The Purge

"First, we kill all the subversives; then their collaborators; later, those who sympathize with them; afterward, those who remain indifferent; and finally the undecided."

When a character, usually a villain, takes over The Government, The Syndicate, the Ancient Conspiracy, or otherwise takes power in some way, often the first item on the character's agenda is ordering the deaths of many characters. Usually, these characters represent the only serious internal threat to the new regime. These aren't just Muggles, though; these are characters we know (and possibly love) from before, usually killed off via a quick montage cutting between several locations. No big ceremony, just them dying horribly. This is an effective way to drive home the power and ruthlessness of the new regime.

As the Real Life section of the page attests, this is often Truth in Television. The strongest threats to an organization are often from within, and consolidation of power often includes removing those threats as swiftly and permanently as possible. Ironically, extensive early purges often lead to instability later on when the loss of talent, experience, and dissenting opinion creates an incompetent Yes-Man culture and sets up a Succession Crisis because of the power vacuum.

If this is a major feature of a character's backstory, it usually leads to the character becoming the Sole Survivor of the purge, possibly even the Last of His Kind. Compare You Have Failed Me, in which individual minions are singled out for punishment.

Not to be confused with the movie The Purge.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • After his Memory Gambit is over, Light does this in Death Note, killing off a lot of people. Even disregarding his killing off his enemies, Light's long-term goal is to purge society of all elements he considers undesirable, starting with criminals and eventually people who just aren't as productive as they could be.
  • Hellsing has one with the Vampire Nazis taking over.
    • It doesn't help that Enrico (who was just named an archbishop) was doing his own purge on Protestants at the same time.
  • End of Evangelion begins with Seele sending the Japanese military to kill everyone in NERV. Also implied in the series' original Gainax Ending when several characters are seen after apparently being shot.
  • Gekko Moria from One Piece killed all his lovable Quirky Miniboss Squad zombies so he could eat their shadows (don't ask) and gain more power.
    • Following the death of Gold Roger, the World Government decided that anyone and everyone connected to the Pirate King must pay for his crimes. This goes from otherwise innocent shipwrights who were just doing business to any unborn children he might have had.
  • In Cowboy Bebop, the Red Dragon, after Vicious attempts to take over the syndicate, orders the deaths of everyone connected to him, including the crew of the Bebop, in episode 25. The crew of the Bebop escape death, along with Spike's long lost love Julia, and Vicious succeeds in his second attempt to take power, but keeps the hit on Spike and Julia active, setting up Episode 26's final showdown.
  • In Claymore, The Northern Campaign was essentially a purge of the more rebellious Claymores. The Seven who survived are, as of the present storyline, hiding to conceal the fact that they survived.
  • Happens quite a few time in Gundam:
    • Char & Sayla from the classic Mobile Suit Gundam spent most of their childhoods avoiding a purge of their father's supporters after his untimely death due to heart problems/complications of heart surgery/poisoning & the subsequent rise of the sinister Zabi dynasty.
    • In Zeta Gundam the Titans conduct a larger scale purge of their rivals in The Federation & the colonies.
    • In Gundam Wing we get to see one of these after OZ overthrows the Alliance, culminating with their leader being kicked out the back of a cargo jet AND shot in head on his way down for good measure.
    • In Gundam SEED, both the Earth Alliance and ZAFT initiated Purges - the Earth Alliance used ZAFT's "Operation Spitbreak" to eradicate the Eurasia Army and attempt to kill the Archangel crew so that the Atlantic Federation (and thus Blue Cosmos) would have power. When "Operation Spitbreak" failed, ZAFT leader Patrick Zala ordered all Moderates within their power structure killed, which included Lacus Clyne's father (and former ZAFT leader), Siegel Clyne. At that point, both groups decided to turn their Purging urges on the other group - the Bloody Valentine War would now be a war of eradication - all part of Rau Le Crueset's plan.
    • In Mobile Suit Gundam AGE, the second generation ends with a Purge that is undertaken by the main character, taking out any government officials who were collaborating with Vagan.
  • Happens in the climax of Eureka Seven.
  • The action in Romeo X Juliet starts 14 years after the purge of the Capulet clan, when the Sole Survivor and her supporters are finally in condition to strike back.
  • Bleach:
    • The Shinigami enacted a Purge of the Quincy clan of human exorcists 200 years ago in order to prevent a disruption in the cosmic balance. The few surviving families gradually died out until only the Ishida were left.
    • Nine years before the Thousand Year Blood War Arc begins, the Quincy King Yhwach carried out the Auswählen (Holy Selection) on all impure Quincies to absorb their power. Notable victims included Masaki Kurosaki and Kanae Ishida, née Katagiri. The only impure Quincy who survived this purge was Uryuu, for unknown reasons.
    • Yhwach aka said Quincy King later does another Auswählen to everyone of his minions who are not in his Elite Guard. The survivors like Liltotto and Giselle still got their powers drained. He used the absorbed power to strengthen himself and his Elite Guard.
    • Yhwach does it again to the remaining members of his Elite Guard, meaning the Vandenreich are gone.
  • The finale of Code Geass has Lelouch preside over a mass execution of his former allies. Instead of going through with it, Lelouch instead arranged this so he could be publicly killed by Suzaku, taking all the hatred in the world with him.

    Comic Books 

    Fan Fiction 
  • A Brief History of Equestria: Princess Platinum does this to the Unicorn nobility after the Hearth's Warming, as part of her plan to prevent them from ever regaining the amount of power they had. Indeed, her entire life is one planned-out purge on them, finally resulting in her suicide.
    • Some decades before, the nobility did the same to her father's family, Romanov-style. Only the youngest member of the family escaped.
  • This happens at the beginning of Gensokyo 20XX: Rise of Earth and anyone of Gensokyo that resisted was met with death. Also, the invaders were exterminating youkai left and right for their power and magic. Another one also occurs in 20XXII, leaving most of the youkai that were captured dead (only nine inmates were noted to be imprisoned). It's also worth noting that the image that inspired the series was also inspired by the issue where the page image comes from.

  • The bloody Real Life St. Bartholomew's Day Massacre, which killed thousands of French Protestants in 1572, is dramatized in D.W. Griffith's silent epic Intolerance and the French film La Reine Margot.
  • In Batman, The Joker wipes out all the other crime bosses in Gotham, sensing that they probably won't want to go along with his "let's kill everyone just For the Evulz" scheme. (We only get to see him kill three of them, though. The others are murdered offscreen.)
  • In The Bourne Series, Treadstone is disassembled after Jason's rampage risks exposure and reveals the dangers involved. The commander and his operatives are eliminated, leaving only two remaining Treadstone operatives by Supremacy.
    • Legacy takes this a step further when the simple risk of Outcome being connected to Treadstone leads to the CIA killing all associated operatives and the civilian research staff.
  • In The Dark Knight Rises, Bane enacts one of these against the rich and powerful of Gotham and any forces who are deemed collaborators.
  • In the movie Elizabeth, Sir Francis Walshingham's agents do the killing part.
  • G.I. Joe: Retaliation has Zartan-disguised-as-President ordering the destruction of the Joe base.
  • The Godfather has the famous baptism scene, where Michael takes power by wiping out the other Dons (and Moe Greene) during a baptism. This and the above Star Wars examples are particularly well-known.
    • This was later parodied in a similar scene in the spoof movie Mafia! that featured death by fart (no, really).
  • Goodfellas has Jimmy authorizing the murders of everyone involved in a botched heist.
  • Infernal Affairs II has the killing of the four Ngai family capos half-way through.
  • Judge Dredd. Rico and Ilsa manage to massacre more than a hundred street Judges due to Griffin's knowledge of Judge procedures, security measures and scrambled radio frequencies.
  • In Lethal Weapon 2, the villain, a South African drug smuggler and diplomat orders the deaths of the LAPD detectives investigating his illegal operations. Most of them are brutally killed in their homes with Riggs and Murtaugh the only survivors.
  • The Purge: The trope name and the film's title are the same. The 12-hour event is called The Purge, and the intent behind it is to both get rid of the undesirable parts of society and purge the nation of its violent impulses in one go.
  • Star Wars:
    • In Revenge of the Sith, Palpatine's Order 66 shows Jedi all over the galaxy being ruthlessly murdered by their own clone troopers. Though we don't see much of it, there's also Anakin/Darth Vader's leading the 501st Legion into the Jedi Temple to murder the Jedi-in-Training. After that there's the massacre of the Separatist leaders by Vader, while Palpatine gives a New Era Speech reforming The Republic into The Empire.
    • And decades later, shortly before The Force Awakens takes place, Kylo Ren enacts a smaller-scale but no-less-devastating Jedi purge of his own – namely, all of Luke Skywalker's Jedi students.
  • TRON: Legacy: This is what happened to the ISO's prior the events of the movie. Bonus points for actually being called The Purge in story.
  • In Serenity, the Operative finally resorts to ordering the deaths of practically everyone who's ever helped, sheltered, or otherwise had any sort of positive contact with Serenity's crew, rationalizing it as leaving them nowhere to hide.
  • Underworld: Awakening takes place after "the Purge," in which the government exterminated vampires and Lycans (werewolves). It is implied that several established characters died during this purge.
  • Luchino Visconti's The Damned, set in Nazi Germany, features a heavily sensationalized version of the Night of the Long Knives.
  • According to the opening narration of Six: The Mark Unleashed, The Leader killed 89 million people in North America alone during the first Purge, with the death toll presumably much higher in third-world countries. One of the people killed in the event was the narrator's girlfriend.
  • Transformers: Age of Extinction: One of these happened before the start of the film, when a black-ops group begins hunting down the Autobots. By the start of the film, they've been greatly reduced, and what little that are left are in hiding. Worse, if some lines in the film are any indication, most of the Autobots didn't even realise this was happening until it was too late.
  • 300: Rise of an Empire: After Xerxes becomes a God-King after his journey to the desert, Artemisia kills off all of Xerxes's former allies and councilmen to remove anyone else who could influence him besides her.
  • Captain America: The Winter Soldier: Hydra agents successfully infiltrate S.H.I.E.L.D., turning their Project Insight helicarriers into purging death-machines that kill hobos and baseball dads because of their unrealized ability to instill freedom and chaos no matter how oppressive America becomes. They also try to kill as many superheroes as possible, for obvious reasons. Captain America and a small team decide to do a purge of their own by reprogramming the helicarriers to fire on each other.
  • In WarCraft, the Frostwolf clan is purged by the rest of the Horde after their chieftain Durotan tried to secretly negotiate peace with the humans.

  • Animorphs: Late in the series, a massive campaign to reorganize the Yeerk Empire begins, headed by Visser Three. Visser Three convinces the council that Visser One is a traitor, and she is executed. Visser Three usurps her position and kills everyone loyal to her, replacing them with his own subordinates.
  • Older Than Feudalism: In The Bible, Solomon began his reign by having a number of people previously spared by David executed.
    • David himself told him to kill most of these people, either because they'd been involved in a recent coup attempt or in punishment for some other past sin.
  • In The Prince Niccolò Machiavelli advises not to do this more than once. As it foments rebellion.
  • In The Diamond Chariot, when Erast Fandorin comes too close to uncovering the villain's identity, the villain sends four ninjas to assassinate him and his investigative team simultaneously. He is the only one to survive because the ninja princess has fallen in love with him and demands him to be spared.
  • Animal Farm had one based on Stalin's Great Purge.
  • Death Eaters takes over Ministry in Harry Potter, and started hunting down people they branded as "undesirables".
  • Kangaroo courts a-plenty, mass round-ups in the night followed by executions on the same scale, and probably several assassinations just for variety kicked off the takeover of the People's Republic of Haven, in Honor Harrington.
    • Rob S. Pierre officially kicks off his coup of Haven in The Short Victorious War by carpet-bombing the presidential palace while Hereditary President Harris, his wife and kids, the cabinet, and the heads of the most prominent Legislaturist families, are there for the president's birthday party. And then blames it on subversive elements in the Navy, using it as an excuse to accuse the Navy's loyalist officers of treason when they get back from their not-so-victorious conflict with Manticore.
    • Realization that the government was about to do another purge of the Navy lead directly to the Military Coup that the Committee of Public Safety had been hoping to avert via the purge. Followed by a messy period of internal strife where the restored Republic sought to purge the remaining State Sec forces from their far-flung territories.
  • Torak pulled this in The Belgariad prequels. He'd been living in isolation for centuries, so when he was ready to lead an Angarak army against the West his first step was "remind everyone who's in charge here".
  • In the Star Trek novel series Terok Nor, Cardassian Central Command destroys the Oralian Way religion (although pockets manage to survive) in a purge of believers in the enclaves on Bajor. The Oralians had already fled persecution on Cardassia, but Central Command had its eyes on Bajor, too.
  • Inverted in The Wheel of Time: after securing her position on the Amyrlin Seat, Egwene attempts a purge on the Black Ajah, which results in more than fifty executions, although word gets out before she can attempt to capture the majority of them.
  • In Charles Stross' Iron Sunrise, Portia Hoechst has all the subordinates who were supporting her predecessor's rogue operation killed (at least temporarily).
  • A variation in The Hunger Games. After more than a few of the victors reveal themselves to be rebels in the Third Quarter Quell, secretly protecting Katniss and Peeta and helping them escape to District Thirteen, which by this time has become the base for the second rebellion, President Snow institutes a purge of all living victors in Panem who are not undyingly loyal to him. By the war's end, only seven victors are still alive out of roughly fifty when the war started, the rest having fallen to the purge, the war, or the games.
  • In The Wandering, it's what the Natasians plan to do with the populace of Neshi's homeworld, presumably through the sleep chambers.
  • In the Star Wars Expanded Universe, the Empire has regularly wiped out several alien races for defying it - and sometimes just because.
    • While Imperial discipline of its own forces is usually You Have Failed Me, for especially notorious screw-ups they're liable to spread the punishment around with a big shovel. For instance, the failure of the Avenger in The Empire Strikes Back led to its captain and his entire family being killed; the defection of Avarice in The Bacta War calls for the execution of the entire crew (if they're ever caught), their families, the captain's mistress, and her family.
  • In the BattleTech novel Heir to the Dragon after surviving an assassination attempt Coordinator Takashi Kurita orders the deaths of everyone involved in the plot and their families within one degree of separation. Including his son's fiance when it turns out her father was one of the masterminds. However, he refuses to acknowledge publicly that his own cousin Marcus Kurita was involved, as that would cut House Kurita's numbers in half.

    Live Action TV 
  • Alphas: In the season 1 finale "Original Sin," The Government massacres a Red Flag meeting. Turns out Stanton Parish set it up so only Red Flag's moderate membership was there, and the government was executing a Purge for him. Whoops.
  • Angel:
    • Every 75 years, The Senior Partners conduct The Review. One of them comes to Earth in an avatar to judge Wolfram & Hart's progress. Anybody who is performing unsatisfactory is killed or maimed.
    • The Beast ended up exterminating everybody in Wolfram & Hart, but they were quickly replaced.
  • Boardwalk Empire: The season one finale has a quick elimination of the D'alessio brothers.
  • Children of Dune: In this Sci-Fi miniseries adaptation of the second and third Dune books, staged Paul's elimination of the conspirators against him much like the famous Godfather scene above. The book wasn't quite as theatrical.
  • Game of Thrones:
    • In the opening of The Pointy End, the City Watch slaughter all the Northmen in King's Landing apart from Ned and his daughters.
    • The first episode of season two ends with the City Watch killing most of the late King Robert's bastard children.
    • And in "The Rains of Castamere" King Robb, his wife, his mother, his direwolf and all his lords and soldiers are slaughtered by the Boltons and the Freys, ending his rebellion in one fell swoop.
    • In "The Winds of Winter", Cersei has all of her enemies killed, as Pycelle is murdered by Qyburn's little birds, while everyone else — the rest of the Small Council, the Sparrows, and the Tyrells — are killed when the wildfire stash beneath the Sept of Baelor is set off.
  • I, Claudius: Upon learning of his plot to seize power, the Emperor Tiberius has Sejanus' family and supporters murdered. More purges occur with depressing regularity throughout; in the end even Claudius himself orders a purge of Messalina and her faction when she's suspected of plotting a coup.
  • Lexx: In the first season, His Shadow eventually orders the deaths of everybody in the entire League of 20,000 Planets, and plans to do the same for the rest of the human race unless our (anti)heroes can stop him.
  • Lost: The "Hostiles" execute most members of the Dharma Initiative using poison gas.
  • Revolution: Bass Monroe has been steadily purging his old comrades from the days when he and his best friend Miles Matheson founded the Monroe Republic after a series of brutal wars. After Monroe first started losing it, Miles tried to assassinate him and ever since Monroe has become extremely paranoid. This also means that most of his officers are now serving him because they are afraid of him rather than because they are loyal (This is shown in episode 13, episode 14, and episode 17). When Tom Neville is captured by Monroe's soldiers he uses this to convince a number of them to help him stage a coup rather than wait to see if they will be part of the next purge (This is shown in episode 19, and the first season finale).
  • Stargate SG-1: Upon Apophis' return to power in season 3, he attacked his former capital Chulak and killed thousands of his former Jaffa. At first SG-1 and Bra'tac theorize that it was this trope—to paraphrase Daniel, it's easier to kill everyone rather than try to figure out which ones are loyal—but then they realize that Apophis was also trying to find the baby he fathered with Sha're.
  • One episode of Star Trek: Voyager centered around B'Elanna experiencing the memories of a women whose father helped mastermind the mass-execution of a Luddite group.
  • Rome: After he makes peace with Octavian, Mark Antony hands him a loooooong list of Roman citizens he wants slaughtered. The next day he comes up with more names, as he's got so many enemies it takes a while to remember them all. They even include wealthy Roman citizens who aren't opposed to them, because they're short of money due to the Civil War and the assets of a traitor are forfeited to the State.
  • Babylon 5:
    • The Centauri start to undergo one behind the scenes, as those who oppose the Centauri's new militant stance are labeled as traitors and dealt with.
    • After President Clark declares martial law, he sends his elite guard out rounding up the senate, military officers who oppose him and eventually the ISN news station when they tried to expose what's happening.
  • Doctor Who dramatises the real-life St. Bartholomew's Day Massacre in The Massacre of St. Bartholomew's Eve,
  • The Last Ship: In the Season 3 episode "Legacy", the instigators of The Coup move to secure their power base by having all surviving senior officers of the US military assassinated, allowing them to seize control of forces on the regional level.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Exalted has the Usurpation, wherein the Dragon-Blooded and the Sidereals conspired the overthrow the Solars (who'd gone a bit nuts by this point) and their Lunar mates. The Solars were wiped out down to the man, and their Exaltations gathered up and stuck in a mystical cage. The Lunars who weren't killed fled to the fringes of the world. The Dragon-Blooded set themselves up as rulers, and named the Solars and Lunars "Anathema" in their state religion. And the Sidereals wiped themselves from living memory, ruling from Heaven behind the scenes.
  • Vampire: The Masquerade had the Tremere pull this twice during the metaplot. During the Middle Ages, after Tremere diablerized Saulot to gain power on par with the other Antediluvians, the Tremere spread rumors that the Salubri were infernalists to justify purging them. In more recent history, the elders of the clan used a blood ritual to wipe out the Tremere Antitribu (every Tremere who'd broken from the Pyramid to join with the Sabbat).
    • The Giovanni pulled this on the Cappadocians after Augustus Giovanni diablerized Cappadocius.
  • BattleTech the Wars of Reaving, the new ilKhan Brett Andrews of Clan Steel Viper initiated reavings on the Clans that he determined as tainted from the Inner Sphere. This has led the Clans to attacking each other for 2 years, and allow Brett to secure more power for himself. In the end the Star Adder Khan then pointed out that the Steel Vipers were one of the Clans that invaded the Inner Sphere and were likely tainted themselves. The ilKhan lashed out with a pistol killing the Khan, this dirty move has deemed the Steel Vipers as dezgra, the Star Adder saKhan killed Andrews in retaliation, and the remaining Clans call for the annihilation of the Steel Vipers.
  • In the backstory of Warhammer 40,000, the Emperor created the Thunder Warriors to help him bring order to Terra during the Age of Strife, but though powerful they were physically and psychologically unstable. He came to view them as a hindrance and so quietly got rid of them once the conquest of Terra was complete, and created the more stable Space Marine Legions to continue his conquest of the galaxy.
    • One of the first acts of the Horus Heresy was the purging of any loyalist elements from the Traitor Legions. When the governor of Isstvan III revolted, Horus and his fellow conspirators sent their untrustworthy soldiers down in Drop Pods, then hit the planet with virus bombs before igniting the resulting organic fumes with an Orbital Bombardment. Thanks to a warning some of the loyalists managed to hide in bunkers and survive, and Horus probably would've continued bombarding the holdouts had not Angron decided to lead a ground assault.

  • Macbeth initially averts this trope, in that Macbeth fails to prevent Duncan's sons, Malcolm and Donalbain, from getting away, which comes back to bite him; however, as he slips into madness and paranoia, he starts ordering that more of his enemies and their families (including children) be murdered — which also comes back to bite him, as it sets Macduff off on a Roaring Rampage of Revenge. Damned if you do, damned if you don't — and Macbeth is certainly damned.
  • In Ubu Roi, the newly named king Ubu arranges an all-out purge amongst the higher nobility of Poland.

    Video Games 
  • This was the first task that the Charred Council gave the Four Horsemen in the backstory of Darksiders II. To preserve the Balance, the Riders purged the Nephilim from Creation.
  • In Warcraft III, "purge" may be one of Arthas' favorite words. His Start of Darkness comes when he purges the plagued city of Stratholme to kill its infected citizens before they become undead monsters, then when Arthas becomes a Death Knight he purges the rest of Lordaeron. Over the course of the Undead campaign, Arthas not only kills most of his former paladin order, he kills most of Dalaran's archmagi during a raid on the city.
  • In Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2, General Shepherd betrays Task Force 141 and personally executes Roach and Ghost. His men then start killing off the remaining members of the force. Price, Soap, and Nikolai are the only known survivors at the end of the game.
  • The Right of Annulment in Dragon Age is a special directive given by the Chantry to the Templars to initiate The Purge of all mages in the local Circle of Magi. In theory, it's only supposed to be used when things have gotten completely beyond control (this generally involves mass demonic possession) and the threat to innocents outside the Circle outweighs that to any still inside. Depending on how you play the "Broken Circle" quest, the directive is given or called back. It's happened seventeen times in nine centuries over the course of the history of the Chantry.
    • Regardless of your actions, the Right of Annulment is always invoked for an eighteen time, and many mages of the Kirkwall Circle die, in the end of Dragon Age II.
    • Abuse of the Right of Annulment (as well as the Right of Tranqulity) is a central grievance that led to the Mage Rebellion in southern Thedas. The Right of Annulment has been abused as early as the third age (six hundred years before the period of the games, and a mere 25 years after the Templars were given the ability to use it), when a particularly murderous anti-mage Templar went around murdering mages, and his knight-commander covered it up by trumping up the call for an Annulment of the circle. The Seekers eventually chased the murderous templar down after he had murdered even more. Anders's intervention is implied to be the only reason the Annulment of the Gallows didn't turn into a repeat of that incident.
    • Also, if Bhelen becomes King of Orzammar, he immediately orders the execution of his rival Lord Harrowmont. In Dragon Age II, it's revealed that his purge has extended to Harrowmont's relatives.
  • This happened in the backstory of Jade Empire: To steal the power of the Water Dragon, Emperor Sun Hai and his brothers launched a genocidal assault against the Spirit Monks of Dirge. The player character is revealed to be the last survivor of the attack.
    • He had also ordered the murder of Li's family after his betrayal.
  • In Final Fantasy XIII we have a purge called... The Purge. After discovering a Fal'Cie from Pulse in some ruins, the Sanctum government decides to send everyone that was "near" that Fal'Cie to Pulse because of the irrational fear of everything coming from that planet. Several facilities were constructed for the purged population to live happily there, and a military division known as PSICOM took over and oversaw the removal of the population. However, it quickly becomes apparent that the Sanctum government neither expected nor intended for any of the Purged population to survive - when the population being shipped out began to violently resist, PSICOM used that as an excuse to simply massacre everyone.
  • In Halo 2 the Prophet of Truth orders the Brutes to do this to the Elites after the changing of the guard, which causes a massive civil war within the Covenant; this "Great Schism" eventually leads to the complete collapse of the Covenant.
  • In The Elder Scrolls: Arena, Jagar Tharn orchestrated one as soon as he had usurped the Emperor's appearance. It's relatively slow-moving, mainly because he accumulates more and more enemies as his actions keys in more and more people to the fact that the Emperor isn't acting as he should (and in your case, he is constrained to frame you for a crime and throw you in prison first, as being too blatant about it would just make even more people suspicious), but also because many of his opponents were clever enough to remain hidden.
    • Between The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion and The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, one of the Thalmor's first acts when they took power was to purge Valenwood and the Summerset Isles of all Blades agents, then send the resulting collection of heads to the Emperor of Cyrodiil. In Skyrim proper a wood elf NPC is willing to help you infiltrate the Thalmor embassy because his family was killed in "one of the Thalmor's purges you never hear about."
      • The Thalmor are good at this; shortly after they first took Valenwood, they conducted internal purges to get rid of everyone who opposed them. Given their total silence towards the rest of Tamriel, it's possible this purge bordered on a civil war. Even after it was over, Thalmor agents hunted down and slaughtered dissidents outside of Dominion territory. And now that they've forced the Empire to ban Talos worship, they're permitted by treaty to conduct their own inquisition on anyone suspected of still worshiping him.
    • Millenia before the events of Skyrim, the Snow Elves feared that the local human population was outbreeding them and massacred them, but missed Ysgramor and his two sons who escaped back to the original human homelands, where they raised an army. When the humans returned to Skyrim, they enacted a purge of their own, wiping out nearly every last snow elf, with the only survivors being the ones who sought protection from the Dwemer. This soon proved to be an even worse mistake, as the Dwemer would only protect the snow elves under the condition that they voluntarily blind themselves with a toxic mushroom and agree to become the Dwemers servitors. The ones who agreed would eventually become the Always Chaotic Evil Falmer, monstrous, goblin-like creatures who inhabit the ruins of the Dwemer cities. The ones who didnt were exterminated by the humans, only two known survivors of the original Snow Elves remain.
  • In Shin Megami Tensei III: Nocturne, it's implied the Mantra Army was notoriously hard to bring in line until The Dragon Thor purged out the more reactionary elements (the Oni gang led by Ongyo-Ki).
    • For a worse example, in Shin Megami Tensei IV, a group of massed angels assaults East Mikado to execute anyone, Casualry or Luxuror, who has ever read any form of book, in preparation for the arrival of Merkabah. They justify their actions with the fact the books scattered by the Black Samurai are quite capable of transforming people into demons, but it's still a gut punch as most if not all Luxurors are killed.
  • In Assassin's Creed III, the Colonial Assassins end up getting purged by the Templars under Haytham Kenway. Assassin's Creed: Rogue actually depicts the purge in question.
    • In fact, most of Assassin's Creed has a purge as part of the main conflict: in the first game, Al-Mualim uses Altaïr to kill the Templars who know about the Apple of Eden so that he can keep it for himself; in the second game and its sequel, Ezio conducts a purge against the Templars in retribution for their killing his father and brothers, and it's implied that the Medici extended it to relatives of the Templars who weren't even involved; after Haytham purges the Colonial Assassins, Connor brings them back in III and conducts a counter-purge of the Colonial Rite; Arno does the same to his respective Templars during the French Revolution in Unity; and the Frye twins in Syndicate systematically kill all the leaders of the Templar-control Blighter gang.
  • The backstory for Barkley, Shut Up and Jam: Gaiden features the Great B-Ball Purge of 2041, when the world's governments banned the sport of basketball and killed most of its players following Charles Barkley's use of the verboten Chaos Dunk.
  • Fable II had this in the backstory, where between the first and second games the Hero's Guild was wiped out due to Albion's populace thinking that Heroes weren't needed anymore, and stormed the place. The heroes were all but wiped out, unable to fight back against the people that they had sworn to protect.

  • Given the nature of politics in the Crapsack World that is Drowtales, this is not an uncommon occurence:
    • At the start of the story, three of Diva'ratrika's own daughters commit matricide. In order to consolidate their power, they run a purge of Diva'ratrika's loyalists, wiping out the families of their two loyalist sisters and the Dutan'vir clan that served as Diva'ratrika's enforcers.
    • The Kyorl'solenurn clan in has the word "Purge" as one of their favorite words, since they believe their Mission from God is to wipe out the "Tainted", or those who have merged with a nether being, either willingly or unwillingly. During the Nidraa'chal War they killed most of what was left of the Dutan'vir clan after most of them became tainted in the fighting. Then in chapter 42, one of the Judicators, Kyuusei, uses the assassination of their Ill'haress as an excuse to try and wipe out the portion of their clan who are descended from the Dutan'vir survivors and who he believes are less loyal. He fails and is himself purged, first by being stabbed and then thrown out the window onto the rocks below when an Order he intended to us as an Unwitting Pawn catches onto his plan.
    • For a long time, the Sarghress clan was actually very free of the backstabbing plots that afflicted other clans, but when Quain'tana is left with only days to live, a faction within them turns traitor and starts eliminating her bloodline in order to take over themselves.
  • In the backstory of Terra one of the consuls of the Asurian Empire, Argo Varus, was outed as having helped found the Resistance. Sovereign Northazul ordered him, his family, and at least one other family executed. Argo's son Agrippa, Agrippa's friend Talos Antares, and Talos' sister Rei escaped with the Resistance's help.
  • In The Order of the Stick, the spell Familicide causes everybody blood-related to the target, and everybody blood-related to any of them, in the entire world to automatically drop dead. This has massive consequences when Vaarsuvius decides to use it on the Mother Dragon as revenge. Not only does it kill off 1/4 of the Black Dragon population, but dragons frequently interbreed with humans, so the Draketooth family (who had one Black Dragon ancestor) is eliminated as well. In addition, the Draketooths kept their line going by seducing strangers and abducting the resulting children, so many random strangers who happened to be the parents of their bastard children died as well.

    Web Original 
  • In the Red Panda Adventures episode "There Will Be Rain Tonight", the Home Team, along with Col. Fitzroy are assassinated when a spy leaks the identities of the heroes to the Nazis.
  • In the Red vs. Blue Season 13 premiere, Felix and Locus hijack a prison ship and invite the prisoners to work for them. They tell anybody who agrees to work for them to hold onto their cell bars. Then they open the airlock, causing the dissenters and any of the prisoners who were too weak to be sucked out into space. Locus even refers to it as The Purge.
    • From the same season is another "Purge", though this one cooked by long-gone alien Precursors. The artifacts and technology left all over Chorus were only supposed to fall into the hands of the "worthy". Whoever claims the Great Key can choose to initiate the Purge if the people on the planet are UN-worthy, and all sentient life outside the Purge temple would be exterminated. This ends up being the ultimate goal for Charon's mercs when they here about it.
  • In The Falcon Cannot Hear, several of the factions in the Second American Civil War do this:
    • General MacArthur's military junta government rounds up left-wing politicians and several of his own commanders after another general attempts a counter-coup.
    • The Left faction of the Provisional Government/Blues, hearing a rumor that the Right faction is about to purge them, commit their own purge. Though this one is less violent than the others, less "We're throwing you in jail", more "We're not gonna let you have any real power".
    • The American Soviet Republic implement their own purge after the East Coast soviets form the Workers' Collective and ally with the Blues.
    • The Whites have one after a group of generals attempt to launch a coup against Huey Long over his regime's alliance with the Klu Klux Klan and overall fascistic nature. And again after Eisenhower defects to the ASR with several thousand soldiers and concentration-camp inmates. Among those targeted in the second purge is George Patton, who ironically enabled the first purge by selling out the conspirators.

    Western Animation 
  • In Avatar: The Last Airbender, the destruction of the Air Nomads by Fire Lord Sozin qualifies, making Aang The Last Airbender.
    • Fire Lord Ozai's plan during the finale, which was to burn the Earth Kingdom to the ground. It was his daughter's idea, but the man ran with it and never looked back. However, no one really died (unless there were hermits in the Wulong Forest), as Aang, Toph, Suki, and Sokka put a stop to that.
    • The Fire Nation also tried to capture all the Southern Water Tribe's waterbenders, missing only Katara.
    • They tried a similar tactic with the earthbenders in Haru's village. Boy does the Fire Nation love this trope.
  • The Legend of Korra the Big Bad Amon leader of the Equalists plans to depower all benders in Republic City.
  • Star Wars Rebels its mentioned that The Empire nearly wiped out the Lasat race, Zeb is one of the very few Lasats left.
  • Parodied in Rick and Morty, where the two end up in a world filled with Space Amish Cat Folk about to initiate "The Festival", which is basically just like the film series. According to Rick, this is actually a common practice by many civilizations across the multiverse under different names and he decides to stick around to watch. By the end of the episode, he and a local end up killing the resident societal elites keeping the practice going, only for the commoners to decide to keep the tradition going for the sake of convenience.

    Real Life 
  • One of the earliest recorded purges in history (outside The Bible) occurred after the Peloponnesian War: the victorious Spartans, having installed an oligarchy of "Thirty Tyrants" to govern Athens, leave the city to its own devices. The Thirty proceed to execute or exile the leaders of the former ruling party; then the leaders of the opposition party; and finally anyone they suspect of being able to organize an opposition. Eventually, the Athenians revolt, restore democracy, and issue a general amnesty. However, having learned the value of eliminating ideological enemies, they then proceed to try and execute Socrates.
  • During the early first century BC, Rome went through a bloody purge when Marius seized power, then another Sulla's proscription. Part of what made Julius Caesar so popular in the late first century was that he famously didn't conduct any proscriptions against his enemies. However, this left them alive to plot against him and… well… we know how that turned out. The Second Triumvirate's bloody proscriptions were essentially Octavian's attempt to avoid repeating Uncle Julius' "mistake". This trope was well-entrenched for the duration of the Empire, with many Emperors targetting any perceived rivals, as well as their friends and families. Many also tried to eliminate recalcitrant senators or generals. This greatly contributed to the chronic Succession Crisis of the later Empire.
    • The origin of the word "decimate" comes from the Roman practice of killing every tenth man, drawn by lots, in a rebellious city or military unit, in order to destroy group cohesion. Of course this fell into Didn't Think This Through as this led to entire units having to be reformed, killing one-tenth of your own troops, and destroying the morale of other units, which is why the word "decimate" often carries connotations of destruction and ruination. Sadly it took until the Byzantine Empire for the Emperor to realize it was a bad idea.
  • After Möngke Khan, a grandson of Genghis Khan, was named the new Supreme Khan, the Empress Regent and widow of the previous Khan Oghul Qaimish was not happy about it and planned to attack the Coronation and kill Möngke and his supporters. Unfortunately for the conspirators one of Möngke's falconers found out about the plan before it could be carried out and blew the whistle. In response, Möngke carried out his own purge and killed between 77–300 upper-class conspirators. This included the former Empress, who was first stripped of her clothing and interrogated and then executed by being thrown into the river in a felt sack, since the Mongols believed that shedding royal blood would curse them, but that didn't say anything about drowning.
  • During the era of The Crusades, The Knights Templar had grown so rich in wealth and power that King Philip IV of France became jealous and staged a massive arrest of the Knights in France (on Friday October 13, 1307, no less), tortured them into confessing blasphemous sins, and executed as many of them as he could. Five years, later, he got the Pope to disband the order, driving the surviving Templars into other knightly orders - mostly The Knights Hospitallers. And thus were a slew of Ancient Conspiracy theories about the hidden Templar treasure born…
  • For a long period in the Ottoman Empire, the succession would be decided by palace coup. In the earliest form of this system, the Sultan's sons would kill their brothers and half-brothers, and often also any surviving uncles, nephews, and cousins who might have a claim to the throne. If a successor had been declared, he would carry out the purge to protect his position. If the Sultan died without naming an heir, whoever was left alive at the end of the violence would take the throne. The bloodbath later gave way to imprisoning all royal heirs in the palace (because if the new Sultan dies without issue, backup brothers come in very handy). However, locking your future ruler away from all contact with the real world also proved less than ideal, and the Ottomans eventually adopted automatic birth order succession. The effect of the early purges is still evident in the small number of Osmanlis alive today compared to similarly ancient European noble houses like the Capetians, where many sons survived to found cadet branches.
  • Shortly after reconquering his homeland, Vlad III of Wallachia had the boyars staked and their families worked to death building him a new castle. Granted they'd killed his father and older brother and were a constant source of internal strife, but this event was one of the factors which led to his reputation for bloodthirstiness and his moniker of "The Impaler."
  • Pride's Purge during the English Civil War was Exactly What It Says on the Tin: In 1648, Colonel Thomas Pride forcibly removed all of the Members of Parliament he didn't like, opening the way for Oliver Cromwell to more or less become dictator. However, this being the English Civil War (in which nobody took final, decisive action until their hands were forcednote ) the penalty for the opposition was only removal from office, not death, and most of the deposed MPs returned to Parliament after the Restoration of 1660.
  • The French Revolution between 1789 and 1799 saw several Purges, some directed against royalists, some against 'dissenting' factions within the Revolution. First the royalists in 1792, then the Girondins (moderate republicans), then the Hébertistes (more left than Robespierre), then Danton's friends (more right than Robespierre), then Robespierre and friends. And soon after, back in power moderates purged the leftists who had helped in throwing away Robespierre.
  • Immediately after the Red October Revolution, the Bolsheviks executed some representatives of the old regime. As the months went by and the ensuing civil war intensified, the purge grew into a Reign of Terror. In fact, all the factions involved in the civil war (the White Army, the Anarchists, the Czech Legion etc.) conducted purges targeting various opponents.
  • The Nazis conducted several purges, from the party's first ascension to political power right up through the end of World War II.
    • Immediately upon taking power, German paramilitary groups including the "brownshirts" (Sturmabteilung or S.A.) imprisoned all outspoken anti-Nazis, including the leadership of the Socialist and Communist parties.
    • The Night of the Long Knives in 1934 was a general purge of Hitler's rivals and sometime-critics, focused on three groups: leaders of other conservative political parties, Socialist-leaning members of the Nazi party, and the party's "brownshirt" paramilitary wing which was becoming increasingly violent and independent. The English name for the extra-judicial killings came from the Roman Emperor Tiberius' execution of Sejanus' family and supporters.
    • Aktion T-4 was ordered by Hitler on the 1st of September 1939 in his capacity as Reich Chancellor. It ordered the secret decontamination (involuntary euthanasia) of Germany's mentally ill and disabled to conserve food and money. At least 90,000 potential contaminants of Germany's genetic purity were eliminated, though most of these had been sterilised (to prevent them from having genetically deficient children) following the 1935 Laws for the Protection of German Blood and Honour.
    • The German Army's Barbarossa Regulations were applied in the occupied Soviet Union from the beginning of the German invasion. They mandated the execution of people living in the vicinity of partisan attacks against German troops (ratios generally being set at 50:1 for each wounded and 100:1 for each dead German) where the partisans themselves could not be caught (i.e. almost always). As "the Jew is the partisan, the Partisan is the Jew" (German Army's Army Group Centre Rear-Area Security Commander's instructions) these were eliminated wherever they were found by whatever forces were available - whether Army, Police, or native auxiliaries in German service ('Hiwis'). The Partisan War in the occupied USSR killed at least 5 million.
    • Operation Reinhard began in Spring 1942. It disposed of all 'unskilled' (not qualified Doctors, Engineers, Electricians, etc.) Jews in Germany, Czechia, and Poland and enslaved the skilled. It probably killed at least 2 million.
    • Beginning in Spring 1943, Jews and Roma in German-occupied territories were deported to the Auschwitz-II/Birkenau facility. There, those fit for manual labour were enslaved and the unfit were disposed of. Germany's allies were also approached about the possibility of enslaving their Jews and Roma too, and after certain deals were struck these countries (Romania, France, etc) gave up groups they did not mind losing ('foreign' Jews in France) or actively wanted gone (Romanian Gypsies). German companies worked the slaves hard and fed them little, rendering most rentals 'unfit' in under a year. After the move to underground production prompted by Anglo-American city-bombing, life expectancy dropped to 3 months. At least two million died of overwork or were directly killed at Birkenau.
    • The 20 July Plot to assassinate Hitler lead to a mid-war purge of high-ranking military officers that may have accelerated the Allied victory.
  • The Stalinist U.S.S.R's Great Purges are perhaps the most infamous Real Life example. In them, Stalin encouraged the Security Services to have a field day and imprison or kill way more people than was sensible. Then he the security services purged for targeting so many innocents. This was the fate of Nikolai Yezhov, the "Vanishing Commissar" from the Unperson image: after carrying out the worst of the purge on Stalin's orders, he was executed and scapegoated so thoroughly (in Russian the Purges are sometimes called the "Yezhovina" that his previous relationship with Stalin was removed from the public record.
    • A big downside to this: first, Stalin's actions cost him some of the most experienced officers, which led to problems when his good buddy Adolf went back on that non-aggression pact a year before Stalin had expected him to.
  • As Stalin's biggest fan, Albania's former communist dictator Enver Hoxha also carried out 5 purges during his rule. The country's tiny population meant that 1 in 3 Albanians came under suspicion at some point in their lives.
  • In the early '50s, the Communist Party in Czechoslovakia orchestrated (with the help of supervisors from Russia) several political processes to exterminate people from the opposition and the Party itself. The whole thing was broadcasted on radio, people were coerced to sign pleas to have those people executed (although many did so willingly, it was a crazy time) and the trials themeselves were scripted (some members of the jury were pretty much clueless when some of the victims decided not to follow the script). The best known victims of the processes are Milada Horáková, Rudolf Slánský and Heliodor Píka.
  • The numerous regimes modeled after Stalin's USSR or Hitler's Germany also conducted purges, though not quite to the scale of their "mentor" countries. After Stalin's death (1953) the purges in East Europe became less common and far less brutal (people usually lost their jobs instead of their heads, or were put in prisons rather than labor camps).
  • The Khmer Rouge executed at least 700,000 people for being too "bourgeois" or "intellectual" (which could mean simply wearing glasses for reading) or for other tiny infractions, and another 700,000+ died due to starvation and disease. Experts agree that Cambodia's political and economic development was set back by decades as they lost nearly their entire skilled labor force and educated populace.
  • Kind of a feature of Chinese governments since the fall of Qing Dynasty in 1912. Most notable would be the anti-rightist purge of the early 1950s, when the Chinese Communist Party rescinded its amnesty to all those who had joined before the end of the Civil War. Suddenly, pre-War activities were grounds for re-education or execution even if you'd been a loyal servant of the Party ever since. A few million may have died in the process. At the same time, land reform denounced wealthy peasants as 'feudal' and 'bourgeois' and their property was confiscated. As many as a million landowners and members of their families may have died at the hands of their neighbors with the Party's tacit encouragement. Many more did not survive the subsequent deportation or re-education.
    • Following the disastrous Great Leap Forward and talk from other CCP leaders that maybe someone else should be in charge, Mao declared a Cultural Revolution in 1966. Young cadres of Red Guards went about trying, reeducating or killing suspected bourgeois sympathizers, destroying ancient Chinese culture, and plunging the country's government and economy into chaos, killing upwards of millions.
  • General Suharto of Indonesia conducted a huge anti-communist purge campaign in 1965-66 with the encouragement and backing of the United States. This was mostly an excuse to eliminate political dissidents who Suharto or his American advisors did not like, as well as ridding the Indonesian military of several rivals, and most of the purge's victims had little if anything to do with communism and more to do with just being in the wrong place or knowing the wrong person.
  • Upon the death of Gamal Abdel Nasser in 1970, the Egyptian leadership decided that it would be best to let Vice-President Anwar Sadat run things for a while, figuring he would be a pushover if they wanted to oust him. By the end of 1971, most of Sadat's political enemies—both among the leadership and outside of it—were either dead or imprisoned, the result of an event known as the Corrective Revolution.
  • This was a regular feature of life in The '70s right-wing dictatorships of Latin America, like Pinochet's Chile.
  • The Syrian Hama massacre of 1982, ordered by Hafez al-Assad in order to stop an uprising against his government.
  • The Kosovo War was sparked by Serbs conducting ethnic cleansing against Kosovar Muslims.
  • North Korea leader Kim Jong Un has started a purge against his uncle and all of his 200 supporters and their families.
  • A more lighter and mundane example is when an online service purges inactive accounts. This is done keep the numbers down and keeps the servers running effectively.
  • While writing this entry (18th July 2016) a purge seems to be taking place in Turkey. After suppressing a military coup-attempt during the night of the 15th and 16th, arrests are occurring all over the country. Thousands people have been detained, including military personnel and judges, and civil servants and police officers are being fired in significant numbers. Supporters of the ruling AKP-party are reported to be entering neighborhoods of left-wing and secular citizens, as well as those of Kurdish and Alawi minorities. This has even spilled over across the border, with AKP-supporters threatening Turkish citizens in countries with a significant number of Turkish immigrants, like Germany, the Netherlands and Belgium. The speed and effectiveness of these operations have given rise to rumors that the arrests were preplanned and the coup was merely a good excuse (or perhaps even staged), much like the Reichstag fire in 1933 was used by the Nazi-party to solidify its power.
  • A non-lethal version takes place at four (or possibly eight) year intervals in the United States when a new Administration comes in. Unlike most of the other Western Democracies, the US has a high portion of partisan political appointees in agencies and the civil service, many of whom get turfed (or resign) when the new president who is a member of the other party comes into office.
    • Before such things were banned in the late 19th century, the purges were even more drastic, and it is not unknown for entire departments (excepting the very lowest functionaries) to be completely replaced. Back then, the system was known as the "spoils system" (from the phrase "To the victor goes the spoils").
  • Lions will often kill the cubs in their own pride after managing to force out its leader and take the position themselves.
  • Another non-lethal version: in 2012, Fanfiction.Net deleted thousands of fanfictions that had "broken content guidelines," including the original upload of My Immortal. Among fans, this is known as "The Purge."
  • Another (arguably not) nonlethal version: YouTube has begun to hit even more channels with copyright claims and strikes, with channels disappearing right and left. Various videos have been made on the subject, with even a hashtag asking what the fuck is going on made. Considering that people live off of making YouTube videos, and this spells not good in ALL CAPS.
    • YouTube doesn't make copyright claims, trolls claiming to be copyright holders do and YouTube is too busy to investigate every one of the thousands of claims they get every day so they just take it off, leaving the poster to try and appeal.