Doomsday Cults Part 2: Aum Shinrikyo | 25


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On this episode of History of the 90s we continue our look back at the rise of doomsday cults in the years leading up to the new millennium.

The Japanese doomsday cult, Aum Shinrikyo, killed 13 people and injured over 5,000 others in a sarin gas attack on the Tokyo Subway System in March 1995. It’s believed they were trying to bring about a world war that would result in an all-out nuclear war. Aum’s leader Shoko Asahara convinced his members that only they would survive the nuclear war and would transcend to a new utopian society.

Aum Shinrikyo reportedly had 40,000 members in countries around the world including Japan, Russia and the United States. In Tokyo, the majority of their members were highly educated young men who had grown disillusioned with Japanese society’s pressure to succeed. With the help of these followers, Asahara was able to build a network of chemical labs and computer companies worth a billion dollars.


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Paul Midford, Professor and Director of the Japan Program at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology

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