Nature has been the major source of demographic shocks until the nineteenth century, after which Politics has gradually become the main factor of catastrophic traumas. During the first part of the past century, war, violence, forced migration, man-made famines, and the epidemics unchained by them were responsible of tens of million deaths. They left deep scars in the survivors, distorted the age structure, altered the equilibrium between the sexes and between generations, and affected in multiple ways the continental European demographic system, including the geographical distribution of the population. A quantitative assessment of the victims of these Politics-driven traumas is here attempted, as is a first exploration of the political conviction that drove them: that populations and their number, structure, and geographical location, could be manipulated by the state. The collapse of multinational multiethnic, multicultural, and multilingual empires, however illiberal, led to the identification of the state with the nation, and of the nation with an ethnic group, and bred an intolerant hyperethnicism, culminating in ferocious episodes of ethnic cleansing and genocide whose consequences resonate to this day in Europe and beyond.
Published in a peer-reviewed journal of the Population Council.