Massacre of Thessalonica
One of the earliest recorded large-scale massacres in world history happened in the year 390 when Roman Emperor Theodosius I sent troops to Thessalonica in order to quell some civil unrest. Apparently he was very angry when he gave them their initial instructions because he almost immediately dispatched a messenger telling the troops to disregard his previous orders. The messenger, however, arrived too late and 7,000 innocent men, women, and children had already been murdered.
On December 30, 1066 Muslim mobs stormed the royal palace where Jewish vizier Joseph ibn Naghrela had sought refuge and crucified him. In the ensuing massacre of the Jewish population, many of the Jews of Granada were murdered. The massacre was apparently started by a rumor that Joseph was going to have the Muslim king assassinated.
Massacre of the Latins
The Massacre of the Latins was a large-scale massacre of the Roman Catholic or “Latin” inhabitants of Constantinople, the capital of the Byzantine Empire, by the Eastern Orthodox population of the city in May 1182. The Roman Catholics of Constantinople at that time dominated the city’s maritime trade and financial sector. Although precise numbers are unavailable, the bulk of the Latin community, estimated at over 60,000 at the time, was wiped out or forced to flee.
Saint Bartholomew’s Day Massacre
The St. Bartholomew’s Day massacre in 1572 was a targeted group of assassinations followed by a wave of Roman Catholic mob violence, both directed against the Huguenots (French Calvinist Protestants), during the French Wars of Religion. Modern estimates for the number of dead vary widely from 5,000 to 30,000.
Also known as the “Storming of Bolton,” this was an episode in the English Civil War when Royalist forces led by Prince Rupert of the Rhine stormed and captured the Parliamentarian town of Bolton on May 28, 1644. A staple in the Parliamentarian propaganda, it resulted in the death of 1,600 defenders and innocent inhabitants.
The atrocities that happened on May 20, 1645 against the local residents of Yangzhou, China by the Qing troops led by Prince Dodo of the Qing Dynasty had led to the death of as many as 80,000 people. After their recent success against the forces loyal to the Southern Ming regime of the Hongguang Emperor, they plundered the city for ten days to punish the residents for their resistance and as a warning to the population of Jiangnan on the consequences of resisting invaders.
The September Massacres were a wave of mob violence which overtook Paris in late summer 1792 during the French Revolution. By the time it had subsided, half the prison population of Paris had been executed: some 1,200 trapped prisoners including many women and young boys. Sporadic violence, in particular against the Roman Catholic Church, would continue throughout France for nearly a decade to come.
Massacre of Elphinstone’s Army
Also known as the 1842 retreat from Kabul, the massacre which happened during the First Anglo-Afghan War occurred when Major General Sir William Elphinstone attempted to lead a military and civilian column of Europeans and Indians from Kabul back to the British garrison at Jalalabad more than 90 miles (140 km) away. Afghan tribes launched numerous attacks against the column as it made slow progress through the winter snows of the Hindu Kush. Out of more than 16,000 people from the column commanded by Elphinstone, only one European, an Assistant Surgeon named William Brydon, and a few soldiers would eventually reach Jalalabad. The retreat has been described as “the worst British military disaster until the fall of Singapore exactly a century later.”
The massacre of the Bulgarians in Batak by 8,000 Ottoman troops on April 30, 1876 at the beginning of the April Uprising was described as “the most heinous crime to stain the history of the 19th century.” Although at 15,000 dead, the total number of people killed was less than some of the other massacres on this list, the brutality was unparalleled. The majority of those killed were women and children who were raped, tortured, and then beheaded.
Also known as the “Armenian Massacres of 1894–1896″ and the “Great Massacres,’ these atrocities were once again committed by the Ottoman Empire. The deaths ranged from 80,000 to 300,000 leaving at least 50,000 children orphaned. The massacres were due to Ottoman Empire seeking to establish its territorial authority and to reassert Pan-Islamism as the state ideology.
Bud Dajo Massacre
Also known as the “Moro Crater Massacre,” the violence committed against the Moro villagers in the Philippines by a naval detachment of 540 American soldiers during the Philippine-American War was another relatively small massacre compared to some others on this list (roughly 1,000 casualties) but it is certainly one of the worst attacks ever perpetrated by a democratically-inclined modern government.
This 1909 massacre of Armenian Christians by Ottoman Turks in the city of Adana amidst governmental upheaval resulted in a series of anti-Armenian mob violence throughout the district. Reports estimated that the massacres in Adana Province resulted in 15,000 to 30,000 deaths.
The Nanking Massacre, also known as the Rape of Nanking, was a mass murder that occurred during the six-week period following the Japanese capture of the city of Nanking (Nanjing), the former capital of China, on December 13, 1937 during the Second Sino-Japanese War. During this period, hundreds of thousands of Chinese civilians and disarmed soldiers were murdered by soldiers of the Imperial Japanese Army. Widespread rape and looting also occurred. Historians and witnesses have estimated that 250,000 to 300,000 people were killed.
Also known as the ‘Katyn Forest Massacre,’ this mass execution ordered by the Soviet Politburo on March 5, 1940 was carried out by the secret police against Polish military officers, civilian prisoners, and members of the Polish Officer Corps. Approved by Joseph Stalin, it was estimated that about 22,000 were executed in Katyn Forest.
Massacre of the Prisoners
The NKVD prisoner massacres were a series of mass executions committed by the Soviet NKVD against prisoners in Eastern Europe, primarily Poland, Ukraine, the Baltic states, Bessarabia and other parts of the Soviet Union from which the Red Army was withdrawing after the German invasion in 1941 (see Operation Barbarossa). Estimates on the death toll vary from nearly 9000 to 100,000. Not all prisoners were murdered; some of them were abandoned or managed to escape because the retreating, panicked Soviet executioners logistically could not kill all of them.
Babi Yar Massacre
Considered the “largest single massacre in the history of the Holocaust” this atrocity happened in a ravine near Kiev, Ukraine from September 29 to 30, 1941 wherein 33,771 Jews were executed by the Nazis during their campaign against the Soviet Union. Victims of other Babi Yar massacres included tens of thousands of Soviet POWs, Gypsies (Romani people), communists, civilian hostages, and Ukrainian nationalists.
The mass murder of Jews in Odessa, Ukraine and the surrounding towns of Transnistria by the Romanian invaders resulted in the deaths of more than 100,000 Ukrainian Jews with any survivors being left to freeze outdoors after their village was completely razed.
Massacres of Poles in Volhynia
This genocide operation against the Polish population of Volhynia, Ukraine was carried out by the Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA)in March 1943. Its aim was to exterminate all Polish males between the ages of 16 and 60. Tens of thousands of women and children were killed too however.
During the Warsaw Uprising, a systematic killing of some 40,000 to 50,000 Polish civilians and captured resistance fighters was carried out by the Nazi German troops from August 5 to 12, 1944. The victims were indiscriminately shot or killed in an organized mass murder throughout the Wola district, the capital of Warsaw, Poland. These atrocities were committed to crush the Poles’ spirit and to end the uprising without resorting to heavy city-fighting, but ended up only stiffening the resistance.
The 228 Incident
Also known as the ‘228 Massacre,’ this happened due to an anti-government uprising in Taiwan, which was violently suppressed by government troops on February 27, 1947. The number”228” came from the following day, February 28, when 30,000 civilians were massacred in what came to be known as the White Terror.
The Jeju Uprising was a revolt on Jeju island off the south coast of the Korean Peninsula beginning on April 3, 1948. Between 14,000 and 60,000 individuals were killed in fighting or execution between various factions on the island. The brutal suppression of this rebellion by the South Korean army resulted in tens of thousands of deaths, the destruction of many villages on the island, and sparking rebellions on the Korean mainland.
Bodo League Massacre
The Bodo League massacre was a massacre and war crime against communists and suspected sympathizers that occurred in the summer of 1950 during the Korean War. Estimates of the death toll vary but most experts agree it was somewhere between 100,000 and 200,000.
The Hue Massacre is the name given to the summary executions and mass killings perpetrated by the Viet Cong and North Vietnamese Army during their capture, occupation and later withdrawal from the city of Hue during the Tet Offensive, considered one of the longest and bloodiest battles of the Vietnam War. During the years that followed the Battle of Hue, dozens of mass graves were discovered and the estimated death toll was roughly 6,000. Victims were found bound, tortured, and sometimes apparently buried alive.
This scorched earth operation was carried out by the Syrian Arab Army against the town of Hama to stop the uprising of the Muslim Brotherhood in February 1982. Estimates of the death toll range from 7,000 to 35,000 and it has been described as “one of the single deadliest acts by an Arab government against its own people in the modern Middle East.”
Sabra and Shatila Massacre
This slaughter of several thousand Palestinian and Lebanese Shia refugees in Beirut was carried out from September 16 to 18, 1982 by the Phalange, a Lebanese paramilitary organization, in retaliation for the assassination of newly elected Lebanese president Bachir Gemayel.