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10 Most Evil Empires in History

Updated on March 9, 2016
3.9 out of 5 stars from 8 ratings of 10 Most Evil Empires in History

10. The Soviet Union (1922-1989)

Under Stalinist control, the USSR instigated a regime of terror across Russia and Eastern Europe. They intended to eliminate all of the so-called enemies of socialism, and in doing so they killed an estimated 20 million people. Millions of prisoners were sent to Russia’s overcrowded Gulags, where they were subjected to forced labor, starvation, and execution. Rat torture was one of the techniques used to gain confessions of betrayal. Guards stripped victims naked and attached a rat cage to their abdomen. The bars were then heated, and the rat would try and escape the heat by burrowing deep into the victims’ abdomen. The government also took control of farmland across the Soviet states, and when farmers refused to hand over their land, Stalin caused a man-made famine to starve the peasants into submission. Borders were closed and grain seized. This severely restricted access to food and ultimately caused the deaths of 7 million people.

9. The Ottoman Empire (1301-1922)

Stretching over three continents and lasting over six centuries, the Ottoman Empire was one of the most powerful empires in history at its height. But toward the end of its existence it committed several notable atrocities. In 1876, 8,000 Ottoman soldiers massacred the defenseless population of Batak in Bulgaria, beheading and burning alive at least 5,000 people. Between 1915 and 1918 the Ottoman government slaughtered 1.5 million of the 2 million Armenians living in Turkey. This was in an attempt to systematically exterminate non-Muslims from their homeland. During the genocide, children and the elderly were sent on death marches through the Syrian desert. This covered hundreds of miles, and those marching were often naked so they would perish from dehydration and the heat of the sun. To this day, the Turkish government denies the Armenian genocide, in which ruthless armies called ‘butcher battalions’ allegedly drowned people, burned victims alive, and threw them off cliffs.

8. The Spanish Empire (1492-1892)

Up to 5 million people died as a result of Spain’s expansion into South America during the 15th and 16th centuries. Many of these deaths can be attributed to the conquest of the city of Tenochtitlan in 1521, when an estimated 200,000 Aztecs were massacred by the invaders. A further 3 million died as a result of a smallpox epidemic, after the disease was brought to the region by the Spanish. The Spanish Inquisition was also introduced throughout the empire to ensure that the population adhered to their interpretation of the Catholic faith. An estimated 150,000 people were interrogated and tortured. One of their favored methods involved the head crusher, a metal cap that compressed the head using a screw, until the skull shattered. Another was the knee-splitter, a vice-like instrument covered in spikes that mutilated the victims’ knees and leg bones so that they couldn’t walk.

7. The Portuguese Empire (1415 - 1999)

Portugal’s Empire sought to spread Catholicism around the world and profit from the agricultural and gold resources of others. They expanded into South America, Africa, and Asia. More than 5 million people died in the process. Widely considered to have introduced the Transatlantic Slave trade, Portugal exported more than 4 and a half million people out of Africa - almost twice as many as any other colonial power. Most were severely mistreated, and disobedient slaves were lashed, burned with hot wax, or sexually assaulted. Meanwhile in India, Portugal established the “Goa Inquisition”, in which Hindus were burned at the stake and boiled alive with molten oil. All to convert people to Christianity. In the 20th Century Portugal faced international pressure to release its African colonies, but refused to do so, and responded in the 1970s by massacring its enslaved people. Thousands were executed and tortured. Teenage girls were crucified on trees and had their breasts cut off, men were castrated, and children had their eyes gouged out.

6. The Mongols (1206-1368)

The Mongols slaughtered 11% of the world’s population - around 40 million people - to build an empire that covered nearly a quarter of the Earth’s surface. Among the dead were innocent civilians, including pregnant women. Citadels like Samarkand were laid waste in just 5 days. And when the Mongol army plundered the Khwarezmid Empire in Persia, they punished rebels by pouring molten silver into their eyes for challenging the invasion. They may even have created bio warfare, as historians have traced the deadly Black Death pandemic of the Middle Ages to the siege of Kaffa. The Mongols weaponized the newly found bubonic plague by catapulting diseased corpses over city walls, infecting entire populations.

5. Imperial Japan (1868-1945)

The Japanese military regime murdered around 8 million people on its mission to become the supreme Asian state. In December 1937 the Japanese Imperial Army marched into China’s then-capital, Nanking, and slaughtered 300,000 out of 600,000 civilians. An estimated 80,000 women as old as 70 and as young as 8 were dragged off and sexually assaulted by groups of Japanese soldiers. They were then stabbed to death with bayonets so they couldn’t testify about the attacks. Generals encouraged young Japanese soldiers to inflict as much pain as possible on their captives; victims were soaked in gasoline and then burned alive. Japan’s secret biochemical warfare research center, Unit 731, killed 3,000 people with lethal human experimentation. Prisoners were subjected to vivisection without anesthetic, essentially being dissected while they were still alive. Others experiments saw people locked in pressure chambers until their eyes popped out, and others having their limbs frozen and then thawed out in red hot water.

4. The French Empire (1534 to 1980)

The French Empire caused the deaths of up to 10 million people throughout Africa, Europe,
the Americas, and Asia. One of the worst incidents occurred under the rule of Napoleon on the French colony of Haiti. Starving slaves were forced to collect sugar from the island, while wearing tin muzzles to stop them from eating the sugar cane. Those who disobeyed the French colonists were slowly roasted over fires as punishment, or filled with gunpowder and then blown to pieces. Another 100,000 slaves were massacred in the holds of ships with sulfur dioxide that was extracted from Haiti’s volcanoes. Others were ripped apart by dogs in amphitheaters to terrify the slaves in revolt.

3. Belgian Empire (1885 – 1962)

King Leopold II of Belgium bought the Congo and enslaved its people, brutally exploiting the country for its rubber and ivory supplies. An estimated 10 million people died in just 50 years. Using a terrifying army called the ‘Force Publique’, Leopold made the villagers work to death to in order to make a profit. Those who failed to meet their resource collection quotas were shot, kidnapped, or had their limbs cut off. Colonists also systematically sexually assaulted Congolese women. It can even be argued that Belgium’s colonial policies contributed to the Rwandan genocide in the 1990s. During their colonial rule there, Belgians classified the native Hutu group as racially inferior to their neighbors, the Tutsi. This caused huge ethnic tensions between the two communities, which tragically boiled over and led to the deaths of 800,000 Tutsi. They were massacred by the previously marginalized
Hutu.

2. The British Empire (1783 – 1997)

The British Empire caused as many as 150 million deaths across Asia, Africa, and Europe. British Imperialists hoarded rice and grain from India. They also dramatically increased harvest taxation, which caused widespread famines that killed a cumulative 29 million people. Without any support from the Empire, Indian civilians were forced to eat grass and human flesh to survive. Britain also resorted to the use of concentration camps to defeat South Africa’s Boer population at the turn of the 20th century. 10% of the entire Boer population were killed in these camps, including 22,000 children, who were starved and beaten to death. One of their most ruthless conquests, however, came in the 1800s, when British colonists annihilated Tasmania’s indigenous population. They forced aborigine wives to carry the heads of their dead husbands around their necks.

1. Nazi Germany (1933-1945)

The National Socialist party transformed Germany and much of Europe into a fascist totalitarian state, responsible for World War 2 and the extermination of 6 million Jews. To incarcerate their racial opponents, the Nazis created 20,000 concentration camps. By 1941, up to 6,000 prisoners a day were sent to gas chambers in Auschwitz, which were disguised as shower rooms. There, a highly toxic insecticide called Zyklon B was unleashed, asphyxiating the prisoners within minutes. Guards would then remove the dead prisoners’ hair and gold fillings. The hair was used to make rope, and the gold was deposited in an SS bank account. German physicians also carried out deadly human experiments at the camps. Prisoners were submerged in icy waters for 5 hours until they froze to death, injected with tuberculosis and malaria, sterilized, and they also underwent nerve and limb transplants without anesthetic.

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    • profile image

      arkowskizeslaska 

      11 months ago

      Dont get why British are 2nd? These English 'gentelmen' should grab the gold medal for their unimaginable cruelty caused by their greed and disrespect for humans lives. Im Polish and can tell you one thing: Former Empires should pay their debts by taking as much immigrants as they can. No excuses. Those nations suffered enough and now its time to remedy them

    • profile image

      Lord yLordy 

      19 months ago

      The British Empire should be no.1 as they killed more people and the Nazi's killed not just 6M Jews but 5 million others as well that you forgot about. It also doesn't have any mention of the Indian Mutiny when they would strap people to the front of a cannon and fire it.

      The British Empire can undoubtedly claim first place as the most evil in history.

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