Year Zero (political notion)
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Year Zero ( km, ឆ្នាំសូន្យ, ) is an idea put into practice by
Pol Pot Pol Pot; (born Saloth Sâr;; 19 May 1925 – 15 April 1998) was a Cambodian revolutionary and politician who governed Cambodia as Prime Minister of Cambodia, Prime Minister of Democratic Kampuchea between 1976 and 1979. Ideologically a ...

Pol Pot
in
Democratic Kampuchea Kampuchea ( km, កម្ពុជា, ''Kămpŭchéa''), officially from 5 January 1976 the Democratic Kampuchea (DK; km, កម្ពុជាប្រជាធិបតេយ្យ; ''Kămpŭchéa Prâchéathĭpatai''), also described as the ...
, that all
culture Culture () is an umbrella term which encompasses the social behavior and Norm (social), norms found in human Society, societies, as well as the knowledge, beliefs, arts, laws, Social norm, customs, capabilities, and habits of the individuals in ...

culture
and
traditions A tradition is a belief A belief is an attitude Attitude may refer to: Philosophy and psychology * Attitude (psychology) In psychology Psychology is the science of mind and behavior. Psychology includes the study of consciousne ...

traditions
within a society must be completely destroyed or discarded, and a new revolutionary culture must replace it, starting from scratch. In this sense, all of the history of a nation or a people before Year Zero would be largely deemed irrelevant, because it would ideally be purged and replaced from the ground up. The first day of "year Zero" was declared by the
Khmer Rouge The Khmer Rouge (, ; km, ខ្មែរក្រហម, ; " Red Khmers") is the name that was popularly given to members of the Communist Party of Kampuchea (CPK) and by extension to the regime through which the CPK ruled Cambodia Ca ...
on 17 April 1975 upon their takeover of
Cambodia Cambodia (; also Kampuchea ; km, កម្ពុជា, ), officially the Kingdom of Cambodia, is a country located in the southern portion of the Indochinese peninsula in Southeast Asia. It is in area, bordered by Thailand to Cambodia–T ...

Cambodia
in order to signify a rebirth of Cambodian history. Adopting the term as an analogy to the "
Year One The term "Year One" in political history usually refers to the institution of radical, revolutionary change. This usage dates from the time of the French Revolution The French Revolution ( ) refers to the period that began with the Estat ...
" of the French Revolutionary Calendar,Gfroerer, John. 2017 December 3.
John Gfroerer: Moving to Year Zero
" ''Concord Monitor''. Retrieved 2021 April 25.
Year Zero was effectually an attempt by the Khmer Rouge to erase history and reset Cambodian society to a zeroth year, removing any vestiges of the past.


Concept and background

Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge, most of whom were French-educated communists, took inspiration from the concept of "
Year One The term "Year One" in political history usually refers to the institution of radical, revolutionary change. This usage dates from the time of the French Revolution The French Revolution ( ) refers to the period that began with the Estat ...
" in the French Revolutionary Calendar. The French "Year One" came about during the French Revolution when, after the Proclamation of the abolition of the monarchy, abolition of the French monarchy on 20 September 1792, the French National Convention, National Convention instituted a new calendar and declared that date to be the beginning of Year I. The idea behind Year Zero was that all Culture of Cambodia, culture and traditions within a society must be completely destroyed or discarded, and a new revolutionary culture must replace it, starting from scratch. All of the history of a nation or people before Year Zero would be largely deemed irrelevant, because it would ideally be purged and replaced from the ground up.


Year Zero of Cambodia

In 1975, the
Khmer Rouge The Khmer Rouge (, ; km, ខ្មែរក្រហម, ; " Red Khmers") is the name that was popularly given to members of the Communist Party of Kampuchea (CPK) and by extension to the regime through which the CPK ruled Cambodia Ca ...
forces Fall of Phnom Penh, took over Phnom Penh, the capital of
Cambodia Cambodia (; also Kampuchea ; km, កម្ពុជា, ), officially the Kingdom of Cambodia, is a country located in the southern portion of the Indochinese peninsula in Southeast Asia. It is in area, bordered by Thailand to Cambodia–T ...

Cambodia
(subsequently renamed
Democratic Kampuchea Kampuchea ( km, កម្ពុជា, ''Kămpŭchéa''), officially from 5 January 1976 the Democratic Kampuchea (DK; km, កម្ពុជាប្រជាធិបតេយ្យ; ''Kămpŭchéa Prâchéathĭpatai''), also described as the ...
, 1975-79). Upon seizing power, Year Zero was decreed. Hoping to transform the nation into an Agrarian utopianism, agrarian utopia, communist leader
Pol Pot Pol Pot; (born Saloth Sâr;; 19 May 1925 – 15 April 1998) was a Cambodian revolutionary and politician who governed Cambodia as Prime Minister of Cambodia, Prime Minister of Democratic Kampuchea between 1976 and 1979. Ideologically a ...

Pol Pot
set out to reconstruct the country into a Pre-industrial society, pre-industrial, classless society by attempting to turn all citizens into rural agricultural workers rather than educated city dwellers, whom Pot and his regime believed to have been corrupted by Western world, western, Capitalism, capitalist ideas. He declared that the nation would start again at "Year Zero," and everything that existed before Year Zero was to be eradicated. In other words, this was to be a complete and thorough reset (or even cleansing) of Cambodian society. He isolated his people from the global community; established rural Collective farming, collectives; dismantled the social fabric and infrastructure of Cambodia; and set about the emptying of cities, as well as the abolition of money (thus also destroying banks), Abolition of private property, private property, families, and of Religion in Cambodia, religion. To build the new Cambodian society, the inhabitants of the depopulated cities were sent to Labor camp, labour camps. The people of Phnom Penh, in particular, were forced immediately to "return to the villages" to work. Similar evacuations occurred at Battambang, Batdambang, Kampong Cham (city), Kampong Cham, Siem Reap, Kampong Thom city, Kampong Thom, among others. Knowledge of anything pre-Year Zero was prohibited. To ensure that there was no recorded memory of a pre-Year Zero society, books were burned. (Wearing glasses was also criminalized as it was taken to indicate that one might habitually read books.) In Democratic Kampuchea, the only acceptable lifestyle was that of peasant agricultural workers. Centuries of Cambodian culture and institutions were thereby eliminated—shutting down factories, hospitals, schools, and universities—along with anyone who expressed interest in their preservation. So-called New People (Cambodia), New People—members of the old governments and intellectuals in general, including lawyers, doctors, teachers, engineers, clergy, and qualified professionals in all fields—were thought to be a threat to the new regime and were therefore especially Cambodian genocide, singled out and executed during the purges accompanying Year Zero. The Khmer Rouge's takeover was rapidly followed by a series of drastic revolutionary de-industrialization policies which resulted in a Khmer Rouge rule of Cambodia, death toll that vastly exceeded the toll that resulted from the French Reign of Terror.


See also

*''Year Zero: The Silent Death of Cambodia'' (1979 documentary film) *Cambodian genocide **Killing Fields *Communist terrorism *Crimes against humanity under Communist regimes *Mass killings under Communist regimes *Stunde Null *
Year One The term "Year One" in political history usually refers to the institution of radical, revolutionary change. This usage dates from the time of the French Revolution The French Revolution ( ) refers to the period that began with the Estat ...
*''Germany, Year Zero'' (1948 film)


References


Further reading

* Lunn, Richard. 2004. ''Leaving Year Zero: Stories of Surviving Pol Pot's Cambodia''. UWA Publishing. ISBN 1920694102. * John Pilger, Pilger, John. 2014.
Year Zero
" In ''Tell Me No Lies: Investigative Journalism and its Triumphs'', edited by J. Pilger. London: Random House UK. * François Ponchaud, Ponchaud, François. 1978. ''Cambodia: Year Zero'', translated by N. Amphoux. New York: Henry Holt & Co. ISBN 9780030403064. See
excerpt from pp. 67, 69, 70
{{Cambodia-stub History of Cambodia Khmer Rouge Cambodian genocide 1975 in Cambodia Pol Pot