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Cultural genocide

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Title: Cultural genocide  
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Cultural genocide

Cultural genocide is a concept that lawyer Raphael Lemkin distinguished in 1944 as a component to genocide. The term was considered in the 2007 United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples juxtaposed next to the term "ethnocide," but it was removed in the final document, replaced with simply "genocide." The precise definition of "cultural genocide" remains unclear. Some ethnologists, such as Robert Jaulin, use the term "ethnocide" for "cultural genocide",[1] although this usage has been criticized as engendering a risk of confusion between ethnicity and culture.[2]


  • Usage 1
    • Proposed usage 1.1
  • Examples of the term's usage 2
  • References 3
  • See also 4


As early as 1944, lawyer Raphael Lemkin distinguished a cultural component to genocide, which since then has become known as "cultural genocide".[3] The term has since acquired rhetorical value as a phrase that is used to protest against the destruction of cultural heritage. It is also often misused as a catchphrase to condemn any destruction the speaker disapproves of, without regard for the criterion of intent to destroy an affected group as such.

Proposed usage

The drafters of the 1948 Genocide Convention considered the use of the term, but dropped it from their consideration.[4][5][6] The legal definition of genocide is left unspecific about the exact nature in which genocide is done only that it is destruction with intent to destroy a racial, religious, ethnic or national group as such.[7]

Article 7 of a 1994 draft of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples uses the phrase "cultural genocide" but does not define what it means.[8] 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.

This declaration only appeared in a draft. 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", not "cultural genocide", although the article is otherwise unchanged.

Examples of the term's usage

The term was used for describing destruction of cultural heritage in connection with various events:

  • In 2007, a Canadian Member of Parliament criticized the Ministry of Indian Affairs' destruction of documents regarding the treatment of First Nations members as "cultural genocide."[13]
  • The destruction by Azerbaijan of thousands of medieval Armenian gravestones at a cemetery in Julfa, and Azerbaijan's subsequent denial that the site had ever existed, has been written about as being an example of cultural genocide by some scholars.[14][15]
  • 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.[17] The Dalai Lama would later use the term himself in 1993[18] and in 2008.[19]
  • Historian Jean Brownfield cited the 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."[20]


  1. ^  
  2. ^ Gerard Delanty; Krishan Kumar (29 June 2006). The SAGE Handbook of Nations and Nationalism. SAGE. p. 326.  
  3. ^ (J. Fussell trans., 2000) (1933)Acts Constituting a General (Transnational) Danger Considered as Offences Against the Law of NationsRaphael Lemkin, ; , p. 91 (1944)Axis Rule in Occupied EuropeRaphael Lemkin, .
  4. ^ Hirad Abtahi; Philippa Webb (2008). The Genocide Convention. BRILL. pp. 731–.  
  5. ^ Lawrence Davidson (8 March 2012). Cultural Genocide. Rutgers University Press.  
  6. ^ See Prosecutor v. Krstic, Case No. IT-98-33-T (Int'l Crim. Trib. Yugo. Trial Chamber 2001), at para. 576.
  7. ^ Convention on Prevention and Punishment of Genocide, art. 2, Dec. 9, 1948, 78 U.N.T.S. 277.
  8. ^ Draft United Nations declaration on the rights of indigenous peoples 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.
  9. ^ Ghanea-Hercock, Nazila (1997). "Review of secondary literature in English on recent persecutions of Bahá'ís in Iran". Bahá'í Studies Review (Association for Baha'i Studies English-Speaking Europe) 7. Retrieved 2013-03-03. 
  10. ^ Nader Saiedi (1 May 2008). Gate of the Heart: Understanding the Writings of the Báb. Wilfrid Laurier Univ. Press. p. 377.  
  11. ^ Frelick, Bill (Fall 1987). "Iranian Baha'is and Genocide Early Warning". Social Science Record 24 (2): 35–37. Retrieved 2013-03-03. 
  12. ^ William Schabas, Genocide in international law: the crimes of crimes, Cambridge University Press, 2000, ISBN 0-521-78790-4, Google Print, p.179
  13. ^ , Edmonton Sun, April 25, 2007.‘Genocide’ target of fed coverup: MPJorge Barrera ,
  14. ^ History Today, November 2007, "Sacred Stones Silenced in Azerbaijan"
  15. ^ Switzerland-Armenia Parliamentary Group, "The Destruction of Jugha", Bern, 2006.
  16. ^ CGS 1st Workshop: “Cultural Genocide” and the Japanese Occupation of Korea (archive) "During Germany's occupation of Poland (1939-1945) and Japan's occupation of Korea (1910-1945), the prohibition of use of the native tongue, the renaming of people and places, the removal of indigenous people from institutions of higher education, the destruction of cultural facilities, the denial of freedom of religious faith, and the changing of cultural education all took place. The instances of German cultural genocide, which Lemkin took as his basis, cannot be ignored when conducting comparative research.""One of the most striking features of Japan 's occupation of Korea is the absence of an awareness of Korea as a “colony”, and the absence of an awareness of Koreans as a “separate ethnicity”. As a result, it is difficult to prove whether or not the leaders of Japan aimed for the eradication of the Korean race."
  17. ^ Les droits de l'homme Apostrophes, A2 - 21 April 1989 - 01h25m56s, Web site of the INA
  18. ^ 10th March Archive
  19. ^ Eighty killed' in Tibetan unrest"'". BBC News. 2008-03-16. 
  20. ^ Dr. Jean F. Brownfield, "The Dark Pits of American History" (Forward; Ch. 3)

See also

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