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Bacteriological Warfare in History

Today, when we speak about a bacteriological warfare, the image that flashes in our minds is almost certain that of people in white coats mixing something in test tubes, or of people in environmental suits loading some extremely deadly staff in a ballistic missile. It may come as a surprise for many people to know that germ warfare is not a new thing at all, though the term is.

Klaus Bergdolt in his book “The Black Death in Europe” says that as far as in the 14th century the Tartar khan Janibek used biological weapon, though, of course, in rather a crude fashion, against the denizens of Kaffa, a fortress in the Crimea. When the city was already about to fall, the Black Death (i.e., the bubonic plague), an extremely lethal disease, previously unknown in Europe, came from the East, decimating the Tartar ranks. They, however, managed to turn the situation in their favor, tying the bodies of those who died of the plague to the cannonballs and firing at the town with them. The Black Death immediately broke out within the city walls, inducing the horrified citizens to try and leave the trap, unwillingly spreading the scourge across the whole Europe – first bringing it to Sicily, then to Italy and France.

Less than in one year the disease reached as far as England and Scandinavia, leaving thousands of unburied corpses in its wake. The pestilence seemed even more frightening, as it seemed to prefer the young and healthy to the older people. Due to the inadequacy of the medicine of that period, more than a third of Europe’s population died of the disease in four years. Such facts can only be described as a successful result of the bacteriological war – something that hasn’t actually happened ever since, in the age when the methods are much more elaborate and refined.


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