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Private war

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Private war

For other uses, see Feud (disambiguation).
"Avenger of blood" redirects here. For the biblical and Jewish concepts, see Goel.

A feud /ˈfjuːd/, referred to in more extreme cases as a blood feud, vendetta, faida, beef, or private war, is a long-running argument or fight, often between social groups of people, especially families or clans. Feuds begin because one party (correctly or incorrectly) perceives itself to have been attacked, insulted or wronged by another. Intense feelings of resentment trigger the initial retribution, which causes the other party to feel equally aggrieved and vengeful. The dispute is subsequently fuelled by a long-running cycle of retaliatory violence. This continual cycle of provocation and retaliation makes it extremely difficult to end the feud peacefully. Feuds frequently involve the original parties' family members and/or associates, can last for generations and may result in extreme acts of violence. They can be interpreted as an extreme outgrowth of social relations based in family honor.

Until the early modern period, feuds were considered legitimate legal instruments[1] and were regulated to some degree. For example, Montenegrin culture calls this krvna osveta which means "blood revenge" which had unspoken but highly valued rules.[2]

Blood feuds/vendetta

"Blood feud" redirects here. For other uses, see Blood Feud (disambiguation).

A blood feud is a feud with a cycle of retaliatory violence, with the relatives of someone who has been killed or otherwise wronged or dishonored seeking vengeance by killing or otherwise physically punishing the culprits or their relatives. Historically, the word vendetta has been used to mean a blood feud. The word is Italian, and originates from the Latin vindicta (vengeance). In modern times, the word is sometimes extended to mean any other long-standing feud, not necessarily involving bloodshed. Sometimes, it is not mutual but a prolonged series of hostile acts waged by one person against another without reciprocation.[3]

Vendetta history

Originally, a vendetta was a blood feud between two families where kinsmen of the victim intended to avenge his or her death by killing either those responsible for the killing or some of their relatives. The responsibility to maintain the vendetta usually falls on the closest male relative to whoever has been killed or wronged, but other members of the family may take the mantle as well. If the culprit had disappeared or was already dead, the vengeance could extend to other relatives.

Vendetta is common in societies with a weak rule of law (or where the state does not consider itself responsible for mediating this kind of dispute) where family and kinship ties are the main source of authority. An entire family is considered responsible for whatever one of them has done. Sometimes even two separate branches of the same family could come to blows over some matter.

The practice has mostly disappeared with more centralized societies where law enforcement and criminal law take responsibility of punishing lawbreakers.

In ancient Homeric Greece, the practice of personal vengeance against wrongdoers was considered natural and customary: "Embedded in the Greek morality of retaliation is the right of vendetta . . . Vendetta is a war, just as war is an indefinite series of vendettas; and such acts of vengeance are sanctioned by the gods".[4]

In the ancient Hebraic context, it was considered the duty of the individual and family to avenge evil on behalf of God. The executor of the law of blood-revenge who personally put the initial killer to death was given a special designation: go'el haddam, the blood-avenger or blood-redeemer (Book of Numbers 35: 19, etc.). Six cities of refuge were established to provide protection and due process for any unintentional manslayers. The avenger was forbidden from harming the unintentional killer if the killer took refuge in one of these cities. As the Oxford Companion to the Bible states: "Since life was viewed as sacred (Genesis 9.6), no amount of blood money could be given as recompense for the loss of the life of an innocent person; it had to be 'life for life'" (Exodus 21.23; Deuteronomy 19.21)".[5]

The Middle Ages, from beginning to end, and particularly the feudal era, lived under the sign of private vengeance. The onus, of course, lay above all on the wronged individual; vengeance was imposed on him as the most sacred of duties ... The solitary individual, however, could do but little. Moreover, it was most commonly a death that had to be avenged. In this case the family group went into action and the faide (feud) came into being, to use the old Germanic word which spread little by little through the whole of Europe--'the vengeance of the kinsmen which we call faida', as a German canonist expressed it. No moral obligation seemed more sacred than this ... The whole kindred, therefore, placed as a rule under the command of a chieftain, took up arms to punish the murder of one of its members or merely a wrong that he had suffered.

Marc Bloch, trans. L. A. Manyon, Feudal Society, Vol. I, 1965, p. 125-126

Rita of Cascia, a popular 15th century Italian Saint, had been canonized by the Catholic Church due mainly to her great effort to end a feud in which her family was involved and which claimed the life of her husband.

The blood feud has certain similarities to the ritualized warfare found in many primitive tribes. Thus, for instance, more than a third of the Ya̧nomamö males, on average, died from warfare. The accounts of missionaries to the area have recounted constant infighting in the tribes for women or prestige, and evidence of continuous warfare for the enslavement of neighboring tribes such as the Macu before the arrival of European settlers and government.[6]

In Japan's feudal past the Samurai class upheld the honor of their family, clan, or their lord by katakiuchi (敵討ち), or revenge killings. These killings could also involve the relatives of an offender. While some vendettas were punished by the government, such as that of the Forty-seven Ronin, others were given official permission with specific targets.

At the Holy Roman Empire's Reichstag at Worms in 1495 the right of waging feuds was abolished. The Imperial Reform proclaimed an "eternal public peace" (Ewiger Landfriede) to put an end to the abounding feuds and the anarchy of the robber barons and it defined a new standing imperial army to enforce that peace. However, it took a few more decades until the new regulation was universally accepted.[7] In 1506, for example, knight Jan Kopidlansky killed a family rival in Prague and the Town Councillors sentenced him to death and had him executed. Brother Jiri Kopidlansky revenged himself by continuing atrocities.[8]

In Greece the custom of blood feud is found in several parts of the country, for instance in Crete and Mani. Throughout history, the Maniots have been known by their neighbors and their enemies as fearless warriors who practice blood feuds, known in the Maniot dialect of Greek as "Γδικιωμός" (Gdikiomos). Some vendettas went on for months and sometimes years. The families involved would lock themselves in their towers and when they got the chance would murder members of the opposing family. The Maniot vendetta is considered the most vicious and ruthless; it has led to entire family lines being wiped out. The last vendetta on record required the Greek Army with artillery support to force it to a stop. Regardless of this, the Maniot Greeks still practice vendettas even today. Maniots in America, Australia, Canada and Corsica in France still have on-going vendettas which have led to the creation of Mafia families known as "Γδικιωμέοι" (Gdikiomeoi).[9]

In Corsica, vendetta was a social code that required Corsicans to kill anyone who wronged the family honor. Between 1821 and 1852, no less than 4,300 murders were perpetrated in Corsica.[10]

The Basque Country in the Late Middle Ages was ravaged by the War of the Bands, bitter partisan wars between local ruling families. In Navarre, these conflicts became polarised in a violent struggle between the Agramont and Beaumont parties. In Biscay, the two major warring factions were named Oinaz and Gamboa. (Cf. the Guelphs and Ghibellines in Italy). High defensive structures ("towers") built by local noble families, few of which survive today, were frequently razed by fires, sometimes by royal decree.

Leontiy Lyulye, an expert on conditions in the Caucasus, wrote in the mid-19th century: "Among the mountain people the blood feud is not an uncontrollable permanent feeling such as the vendetta is among the Corsicans. It is more like an obligation imposed by the public opinion." In the Dagestani aul Kadar, one such blood feud between two antagonistic clans lasted for nearly 260 years, from the 17th century till the 1860s.[11]

The Celtic phenomenon of the blood feud demanded "an eye for an eye," and usually descended into murder. Disagreements between clans might last for generations in Scotland and Ireland. The Clan Gordon was at one point one of the most powerful clans in middle Scotland. Clan feuds and battles were frequent, especially with the Clan Cameron, Clan Murray, Clan Forbes, and the Chattan Confederation.

Due to the Celtic heritage of many whites living in Appalachia, a series of prolonged violent engagements in late- nineteenth-century Kentucky and West Virginia were referred to commonly as feuds, a tendency that was partly due to the nineteenth-century popularity of William Shakespeare and Sir Walter Scott, both of whom wrote semihistorical accounts of blood feuds. These incidents, the most famous of which was the Hatfield-McCoy feud, were regularly featured in the newspapers of the eastern U.S. between the Reconstruction era and the early twentieth century, and are seen by some as linked to a Southern culture of honor with its roots in the Scots-Irish forebears of the residents of the area.[12] Another prominent example is the Regulator-Moderator War, which took place between rival factions in the Republic of Texas. It is sometimes considered the largest blood feud in American history.[13]

An alternative to feud was blood money (or weregild in the Norse culture), which demanded payment of some kind from those responsible for a wrongful death (even an accidental one). If these payments were not made or were refused by the offended party, a blood feud would ensue.

Vendetta in modern times

Vendetta is still practised in some areas in France (especially Corsica and within Manush communities), Ireland (especially Dublin and Limerick), Italy (especially Sicily, Sardinia, Campania, Calabria, Apulia and other areas of Southern Italy),[14] between white or black British working-class families ( especially in the East End of London, Liverpool, Newcastle and Glasgow),[15][16][17] in Mani and Crete (Greece),[18][19] between so-called woonwagenbewoners ( ethnic Dutch people who live in mobile homes) in the Netherlands,[20] among Kurdish and Turkish clans in Turkey ( as well as between Kurdish clans in Iraq and Iran),[21][22][23] between Turkish Cypriots, between rival clans in Albania and Kosovo, between Canadian Aboriginal tribes, among Pashtuns in Afghanistan,[24] among tribes in Montenegro[25] and Bosniaks in Sandzak, among Somali clans,[26] among the Berbers of Algeria and Morocco,[27] between Yoruba and Igbo clans over land in Nigeria,[28] between clans in India[29] and between rival tribes in the north-east Indian state of Assam, among Tamils in Sri Lanka and India,[30] among Sikh clans in Punjab,[31] between Mirpuri clans in Azad Kashmir ( as well as between Mirpuris in England),[32][33] among rival clans in China and especially in Fujian and Guangdong,[34][35] in the Philippines[36] (especially in Mindanao between Muslim Moro and Christian Cebuano clans[37]), between Burakumin clans in Japan,[38] in the lawless Wa territories of Northern Burma, among the Arab Bedouins and Arab tribes inhabiting the mountains of Yemen and between Shiites and Sunnis in Iraq,[39] between Assyrian clans,[40] among Palestinian clans in Gaza,[41] between Maronite clans[42] and between Shiites and Sunnis in Lebanon, between Mhallami clans,[43] in southern Ethiopia,[44][45] among the highland tribes of New Guinea,[46] between Maori clans in New Zealand,[47] in Svaneti, in the mountainous areas of Dagestan, between Kyrgyz and Uzbek clans,[48] in Georgia ( especially between Mingrelian clans[49]), Armenia[50] and Azerbaijan, between Yazidi clans,[51] in a number of republics of the northern Caucasus such as Chechnya and Ingushetia[52] and essentially among Chechen teips where those seeking retribution do not accept or respect the local law enforcement authority.

Blood feuds within Russian communities do exist (mostly related to criminal gangs), but are neither as common or as pervasive as they are in the Caucasus. In the USA blood feuds are also not as pervasive and common, but do exist within the African-American and Chicano[53] communities ( sometimes gang-related, but not necessarily). Gang warfares also often take the form of blood feuds. African-American, Dominican, Jamaican, Haitian, Puerto Rican, Salvadoran and Guatemalan, Cuban Marielito, Southeast Asian ( Cambodian, Vietnamese, Sino-Vietnamese, Laotian, Korean and Hmong) gang fights in the USA, as well as Colombian, Mexican and Brazilian gang and paramilitary wars, Cape Coloured turf wars in South Africa or Dutch Antillean, Surinamese and Moluccan gang fights in the Netherlands and White British, Scottish and Black or Mixed British criminal feuds in the UK very often have taken the form of blood feuds where a family member in the gang is killed and a relative takes revenge by killing the murderer as well as other members of the rival gang. This has resulted in gun violence and murders in cities like Chicago, Detroit, Los Angeles, Miami, Ciudad Juarez, Medellin, Rio de Janeiro, Cape Town, Amsterdam, London, Liverpool and Glasgow to name a few. Blood feuds also have a long history within the white Southern population of the USA and still exist to this day[54] where it is called the 'Culture of honor'. Vendettas are generally abetted by a perceived or actual indifference on the part of local law enforcement.

In Albania, the blood feud has returned in rural areas after more than 40 years of being abolished by Albanian communists led by Enver Hoxha. More than 5,500 Albanian families are currently engaged in blood feuds. There are now more than 20,000 men and boys who live under an ever-present death sentence because of blood feuds. Since 1992, at least 10,000 Albanians have been killed due to blood feuds.[56]

Mutual vendetta may develop into a vicious circle of further killings, retaliation, counterattacks, and all-out warfare that can end in the mutual extinction of both families. Often the original cause is forgotten, and feuds continue simply because it is perceived that there has always been a feud.

Some of the gang wars between organized crime groups are effectively forms of vendetta, where the criminal organization (like the Mafia "family") has taken the place of blood relatives.[57]

Gang Feuds also exist in Dublin, Ireland and to a lesser extent the Republics fourth largest city Limerick. Since 2001 over 300 people have been killed in these feuds between different drugs gangs, Dissident Republican and traveller families.[58]


Family and clan feuds, known locally as rido, are characterized by sporadic outbursts of retaliatory violence between families and kinship groups, as well as between communities. It can occur in areas where the government or a central authority is weak as well as in areas where there is a perceived lack of justice and security. Rido is a Maranao term commonly used in Mindanao to refer to clan feuds. It is considered one of the major problems in Mindanao because apart from numerous casualties, rido has caused destruction of property, crippled the local economy, and displaced families.

Located in the southern Philippines, Mindanao is home to a majority of the country’s Muslim community and includes the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao. Mindanao is a region suffering from poor infrastructure, high poverty rates, and violence that has claimed the lives of more than 100,000 people in the last four decades. There is a widely held stereotype that the violence is perpetrated by armed groups that resort to terrorism to further their political goals, but the actual situation is far more complex. While the Muslim-Christian conflict and the state-rebel conflicts dominate popular perceptions and media attention, a survey commissioned by The Asia Foundation in 2002 and further verified by a recent Social Weather Stations survey revealed that citizens are more concerned about the prevalence of rido and its negative impact on their communities than the conflict between the state and rebel groups. The unfortunate interaction and subsequent confusion of rido-based violence with secessionism, communist insurgency, banditry, military involvement and other forms of armed violence shows that violence in Mindanao is more complicated than what is commonly believed.

Rido has wider implications for conflict in Mindanao primarily because it tends to interact in unfortunate ways with separatist conflict and other forms of armed violence. Many armed confrontations in the past involving insurgent groups and the military were triggered by a local rido. The studies cited below investigated the dynamics of rido with the intention of helping design strategic interventions to address such conflicts.


The causes of rido are varied and may be further complicated by a society’s concept of honor and shame, an integral aspect of the social rules that determine accepted practices in the affected communities. The trigger of conflicts range from petty offenses, such as theft and jesting, to more serious crimes, like homicide. These are further aggravated by land disputes and political rivalries, the most common causes of rido. Proliferation of firearms, lack of law enforcement and credible mediators in conflict-prone areas, and an inefficient justice system further contribute to instances of rido.


Studies on rido have documented a total of 1,266 rido cases between the 1930s and 2005, which have killed over 5,500 people and displaced thousands. The four provinces with the highest numbers of rido incidences are: Lanao del Sur (377), Maguindanao (218), Lanao del Norte (164), and Sulu (145). Incidences in these four provinces account for 71% of the total documented cases. The findings also show a steady rise in rido conflicts in the eleven provinces surveyed from the 1980s to 2004. According to the studies, during 2002-2004, 50% (637 cases) of total rido incidences occurred, equaling about 127 new rido cases per year. Out of the total number of rido cases documented, 64% remain unresolved.[59]


Rido conflicts are either resolved, unresolved, or reoccur. Although the majority of these cases remain unresolved, there have been many resolutions through different conflict-resolving bodies and mechanisms. These cases utilize the formal procedures of the Philippine government and/or the various indigenous systems. Formal methods may involve official courts, local government officials, police, and the military. Indigenous methods to resolve conflicts usually involve elder leaders who use local knowledge, beliefs, and practices, as well as their own personal influence, to help repair and restore damaged relationships. Some cases using this approach involve the payment of blood money to resolve the conflict. Hybrid mechanisms include the collaboration of government, religious, and traditional leaders in resolving conflicts through the formation of collaborative groups. Furthermore, the institutionalization of traditional conflict resolution processes into laws and ordinances has been successful with the hybrid method approach. Other conflict-resolution methods include the establishment of ceasefires and the intervention of youth organizations.[59]

Famous blood feuds

Fictional blood feuds

Wrestling feuds

In professional wrestling, a feud is a staged disagreement between two wrestlers or factions.

Sports rivalries

Hip hop rivalries

Main article: Hip hop feud

See also


Further reading

  • Jonas Grutzpalk: Blood Feud and Modernity. Max Weber's and Émile Durkheim's Theory. In: Journal of Classical Sociology 2 (2002); p. 115–134. PDF
  • Kreuzer, Peter. 2005. “Political Clans and Violence in the Southern Mindanao.” Frankfurt: Peace Research Institute Frankfurt. PDF
  • Torres, Wilfredo M (ed). 2007. “Rido: Clan Feuding and Conflict Management in Mindanao.” Makati: The Asia Foundation. PDF
  • Torres, Wilfredo M. (2010); “Letting A Thousand Flowers Bloom: Clan Conflicts and their Management.” From the Asian Disaster Reduction and Response Network (ADRRN) publication Challenges to Human Security in Complex Situations: The Case of Conflict in the Southern Philippines. PDF
  • Boehm, Christopher. Blood Revenge: THE ANTHROPOLOGY OF FEUDING IN MONTENEGRO AND OTHER TRIBAL SOCIETIES. Lawrence: University of Kansas, 1984. Print.

External links

  • BBC: In pictures: Egypt vendetta ends May, 2005, One of the most enduring and bloody family feuds of modern times in Upper Egypt has ended with a tense ceremony of humiliation and forgiveness. Police are very edgy. After lengthy peace talks, no one knows if the penance—and a large payment of blood money—will end the vendetta which began in 1991 with a children's fight.
  • Blood feud in Caucasus
  • Blood feuds tearing Gaza apart
  • Albania: Feuding families…bitter lives
  • Blood feuds blight Albanian lives
  • Thousands fear as blood feuds sweep Albania
  • Blood feud in Medjugorje, 1991-1992
  • Chad: Clan Feuds Creating Tinderbox of Conflict
  • Tribal Warfare and Blood Revenge
  • Iraq's death squads: On the brink of civil war
  • Bedouin family feud
  • A "Yakuza War" has started in Central Tokyo
  • Gangs clash in Nigerian oil city
  • NZ authorities fear retaliatory attacks between rival gangs
  • Gang mayhem grips LA
  • Mafia feuds bring bloodshed to Naples' streets
  • Blood in the Streets: Subculture of Violence
  • Mexico drugs cartels feud erupts
  • State Attorney: Problems Posed By Haitian Gangs Growing
  • Calabrian clan feud suspected in slayings
  • Violent ethnic war looms between Filipino and Vietnamese gangs
  • Tribal warfare kills nine in Indonesia's Papua
  • Crow Creek Massacre
  • BBC News, July 2008 - Family Feud in Ireland Involves 200 rioters
  • Maratabat and the Maranaos, From the blog of Datu Jamal Ashley Yahya Abbas, “Reflections on the Bangsa Moro.” Posted 1 May 2007.
  • Rido and its Influence on the Academe, NGOs and the Military, An essay from the website of the Balay Mindanaw Foundation, Inc. Posted on 28 February 2007.
  • 2 clans in Matanog settle rido, sign peace pact, From the MindaNews website. Posted on 30 January 2008.
  • Villages in “rido” area return home, From the MindaNews website. Posted on 1 November 2007.
  • 15 clan feuds settled in Lanao; rido tops cause of evacuation more than war, From the MindaNews website. Posted on 13 July 2007.
  • ’Rido’ seen major Mindanao security concern, From the Inquirer website. Posted on 17 November 2006.
  • Children as teacher-facilitators for peace, from the Inquirer website. Posted on 29 September 2007.
  • Rido, From The Asia Foundation Rido Map website.
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