The arrest of Pinochet in 2000 brings up the issue of which other leaders should be or should have been tried for atrocities committed during their rule. Here is a tentative list of modern dictators (and assorted mass murderers) and the estimated number of people killed by their orders (excluding armies they were formally at war with). In Stalin’s and Mao’s cases, one has to decide how to consider the millions who died indirectly because of their political decisions.

The Chinese cultural revolution caused the death of 30 million people (source: the current Chinese government), but many died of hunger. Stalin is responsible for the death of 17 million Russians, but only half a million were killed by his order. Khomeini sent children to die in the war against Iraq, but it was a war, so they are not counted here. The worst genocide of recent times was committed by many hutus, not just by their leader. Needless to say, I make a big distinction between killing soldiers and killing civilians. Read the bottom of this page for frequently asked questions on controversial actions such as the atomic bombs, the Iraqi war, etc.

Mao Ze-Dong (China, 1958-61 and 1966-69, Tibet 1949-50) 49-78,000,000
Jozef Stalin (USSR, 1932-39) 23,000,000 (the purges plus Ukraine’s famine)
Adolf Hitler (Germany, 1939-1945) 12,000,000 (concentration camps and civilians WWII)
Leopold II of Belgium (Congo, 1886-1908) 8,000,000
Hideki Tojo (Japan, 1941-44) 5,000,000 (civilians in WWII)
Ismail Enver (Turkey, 1915-20) 1,200,000 Armenians (1915) + 350,000 Greek Pontians and 480,000 Anatolian Greeks (1916-22) + 500,000 Assyrians (1915-20)
Pol Pot (Cambodia, 1975-79) 1,700,000
Kim Il Sung (North Korea, 1948-94) 1.6 million (purges and concentration camps)
Menghistu (Ethiopia, 1975-78) 1,500,000
Yakubu Gowon (Biafra, 1967-1970) 1,000,000
Leonid Brezhnev (Afghanistan, 1979-1982) 900,000
Jean Kambanda (Rwanda, 1994) 800,000
Suharto (East Timor, West Papua, Communists, 1966-98) 800,000
Saddam Hussein (Iran 1980-1990 and Kurdistan 1987-88) 600,000
Tito (Yugoslavia, 1945-1987) 570,000
Fumimaro Konoe (Japan, 1937-39) 500,000? (Chinese civilians)
Jonas Savimbi (Angola, 1975-2002) 400,000
Mullah Omar – Taliban (Afghanistan, 1986-2001) 400,000
Idi Amin (Uganda, 1969-1979) 300,000
Yahya Khan (Pakistan, 1970-71) 300,000 (Bangladesh)
Benito Mussolini (Ethiopia, 1936; Libya, 1934-45; Yugoslavia, WWII) 300,000
Mobutu Sese Seko (Zaire, 1965-97) ?
Charles Taylor (Liberia, 1989-1996) 220,000
Foday Sankoh (Sierra Leone, 1991-2000) 200,000
Michel Micombero (Burundi, 1972) 150,000
Slobodan Milosevic (Yugoslavia, 1992-99) 100,000
Hassan Turabi (Sudan, 1989-1999) 100,000
Jean-Bedel Bokassa (Centrafrica, 1966-79) ?
Richard Nixon (Vietnam, 1969-1974) 70,000 (Vietnamese and Cambodian civilians)
Efrain Rios Montt (Guatemala, 1982-83) 70,000
Papa Doc Duvalier (Haiti, 1957-71) 60,000
Rafael Trujillo (Dominican Republic, 1930-61) 50,000
Hissene Habre (Chad, 1982-1990) 40,000
Chiang Kai-shek (Taiwan, 1947) 30,000 (popular uprising)
Vladimir Ilich Lenin (USSR, 1917-20) 30,000 (dissidents executed)
Francisco Franco (Spain) 30,000 (dissidents executed after the civil war)
Fidel Castro (Cuba, 1959-1999) 30,000
Lyndon Johnson (Vietnam, 1963-1968) 30,000
Hafez Al-Assad (Syria, 1980-2000) 25,000
Khomeini (Iran, 1979-89) 20,000
Robert Mugabe (Zimbabwe, 1982-87, Ndebele minority) 20,000
Rafael Videla (Argentina, 1976-83) 13,000
Guy Mollet (France, 1956-1957) 10,000 (war in Algeria)
Harold McMillans (Britain, 1952-56, Kenya’s Mau-Mau rebellion) 10,000
Paul Koroma (Sierra Leone, 1997) 6,000
Osama Bin Laden (worldwide, 1993-2001) 3,500
Augusto Pinochet (Chile, 1973) 3,000
Al Zarqawi (Iraq, 2004-06) 2,000

Wars and Genocides of the 20th Century

by Piero Scaruffi

160 million people died in wars during the 20th century

(See also 1900: A century of genocides)

TM, ®, Copyright © 2009 Piero Scaruffi All rights reserved.



1860-65: American civil war (360,000)
1886-1908: Belgium-Congo Free State (8 million)
1899-02: British-Boer war (100,000)
1899-03: Colombian civil war (120,000)
1899-02: Philippines vs USA (20,000)
1900-01: Boxer rebels against Russia, Britain, France, Japan, USA against rebels (35,000)
1903: Ottomans vs Macedonian rebels (20,000)
1904: Germany vs Namibia (65,000)
1904-05: Japan vs Russia (150,000)
1910-20: Mexican revolution (250,000)
1911: Chinese Revolution (2.4 million)
1911-12: Italian-Ottoman war (20,000)
1912-13: Balkan wars (150,000)
1915: the Ottoman empire slaughters Armenians (1.2 million)
1915-20: the Ottoman empire slaughters 500,000 Assyrians
1916-23: the Ottoman empire slaughters 350,000 Greek Pontians and 480,000 Anatolian Greeks
1914-18: World War I (20 million)
1916: Kyrgyz revolt against Russia (120,000)
1917-21: Soviet revolution (5 million)
1917-19: Greece vs Turkey (45,000)
1919-21: Poland vs Soviet Union (27,000)
1928-37: Chinese civil war (2 million)
1931: Japanese Manchurian War (1.1 million)
1932-33: Soviet Union vs Ukraine (10 million)
1932-35: "Guerra del Chaco" between Bolivia and Paraguay (117.500)
1934: Mao’s Long March (170,000)
1936: Italy’s invasion of Ethiopia (200,000)
1936-37: Stalin’s purges (13 million)
1936-39: Spanish civil war (600,000)
1937-45: Japanese invasion of China (500,000)
1939-45: World War II (55 million) including holocaust and Chinese revolution
1946-49: Chinese civil war (1.2 million)
1946-49: Greek civil war (50,000)
1946-54: France-Vietnam war (600,000)
1947: Partition of India and Pakistan (1 million)
1947: Taiwan’s uprising against the Kuomintang (30,000)
1948-1958: Colombian civil war (250,000)
1948-1973: Arab-Israeli wars (70,000)
1949-: Indian Muslims vs Hindus (20,000)
1949-50: Mainland China vs Tibet (1,200,000)
1950-53: Korean war (3 million)
1952-59: Kenya’s Mau Mau insurrection (20,000)
1954-62: French-Algerian war (368,000)
1958-61: Mao’s "Great Leap Forward" (38 million)
1960-90: South Africa vs Africa National Congress (?)
1960-96: Guatemala’s civil war (200,000)
1961-98: Indonesia vs West Papua/Irian (100,000)
1961-2003: Kurds vs Iraq (180,000)
1962-75: Mozambique Frelimo vs Portugal (?)
1964-73: USA-Vietnam war (3 million)
1965: second India-Pakistan war over Kashmir
1965-66: Indonesian civil war (250,000)
1966-69: Mao’s "Cultural Revolution" (11 million)
1966-: Colombia’s civil war (31,000)
1967-70: Nigeria-Biafra civil war (800,000)
1968-80: Rhodesia’s civil war (?)
1969-: Philippines vs New People’s Army (40,000)
1969-79: Idi Amin, Uganda (300,000)
1969-02: IRA – Norther Ireland’s civil war (2,000)
1969-79: Francisco Macias Nguema, Equatorial Guinea (50,000)
1971: Pakistan-Bangladesh civil war (500,000)
1972-: Philippines vs Muslim separatists (Moro Islamic Liberation Front, etc) (120,000)
1972: Burundi’s civil war (300,000)
1972-79: Rhodesia/Zimbabwe’s civil war (30,000)
1974-91: Ethiopian civil war (1,000,000)
1975-78: Menghitsu, Ethiopia (1.5 million)
1975-79: Khmer Rouge, Cambodia (1.7 million)
1975-89: Boat people, Vietnam (250,000)
1975-90: civil war in Lebanon (40,000)
1975-87: Laos’ civil war (184,000)
1975-2002: Angolan civil war (500,000)
1976-83: Argentina’s military regime (20,000)
1976-93: Mozambique’s civil war (900,000)
1976-98: Indonesia-East Timor civil war (600,000)
1976-2005: Indonesia-Aceh (GAM) civil war (12,000)
1977-92: El Salvador’s civil war (75,000)
1979: Vietnam-China war (30,000)
1979-88: the Soviet Union invades Afghanistan (1.3 million)
1980-88: Iraq-Iran war (1 million)
1980-92: Sendero Luminoso – Peru’s civil war (69,000)
1980-99: Kurds vs Turkey (35,000)
1981-90: Nicaragua vs Contras (60,000)
1982-90: Hissene Habre, Chad (40,000)
1983-: Sri Lanka’s civil war (70,000)
1983-2002: Sudanese civil war (2 million)
1986-: Indian Kashmir’s civil war (60,000)
1987-: Palestinian Intifada (4,500)
1988-2001: Afghanistan civil war (400,000)
1988-2004: Somalia’s civil war (550,000)
1989-: Liberian civil war (220,000)
1989-: Uganda vs Lord’s Resistance Army (30,000)
1991: Gulf War – large coalition against Iraq to liberate Kuwait (85,000)
1991-97: Congo’s civil war (800,000)
1991-2000: Sierra Leone’s civil war (200,000)
1991-2009: Russia-Chechnya civil war (200,000)
1991-94: Armenia-Azerbaijan war (35,000)
1992-96: Tajikstan’s civil war war (50,000)
1992-96: Yugoslavian wars (260,000)
1992-99: Algerian civil war (150,000)
1993-97: Congo Brazzaville’s civil war (100,000)
1993-2005: Burundi’s civil war (200,000)
1994: Rwanda’s civil war (900,000)
1995-: Pakistani Sunnis vs Shiites (1,300)
1995-: Maoist rebellion in Nepal (12,000)
1998-: Congo/Zaire’s war – Rwanda and Uganda vs Zimbabwe, Angola and Namibia (3.8 million)
1998-2000: Ethiopia-Eritrea war (75,000)
1999: Kosovo’s liberation war – NATO vs Serbia (2,000)
2001-: Afghanistan’s liberation war – USA & UK vs Taliban (40,000)
2002-: Cote d’Ivoire’s civil war (1,000)
2003: Second Iraq-USA war – USA, UK and Australia vs Saddam Hussein (14,000)
2003-09: Sudan vs JEM/Darfur (300,000)
2003-: Iraq’s civil war (60,000)
2004-: Sudan vs SPLM & Eritrea (?)
2004-: Yemen vs Shiite Muslims (?)
2004-: Thailand vs Muslim separatists (3,700)


Arab-Israeli wars

  • I (1947-49): 6,373 Israeli and 15,000 Arabs die
  • II (1956): 231 Israeli and 3,000 Egyptians die
  • III (1967): 776 Israeli and 20,000 Arabs die
  • IV (1973): 2,688 Israeli and 18,000 Arabs die
  • Intifada I (1987-92): 170 Israelis and 1,000 Palestinians
  • Intifada II (2000-03): 700 Israelis and 2,000 Palestinians
  • Israel-Hamas war (2008): 1,300 Palestinians

Main sources:

  • Charny: Genocide – A Critical Bibliographic Review (1988)
  • Stephane Courtois: Black Book on Communism (1995)
  • Clodfelter: Warfare and Armed Conflicts (1992)
  • Elliot: Twentieth Century Book of the Dead (1972)
  • Bouthoul: A List of the 366 Major Armed Conflicts of the period 1740-1974, Peace Research (1978)
  • R.J. Rummel: Death by Government – Genocide and Mass Murder (1994)
  • Matt White’s website
  • Several general textbooks of 20th century history

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