Ethnocide is the extermination or destruction of cultures.[1][2][3]

Reviewing the legal and the academic history of the usage of the terms genocide and ethnocide, Bartolomé Clavero differentiates them by stating that "Genocide kills people while ethnocide kills social cultures through the killing of individual souls".[4] According to Martin Shaw, ethnocide as cultural genocide is a core component of physically violent genocide.[1] While the term "ethnocide" and "ethnic cleansing" are similar, the intentions of their use vary. The term "ethnic cleansing" has been criticized as a euphemism for genocide denial, while "ethnocide" tries to facilitate the opposite.[5][6]

Because concepts such as cultural genocide and ethnocide have been used in different contexts, the anthropology of genocide examines their inclusion and exclusion in law and policies.[7]

Origin of the word

Raphael Lemkin, the linguist and lawyer who coined genocide in 1943 as the union of "the Greek word genos (race, tribe) and the Latin cide (killing)", also suggested ethnocide as an alternative form representing the same concept, using the Greek ethnos (nation) in place of genos.[2] However, the term genocide has received much wider adoption than ethnocide.[1]


As early as 1933, the lawyer Raphael Lemkin proposed that genocide had a cultural component, a component which he called "cultural genocide."[8] The term has since acquired rhetorical value as a phrase that is used to protest against the destruction of cultural heritage.

Proposed usage

The drafters of the 1948 Genocide Convention considered the use of the term, but dropped it from their consideration.[9] The legal definition of genocide is left unspecific about the exact nature in which genocide is done, only stating that it is destruction with intent to destroy a racial, religious, ethnic or national group as such.[10]

Article 7 of a 1994 draft of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples uses the word "ethnocide" as well as the phrase "cultural genocide" but it does not define what they mean.[11] The complete article reads as follows:

Indigenous peoples have the collective and individual right not to be subjected to ethnocide and cultural genocide, including prevention of and redress for:
(a) Any action which has the aim or effect of depriving them of their integrity as distinct peoples, or of their cultural values or ethnic identities;
(b) Any action which has the aim or effect of dispossessing them of their lands, territories or resources;
(c) Any form of population transfer which has the aim or effect of violating or undermining any of their rights;
(d) Any form of assimilation or integration by other cultures or ways of life imposed on them by legislative, administrative or other measures;
(e) Any form of propaganda directed against them.

The United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly during its 62nd session at UN Headquarters in New York City on 13 September 2007, but only mentions "genocide" in its Article 7, not "cultural genocide." Article 8 in the final document otherwise substantially retains the wording of the draft Article 7, but its first sentence reads "indigenous peoples and individuals have the right not to be subjected to forced assimilation or destruction of their culture".[12]

Notions of ethnocide


In UNESCO's "Declaration of San Jose":[13]

The Declaration of San Jose commits the United States and the nations of Central America to engage in a more in-depth discussion about a broad range of issues. These issues include: strengthening democracy and regional security, building trade and investment, combating crime, drugs and corruption, promoting dialogue on immigration, and achieving more equitable and sustainable development.[14] In the Declaration of San José, UNESCO also addresses and works to define ethnocide. UNESCO defines the term as follows:

Ethnocide means that an ethnic group is denied the right to enjoy, develop and transmit its own culture and its own language, whether collectively or individually. This involves an extreme form of massive violation of human rights and, in particular, the right of ethnic groups to respect for their cultural identity.

Robert Jaulin

Main article: Robert Jaulin § The concept of ethnocide

The French ethnologist Robert Jaulin (1928-1996) proposed a redefinition of the concept of ethnocide in 1970, to refer not the means but the ends that define ethnocide.[15] Accordingly, the ethnocide would be the systematic destruction of the thought and the way of life of people different from those who carry out this enterprise of destruction. Whereas the genocide assassinates the people in their body, the ethnocide kills them in their spirit.

Pierre Clastres

In Chapter 4 of The Archeology of Violence by Pierre Clastres

Ethnocide, unlike genocide, is not based on the destruction of the physical person, but rather on the destruction of a person's culture. Ethnocide exterminates ways of thinking, living, and being from various cultures. It aims to destroy cultural differences, especially focused on the idea of "wrong" differences, that are present in a minority group by transforming the group's population into the culture norm of a certain place. This measuring of differences according to one's own culture is called ethnocentrism. The ethnocentric mind is based on the assumption that there is a hierarchy of superior and inferior cultures. Therefore, ethnocide hopes to raise inferior cultures to the status of superior cultures by any means necessary.[16]

Barry Sautman

Barry Victor Sautman is a professor with the Division of Social Science at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology.

The "intent that underlies ethnocide is not the same intent as the intent of cultural genocide, for the same reason that it is not tied to physical or biological destruction of a group. The intent is therefore typically aimed at forced assimilation and not on population decimation. Thus the intent that underlies ethnocide is an intentional act resulting in cultural death" [17]

Contemporary examples

The destruction by Azerbaijan of thousands of medieval Armenian Churches, khachkars and gravestones in Nakhchivan and elsewhere – and Azerbaijan's denial that these sites have ever existed – has been cited as an example of cultural genocide[18] or ethnocide.[19][20]

See also


  1. ^ a b c Martin Shaw (20 March 2007). What is Genocide. Polity. pp. 66–67. ISBN 978-0-7456-3182-0. Archived from the original on 13 May 2020. Retrieved 28 February 2013. So the idea that ethnocide or 'cultural genocide' is distinct from physically violent genocide is misleading, since cultural genocide can only be the cultural dimension of genocide, something which is integral to every genocidal attack. ... It is better to refer to cultural suppression as the pre-genocidal denial of culture, because the cultural dimension of genocide or cultural suppression is part of a broader genocidal process, and it is different from unintentional group destruction or destruction which occurs when groups are destroyed by diseases and famines which were originally unintended.
  2. ^ a b Lemkin, Raphael. Acts Constituting a General (Transnational) Danger Considered as Offences Against the Law of Nations Archived 2007-05-26 at the Wayback Machine. Published 14 October 1933. Accessed 21 May 2007.
  3. ^ Gerard Delanty; Krishan Kumar (29 June 2006). The SAGE Handbook of Nations and Nationalism. SAGE. p. 326. ISBN 978-1-4129-0101-7. Archived from the original on 30 June 2014. Retrieved 28 February 2013. The term 'ethnocide' has in the past been used as a replacement for cultural genocide (Palmer 1992; Smith 1991:30-3), with the obvious risk of confusing ethnicity and culture.
  4. ^ Bartolomé Clavero (2008). Genocide Or Ethnocide, 1933-2007: How to Make, Unmake, and Remake Law with Words. Giuffrè Editore. p. 101. ISBN 978-88-14-14277-2. Archived from the original on 30 June 2014. Retrieved 28 February 2013. Genocide kills people while ethnocide kills social cultures through the killing of individual souls.
  5. ^ Heiskanen, Jaakko (2021-10-01). "In the Shadow of Genocide: Ethnocide, Ethnic Cleansing, and International Order". Global Studies Quarterly. 1 (4). doi:10.1093/isagsq/ksab030. ISSN 2634-3797.
  6. ^ Watch, Genocide (2023-06-28). "'Ethnic Cleansing' is a euphemism used for genocide denial". genocidewatch. Retrieved 2024-01-16.
  7. ^ Donald Bloxham; A. Dirk Moses (15 April 2010). The Oxford Handbook of Genocide Studies. Oxford University Press. pp. 2–. ISBN 978-0-19-161361-6. Archived from the original on 30 June 2014. Retrieved 28 February 2013.
  8. ^ Raphael Lemkin, Acts Constituting a General (Transnational) Danger Considered as Offences Against the Law of Nations (J. Fussell trans., 2000) (1933) Archived 2012-07-16 at the Wayback Machine; Raphael Lemkin, Axis Rule in Occupied Europe, p. 91 (1944) Archived 2012-02-06 at the Wayback Machine.
  9. ^ See Prosecutor v. Krstic, Case No. IT-98-33-T (Int'l Crim. Trib. Yugo. Trial Chamber 2001), at para. 576 Archived 2008-12-18 at the Wayback Machine.
  10. ^ "". Archived from the original on April 8, 2000.
  11. ^ Draft United Nations declaration on the rights of indigenous peoples Archived 2007-08-04 at the Wayback Machine drafted by The Sub-Commission on Prevention of Discrimination and Protection of Minorities Recalling resolutions 1985/22 of 29 August 1985, 1991/30 of 29 August 1991, 1992/33 of 27 August 1992, 1993/46 of 26 August 1993, presented to the Commission on Human Rights and the Economic and Social Council at 36th meeting 26 August 1994 and adopted without a vote.
  12. ^ "Article 7 and 8, United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples: Adopted by the General Assembly on 13 September 2007" (PDF). Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. United Nations. 13 September 2007. pp. 19–20. Retrieved 23 April 2024.
  13. ^ William Schabas (2000). Genocide in International Law: The Crime of Crimes. Cambridge University Press. pp. 189–. ISBN 978-0-521-78790-1. Retrieved 3 March 2013.
  14. ^ "THE SAN JOSE DECLARATION". Archived from the original on 2015-10-22. Retrieved 2019-11-29.
  15. ^ La Paix blanche, Introduction à l'ethnocide, Paris, Éditions du Seuil (Combats), 1970
  16. ^ Clastres, Pierre (1980). The Archeology of Violence. France: Éditions du Seuil. pp. Chapter 4. ISBN 9781584350934.
  17. ^ Barry Sautman, ‘Cultural genocide and Asian state peripheries. Cultural genocide in international context’ New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2006
  18. ^ Womack, Catherine (7 November 2019). "Historic Armenian monuments were obliterated. Some call it 'cultural genocide'". LA Times.
  19. ^ Petrosyan 2010 – Petrosyan H., Cultural ethnocide in Artsakh (mechanism of extortion of cultural heritage), state terrorism of Azerbaijan and the policy of ethnic cleansing against Nagorno Karabakh, Shushi, pp. 137-148 (in Arm.). Petrosyan 2020 – Ethnocide in Artsakh: The Mechanisms of Azerbaijan’s Usurpation of Indigenous Armenian Cultural Heritage, Cultural Heritage. Experiences & Perspectives in International Context, Proceedings of the ROCHEMP center international conference, 23rd- 24th of January 2020, Yerevan, pp. 79-90.
  20. ^ Roberts, Kasey (2022-06-06). "Present-Day Ethnocide: The Destruction of Armenian Cultural Heritage in Azerbaijan". MUNDI. 2 (1).