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 features of a character's Back Story, it usually leads to the character becoming the Sole Survivor of the purge, possibly even the Last of His Kind.

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 conditions 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.
  • 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 result 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 were met with death. Also, the invaders were exterminating youkai left and right for their power and magic. Another one is also occurs in 20XXII, leaving most of the youkai that were captured dead (only nine inmates were noted 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.
  • Palpatine's Order 66 from Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith, which shows Jedi all over the galaxy being ruthlessly murdered by the clone troopers. Though we don't see much of it, there's also Anakin's leading the 501st legion into the Jedi Temple.
    • There's also the massacre of the Separatist leaders by Anakin, while Palpatine has a speech that reforms The Republic into The Empire.
  • This is what happened to the ISO's prior the events of TRON: Legacy. 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. He proudly rationalizes this 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.

  • 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 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.
    • 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.

    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.
  • 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.

    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 Wyld. 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, he spread rumors that the Salubri were infernalists, and the other clans ended up purging them violently. 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).
  • 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 Warhammer40000, the Emperor created the Thunder Warriors to help him bring order to Terra during the Age of Strife. However, the Thunder Warriors, though powerful (supposedly even stronger than their successors the Space Marines), they were physically and psychologically unstable. The Emperor believed they would ultimately be a hindrance to his long-term plans and had them purged once the conquest of Terra was complete.

  • 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.

    Video Games 
  • This was the first task that the Charred Council gave the Four Horsemen in the backstory of Darksiders 2. To preserve the Balance, the Riders purged the Nephilim from Creation.
  • In the second mission from the undead campaign in Warcraft III: The Reign of Chaos, Arthas kills most of the Paladins, in order to obtain a magic item. The same fate is suffered by most of Dalaran's Archmagi when he has to retrieve another object. In The Frozen Throne, the remains of the Paladin Order reform, but Arthas shatters them again.
    • Arthas purges the city of Stratholme to stop the citizens becoming undead, he purged the kingdom of Lordaeron after he became undead. "Purge" is probably one of his top ten words.
  • 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.
    • 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 Prophets order the Brutes to do this to the Elites after the changing of the guard and subsequent schism within the Covenant.
  • A wood elf NPC in The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim helps you to infiltrate the Thalmor embassy for the Blades during the main quest. Delphine notes he's doing this at least in part for revenge: his family was killed in "one of the Thalmor's purges you never hear about." When they took power the Thalmor also conducted a purge that killed every Blades agent in Valenwood and the Summerset Isles.
    • Way back 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, and unlike the Thalmor he didn't have any magical ability to root out an entire network of secret agents in a single stroke.
  • 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.

  • The Kyorl'solenurn clan in Drowtales 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.
  • 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 lining 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 

    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.

    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.
  • 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, 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 Nazi party went through several extensive purges, from the party's first ascension to political power right up through the end of World War II.
    • The Night of the Long Knives in 1934 was a general purge of Hitler's rivals and 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.
    • The Nazi extermination camps intentionally murdered at least 11 million, and possibly as many as 16 million, civilians and prisoners of war. This does not include civilian deaths outside the camps directly or indirectly caused by German troops or Nazi policies. While many groups were targeted (Jews, Romani, ethnic Slavs, homosexuals), a few prisoners were arrested purely for their political leanings or influence, and among the targeted groups the first to be arrested and executed were always those most vocally opposed to the regime.
    • The 20 July Plot to assassinate Hitler lead to a mid-war purge of high-ranking military officers that probably accelerated the Allied victory.
  • The Stalinist U.S.S.R's Great Purges are perhaps the most infamous Real Life example. Stalin would have his opponents killed by people loyal to him. Then he would have those people killed to silence them, and blame the dead loyalists for the deaths of all his opponents. 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. Stalin would even target underlings' families so as to not leave witnesses behind (which sometimes meant wiping out a generation). Kamenev and Zinoviev asked for assurance that their families woud not be harmed after capitulating to Stalin. He gave it. He lied.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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...
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • This was a regular feature of life in The '70s right-wing dictatorships of Latin America, like Pinochet's Chile.
  • General Suharto of Indonesia conducted a huge anti-communist purge campaign in 1965-66. This was mostly an excuse to eliminate political dissidents, and most of the purge's victims had little if anything to do with communism.
  • 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).
  • For a long period in the Ottoman Empire, the sucession 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.
  • 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.
  • 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."
  • 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.
  • North Korea leader Kim Jong Un have 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.
  • In the early 50's, 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 pleads to have those people executed (although many did so willingly, it was a crazy time) and the trials themeselves were scripted (some people on jury were pretty much clueless when some of the victims dicided not to follow the script). The best known victims of the processes are Milada Horáková, Rudolf Slánský and Heliodor Píka.