History of the Basque people

History of the Basque people

The Basque people ( _eu. Euskaldunak) are a group of people inhabiting adjacent areas of Spain and France. Their history is therefore interconnected with Spanish and French history and also with the history of many other past and present countries, particularly in Europe and the Americas.


First historical references


·Red: Basque and other pre-Indoeuropean tribes
·Blue:Celtic tribes]

In the 1st century AD, Strabo wrote that the northern parts of what are now Navarre ("Nafarroa" in Basque) and Aragon were inhabited by the Vascones. Despite the evident etymological connection between "Vascones" and the modern denomination "Basque", there is no proof that the Vascones were the modern Basques' ancestors or spoke the language that has evolved into modern Basque, although this is strongly suggested both by the historically consistent toponymy of the area and by a few personal names on tombstones dating from the Roman period.

Three different peoples inhabited the territory of the present Basque Autonomous Community: the Varduli, Caristii and Autrigones. Historical sources do not state whether these tribes were related to the Vascones and/or the Aquitani.

Recent archaeological finds at Iruña-Veleia (Álava) have brought to light some early Basque texts [http://www.gara.net/idatzia/20060616/art169077.php] , [http://atlantis.eponym.com/blog/_archives/2006/6/16/2035674.html] . Otherwise, the area where a Basque-related language is best attested from an early period is Gascony, to the north of the present-day Basque Country, whose ancient inhabitants, the Aquitani, may have spoken a language related to Basque. (The extinct Aquitanian language should not be confused with Gascon, the Romance language that has been spoken in Aquitaine since the Middle Ages.)

During the Middle Ages the name Vascones and its derivates (including "Basque") were extended to cover the entire Basque-speaking population of the present-day Basque Country.

Prehistory: the mainstream view

Although little is known about the prehistory of the Basques before the period of Roman occupation owing to the difficulty in identifying evidence for specific cultural traits, the mainstream view today is that the Basque area shows signs of archaeological continuity since the Aurignacian period.

Many Basque archaeological sites, including cave dwellings such as Santimamiñe, provide evidence for continuity from Aurignacian times down to the Iron Age, shortly before Roman occupation. The possibility therefore cannot be ruled out of at least some of the same people having continued to inhabit the area for thirty millennia.

A high concentration of Rh- (a typical European trait) among Basques, who have the highest level worldwide, had already been taken as suggestive of the antiquity and lack of admixture of the Basque genetic stock before the advent of modern genetics, which has confirmed this view. In the 1990s Luigi Luca Cavalli-Sforza published his findings according to which one of the main European autosomal components, PC 5, was shown to be a typically Basque trait believed to have receded owing to the migration of Eastern peoples during the Neolithic and Metal Ages. ["Genes, pueblos y lenguas", L.L. Cavalli-Sforza, 1996 ISBN 84-8432-084-7] [ [http://www.sitesled.com/members/racialreality/genetic_variation.html European Genetic Variation (with Cavalli-Sforza's PC maps)] ] Further genetic studies on Y chromosome DNA haplogroups [ [http://mbe.oxfordjournals.org/cgi/content/full/21/7/1361 "Estimating the Impact of Prehistoric Admixture on the Genome of Europeans", Isabelle Dupanloup et al.] ] and X chromosome microsatellites [ [http://www.genome.org/cgi/content/full/8/12/1289 "MS205 Minisatellite Diversity in Basques: Evidence for a Pre-Neolithic Component", Santos Alonso and John A.L. Armour] ] also seem to point to Basques being the most direct descendants from prehistoric Western Europeans.Having the highest percent of "Western European genes" but found also at high levels among neighbor populations,as they are also direct descendants of the same People. However, Mitochondrial DNA have cast serious doubts over this theory [ [http://www.blackwell-synergy.com/doi/abs/10.1046/j.1529-8817.2005.00170.x?cookieSet=1&journalCode=ahg "Temporal Mitochondrial DNA Variation in the Basque Country: Influence of Post-Neolithic Events", A. alzualde et al.] ] [ [http://www.pubmedcentral.nih.gov/picrender.fcgi?artid=1523212&blobtype=pdf "The Mitochondrial Lineage U8a Reveals a Paleolithic Settlement in the Basque Country" (Gonzalez, et al; May 2006)] ]

Some scholars have interpreted the etymologies of Basque words for knife and axe, which contain a root meaning 'stone', as evidence that the Basque language dates back to the stone age. [ [http://www.randomhouse.com/catalog/display.pperl?isbn=9780676973662&view=excerpt Chapter 1] .]

Alternative theories

The following alternative theories about the prehistoric origins of the Basques have all had adherents at some time but are rejected by many scholars and do not represent the consensus view:

*Basques as Neolithic settlers: According to this theory, a precursor of the Basque language might have arrived about 6,000 years ago with the advance of agriculture. The only archaeological evidence that could partly support this hypothesis would be that for the Ebro valley area. Genetics also lends little support.

*Basques arrived together with the Indo-Europeans: Linked to an unproven linguistic hypothesis that includes Basque and some Caucasian languages in a single super-family. Even if such a Basque-Caucasian connection did exist, it would have to be at too great a time depth to be relevant to Indo-European migrations. Apart from a Celtic presence in the Ebro valley during the Urnfield culture, archaeology offers little support for this hypothesis. The Basque language shows few certain Celtic or other Indo-European loans, other than those transmitted via Latin or Romance in historic times.

*Basques as an Iberian subgroup: Based on occasional use by early Basques of the Iberian alphabet and Julius Caesar's description of the Aquitanians as "Iberians". Apparent similarities between the undeciphered Iberian language and Basque have also been cited, but this fails to account for the fact that attempts so far to decipher Iberian using Basque as a reference have failed.

The Basque Country in prehistorical times


About 35,000 years ago, the lands that are now the Basque Country, together with neighbouring areas such as Aquitaine and the Pyrenees, were settled by Homo sapiens, who gradually displaced the region's earlier Neanderthal population. Arriving from Central Europe, the settlers brought the Aurignacian culture with them.

At this stage the Basque Country formed part of the archaeological Franco-Cantabrian province which extended all the way from Asturias to Provence. Throughout this region, which underwent similar cultural developments with some local variation, Aurignacian culture was successively replaced by Gravettian, Solutrean and Magdalenian cultures. Except for the Aurignacian, these all seem to have originated in the Franco-Cantabrian region, which suggests no further waves of immigration into the area during the Paleolithic period.

Within the present-day Basque Country settlement was limited almost exclusively to the Atlantic area, probably for climatic reasons. Important Basque sites include the following:

*Santimamiñe (Biscay): Gravettian, Solutrean and Magdalenian remains, mural art
*Bolinkoba (Biscay): Gravettian and Solutrean
*Ermitia (Guipúzcoa): Solutrean and Magdalenian
*Amalda (Guipúzcoa): Gravettian and Solutrean
*Koskobilo (Guipúzcoa): Aurignacian and Solutrean
*Aitzbitarte (Guipúzcoa): Aurignacian, Gravettian, Solutrean and Magdalenian
*Isturitz (Lower Navarre): Gravettian, Solutrean and Magdalenian, mural art
*Gatzarria (Soule): Aurignacian and Gravettian

Epipaleolithic and Neolithic

At the end of the Ice Age, Magdalenian culture gave way to Azilian culture. Hunters turned from large animals to smaller prey, and fishing and seafood gathering became important economic activities. The southern part of the Basque Country was first settled in this period.

Gradually, Neolithic technology started to filter through from the Mediterranean coasts, first in the form of isolated pottery items (Zatoia, Marizulo) and later with the introduction of sheepherding. As in most of Atlantic Europe, this transition progressed slowly.

In the Ebro valley, more fully Neolithic sites are found. Anthropometric classification of the remains suggests the possibility of some Mediterranean colonisation here. A comparable situation is found in Aquitaine, where settlers may have arrived via the Garonne.

In the second half of the 4th millennium BC, Megalithic culture appeared throughout the area. Burials become collective (possibly implying families or clans) and the dolmen predominates, while caves are also employed in some places. Unlike the dolmens of the Mediterranean basin which show a preference for corridors, in the Atlantic area they are invariably simple chambers.

Copper and Bronze Ages

Use of copper and gold, and then other metals, did not begin in the Basque Country until c. 2500. With the arrival of metal working, the first urban settlements made their appearance. One of the most notable towns on account of its size and continuity was La Hoya in southern Álava, which may have served as a link, and possibly a trading centre, between Portugal (Vila Nova de São Pedro culture) and Languedoc (Treilles group). Concurrently, caves and natural shelters remained in use, particularly in the Atlantic region.

Undecorated pottery continued from the Neolithic period up until the arrival of the Bell Beaker culture with its characteristic pottery style, which is mainly found around the Ebro Valley. Building of megalithic structures continued until the Late Bronze Age.

In Aquitaine there was a notable presence of the Artenacian culture, a culture of bowmen that spread rapidly through Western France and Belgium from its homeland near the Garonne c. 2400.

In the Late Bronze Age, parts of the southern Basque Country came under the influence of the pastoralist Cogotas I culture of the Iberian plateau.

Iron Age

In the Iron Age an Indo-European people, probably Celtic, settled on territories adjacent to the Basque region and began to exert influence. Bearers of the late Urnfield culture followed the Ebro upstream as far as the southern fringes of the Basque Country, leading to the incorporation of the Hallstatt culture.

In the Basque Country, settlements now appear mainly at points of difficult access, probably for defensive reasons, and had elaborate defence systems. During this phase agriculture seemingly became more important than animal husbandry.

It may be during this period that new megalithic structures, the (stone circle) or "cromlech" and the megalith or "menhir", made their appearance.

Roman rule

The Romans first reached the northwest of the Iberian Peninsula, including the Basque region, under Pompey in the 1st century BC, but Roman rule was not consolidated until the time of the Emperor Augustus. Its laxness suited the Basques well, allowing them to retain their traditional laws and leadership. There is not much evidence of Romanisation, and the survival of the separate Basque language has often been attributed to the fact that the Basque Country, as a poor region, was little developed by the Romans.

However, there was a significant Roman presence in the garrison of Pompaelo (modern Pamplona, "Iruñea" in Basque), a city south of the Pyrenees founded by and named after Pompey. Conquest of the area further west followed a fierce Roman campaign against the Cantabri (see Cantabrian Wars). There are archaeological remains from this period of garrisons protecting commercial routes all along the Ebro river, and along a Roman road between Asturica and Burdigala.

Many Basques joined the Roman legions, and were often deployed far away to guard the Empire. A unit of Varduli was stationed on Hadrian's Wall in the north of Britain for many years, and earned the title "fida" (faithful) for some now forgotten service to the emperor. Romans apparently entered into alliances ("foedera", singular "foedus") with many local tribes, allowing them almost total autonomy within the Empire. [ [http://www.euskomedia.org/aunamendi/8809?op=4&primR=1&regs=10&idi=eu&EIKVOGEN=Imperio%20Romano&pos=2 Alianzas (Auñamendi Encyclopedia)] ]

Livy mentions the natural division between the "Ager" and the "Saltus Vasconum", i.e. between the fields of the Ebro basin and the mountains to the north. Historians agree that Romanization was significant in the fertile "Ager" but almost null in the "Saltus", where Roman towns were scarce and generally small. [ [http://www.euskomedia.org/aunamendi/120795?op=4&primR=1&regs=10&idi=eu&EIKVOGEN=Ager%20Vasconum&pos=7 Saltus Vasconum (Auñamendi Encyclopedia)] ]

The Bagaudae [http://www.euskomedia.org/aunamendi/10102?op=4&primR=1&regs=10&idi=eu&EIKVOGEN=Bagaudas&pos=4 Bagaudas (Auñamendi Encyclopedia)] ] seem to have produced a major impact on Basque history in the late Empire. In the late 4th century and throughout the 5th century, the Basque region from the Garonne to the Ebro escaped Roman control in the midst of revolts. Several Roman villas (Liédena, Ramalete) were burned to the ground. The proliferation of mints is interpreted as evidence for an "inner limes" around Vasconia, where coins were minted for the purpose of paying troops. [Mikel Sorauren, "Historia de Navarra, el Estado Vasco", 1998, ISBN 84-7681-299-X] After the fall of the Empire, the struggle against Rome's Visigoth allies continued.

Middle Ages

Early Middle Ages

In 407, Basque troops under Roman command defeated the Vandals, Alans, and Suevi in the Pyrenees,Fact|date=September 2007 but in Autumn 409 these tribes crossed the Basque homelands into Hispania without resistance.Collins, 6.] In 418 Rome gave the provinces of Aquitania and Tarraconensis to the Visigoths, as "foederati", probably with a view to defending Novempopulana from Basque raids.

While the Visigoths seem to have claimed the Basque territory from an early date, all the chronicles point to their systematic failure to subdue it, punctuated only by sporadic military successes. The years between 435 and 450 saw a succession of confrontations between Basque rebels and Romano-Gothic troops, the best documented of which were the battles of Toulouse, Araceli, and Turiasum. In 449, however, the Suevi under their king Rechiar attacked the Basques, probably intending to conquer the entire Ebro valley, but they ultimately accomplished nothing. After 466 the Visigoths crossed the Pyrenees, probably at Roncesvalles, in an effort to subdue the upper Ebro valley and occupy Pamplona and Zaragoza, but as the chronicle of Hydatius, the only Spanish source of the period, ends in 469, the actual events of the Visigothic confrontation with the Basques are obscure.Collins, 7.]

The Franks displaced the Visigoths from Aquitaine in 507, placing the Basques between the two warring kingdoms. In 581 or thereabouts both Franks and Visigoths attacked "Vasconia" ("Wasconia" in Gregory of Tours), but neither with success. In 587 the Franks launched a second attack on the Basques, but they were defeated on the plains of Aquitaine, implying that Basque settlement or conquest had begun north of the Pyrenees. Soon afterwards, the Franks and Goths created their respective marches: the Duchy of Cantabria in the south and the Duchy of Vasconia in the north.Fact|date=September 2007 After further fighting, the Duchy of Vasconia was consolidated as an independent polity between 660 and 678. A personal union with the Duchy of Aquitaine ensured several decades of peace only interrupted by occasional Visigothic campaigns.

The Muslim invasion of 711 and the rise of the Carolingian dynasty posed new threats for this state and eventually led to its downfall and breakup.

Vasconia's submission to the Franks was interrupted by frequent oubreaks of resistance, the best known of which today is the first Battle of Roncevaux ("Orreaga" in Basque, "Roncesvalles" in Spanish). The Basque-Muslim state of the Banu Qasi (meaning "heirs of Cassius" in Arabic), founded c. 800 near Tudela ("Tutera" in Basque), helped to maintain peace between the Basques and Al Andalus.

After Charlemagne's death, his son Louis the Pious provoked a new rebellion led by Gartzia Semeno. A relative of the latter, Enecco Arista (Basque "Eneko Aritza", i.e. Eneko "the Oak"), took power in Pamplona c. 824 with the defeat of the Franks by the Pamplonese and Banu Qasi at the third Battle of Roncevaux. [ [http://www.euskomedia.org/aunamendi/38128?op=4&primR=21&regs=10&idi=en&EIKVOGEN=Ducado%20Vasconia&pos=25 Ducado de Vasconia (Auñamendi Encyclopedia)] ]

High Middle Ages

The Kingdom of Pamplona, as this newly formed Basque state came to be known, consolidated its Frankish and Muslim borders before turning its attention to its western neighbours. In 905, the "Cronica Albeldense" states that the territory ruled by Pamplona included Nájera and possibly the province of Álava (referred to as "Arba"). [ [http://www.ih.csic.es/departamentos/medieval/fmh/albeldensia.htm Crónica Albeldense (CSIC)] ]

Under Sancho III "the Great" (1000-1035), Pamplona controlled the entire southern Basque Country; indeed, its power extended from Burgos and Santander to Northern Aragon. Through marriage Sancho also became the acting Earl of Castile and held a protectorate over Gascony and Leon.

Following Sancho III's death, Castile and Aragon became separate kingdoms ruled by his sons, who were responsible for the first partitioning of Pamplona. However, the kingdom was restored in 1157 under García Ramírez "the Restorer", who fought Castile for control of the western half of the realm. A peace treaty signed in 1179 ceded La Rioja and the northeastern part of present-day Old Castile to the Castilian crown. In return, this pact acknowledged that Álava, Biscay and Guipúzcoa belonged to Navarre.

In 1199, while Navarre's King Sancho VI "the Wise" was away on an embassy to Tlemcen, Castile invaded and annexed the western Basque Country, leaving Navarre landlocked. Castile divided this territory into the three modern provinces, but permitted these to retain a large degree of self-government and their traditional Navarrese rights, encapsulated in special charters called "fueros", which all Castilian (and later, Spanish) kings have since sworn to uphold on oath.

Basque sailors

Basques played an important role in early European ventures into the Atlantic Ocean. The earliest document to mention the use of whale oil or blubber by the Basques dates from 670. In 1059, whalers from Lapurdi are recorded to have presented the oil of the first whale they captured to the viscount. Apparently the Basques were averse to the taste of whale meat themselves, but did successful business selling it, and the blubber, to the French, Castilians and Flemings. Basque whalers used longboats or "traineras" which they rowed in the vicinity of the coast or from a larger ship.Basque early whaling ventures brought them to the new world centuries before the Norse, and the Spanish under Columbus (whose sailors were mainly Basque).

Whaling and cod-fishing are probably responsible for early Basque contact with both the North Sea and Newfoundland. The Basques began cod-fishing and later whaling in Labrador and Newfoundland in the first half of the 16th century.

In Europe the rudder seems to have been a Basque invention, to judge from three masted ships depicted in a 12th century fresco in Estella (Navarre; "Lizarra" in Basque), and also seals preserved in Navarrese and Parisian historical archives which show similar vessels. The first mention of use of a rudder was referred to as steering "à la Navarraise" or "à la Bayonnaise". [T. Urainqui & J.M. de Olaizola, "La Navarra Marítima", 1998, ISBN 84-7681-293-0]

Magellan's exploration around the world was sailored by Basques, and when Magellan was killed in the Philippines his Basque crew took the ship all the way back to Spain, making the Basques the first people to circumnavigate the globe.

Late Middle Ages

The Basque Country in the Late Middle Ages was ravaged by bitter partisan wars between local ruling families. In Navarre these conflicts became polarised in a violent struggle between the Agramont and Beaumont parties. In Biscay, the two major warring factions were named Oinaz and Gamboa. (Cf. the Guelphs and Ghibellines in Italy). High defensive structures ("towers") built by local noble families, few of which survive today, were frequently razed by fires, sometimes by royal decree.

From the Renaissance Era to the nineteenth century

As the Middle Ages drew to a close, the lands inhabited by the Basques were allotted to either France and Spain. Most of the Basque population ended up in Spain, and the resulting situation continues to this day.

However, Basques in the present-day Spanish provinces of "Navarra", "Guipúzcoa", "Vizcaya" and "Álava" and in the portion of Navarre that was parcelled out to France managed to retain a large degree of self-government within their respective provinces, practically functioning as separate nation-states. The "fueros" recognised separate laws, taxation and courts in each province.

Basques serving under the Spanish flag became renowned sailors. Many Basque sailors on Spanish ships were among the first Europeans to reach North America. A great many early European settlers in Canada and the United States were of Basque origin.

Back in the Basque Country, the Protestant Reformation made some inroads and was supported by Queen Jeanne d'Albret of Low Navarre. The printing of books in Basque, mostly on Christian themes, was introduced in the 16th century by the Basque-speaking bourgeoisie around Bayonne in the northern Basque Country. However, Protestants were persecuted by the Spanish Inquisition. In the northeast, the Protestant Navarrese king converted to Roman Catholicism and went on to become King Henry IV of France.

Self-government in the northern Basque Country came to an abrupt end when the French Revolution centralised government and abolished the local privileges that had been granted by the "ancien régime". While this development pushed some Basques to counter-revolutionary positions, others actively participated in the process, and a Basque constitutional project was drawn up by the Basque revolutionary Garat. This issue brought the Basque Country into the Convention War of 1793, when all the Basque territories were nominally French for a time. When the Napoleonic Army invaded Spain some years later it encountered little difficulty in keeping the southern Basque provinces loyal to the occupier. Because of this lack of resistance (see the Battle of Vitoria), the southern Basque Country was the last part of Spain controlled by the French until the burning of San Sebastian on August 31, 1813.

, and his descendants after him.

Fearing that they would lose their self-government or "fueros" under a modern, liberal constitution, Basques in Spain rushed to join the traditionalist army, which was financed largely by the governments of the Basque provinces. The opposing Isabeline Army had the vital support of British, French (notably the Algerian legion) and Portuguese forces, and the backing of these governments. The Irish legion ("Tercio") was virtually annihilated by the Basques in the Battle of Oriamendi.

As differences grew between the Apostolic (official) and Navarrese (Basque-based) parties within the Carlist camp in the course of the First Carlist War, the latter signed an armistice, the terms of which included a promise by the Spaniards to respect Basque self-government. Spain's failure to keep this promise led to the Second Carlist War, which concluded in a similar way. The final outcome was that the Basque provinces, including Navarre, lost most of their autonomy, while keeping control over taxation through the "Ley Paccionada". Indeed, they still retain this power today in the form of the so-called "conciertos fiscales" between the Basque provinces and the Spanish government in Madrid.

Thus the wars that brought new freedoms to large parts of Spain resulted in the abolition of most (though not all) of Basques' traditional liberties. Although the Basque provinces of Spain today have greater autonomy than other mainland territories, they still have far less freedom than their ancestors under the present-day Spanish regime.

On the other hand, one consequence of the transfer of the Spanish customs border from the southern boundary of the Basque Country to the Spanish-French border was the inclusion of Spain's Basque provinces in a new Spanish market, the protectionism of which favoured the birth and growth of Basque industry.
*Braudel, Fernand, "The Perspective of the World", 1984

Late Modern history

Late nineteenth century

High quality iron ore mainly from western Biscay, previously worked in small traditional forges around the western Basque Country, was now exported to Britain for industrial processing. Then, given the momentum of new market conditions, Biscay acquired its own modern blast furnaces, opening the doors to local industrialisation and even heavier mining. The large numbers of workers which both required were initially drawn from the Basque countryside and the peasantry of nearby Castile and Rioja, but increasingly immigration began to flow from the remoter impoverished regions of Galicia and Andalusia. The Basque Country, hitherto a source of emigrants to France, Spain and America, faced for the first time in recent history the prospect of a massive influx of foreigners possessing different languages and cultures as a side-effect of industrialisation. Most of these immigrants spoke Spanish; practically all were very poor.

In this period Biscay reached one of the highest mortality rates in Europe. While the new proletariat's wretched working and living conditions were providing a natural breeding ground for the new socialist and anarchist ideologies and political movements characteristic of the late nineteenth century, the end of the century also saw the birth of a new brand of Basque nationalism and the founding, in 1895, of the Basque Nationalist Party. The PNV, pursuing the goal of independence or self-government for a Basque state ("Euzkadi"), represented an ideology which combined Christian-Democratic ideas with abhorrence towards Spanish immigrants whom they perceived as a threat to the ethnic, cultural and linguistic integrity of the Basque race while also serving as a channel for the importation of new-fangled, leftist (and "un-Basque") ideas.

The early twentieth century

In 1931, the newly formed Spanish republic granted self-government to Catalonia, which had a strong nationalist movement and its own vigorous linguistic and cultural identity. The Basques had to wait several years longer, in fact until the Spanish Civil War was underway, to be belatedly granted similar rights.

Basque nationalists and leftists in Biscay and Guipúzcoa sided with the Spanish republicans, but many in Navarre, a Carlist stronghold, supported General Francisco Franco's insurgent forces. (The latter were known in Spain as "Nacionales"—usually rendered in English as "Nationalists"—which can be highly misleading in the Basque context). One of the greatest atrocities of this war, immortalised by Picasso's emblematic mural, was the bombing of Gernika by German planes, a Biscayne town of great historical and symbolic importance, at Franco's bidding.

In 1937, the troops of the new Basque Autonomous Government surrendered to Franco's fascist Italian allies in Santoña on condition that the life of the Basque soldiers was respected (Santoña Agreement). [ [http://www.hiru.com/historia/historia_07925.html Espainako Gerra Zibilia Euskal Herrian] ]

The Franco dictatorship

With the war over, the new dictator began his drive to consolidate Spain as a monolithic nation state. Franco's regime passed harsh laws against all minorities in the Spanish state, including Basques, aimed at wiping out their cultures and languages. Calling Vizcaya and Guipúzcoa "traitor provinces", he abolished what remained of their autonomy. Navarre and Álava were allowed to conserve a small local police force and limited tax prerogatives.

Two developments during the Franco dictatorship (1939-1975) deeply affected life in the Basque Country in this period and afterwards. One was a new wave of immigration from the poorer parts of Spain to Biscay and Guipúzcoa during the sixties and seventies in response to the region's escalating industrialisation.

Secondly, Spanish persecution provoked a strong backlash in the Basque Country from the sixties onwards, notably in the form of a new separatist movement, Basque Country And Freedom/Euskadi Ta Askatasuna, better known by its Basque initials ETA, which eventually turned to the use of arms as a form of protest. But ETA was only one component of a broad social, cultural, political and language movement rejecting Spanish domination but also sharply criticising the inertia of the Basque Country's own conservative nationalists (organised in the PNV). To this day the dialectic between these two political orientations, the "abertzale" (patriotic or nationalist) Left and the PNV, dominate the nationalist part of the Basque political spectrum, the rest of which is occupied by Spanish parties.

The present

Franco's authoritarian regime continued until his death in 1975, after which a new Spanish constitution provided for the union of three provinces, Álava, Biscay and Guipúzcoa, in the guise of the Basque Autonomous Community, while Navarre, which decided not to opt into the BAC, was made into a separate autonomous region. Between 1979 and 1983, the Spanish government granted the Basque Autonomous Community limited self-governing powers ("autonomy") including its own elected parliament, police force, school system and control over taxation. These were part of the self-rule "package" the Spanish government agreed to hand over to the Basques, but twenty-five years on Madrid has yet to deliver other promised powers that formed part of the agreement.

These changes, which have repeatedly been rejected by the "Abertzale" Left, did not satisfy the national aspirations of many Basques, nor did they bring peace to the Basque Country. Spanish central government still exerts extensive influence over Basque life, some spheres of which, such as harbour authorities, customs, employment, the armed forces and foreign relations, remain entirely under jurisdiction of the central government. Spurred on by this conflict, various forms of Basque pro-independence activism, pursuing objectives supported by part of the population, have also continued since Franco's death. This activism includes democratic parties that search for a peaceful resolution to the conflict, and pro-ETA groups that are repeatedly banned by the central government for violent street riots and terrorist financial supporting.

ee also

*Basque people
*Basque language
*Basque Country (historical territory)


*Collins, Roger. "The Basques in Aquitaine and Navarre: Problems of Frontier Government." "War and Society in the Middle Ages: Essays in Honour of J. O. Prestwich". edd. J. Gillingham and J. C. Holt. Cambridge: Boydell Press, 1984. Reprinted in "Law, Culture and Regionalism in Early Medieval Spain". Variorum, 1992. ISBN 0-86078-308-1.


External links

* [http://www.euskomedia.org/ A Basque Encyclopedia and other cultural and historical funds] (in Spanish, though it can be searched in English, Basque and French)
* [http://basque.unr.edu/ Center for Basque Studies, University of Nevada, Reno]
* [http://www.hyw.com/books/history/Basques.htm Brief history of Basque whaling]

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