Lesser Known Facts About Ethnic Cleansing

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Ethnic cleansing, definitively, is eradication of an entire tribe or an ‘undesired population’ from a geographical area. This is done to bring about an ethnic homogeneity with regards to the either political ideological considerations or ethnic discrimination or both. The term ‘ethnic cleansing’ was coined and widely used during the 1900s; mainly the Yugoslav War. Below are some facts of this gruesome practice which is subtly carried out even today.

Fact 1: Though the academics now use Genocide and Ethnic Cleansing interchangeably, there is thin but significant difference in both these terms. Genocide, which literally means mass killing of an entire tribe, can be a product of ethnic cleansing, in a way, that mass murder can be carried out while forceful deportation of an entire tribe from the desired territory.

Fact 2: After various tragic incidences in the 1900s; the Bosnian Genocide, the Turkish cleansed from Greek Cyprus in 1948, Bulgarians cleansed from Romania and in turn Romanians cleansed from Bulgaria, and many more; 20th century is distinguished as the ‘century of displaced persons’ by the United Nations.

Fact 3: To expel an ethnic group, or ethnic cleansing, has more to do with the land or territory than with the ‘victims’ themselves, for it is the desired territory which is deemed to be ‘cleansed’ by the deportation of the said tribe.

Fact 4: After the ethnic cleansing that accompanied the war at Bosnia and Herzegovina, the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) became the first international tribunal at Hague, Netherlands to prosecute genocide.

Fact 5: Although the usage of the term seems relatively new, the elimination of an ethnic group from the homeland is being carried since ancient times. The first recorded tragedy of ethnic cleansing is that of the Wu Hu tribes in North China under General Ran Min during the Wei-Jie War as early as 350 AD.

Fact 6: During the times of war, ethnic cleansing claimed the lives of up to 10% of refugees who either got caught amidst a cross fire or were targeted by the military. Most of them got their villages and other assets burned as a way to completely exterminate them from their homeland.

Fact 7: The most controversial case of ethnic cleansing is that of the Armenian allegation during World War I in 1915. Whereas the Armenians term it genocide, there are those who consider the deaths of Armenians due to famine and other War consequences and also due to their deportation following the ideology of nationalism at the end of the Ottoman Empire.

Fact 8: The worst and yet the least talked about ethnic cleansing episode took place post World War II, when approximately 10,000,000 Germans (a highly debated figure) were forced out of newly formed Poland following the redistribution of land among the Soviet Polish and Germany.

Fact 9: In 1905, during the People’s Crusade sanctioned by the Latin Roman Catholic Church, thousands of Jews were killed unreasonably. Also, a mass slaughter of the Jews took place in 1346-1355 following the accusations of well poisoning during the Black Death. Though these incidences could be sorted under Genocide, it proves that though the Holocaust, which is infamous for the extermination of 6 million Jews, is widely condemned; it was apparently not the only time when Jews had to pay for their ethnicity.

Fact 10: Though ethnic cleansing is academically and technically considered less gruesome and gored than genocide, history is replete with the callous and inhumane treatment given to those who were deported, resulting in deaths of the forced immigrants even before they reached their destination. For example, 20 Germans reportedly died during their suffocative transport to Berlin; Poles had jammed 83 Germans in cattle cars and transported them from Danzig.

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