Year Zero (political notion)

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The term Year Zero (Khmer: ឆ្នាំសូន្យ chhnam saun), applied to the takeover of Cambodia in April 1975 by the Khmer Rouge, is an analogy to the Year One of the French Revolutionary Calendar. During the French Revolution, after the abolition of the French monarchy (September 20, 1792), the National Convention instituted a new calendar and declared that date to be the beginning of Year I. The Khmer Rouge's takeover of Phnom Penh was rapidly followed by a series of drastic revolutionary de-industrialization policies which resulted in a death toll which vastly exceeded the death toll which resulted from the French Reign of Terror.


The idea behind Year Zero was that all culture and traditions within a society must be completely destroyed or discarded, and a new revolutionary culture must replace it, starting from scratch. All of the history of a nation or people before Year Zero would be largely deemed irrelevant, because it would ideally be purged and replaced from the ground up.

In Democratic Kampuchea, so-called New People—intellectuals and members of the old governments—were especially singled out and executed during the purges accompanying Year Zero.[1][2]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Ponchaud, François (1978). "Cambodia: Year Zero". Internet Modern History Sourcebook.
  2. ^ Pilger, John (1979). "Year Zero: The Silent Death of Cambodia (Documentary)". Associated Television (ATV) (1979) (UK) (TV).