13 Important People That Were Deleted From History

People who were deleted from the history
The Conversion of Mary Magdalene, c. 1548 by Paolo Veronese, licensed under (PD-US)

What does it take for a person to be deleted from history completely? For the last 5,000 years, mankind has done its best to record history for future generations. Today’s historians are still trying to put together the pieces left behind from these important people that were deleted from history.

History has been revised throughout the centuries to fit the agendas of political and religious groups. In this article, we list 13 people that were deleted from history books around the world. There are some people that would prefer if the true stories of these important historical figures never got out.

“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it,”

Spanish philosopher George Santayana

1. Nikolai Yezhov (1895-1940)

Nikolai Yezhov conferring with Stalin19371220
Nikolai Yezhov conferring with Stalin (1937)

Nikolai Yezhov has been nicknamed “the Vanishing Commissioner” because of how Joseph Stalin had him retouched out of press photos years before Photoshop was invented.

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Nikolai Yezhov was a member of the Soviet secret police and a well-known favorite of Soviet leader Joseph Stalin. Nikolai oversaw the event known as the “Great Purge” which executed Stalin’s political rivals as well as targeted ethnic minorities. Around 700,000 people were murdered in mass executions carried out by Nikolai and the Soviet secret police.

Nikolai was aware of Stalin’s habit of falsely arresting, executing, and replacing his lieutenants because Nikolai had carried out these plots for Stalin many times himself. In a twist of fate, Nikolai was accused of anti-Soviet activity and arrested for his role in the Great Purge.

His arrest was done quietly, hidden from the public and from his colleagues. In 1940, he was quietly executed by gunpoint in the basement of one of the Soviet’s police stations. His execution was kept so well under wraps that he was believed to be alive until up to eight years after his death.

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2. King Leopold II (1835-1909)

King Leopold II of Belgium
Portrait of King Leopold II (1942)

King Leopold II was the king of Belgium from 1865 until 1909. He was given permission by the colonial nations of Europe to take control of the Congo by the use of force.

The number of Congolese citizens that died during this time could be as high as 10 million, putting the event at the same number of causalities as the Holocaust. However, most people have heard of Hitler, but few have heard of King Leopold II.

He made a fortune exploiting the Congo’s natural resources and enslaving their people. Men, women, and children were tortured and executed if they failed to meet their quota of harvesting wild rubber for King Leopold.

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Belgium tried to keep the dark history of their colonial past a secret by leaving King Leopold’s crimes out of the history books. Today many are calling for more attention to be brought to the mass causalities that were caused by European colonialism in the Congo.

3. Leon Trotsky (1879-1940)

Trotsky Leon
Trotsky Leon (1925) by unknown author, licensed under (PD-US-expired)

Going against Joseph Stalin during his rise to power in the 1920s was a great way to get yourself wiped off of the face of the Earth. Trotsky Leon was a Marxist revolutionary who opposed Stalin’s policies and led a resistance against his rise to power.

Trotsky Leon was deported from the Soviet Union during the Great Purge and was later executed. Like Nikolai Yezhov, he was once a close friend of Stalin. In order to change history and manipulate the public narrative, Stalin had Trotsky Leon retouched out of any photos that they appeared in together.

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4. Bo Gu (1907-1946)

Chin Banxian (1930s) by unknown author, licensed under (PD-US-expired)

Qin Bangxian, also known as Bo Gu, was a senior leader of the Chinese Communist Party from 1932 to 1935. He had a lot of responsibility under the party leader Mao Zedong.

After a military miscommunication reflected badly on his leadership skills, he was retouched out of a photo where he appeared alongside Mao Zedong. Bo Gu lost his life in life in 1946 in a plane crash along with several other prominent members of the Communist Party.

5. Grigoriy Nelyubov (1934-1966)

Grigoriy Nelyubov was a Soviet cosmonaut during the space race of the 1960s. He was fired from his position for drunk and disorderly conduct. He is one of the many people that the Soviet Union deleted from history to control their public image.

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He started his career as a successful pilot in the Soviet Air Force. He was selected to be one of the first cosmonauts in the space program. Shortly after beginning the space program, Grigoriy Nelyubov was arrested for drunk and disorderly conduct on the street. He was given multiple chances to apologize and have the charges dropped. He refused and was dismissed from the cosmonaut program.

After being fired, he fell into a depression and was drinking heavily. This all led up to his suicide. After his death, the Soviet Union wanted to protect the image of their space program so they deleted from history all evidence that he had ever been there. They even retouched him out of photos with the other cosmonauts.

6. Mary Magdalene (1st century BCE)

1600px Maria Magdalena detalle ca. 1670 1685 Juan Tinoco 1
María Magdalena (detalle), ca. 1670 – 1685 by Juan Tinoco

While analyzing the earliest known manuscript of the Gospel of John, a researcher at Duke University noticed that the name “Maria” (Mary) had been altered to read as “Martha” multiple times throughout the text. Upon further examination, she concluded that early transcribers of the New Testament may have wanted Mary Magdalene deleted from history.

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Some religious scholars believe that Mary Magdalene’s role in the gospel was downplayed on purpose due to misogyny. Mary Magdalene is a controversial figure in Christianity because she is one of the only women to play a prominent role in the life of Jesus Christ.

7. Publius Septimius Geta (AD 189-211)

Bust of young Geta
Bust of the Roman emperor Geta by Modussiccandi, licensed under (CC BY-SA 4.0)

Geta was an emperor and leader of the Roman empire. His father had desired for Geta and his brother Caracalla to rule the Roman empire together, but after his death, the brothers turned on each other. They both lived in fear of assassination from the other. The struggle for power culminated with Geta’s murder.

The ancient Romans practiced something called “damnatio memoriae“, Latin for “condemnation of memory”. This was most often done to emperors by their rival successors. Statues would be destroyed, their name scratched away wherever it was written, and historical records rewritten to exclude them.

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Caracalla called for the damnatio memoriae of his brother Geta, and they tried to make sure that all mentions of Geta were deleted from history. Archaeological records show that they were very efficient at making Geta disappear. According to damnatio memoriae, Romans could be punished with death if they even spoke the name Geta.

8. Jang Song Thaek (1946-2013)

Jang Song Thaek was a prominent member of the government of North Korea and was the uncle by marriage of the current leader Kim Jong-un. His position of vice-chairman of the National Defense Committee made him second in command to Kim Jong-un’s predecessor Kim Jong-il. Though unconfirmed, it is widely believed that Jang Song Thaek was in charge of running the government while Kim Jong-il was on his deathbed.

At first, Jang Song Thaek seemed to be doing well in his senior leadership position under Kim Jong-un. It became apparent that Kim Jong-un had lost trust in Jang when he was not chosen to be present at several important foreign affairs meetings. A dispute over the military control of North Korea’s coastal fisheries was the nail in the coffin for Jang Song Thaek.

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Kim Jong-un had those close to Jang Song Thaek executed. Jang was fired from his position and accused of being anti-state as well as having inappropriate relationships with women and reckless political ambition. His arrest was televised to the people of North Korea and he was later executed by firing squad. They also executed his family, including the children. His image was deleted from history books and he was retouched out of photos where he appeared with North Korea’s leaders.

9. Queen Hatshepsut (1507-1458 BC)

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Head of Hatshepsut by Eden, Janine and Jim, licensed under (CC BY 2.0)

Queen Hatshepsut is the second confirmed female Pharaoh of Egypt in recorded history. She ruled from 1479 to 1458 BC, first as the regent of her son Thutmose III. Hatshepsut made claim to leadership based on her lineage as the only child of the previous Pharaoh Thutmose I and his primary wife. Her husband Thutmose II, was the child of Thutmose I and his secondary wife, placing Hatshepsut above him in the royal hierarchy.

Until recently, historians believed that she was only a regent of Thutmose III, but further historical evidence has shown that she did take the position of Pharoah. Thutmose III ordered a damnatio memoriae, or condemnation of memory, on Hatshepsut during his reign. Statues and carvings of her image were smashed to pieces, and the memory of a female Pharaoh was almost completely deleted from history.

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The reason why she was erased from history by her successors was never properly recorded, which leaves scholars speculating on whether or not there was a royal family feud. Egyptologists are still working to put together the pieces of the true story of the female king of Egypt.

10. Maximian (AD 250-310)

Coin of Maximian by Rasiel Suarez, licensed under (CC BY-SA 3.0)

Maximian was a Roman emperor who was condemned by the Senate. Maximian challenged Constantine the Great for leadership of the Roman empire. After an unsuccessful attempt to claim the title of emperor from Constantine, he was captured and committed suicide.

Enraged by his father’s death, Maximian’s son also challenged Constantine for the throne. During the ensuing power struggle, Constantine had his men remove all statues and carvings in Maximian’s image from public places in an act of damnatio memoriae. However, after the conflict between Constantine and Maximian’s son Maxentius was over, Maximian’s reputation was repaired and he became a popular public figure.

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11. Elizabeth O’Farrell (1883-1957)

Elizabeth OFarrell circa 1910s
Elizabeth O’Farrell, circa 1910s, by unknown author, licensed under (PD-US)

Elizabeth O’Farrell was an Irish nurse and member of the Irish women’s volunteer paramilitary organization Cumann na mBan. During the Easter Rising of 1916, the Irish people fought back against British rule. While volunteering with her paramilitary group during the Easter Rising of 1916, she was asked to be the one to deliver the white flag of surrender to the British in order to stop the bloodshed.

Patrick Pearse, one of the leaders of the Easter Rising, surrendered in person alongside Elizabeth O’Farrell. In a photo taken of Patrick Pearse and British General William Lowe on the day of surrender, Elizabeth stepped back just in time to get her face out of the frame, but her feet remained. Her feet were retouched out of the photo, leading many to comment on how an important person in the story of the Irish Easter Rising of 1916 was deleted from history.

12. Akhenaten (1361-1336 BC)

Colossal sandstone statue of Akhenaten
Colossal sandstone statue of Akhenaten by ARamb123, licensed under (CC BY-SA 4.0)

Akhenaten was one of the most controversial Pharaohs of his time. Akhenaten and his wife Nefertiti introduced monotheism to Egypt and said that all of the Egyptian gods were false. The only god that he worshipped was the Egyptian sun god Aten.

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The story of Akhenaten, and perhaps the first-ever recorded instance of monotheism in ancient times, was lost to scholars and historians for centuries until they began excavating the ruins of his lost city.

Akhenaten was removed from historical records written by the Egyptians and statues made in his honor were destroyed. He was deleted from history until archaeologists uncovered lost artifacts, including busts of him and his wife Nefertiti. The Pharaohs that came after Akhenaten likely condemned him for claiming that the traditional Egyptian gods were a lie.

13. Jack Parsons (1914-1952)

JackParsons3
 Los Angeles Times publicity photo of John Whiteside “Jack” Parsons during the murder trial of police officer Earl Kynette (1938)

Jack Parsons was a rocket engineer and well-documented follower of the teachings of the famous occultist Aleister Crowley. He was the mastermind behind several very important advancements in rocket engines, mostly pertaining to rocket fuel. Because of who he was as a person, the contemporary academic community ostracized him and his contributions to the field of rocket science have not been recognized until recently.

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After converting to Thelema, Aleister Crowley’s spiritual movement, Jack Parsons took over as the leader of one of Crowley’s lodges. The lodge had a bad reputation that preceded Jack. Jack himself engaged in occult sex rituals with prostitutes. As a result, he was terminated from his position at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory because of his involvement.

Because Jack Parsons also had a past interest in Marxism, he was accused of espionage and banned from working on rockets ever again. Shortly after, he died in an explosion when a rocket experiment he was conducting went wrong. Those close to him claimed that it was murder. Official documents reveal that the FBI was watching Parsons closely in the years leading up to his death.