Controversial. Eerie. Ruthless. “The Purge” is not just a movie. Purges in real life have happened.
With the first act of cruelty committed in the name of revolution, with the first murder, with the first purge and execution, we have lost the revolution.Kate Millett
Not Just for the Movies
As a matter of fact, historical purges – ancient or more recent – are still one of the most click-baiting topics of all times. The more morbid a subject, the more humankind feels attraction. It’s like a car crash you just can’t turn away from.
Movies like The Purge (2013), The Purge: Anarchy (2017), The Purge: Election Year (2016), The First Purge (2018) and The Forever Purge (2021) portray a futuristic America where all kinds of crimes will be passed over just for twelve hours, and just once a year. It’s a series that has made our list of survival movies.
As very often happens, people started to Google the phrase and got intrigued but a large, even unexpected, amount of historical cases which go under this tag.
In this article we will discuss about ten historical purges in real life, digging on the concept which lays beyond the facts.
Etymology of the Verb “To Purge”
|By mid-14c. as “to cleanse (a person or soul) from sin or moral defilement; to cleanse, clear, purify” (metal, etc.), also medicinally “to cleanse the body or digestive tract by a laxative, diuretic, or emetic.” The figurative sense of “make ideal or pure, rid of objectionable elements or members” is by 1580s. Related: Purged; purging. The Latin verb is also the source of Spanish purgar, Italian purgare […]” (Online Etymology Dictionary)|
To Purge as a Historical Concept
Death is the solution to all problems. No man – no problem.Joseph Stalin
Amidst different contexts – but yet intrinsically connected – like politics, religion and, generally speaking, history – purges had been considered strong stances against subjects perceived as undesirables.
It is important to underline that actions triggered by xenophobia or racism are not considered “purges” – at least for our purposes here.
Purges in real life – historically speaking – could have been members of opposite organizations, religious leaders, or even entire ethnic groups. In some cases, even extreme.
Purges could present different levels like removal, imprisonment, exile, or assassination. Like in an ascending climax, purges could start with light actions to culminate to foul plays or even to brutal acts.
10 Historical Purges in Real Life
Let’s discover more on the 10 real purges.
1 – Saturnalia
|“The Saturnalia was an enduring Roman festival dedicated to the agricultural god Saturn which was held between the 17th and 23rd of December each year during the winter solstice. Originating from archaic agricultural rituals the Roman festivities came to include a general round of gift-giving, merrymaking, and role-reversals so that it became one of the most popular celebrations in the calendar and certainly the jolliest. The similarities of some of its features and the timing – pushed later into December over time – suggest a strong influence on the Christian celebration of Christmas.[…]” – source|
During Saturnalia, all sort of things were allowed: slaves conquered freedom, carnage and hangover were favored, sham kings were crowned, rapes and homicides were permitted.
Throughout the week, businesses and work would all be suspended, with slaves given the freedom to say and do what they like.
2 – Shangai Massacre (April 12 Purge or the April 12 Incident)
|“Only after it [the Shanghai Massacre] was all over did I learn of [the CCP’s] plan to seize me on board the Chungshan, when I was to travel back to the Huangpu Military Academy. They would then send me as a prisoner to Russia via Vladivostok, thereby removing the major obstacle to their scheme of… setting up a ‘dictatorship of the proletariat’.” – source|
Communist Party of China (CPC) organizations and left wing members located at that time in Shanghai were brutally suppressed by those who supported General Chiang Kai-shek.
They belonged to conservative factions within the Nationalist Party (Kuomintang, also called KMT).
3 – The Night of the Long Knives (Operation Hummingbird)
|“Adolf […] only associates with the reactionaries now. His old friends aren’t good enough for him. Getting matey with the East Prussian generals. They’re his cronies now… Are we revolutionaries or aren’t we? The generals are a lot of old fogies. They will never have a new idea… I don’t know where he’s going to get his revolutionary spirit from. They’re the same old clods, and they’ll certainly lose the next war. ” – source|
Inside Nazi Germany, Chancellor Adolf Hitler gave the order to execute some members from Sturmabteilung (SA) and Ernst Röhm, fearing an imminent putsch.
4 – Confino
|“Mussolini never killed anyone, he sent his opponents to confinement on vacation.” – source|
During the fascist period in Italy, so-called political confinement has been imposed for political reason, in order to prevent propaganda hostile to the regime.
5 – Soviet Purges
|“Education is a weapon, whose effect depends on who holds it in his hands and at whom it is aimed.” – Joseph Stalin|
While Joseph Stalin was the leader of USSR, a lot of dissidents, among with ethnic minorities and people with disabilities have been imprisoned inside the infamous “Gulag-labor camps,” and often executed.
Those citizens were accused of plotting against the government.
Stalin and Nikolai Yezhov actually started the Great Purge, the first of the 1930s.
6 – E’puration Légale
|“[…] Some French volunteered to fight alongside the Germans in German uniforms; others cooperated in the roundup of French and foreign-born Jews, helped the Gestapo track down, arrest, torture and kill their compatriots or joined Petain’s militia to fight the Resistance partisans. For the Resistance fighters, who risked their lives, and for many of the vast majority who played no active role but bore silent witness, it rankled to see Vichy legalize Nazi exactions. […]” – source|
After 1944, the French Resistance started to persecute former collaborationist. They were called “vichystes,” from the former Republic of Vichy, headquarters of the temporary government.
7 – Rote Armee Fraktion
|“The gun livens things up. The colonized European comes alive, not to the subject and problem of the violence of our circumstances, but because all armed actions subjects the force of circumstances to the force of events.“|
Denazification of Germany was one of main topics of the propaganda of a terror group known as Rote Armee Fraktion (Red Army Faction) back to 1970.
The group eventually brought on some terroristic actions against the newspapers headquarters and political figures of Federal Republic of Germany, recognized as yet connected to Nazi regime.
8 – Cuban Purges
|“[…] Perez Roque and Lage were “liberated from their posts” not because they were Fidelistas but because “the honey of power” had infected them and “awakened in them ambitions” that made them “unworthy.” After that the two men were compelled to resign their posts in the powerful Council of State and the even more important Central Committee of the Cuban Communist Party […]” – Tim Padgett, Time, 2009 May 5th|
After 1959, year of Cuban revolution, Fidel Castro started to purge several individuals previously involved with the Batista regime. They were often sentenced to death.
The most notorious case occurred in 1989. General Arnaldo Ochoa was executed by a squad in base of some charges of drug trafficking. During the 1990s and 2000s purges tended to disappear.
9 – North Korean Purges
|“[…] The conservative paper reported Kim Hyok Chol, who led negotiations with the United States ahead of the February Trump-Kim summit in Hanoi, was executed in March along with four other senior officials “on charges of spying for America. […]” – source|
Kim Il-sung, Kim Jong-il, and later on Kim Jong-un used to systematically purge political rivals, starting from the 1950s. Kim Il-sung epurated society from those who attempted to contrast his son’s succession to the North Korea government.
Kim Il-sung’s most famous purge took place in 1956. During the so called “August Incident.” The Workers’ Party of Korea (WPK) made an attempt to depose Kim. Most of them were summarily judged, declared guilty and executed. Others emigrated to USSR and China.
Purges in real life have happened. It’s not just something for the movies. As preppers, we tend to think of various SHTF scenarios as limited to catastrophic weather, economic collapse, plague, war, etc. We base our personal preps on situations such as those – because history has pointed to the fact that they happen – over and over again.
However, history has also pointed to the fact that purges have happened – over and over again. There are, of course, countless other examples of purges in real life. You can go back to actual wars, to the crusades, etc.
One thing is certain, we will see more purges in the future. History, after all, repeats itself. Know how to avoid The Purge.
How would you prepare for a possible purge? Let us know in the comments section.