Seda A. Parsamyan
The term “cultural genocide” was coined by Rafael Lemkin simultaneously with the word “genocide”, and was a constituent part of the original definition of genocide, which is “systematic and deliberate extermination of the group”. However, for many years, genocide scholars have modified the term, departing from its original definition. Some theorists are of the opinion that the difficulty in defining cultural genocide stems from its main constituent part – culture, which is permanently changing and developing. However, that same culture is being developed and changed within the group itself. Consequently, if there is no group its culture can not change and develop by itself separately. The individual approaches and disagreements of the genocide scholars about the “cultural genocide” are largely due to the lack of clarity of the term in international law. Despite the urgency of the matter, to date there is no international legal instrument or document criminalizing “cultural genocide”. Not finding its clear definition in international law, cultural genocide is being used as a policy propaganda tool to gain the attention and response of international community against the violations of cultural rights. We have raised the issue of destruction of culture being carried out nowadays and accompanied by genocides stressing that the absence of legal regulation implies the necessity of new international convention criminalizing the destruction of culture of protected groups.
This article presents the origin and definition of the term “cultural genocide”, through emphasizing the link between physical and cultural extermination as two sides of the same crime, and discussing the approaches of genocide scholars to the term “cultural genocide”, particularly the attempts to change it also through renaming.