Ethnic Cleansing - Origins of The Term

Origins of The Term

The practice is much older than the term, known throughout history. The term itself appears to have been popularised by the international media approximately early in 1992, following the discovery of Bosnian-Serb Concentration camps established in April 1992, and the subsequent assault on Sarajevo.

During the 1990s, the term was used extensively by the media in the former Yugoslavia in relation to the wars in Croatia and Bosnia. The conflicting parties used widespread and systematic acts of persecution (murder, violence, detention, intimidation) against opposing populations, creating a such coercive and frightening atmosphere that the targeted population had no option but to flee or be forcibly deported. These acts were carried out from (at least) August 1991. Croats and Bosniaks were expelled by Serbs, Serbs and Bosniaks by Croats, and Bosniaks expelled the perceived rival populations from their domains.

As early as 1914, a Carnegie Endowment report on the Balkan Wars points out that village-burning and ethnic cleansing had traditionally accompanied Balkan wars, regardless of the ethnic group in power. However, the term "cleanse" was probably used first by Vuk Karadžić, to describe what happened to the Turks in Belgrade when the city was captured by the Karadjordje's forces in 1806. Konstantin Nenadović wrote, in his biography of the famous Serbian leader published in 1883, that after the fighting "the Serbs, in their bitterness (after 500 years of Turkish occupation), slit the throats of the Turks everywhere they found them, sparing neither the wounded, nor the woman, nor the Turkish children".

During World War II, Mile Budak laid down the Croatian plan to purge Croatia of Serbs: by killing one third, expelling one third and assimilating the rest.

On May 16, 1941, a commander in the Croatian extremist Ustaše faction, Viktor Gutić, said:

"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 our Croatia of unwanted elements ."

Only a month later (June 30, 1941), Stevan Moljević (a lawyer from Banja Luka who was also an ideologue of the Chetniks), published a booklet with the title "On Our State and Its Borders". Moljević asserted:

"One must take advantage of the war conditions and at a suitable moment seize the territory marked on the map, cleanse it before anybody notices and with strong battalions occupy the key places (...) and the territory surrounding these cities, freed of non-Serb elements. The guilty must be promptly punished and the others deported – the Croats to (significantly amputated) Croatia, the Muslims to Turkey or perhaps Albania – while the vacated territory is settled with Serb refugees now located in Serbia."

In fact, the Ustaše carried out widespread persecution and massacre of the Serbs in Croatia during World War II, and on several occasions used the term "cleansing" to describe these acts.

However, the concept of ethnic cleansing was not restricted to Yugoslavia during this period. The Russian phrase очистка границ (ochistka granits "cleansing of borders" was used in Soviet Union documents of the early 1930s to describe the forced resettlement of Polish people from the 22 km border zone in the Byelorussian SSR and Ukrainian SSR. This process was repeated on an even larger and wider scale in 1939–1941, involving many other ethnicities with allegedly external loyalties: see Involuntary settlements in the Soviet Union and Population transfer in the Soviet Union.

Most notoriously, the Nazi administration in Germany under Adolf Hitler applied a similar term to their systematic replacement of the Jewish people. When an area under Nazi control had its entire Jewish population removed, by driving the population out, by deportation to Concentration Camps and/or murder, that area was declared judenrein (lit. "Jew Clean"): "cleansed of Jews" (cf. racial hygiene).

Read more about this topic:  Ethnic Cleansing

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