see as a political euphemism which attempts to apply a word with positive connotations (cleansing) to a morally objectionable act (forced population movement usually achieved through violence). Template:Fact
This is a relatively new neologism, and its scope still varies. In its initial meaning it referred to policies applied by authorities to an undesirable ethnicity. However the term seem to fit well into a linguistic niche, and it is increasingly applied to other types of ethnic forced migration and genocide.
- 1 Origins of the term
- 2 Ethnic cleansing in history
- 3 Colonization-related ethnic cleansing
- 4 Modern age ethnic cleansing
- 5 Ethnic cleansing as a military and political tactic
- 6 Ethnic cleansing as international law crime
- 7 See also
- 8 References
- 9 External links
Origins of the term
The term "ethnic cleansing" entered the English lexicon as a loan translation of the Serbian/Croatian phrase etničko čišćenje (IPA /etnitʃko tʃiʃtʃʲeɲe/) (notice that literal translation of the phrase is "ethnic cleaning"). During the 1990s it was used extensively by the media in the former Yugoslavia in relation to the Yugoslav wars, and appears to have been popularised by the international media some time around 1992. The term may have originated some time before the 1990s in the military doctrine of the former Yugoslav People's Army, which spoke of "cleansing the territory" (čišćenje terena, IPA /tʃiʃtʃʲeɲe terena/) of enemies to take total control of a conquered area. The origins of this doctrine are unclear, but may have been a legacy of the Partizan era.
This originally applied purely to military enemies, but came to be applied to ethnic groups as well. It was used in this context in Yugoslavia by the Serbian media as early as 1981, in relation to the policies of the Kosovo Albanian administration allegedly creating an "ethnically clean territory" (i.e. "cleanly" Albanian) in the province. However, this usage had antecedents.
The earliest known usage of it may been in May 16, 1941, during the Second World War, by one Viktor Gutić, a commander in the Croatian fascist faction the Ustaše. An article in the Hrvatska Krajina newspaper describing the visit to the Franciscan monastery in Petrićevac quotes Gutić's speech:
- Every Croat who today solicits for our enemies not only is not a good Croat, but also an opponent and disrupter of the prearranged, well-calculated plan for cleansing [čišćenje] our Croatia of unwanted elements [...]
The Ustaše did carry out large-scale ethnic cleansing in their time in the Second World War. It is possible that the revival of nationalism in the 1980s reintroduced ethnic cleansing into Yugoslavia's political debate and language.
The term "cleansing" ("cleansing of borders", очистка границ) was used in Soviet documents of early 1930s in reference to the resettlement of Poles from the 22-km border zone in Byelorussian SSR and Ukrainian SSR. The process was repeated on a larger and wider scale in 1939-1941, see Involuntary settlements in the Soviet Union and Population transfer in the Soviet Union.
A similar term with the same intent was used by the Nazi administration in Germany under Adolf Hitler. When an area under Nazi control had its entire Jewish population removed, whether by driving the population out, by deportation to Concentration Camps, and/or murder, the area was declared judenrein (lit. Jew Clean): cleansed of Jews. (cf. racial hygiene.)
Ethnic cleansing in history
Some narratives in the Torah and other books of the Old Testament in the Bible (also known as the Hebrew Bible or Tenakh) describing the Hebrew (or Israelite) conquest of Canaan (in c. 13th century BC or before) would now be considered descriptions of ethnic cleansing or even genocide. In several places the Hebrew God commands the Hebrews to kill every man, woman and child after capturing a city, and sometimes cities also had to be burnt to the ground. It was also standard practice at the time to murder or enslave prisoners of war and their families.
For example, according to the biblical narrative, the people of the Canaanite village of Ai are massascred by Joshua's troops in Joshua 8:20-25. In one passage detailing the war of "God's vengence" on Midian (Numbers 31:1-24). In verses 13-24 Moses asks the victorious Hebrew troops why they have spared the lives of all the women who had "perverted the sons of Israel" into rejecting God. Moses then orders the Hebrew troops to kill all the male children and women who are not virgins.
The Assyrian Empire regularly deported entire ethnic groups, as did the Babylonians; victims of this policy most famously include the Israelites of Israel in 722 BC and the Israelites of Judah in 586 BC (see Babylonian captivity of Judah).
In some instances, the expulsion of Jews had some features of ethnic cleansing, especially if it were accompanied by violence and were enacted on the whole territory of the state. Jews were expelled from England (1290), France (1306), Hungary (1349–1360), Provence (1394 and 1490), Austria (1421), Spain after the Reconquista, Portugal (1497), Russia in 1724, and various parts of Germany at various times. Not all deportations of Jews affected an entire country or lasted for extended periods of time: Jews from Krakow (1494) were expelled to suburbs of the city, and Jews were expelled from Lithuania (1491) and allowed to return 10 years later.
In 1929 several hundred Jewish residents of Hebron Israel were ethnically cleansed and 67 were murdered by their Arab neighbors due to incitement by the Nazi War Criminal Haj-Amin Al Husseini, some managed to escape by hiding with friendly Arab families.
During more recent times, ethnic cleansing has often been used during colonisation projects. In North America, British and American settlers ethnically cleansed millions of Native Americans, forcibly relocating them to remote and often inhospitable reservation land. In southern Africa and Australia, native tribes were removed from their lands so that they could be replaced by white farmers and settlers.
- The colonization of the Americas by European powers, particularly Spain and Britain. This led to population removals and massacres of the indigenous population, starting in the 15th century and continuing into the 20th.
- The colonization of Australia by Britain. This led to population removals and massacres of the indigenous population, starting in 1788. It is important to note that the Maori were not ethnically cleansed in New Zealand. Many Maori were dispossessed of ownership of their land, but few were ever forcibly removed, and when this did happen it was mostly as a result of punishment for fighting and losing against colonial troops during the New Zealand Wars.
- The invasion of Gibraltar by Britain in 1704 led to an ethnic cleansing of the local Andalusian population, who were expelled from the territory in 1704
- The removals and massacres of native populations in the African colonies of various European powers.
- The concentration of Boers by Britain during the Second Boer War
The American and South Pacific instances were disastrous. The native populations fell from millions to thousands in only a few centuries, a combined result of colonization policies and epidemics of foreign disease.
Modern age ethnic cleansing
The term "ethnic cleansing" has come to mean the displacement or expulsion from a territory of one ethnic group by another. The displacement is usually forcible, though there are examples of voluntary or compensated ethnic cleansing.
The 20th century has seen numerous cases, particularly in Europe and the Middle East.
- In Canada the Expulsion of the Acadians in 1755 from their ancestral lands in Nova Scotia or Acadia by the British military because of the French and Indian War.
- In the United States in the 19th Century there were numerous instances of relocation of Native American peoples from their traditional areas to often remote reservations elsewhere in the country, such as the Long Walk of the Navajo and the Trail of Tears, the forced removal of the Cherokee tribe that led to the deaths of about 2,000 to 8,000 people.
- Expulsion and cleansing of Turkish, Muslim, and Jewish populations from Balkans following the independence of Balkan countries (e.g., Serbia, Greece, Bulgaria) from Ottoman Empire from early 1800s to early 1900.
- Cleansing of Muslim populations in Northern Caucasus by imperial Russia throughout 19th century. Particularly, expulsion of Circassians to Anatolia in 1864.
20th Century instances
- The 1913 Convention of Adrianople, annexed to the Peace Treaty between Bulgaria and the Ottoman Empire, provided for an exchange of ethnic Turks and Bulgarians in a 15 kilometer strip.
- The Armenian Genocide and the expulsion of Pontian Greeks perpetrated by the Young Turks during 1914–1922.
- The 1919 Treaty of Neuilly provided for the reciprocal emigration of ethnic minorities between Greece and Bulgaria.
- In 1923 the Treaty of Lausanne which ended the First World War in the East, as well as post-war hostilities between Greece and the newly-formed Republic of Turkey, provided for a compulsory exchange of populations between Greece and Turkey.
- The expulsions of Jews from Austria after the Anschluss, and deportations of Poles and Jews from Polish areas annexed by Nazi Germany.
- Nazi Germany wiping out entire populations of Jews and Gypsies during World War II (see also the Holocaust).
- Generalplan Ost, in which the Nazis planned to kill or expel most or all ethnic Slavs from large regions of Eastern Europe and replace them with German settlers.
- The German exodus from Eastern Europe. Although the exact numbers may never be known, some estimates claim that more than 16 million people had to leave their homes, and that approximately 2 million of those lost their lives during the process.
- The exodus of Italian people from Istria and Dalmatia after World War II
- Systematic deportations of numerous nationalities in the Soviet Union under Joseph Stalin.
- The ethnic cleansing of Volhynia by Ukrainian guerrilla groups.
- The expulsion of Poles from Zamosc Voivodship by Germans in 1944.
- The expulsion of 800,000 Poles from Warsaw to concentration camps after defeat of Warsaw Uprising 1944, caused 200,000 deaths. The city of Warsaw, population of one million, was ordered to be completely demolished on the personal order of Hitler. Approximately 80% of the city was demolished.
- Finns evacuated from Finnish Karelia and other parts occupied by Soviet Union during World War II, leaving behind ethnically clean area. This was voluntary, but they evacuated fearing the Soviet rule and deportations to Siberia that happened in Soviet Union before to many nationalities, including Finns, see Population transfer in the Soviet Union.
- Mass expulsions of Hindus and Sikhs from Pakistan to India, resulting in the complete ethnic cleansing of former West-Pakistan (current Republic of Pakistan), and the mass expulsions of Muslims from India to Pakistan, both following the partition of British India in 1947.
- Since 1947 expulsions of Hindus from both the Pakistani and Indian ruled regions of the disputed territory of Kashmir by Islamist militant groups.
- The Nakba, or Palestinian exodus, in which the substantial majority of Palestinians (600,000-900,000) in the areas of Palestine that became part of Israel fled or were forcibly deported by Jewish forces during the 1948 Arab-Israeli War.
- The flight of Jews from the areas of Palestine occupied by Jordan and Egypt during the 1948 Arab-Israeli War.
- The Jewish exodus from Arab lands - Yemen, Morocco and Iraq during 1948-1950, as well as flights which took place over the following 20 years from Egypt, Tunisia, Libya and other Arab countries.
- The mass deportation of ethnic minorities from their homelands, including East Timor and Papua, by the Indonesian government, beginning with Indonesian independence in 1949 (and subsequent occupation and annexation of Papua until the present day and of East Timor until 1999).
- The mass expulsions of Greek Cypriots from northern Cyprus and of Turkish Cypriots from southern Cyprus in 1974-1975.
- The widespread ethnic cleansing accompanying the Yugoslav wars from 1991 to 1999, of which the most significant examples occurred in eastern Croatia and Krajina (1991-1995), in most of Bosnia (1992-1995), and in the Albanian-dominated breakaway Kosovo province (of Serbia) (1999). Large numbers of Serbs, Croats, Bosniaks and Albanians were forced to flee their homes and expelled.
- The forced displacement of some 800,000 Azeris and 300,000 Armenians during the conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan and the Armenian invasion of Nagorno-Karabakh and surrounding areas from 1988 to 1994.
- The forced displacement of some 300,000 Georgians and other non-Abkhazians from Abkhazia in 1993.
- The 1994 massacres of Tutsis by Hutus, known as the Rwandan Genocide
- The forced resettlement of some 9,000 Jewish settlers from the Gaza Strip and the northern West Bank by the Israeli government as part of the unilateral disengagement plan is compared to ethnic cleansing both by the extreme opposition to the act and by more neutral observers.
- Attacks by the Janjaweed Arabic-speaking African Muslim militias of Sudan on the non-Arab African Muslim population of Darfur, a region of western Sudan.
Ethnic cleansing as a military and political tactic
The purpose of ethnic cleansing is to remove the conditions for potential and actual opposition, whether political, terrorist, guerrilla or military, by physically removing any potentially or actually hostile ethnic communities. Although it has sometimes been motivated by a doctrine that claim an ethnic group is literally "unclean" (as in the case of the Jews of medieval Europe), more usually it has been a rational (if brutal) way of ensuring that total control can be asserted over an area. The campaign in Bosnia in early 1992 was a case in point. The tactic was used by Croatian, Muslim Bosnian and Serbian forces. Ethnic cleansing is often also accompanied by efforts to eradicate all physical traces of the expelled ethnic group, such as by the destruction of cultural artifacts, religious sites and physical records .
As a tactic, ethnic cleansing has a number of significant advantages and disadvantages. It enables a force to eliminate civilian support for resistance by eliminating the civilians — in a reversal of Mao Zedong's dictum that guerrillas among a civilian population are fish in water, it drains the water. When enforced as part of a political settlement, as happened with the forced resettlement of ethnic Germans to Germany after 1945, it can contribute to long-term stability. The large German populations in Czechoslovakia and Poland had been sources of friction before the Second World War, but this was forcibly resolved. It thus establishes "facts on the ground" - radical demographic changes which can be very hard to reverse.
On the other hand, ethnic cleansing is such a brutal tactic and so often accompanied by large-scale bloodshed that it is widely reviled. It is generally regarded as lying somewhere between population transfers and genocide on a scale of odiousness, and is treated by international law as a war crime.
Ethnic cleansing as international law crime
Ethnic cleansing is designated a crime against humanity in international treaties, such as that which created the International Criminal Court (ICC). The International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) was set up in a similar spirit, and prosecutes these crimes under more generic names.
The emergence of ethnic cleansing as a distinct category of war crime has been a somewhat complex process. Each individual element of a programme of ethnic cleansing could be considered as an individual violation of humanitarian law - a killing here, a house-burning there - thus missing the systematic way in which such violations were perpetrated with a single aim in mind. International courts therefore consider individual incidents in the light of a possible pattern of ethnic cleansing. In the Yugoslav case, for instance, the ICTY considers the widespread massacres and abuses of human rights in Bosnia and Kosovo as part of an overall "joint criminal enterprise" to carve out ethnically pure states in the region.
However, many alleged "ethnic cleansings" in the past do not fit the modern definition of "crimes against humanity." For example, the post-WW2 German expulsions were sanctioned by the international agreement at Potsdam conference, requiring that the actions proceed humanely.
- Civilian casualties, civilian, non-combatant persons killed or injured by direct military action
- Crime against humanity
- Photojournalist's Account - Images of ethnic cleansing in Sudan
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