Skip to main content

8 of the Greatest Migrations in History

The author is a great enthusiast of swimming and his passion has driven him to explore many such places in the city.

Biggest migrations in history

Biggest migrations in history

Eight Greatest Migrations in History

  1. Rural China to Urban Centers
  2. India to Pakistan
  3. Resettlement of Europe after Soviet Rule
  4. Migration to Israel
  5. Afghanistan to Pakistan
  6. China to Taiwan
  7. Outward Migration from Vietnam
  8. Chechnya to Central Asia

8. Chechnya to Central Asia

  • Date: 1944
  • Estimated Migrants: 0.7 Million

In 1944 Soviet leader Joseph Stalin accused the Chechen people of helping the Germans in World War II. He abolished the country and forced the people on a compulsory migration to Central Asia. Many people were killed en route with estimates ranging from about a third to half of the entire Chechen population. [1] Survivors of the long journey were however allowed to return to Chechnya in 1957. European Parliament formally recognizes this forcible migration as a Genocide (North Caucasus Weekly).

War in Chechnya (1994)

War in Chechnya (1994)

7. Vietnam to rest of the World

Millions of people fled from Vietnam when it was taken over by the communists in their war with the USA in 1975. Some did not want to live in the communist society, others had helped the Americans. They fled mainly by sea in any sort of vessel they could get. Hundreds and thousands were drowned in their tiny boats in which they had to face deadly storms and hunger and had to elude the pirates, but many struggled through. Some of them have become quite prosperous in developed countries, particularly the United States.

According to the United Nations High Commission for Refugees, between 200,000 and 400,000 boat people died at sea. [6]

Fleeing in boats

Fleeing in boats

6. China to Taiwan and Rest of the World

  • Date: 1948-50
  • Estimated Migrants: 2 Million

When the communists under Mao Zedong defeated the nationalists and set up a communist state, many millions especially the Nationalist army fled to Taiwan, which they declared a separate country, claiming it as the real China. Industry quickly developed there and the state became rich and prosperous. Other Chinese fled all over the world and, because of their dedication and hardworking altitude, they have prospered.

5. Afghanistan to Pakistan

The state of Afghanistan was thrown into instability when the Soviet Union invaded the country in 1979. Unable to defeat the local Mujaheddin resistance backed by a coalition of American CIA and Pakistan, the Soviets were forced to retreat in 1988 after a bloody war. A civil war ensued between local warlords after the withdrawal of the USSR and severe droughts for several years added to the misery of the local population which was already torn by a decade of war. As a result of the terrible state of the country, millions of Afghans were compelled to seek refuge in neighboring Iran and Pakistan.

To date Pakistan remains the largest host to international refugees, the figure being estimated at 1.6 million and majority of them are Afghans.

Afghan refugees in camps.

Afghan refugees in camps.

4. Europe and Rest of the World to Israel

Traditionally referred to as the 'Aliyah' in Hebrew, migration to the holy land of Israel has been the aspiration of many Jews and is also one of the cardinal doctrines of the Zionist ideology.

The main aim of the Zionist movement was to establish the state of Israel, an independent homeland for Jews. It encouraged Jews from all over the world to migrate to Israel but Ottoman rule checked their numbers in the Palestine area. Then World War I changed the scenario and emigrants streamed freely into the British-mandated Palestine, some were motivated by their religious cause while others escaped antisemitic movements such as the Holocaust. The British had already promised the state of Israel for Jews in the Balfour Declaration in 1917.

From 1919-1948 there were 493,149 emigrants then after the declaration of the state of Israel this number increased to 687,624 (1948-1951) and since then, Jews continue to trickle to their holy land.

Jews streaming towards the newly created Israel.

Jews streaming towards the newly created Israel.

3. Resettlement of Europe After Soviet Domination

  • Date: After World War II
  • Estimated Population displaced: 12 Million Germans

At the end of World War II changes in the map of Europe meant that many people found themselves living in hostile territory and so millions, primarily Germans were expelled, evacuated or fled from Central and Eastern Europe to the new Germany, making this the largest single instance of ethnic cleansing in recorded history. [1]

European migration after World War II.

European migration after World War II.

2. India to Pakistan

  • Date: 1947-50
  • Estimated Migrants: 15 Million+
  • Death Toll: 1 Million

Following the partition of British India into Pakistan and India, some 15 million people found themselves stranded in the 'wrong' part of the land, Hindus in Pakistani territory and Muslims in Indian territory. Thus began the greatest international migration in history with Muslims migrating towards the eastern and western wings of the newly formed state of Pakistan and Hindus crossing over to India.

Emotions ran high and terrible atrocities were committed on both sides ranging from damage to property, arson, killing and mob violence. Ordinary peace-loving Hindus and Muslims became so enraged with each other that they committed such atrocities they would never have considered themselves capable of. In some places, even the state troops joined violence. On 9th August 1947, a train carrying Muslim officers from Delhi to Karachi was intercepted and four seniors plus 150 other officers were massacred. Soon trains of migrants began to arrive at their destination filled with dead bodies and their caravans were intercepted and looted.

Today, however, these migrants have fully blended into Pakistani society and live in a respectable middle-class community.

Train to Pakistan.

Train to Pakistan.

1. From Rural China to Urban Centers

  • Date: 1976 - Ongoing
  • Estimated Migrants to date: 160 Million (The Economist)

Grinding poverty was always a problem for rural China, and since the death of Mao in 1976, the relaxation of migration rules has given immense impetus to this rural-urban migration. These migrant workers have transformed the economy of China providing much-needed cheap labor to fuel the export-led boom of the mighty Chinese economy. Currently, migrant workers make up to 12% of the country's population, and the government's planning commission expects another 100 million people to move to cities by 2020 (The Economist).

Guangzhou, one of China's teeming cities.

Guangzhou, one of China's teeming cities.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2013 StormsHalted


B.S.Bains on September 12, 2019:

In actual fact the massacre started from Lahore, Pakistan .. this is when the train that arrived in Amritsar from Lahore was filled with dead bodies. It is then the revenge took place. It was not the other way round. Fact might need to be revised.

man on October 14, 2018:

you can't find Europe to America

Anonymous on July 22, 2018:

Why is called a migration from India to Pakistan, when majority of people came from Pakistan to India. While India was declared a secular country and Gandhiji prevented any major riots to uproot Muslims, the Hindus and Sikhs did not have much option but to flee from Islamic state of Pakistan

CJ Kelly from the PNW on June 06, 2015:

I would actually add the European migration to North America between 1890-1920. That had an unbelievable effect on the U.S. You can add the Irish diaspora as well but that was over such a long period of time (50 years), it would not fit into a single migration. But the European migration of the late 19th and early 20th Centuries changed the politics, art and social structure in the country. Great topic. Voted up and shared.

Iftikhar ul Sami from Pakistan on January 01, 2015:

Wonderful. Presently, migration due to conflicts is still on rise in various parts of world.

Mel Carriere from Snowbound and down in Northern Colorado on November 03, 2013:

Amazing how misguided fanaticism is the cause of so much human suffering all over the world, whether it comes from the left or the right. I will continue to denounce fanaticism no matter where I find it. Great hub!

StormsHalted (author) from Pullman, Washington, United States on October 29, 2013:

Thank you Guys for reading .......... and providing encouragement

Howard Schneider from Parsippany, New Jersey on October 28, 2013:

Excellent informational Hub, Alikhan3. Very interesting.

Mahaveer Sanglikar from Pune, India on October 28, 2013:

Great information, thank you for sharing it.

I would like to add that when millions of Hindus and Sikhs migrated to India from Pakistan, many Muslims from Pakistan also migrated to India. On the other hand, most of the Muslims in India refused to migrate to Pakistan. The Muslims in India who migrated to Pakistan were mostly from Punjab and Bihar.

Shasta Matova from USA on October 28, 2013:

This is really interesting -people do have to move for so many reasons. I wrote a hub about the Asians being ousted from Uganda. I am also studying the Great Migration - when African Americans moved to north in the US.

PositronWildhawk from London on October 28, 2013:

Very interesting and informative hub. Voted up.