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The Arrano beltza ("black eagle") flag is waved by radical Basque nationalists, mainly supporters of ETA and HB, along the Ikurriña and the Navarrese flag as a claim of unity of the Basque lands.

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Basque nationalism is a political movement advocating for either further political autonomy or, chiefly, full independence of the Greater Basque Country. As a whole, support for Basque nationalism is stronger in the Spanish autonomous Basque region and northwest Navarre, whereas in the French Basque Country support is minority.

Basque nationalism, spanning three different regions in two states (the Basque Country proper and Navarre in Spain and the French Basque Country in France) is "irredentist in nature"[1] due to its claims regarding the French provinces.


Fueros and Carlism

Basque nationalism is rooted in Carlism and the loss, by the laws of 1839 and 1876, of the Ancien Régime relationship between the Spanish Basque provinces and the crown of Spain. During this time, the reactionary Fuerista movement pleaded for the maintenance of the fueros system and territorial autonomy against the centralizing pressures from liberal governments in Madrid. The Spanish government revoked part of the fueros after the Third Carlist War. The fueros were charters granted by the successive kings of Castile and acted as part of the Basque legal system dealing with matters regarding the political ties of the Basque Provinces with the crown. The Fueros gave Basque subjects a privileged position in Spain with special tax and political status; basically, Basques were not subject to direct levee to the Castilian army, although many volunteered, especially in the Spanish navy, which was led, among others, by Basque sailors like Juan Sebastián Elcano.

Sabino Arana

The concept of a Basque nationalism was born out of the Carlist question and the influences from the Romantic European view of nationalism in the nineteenth century.

The seminal ideologist of this process was Sabino Arana, founder of the Basque Nationalist Party (PNV in its Spanish acronym). By the end of the 19th century Arana, coming from a Carlist background, created an ideology centered on the purity of the Basque race and its so-called moral supremacy over other Spaniards (a derivation of the system of limpieza de sangre of Modern-Age Spain), anti-Liberal Catholic integrism, and deep opposition to the migration of other Spaniards to the Basque Country which had started at the first stages of the industrial revolution.

In the early 20th century, Basque nationalism developed from a nucleus of petty bourgeois enthusiasts (non-native Basque speakers themselves) in Bilbao to incorporate the peasant basis of Carlism in Biscay and Guipuscoa. The movement survived without any problems the dictatorship of Miguel Primo de Rivera under the guise of cultural and athletic associations.

Basque nationalism managed to substitute Carlism in the favour of the Catholic Church as a barrier against leftist anti-clericalism in most of the Basque provinces.

Modern history

In 1936, the main part of the Christian democrat PNV sided with the Second Spanish Republic in the Spanish Civil War. The promise of autonomy was valued over the ideological differences, especially on the religious matter, and PNV decided to support the republican legal government, including member of the Popular Front. Autonomy was granted in October 1936. A republican autonomous Basque government was created, with José Antonio Agirre (PNV) as Lehendakari (president) and ministers from the PNV and other republican parties (mainly leftist Spanish parties).

However, in 1937, roughly halfway through the war, Basque troops, then under control of the Autonomous Basque Government surrendered in an action brokered by the Basque church and the Vatican in Santoña to the Italian allies of General Franco on condition that the Basque heavy industry and economy was left untouched.

Thus began one of the most culturally difficult periods of Basque history in Spain, due to immigration of non-Basque from other parts of Spain to serve a fast-paced industrialising economy which followed, thriving chiefly during the 1960s. This immigration was enhanced by the protectionist measures of the Franco regime, as the expanding Basque economy required more workers from elsewhere to fill the gap in the labour force. Simultaneously, Basque language was prohibited in those acts involving the public administration or the mass media, being only tolerated at some folkloric or clerical activities; the situation was milder for Basque language in Navarre and Álava, areas which sided with Franco's uprising.

For many leftists in Spain the surrender of Basque troops in Santoña (Santander) is known as the Treason of Santoña. Many of the nationalist Basque soldiers were pardoned if they joined the Francoist army in the rest of the Northern front. Basque nationalists submitted, went underground, or were sent to prison, and the movement's political leaders fled. Small groups escaped to the Americas, France and the Benelux, of which only a minority returned after the restoration of democracy in Spain in the late seventies, or before.

During World War II the exiled PNV government attempted to join the Allies and settled itself in New York to gain American recognition and support, but soon after the war finished, Franco became an American ally in the context of the Cold War, depriving the PNV any chance for power in the Basque Country.

Political violence and devolved autonomy

In 1959, young nationalists founded the separatist group ETA, which soon adopted a Marxist revolutionary policy in the 1960s. Inspired by movements like those of Castro in Cuba and Ho Chi Minh in Vietnam, the group aimed to establish an independent socialist Basque country through violence and extortion. ETA's first confirmed assassinations occurred in 1968, although it is not clear when it adopted assassination as a policy. It is currently the last remaining Spanish political group which supports violent direct action. At an ideological level, although ETA has not rejected race to be a defining feature of the Basque people, is stressing instead the importance of language and customs.

When Spain re-emerged as a democracy in 1978, autonomy was restored to the Basques, who achieved a degree of self-government without precedent in modern Basque history. Thus, based on the fueros and their Statute of Autonomy, Basques have their own police body and manage their own public finances with virtually no intervention from the central government of Spain. The Basque Autonomous Community has been led by the nationalist Christian democratic PNV since it was reinstated in the early 1980s until 2009 when PSE got into office. In Navarre, Basque nationalism has failed to gain control of the Autonomous Community's government, but several Basque nationalist parties run races in certain municipalities.

Unlike Spain, France is a centralized State, although a Basque nationalist party maintains a presence in some municipalities through local elections.

Basque nationalist organizations

"You're in the Basque Country, not in Spain" – an example of Basque nationalism in a Bilbao lamp post. The sticker includes the website address of Gazte Abertzaleak.
  • Acción Nacionalista Vasca, leftist political party
  • Aralar, leftist political party
  • Askatasuna, support for ETA prisoners.
  • Batasuna, leftist political party, illegal in the southern Basque Country because of relations with the separatist organization ETA
  • Batzarre
  • Comunión Nacionalista Vasca, former political party
  • ELA-STV, trade union
  • Enbata
  • ETA, separatist organization operating mainly in the southern Basque Country
  • Etxerat, support for Basque political prisoners
  • Euskadiko Ezkerra, former leftist political party
  • Euskal Ezkerra, a splinter of Euskadiko Ezkerra.
  • Eusko Alkartasuna, Social-Democratic political party
  • ESAIT, support for the Basque National teams in different sports
  • Gazte Abertzaleak, the youth group of the Spanish Basque political party Eusko Alkartasuna, left of the PNV but not aligned with ETA or Batasuna
  • Gestoras pro-Amnistía, support for ETA prisoners.
  • Herria 2000 Eliza, Catholic movement
  • Ikasle Abertzaleak, Group of Basque nationalist students
  • Iparretarrak, violently clandestine organization operating in the French part of the Basque Country
  • Irrintzi, armed organization of the French Basque Country.
  • Jagi-Jagi, former magazine
  • LAB, leftist trade union
  • Nafarroa Bai, Navarrese political party (coalition between some Basque nationalist political parties)
  • Partido Nacionalista Vasco, Christian-Democrat political party
  • Senideak, relatives of ETA prisoners.
  • Segi, Batasuna's youth group
  • Udalbiltza, assembly of city councillors
  • Zutik, leftist party


  1. ^ "The Economics of Secession" Milica Zarkovic

See also



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