Cultural genocide or cultural cleansing is a concept which was distinguished by lawyer Raphael Lemkin in 1944 as a component of
genocide Genocide is the intentional action to destroy a people—usually defined as an ethnic, national, racial, or religious Religion is a social system, social-cultural system of designated religious behaviour, behaviors and practices, mor ...
. Though the precise definition of ''cultural genocide'' remains contested, the Armenian Genocide Museum defines it as "acts and measures undertaken to destroy nations' or ethnic groups' culture through spiritual, national, and cultural destruction." Some ethnologists, such as Robert Jaulin, use the term '' ethnocide'' as a substitute for ''cultural genocide'', although this usage has been criticized as risking the confusion between
ethnicity An ethnic group or ethnicity is a grouping of people who identify with each other on the basis of shared attributes that distinguish them from other groups such as a common set of traditions, ancestry, language, history, society, culture, nation ...
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 ...
. Juxtaposed next to ''ethnocide'', ''cultural genocide'' was considered in the 2007
United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples The Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP or DOTROIP) is a non-legally binding resolution passed by the United Nations The United Nations (UN) is an intergovernmental organization that aims to maintain international pe ...
; however, it was removed in the final document and simply replaced with "genocide."


The legal definition of ''
genocide Genocide is the intentional action to destroy a people—usually defined as an ethnic, national, racial, or religious Religion is a social system, social-cultural system of designated religious behaviour, behaviors and practices, mor ...
'' is unspecific about the exact way in which genocide is committed, only stating that it is destruction with the intent to destroy a racial, religious, ethnic or national group. As such, cultural genocide involves the eradication and destruction of
cultural artifacts A cultural artifact, or cultural artefact (see American and British English spelling differences Despite the various English dialects spoken from country to country and within different regions of the same country, there are only slight re ...
, such as books, artworks, and structures, as well as the suppression of cultural activities that do not conform to the destroyer's notion of what is appropriate. Among many other potential reasons, cultural genocide may be committed for religious motives (e.g.,
iconoclasm alt=A painting, 288px, In this Elizabethan work of propaganda, the top right of the picture depicts men busy pulling down and smashing icons, while power is shifting from the dying King Henry VIII at left, pointing to his far more staunchly Pr ...
); as part of a campaign of ethnic cleansing in order to remove the evidence of a people from a specific locale or history; as part of an effort to implement a Year Zero, in which the past and its associated culture is deleted and history is "reset"; the suppression of an indigenous culture by invaders and colonisers, etc.



The notion of 'cultural genocide' has been acknowledged as early as 1944, when lawyer Raphael Lemkin distinguished a cultural component of genocide. The term itself would not emerge until later. The term has since acquired Rhetoric, rhetorical value as a phrase that is used to actions that destroy cultural heritage and tradition. It is also often misused as a catchphrase to condemn any form of destruction that the speaker disapproves of, without regard for the criterion of intent to destroy an affected culture as such.

Proposed inclusion in the UN's DRIP

Those who drafted the 1948 Genocide Convention initially considered using of the term, but later dropped it from inclusion. Article 7 of a 1994 draft of the
United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples The Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP or DOTROIP) is a non-legally binding resolution passed by the United Nations The United Nations (UN) is an intergovernmental organization that aims to maintain international pe ...
(DRIP) uses the phrase "cultural genocide" but does not define what it means. The complete article in the draft read 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 acculturation, 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. This wording only ever appeared in a draft. The DRIP—which was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly during its 62nd session at UN Headquarters in New York City on 13 September 2007—only makes reference to genocide once, when it mentions "genocide, or any other act of violence" in Article 7. Though the concept of "ethnocide" and "cultural genocide" was removed in the version adopted by the General Assembly, the sub-points from the draft noted above were retained (with slightly expanded wording) in Article 8 that speaks to "the right not to be subject to forced assimilation."

List of cultural genocides

The term has been used to describe the destruction of cultural heritage in connection with various events: * In reference to the Axis powers (primarily, Nazi Germany)'s policies towards some nations during World War II (ex. Polish culture during World War II, the destruction of Polish culture). * The persecution of Baháʼís in Iran as a case of religious persecution has been called a cultural genocide. * In the Bosnian War during the Siege of Sarajevo, cultural genocide was committed by Bosnian Serb forces. The National and University Library of Bosnia and Herzegovina was specifically targeted and besieged by cannons positioned all around the city. The National Library was completely destroyed in the fire, along with 80 percent of its contents. Some 3 million books were destroyed, along with hundreds of original documents from the Ottoman Empire and the Austria-Hungary, Austro-Hungarian monarchy. * The Stolen Generations in Australia where half-caste children were removed and bred with white people in order to destroy their race. * 2004 unrest in Kosovo#Destroyed churches, 2004 unrest in Kosovo. In an urgent appeal, issued on 18 March by the extraordinary session of the Expanded Convocation of the Holy Synod of the Serbian Orthodox Church, Holy Synod of Serbian Orthodox Church (), it was reported that a number of Serbian churches and shrines in Kosovo had been damaged or destroyed by rioters. At least 30 sites were completely destroyed, more or less destroyed, or further destroyed (sites that had been previously damaged). *Francoist Spain: the alleged prohibition of the use of minority languages such as Catalan in the public space, from schools to shops, public transport, or even in the streets, the banning of the use of Catalan birth names for children, the persecution and destruction of books in Catalan language, renaming of cities, streets and all toponyms from Catalan to Spanish, and the abolition of government and all cultural institutions in Catalonia, with the goal of total cultural suppression and Cultural assimilation, assimilation. ** John D. Hargreaves writes that "A policy of cultural genocide was implemented: the Catalan language and key symbols of Catalan independent identity and nationhood, such as the flag (the senyera), the national hymn ('Els Segadors') and the national dance (the sardana), were proscribed. Any sign of independence or opposition, in fact, was brutally suppressed. Catalan identity and consequently the Catalan nation were threatened with extinction." ** However, these allegations can be contested: Josep Pla and other Catalan authors published books in Catalan in the 1950s, and even there were prizes of Catalan Literature during Francoism like the Premi Sant Jordi de novel·la. Other prominent case of popularization of Catalan was Serrat, Joan Manuel Serrat: he could compose Catalan songs and gained certain notoriety. So there were no official repression on using the Catalan but a political one. * In reference to the newly-unified Vietnam after the end of the Vietnam War (particularly its policies towards South Vietnam). * In reference to the Khmer Rouge rule of Cambodia (particularly the Khmer Rouge's policies towards both the Kingdom of Cambodia (1953–1970), Kingdom of Cambodia and the Khmer Republic). * The Khachkar destruction in Nakhchivan, destruction by Azerbaijan of thousands of medieval Armenian gravestones at a cemetery in Julfa, Azerbaijan (city), Julfa, and Azerbaijan's subsequent denial that the site had ever existed, has been cited as an example of cultural genocide. * Branch of the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science, the History of Poland (1939–1945), German occupation of Poland and the Korea under Japanese rule, Japanese occupation of Korea have also been cited as cases of cultural genocide. * In 1989, Robert Badinter, a French criminal lawyer known for his stance against the death penalty, used the term "cultural genocide" on a television show to describe what he said was the disappearance of Tibetan culture in the presence of the 14th Dalai Lama. The Dalai Lama would later use the term in 1993 and he would use it again 2008 Tibetan unrest, in 2008. * Historian Jean Brownfield cited the 1638 Treaty of Hartford (1638), Treaty of Hartford as a "clear and explicit historical example of a cultural genocide, in which the Pequot language and name were outlawed and there was a clearly stated intention that this cultural entity would simply cease to exist." *Armenian cultural heritage in Turkey (Armenian Genocide). * The persecution of Native Hawaii, Hawaiian culture in annexed Hawaii. * The persecution of Native Culture of Taiwan, Taiwanese culture under the Martial law in Taiwan, martial law. *Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, ISIL forced conversions in its territory and destroyed ancient Assyrian, Rome, Roman, Yazidi and Christianity, Christian heritage sites and museums. *Indigenous peoples in Canada. **In 2007, a Canadian Member of Parliament criticized the Minister of Indian Affairs, Ministry of Indian Affairs' destruction of documents that were evidence to the "cultural genocide" imposed on Indigenous peoples within Canada. **The Indian Residential Schools Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada concluded that the Canadian Indian residential school system "can best be described as 'cultural genocide.'" **In 2015, Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin, Beverly McLachlin, of the Supreme Court of Canada, stated in a speech to the Global Centre for Pluralism that Canada's historical treatment of Indigenous peoples was an attempt at cultural genocide, and "the worst stain on Canada's human-rights record." *Hmong Genocide in Laos. *Ireland has been described as enduring cultural genocide under British rule, which aimed to eradicate the Irish language, Irish culture, and the Catholic Church, Catholic faith. Ireland's cultural genocide is discussed in the ''Dictionary of Genocide'' (2007), as well as by Christopher Murray (1997) in reference to the suppression of the Irish language; Hilary Carey, Hilary M. Carey (1997) in reference to the Penal transportation, transportation of Irish convicts to Australia; and by Tomás Mac Síomóin (2018). *The Uyghur genocide, Uyghur genocide in China. Reportedly, some one million members of Islam in China, China's Muslim Uyghurs, Uyghur minority have been detained in mass Xinjiang re-education camps, detention camps, termed "Re-education through labor, reeducation camps," which are aimed at changing the political thinking of detainees, their identities, and their religious beliefs. Satellite evidence suggests that China has also razed more than two dozen Uyghur Muslim religious sites to the ground.

See also

* Cultural conflict * Cultural imperialism * Culture war * Ethnic cleansing * Ethnocide * Forced assimilation * Institutional racism * Linguistic discrimination (includes Linguicide) * Language death * Policide * Religious cleansing * Stolen Generations * List of destroyed heritage * Uyghur genocide


{{DEFAULTSORT:Cultural Genocide Cultural genocide, 1940s neologisms Genocide Human rights by issue Majority–minority relations pt:Genocídio cultural