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There are many different ways that governments and regimes kill people. These patterns of killing by governments, or democide, show distinct patterns.

Genocide involves the intentional killing of people because of their race, ethnicity, nationality or religion. A closely related notion, politicide, involves killing groups of people because of their political beliefs or associations.

However, these are not the only types of government killing. R. J. Rummel coins a broader term, democide, to include all types of intentional government or regime killing. Democide does not include killing combatants in a conflict or judicial executions (capital punishment).

Rummel collected data on all democides by all regimes between 1900 and 1987. He not only identified patterns of government killing, or democide, but described factors that predict what kinds of regimes are likely to carry out democide.

Kinds of Democide

Rummel defines 14 different kinds of democide.

Type of Democide


Total democide

Total murdered in all forms of democide (including all those listed below).

Domestic democide

Citizens murdered by a regime.

Foreign democide

Noncitizens murdered by a regime.

Domestic democide rate %

The number of people killed as a proportion of the total population.

([domestic democide/domestic population] * 100)

Domestic democide annual rate %

The proportion of the total population killed per year.

(domestic democide rate)/(duration of regime in years)


People murdered in or dying as a result of incarceration in prisons or concentration/forced labor camps.

Forced labor

People who were murdered during or dying as a result of forced labor (includes those in forced labor camps).


Murder of specific individuals (e.g., summary executions, assassinations, deaths by torture, disappearances or deaths during flight/escape).


Indiscriminate mass murder (including atrocities and the deaths of conscripted soldiers for which the regime is responsible).


Regime intended deaths from starvation and disease (includes episodes in which the regime could have, but did not, try to alleviate famines or epidemics).


Murder during or deaths from deportation or expulsion.


People killed because of their religion, ethnicity, race, language, nationality or other social group membership.

Prisoners of war

Prisoners of war murdered or dying in custody from lack of care.


Noncombatants killed indiscriminately by bombing, shelling, torpedoing, germ warfare or defoliation.

But, different types of killing tend to go hand in hand and several of the above measures include murders that fall into other categories as well. For example, victims of genocide can be killed in prisons or camps. What patterns do we actually see?

Rummel carries out a statistical procedure to see which of the above types of democide tend to occur together. He identifies five main patterns:

  • Domestic democide, which is correlated with terror, massacres, the domestic democide rate and total democide,

  • Foreign democide, associated with forced labor deaths, camp deaths and POWs killed,

  • Annual domestic democide rate,

  • Democidal bombing,

  • Genocide, which is associated with massacres.

What Rummel's analysis tells us is that different primary causes and conditions are in play for each of the five main types. For instance, the reasons for genocide and conditions under which genocide occurs are distinct from the other four types. The main cause of genocide is different than the main cause of democidal bombing or domestic democide.

Data and Methods:

Data Sources:

These data are based on almost 8,200 estimates of war, domestic violence, genocide, mass murder, and other relevant data recorded from over 1,000 sources (including general works, specialized studies, human rights reports, journal articles and news sources). Tables of estimates and a statistical overview of the data are contained in other publications by the same author.

In order to test hypotheses, the author proceeded through several steps:

  • Identified common features and characteristics of the different cases of democide by factor analysis,
  • Determined various ways of measuring democracy over the same years for different regimes, using a factor analysis to define the prime indicator of the theoretical democracy-totalitarianism continuum,
  • Collected data on a number of control variables, particularly those defining cross-national sociocultural diversity, culture, war and rebellion, wealth and power,
  • Applied several statistical procedures, including factor analysis, interactive multiple regression analysis, canonical analyses and time series regression, to test whether the democracy-totalitarian continuum best accounted for democide.

Funding Sources:

Not reported.

Full Text Availability:
Full text not currently available for free online.

Rummel, R. J. 1995. "Democracy, Power, Genocide, and Mass Murder." Journal of Conflict Resolution 39:3-26.

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