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In history and political science, to purge is to remove 'undesirable' people from a government, political party, profession, or from community/society as a whole, usually by violent means. In the latter case it is also called political repression.
Notable Purges in History
The purge has been a political tool throughout recorded history.
In the era of Republican Rome, Marius proscribed Sullan supporters after he and Cinna ousted Cnaeus Octavius; Sulla followed with even more brutal proscriptions against Marian supporters when he came into the dictatorship. The Second Triumvirate instituted more proscriptions some forty years afterward after taking control of Rome from Caesar's murderers.
The earliest use of the term itself was the English Civil War's Pride's Purge. In 1648, the moderate members of the English Long Parliament were purged by the army. Parliament would suffer subsequent purges under the Commonwealth including the purge of the entire House of Lords. Counter-revolutionaries such as royalists were purged as well as more radical revolutionaries such as the Levellers. After the Restoration, obstinate republicans were purged while some fled to New England.
The French Revolution saw revolutionary factions purging each other. The most famous purge was Robespierre's Terror which ended with him being purged as well. After the fall of Napoleon, all those associated with revolutionary activity were purged.
Purges are often associated with the Stalinist and Maoist regimes. Those who were purged (among them artists, scientists, teachers, people in the military, but also many long-time communists who dared to disagree with the party leadership) were sent to labor camps or executed. The most notorious purge was the Great Purge initiated by Joseph Stalin during the 1930s. Deng Xiaoping was known for the distinction of returning to power multiple times after surviving multiple purges.
See also: CPSU purges
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