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Manuel Azaña Díaz

In office
May 10, 1936 – March 3, 1939 [1]
Preceded by Niceto Alcalá-Zamora
Acting president Diego Martínez Barrio
Succeeded by Francisco Franco Bahamonde
As head of state or dictator

In office
April 14, 1931 – September 6, 1933
President Niceto Alcalá-Zamora
Preceded by Juan Bautista Aznar Cabañas
Succeeded by Alejandro Lerroux

In office
February 19, 1936 – [May 10, 1936
President Niceto Alcalá-Zamora
Diego Martínez Barrio
Preceded by Manuel Portela Valladares
Succeeded by Santiago Casares Quiroga

Born January 10, 1880(1880-01-10)
Flag of Spain (1785-1873 and 1875-1931).svg Alcalá de Henares, Madrid, Spain
Died November 3, 1940 (aged 60)
Nationality Spain
Political party Republican Action
Republican Left
Spouse(s) Dolores de Rivas Cherif

Dr. Manuel Azaña Díaz (Alcalá de Henares, near Madrid, January 10, 1880 – November 3, 1940, Montauban, France) was a Spanish politician, the second and last President of the Second Spanish Republic. He had previously served as Minister of War in the first government of the Republic (April-June 1931), and as Prime Minister between June 1931 and September 1933, prior to becoming President (May 1936 - April 1939).

With the fall of Barcelona on January 26 to Francisco Franco's Nationalist troops, Azaña was trapped in Catalonia and forced to escape to France by passing through the Pyrenees on foot on February 5 1939, the day of Gerona's fall.[2] He would later submit his resignation as President of the Republic, an action which was equated to desertion by both the Nationalist side and his political adversaries within the Republic.


His early career

Born into a rich family, he was orphaned at a very young age. He studied in the Universidad Complutense, the Cisneros Institute and the Agustinos of El Escorial. He was awarded a Lawyer's licence by the University of Zaragoza in 1897, and a doctorate by the Universidad Complutense in 1900.

In 1909 he achieved a position at the Main Directorate of the Registries and practiced the profession of civil law notary, and traveled to Paris in 1911. He became involved in politics and in 1914 joined the Reformist Republican Party led by Melquíades Álvarez. He collaborated in the production of various newspapers, such as El Imparcial and El Sol. During World War I he covered operations on the Western Front for various newspapers. His treatment was very sympathetic to the French, and he may have been subsidized by French military intelligence. Afterwards he directed the magazines Pluma and España between 1920 and 1924, founding the former with his brother-in-law Cipriano Rivas Cherif. He was secretary of the Ateneo de Madrid (1913-1920), becoming its president in 1930. He was a candidate for the province of Toledo in 1918 and 1923, but lost on both occasions. In 1926 he founded Acción Republicana with José Giral.

A strong critic of the dictatorship of Miguel Primo de Rivera, Azaña published an energetic manifesto against the dictator and King Alfonso XIII in 1924. He later participated in the Pact of San Sebastián in 1930, which would form the nucleus of the future Republican government that arose after favorable results to the republican candidacies in the municipal elections of April 12, 1931 and the subsequent abandonment of the country by King Alfonso.

In the government

Provisional President of the Spanish Republic Niceto Alcalá-Zamora named Azaña Minister of War in the provisional Government of the Second Spanish Republic on April 14. Azaña then replaced Alcalá-Zamora as provisional prime minister in October of that year due to Alcalá-Zamora's resignation over the subject of the status of the religious question, which is to say primarily the role of the Spanish Catholic Church, in the Republic. As prime minister of the Republican coalition government with the Spanish Socialist Workers' Party (PSOE), Azaña carried out the major reforms anticipated by the republican program: the reformation of the Spanish Army - to determine its size in agreement with the capacity of the country, the agrarian reform, and the education reform - suppressing religious activities in favor of the promotion of a secular state.

Those issues, along with the existing social agitation in a major portion of the population would lead Azaña into conflict with various factions, especially the Roman Catholic Church, elements within the military, and the anarcho-syndicalist labor unions (C.N.T.). Confrontation with the latter lead to the bloody events of Casas Viejas (now Benalup), Castilblanco and Arnedo, which forced his resignation on September 8, 1933. The triumph of the coalition formed by Alejandro Lerroux's Radical Republican Party and the Confederación Española de Derechas Autónomas (CEDA) of José María Gil-Robles y Quiñones on November 19, 1933,[3] caused him temporarily to withdraw from politics and return to literary activity.

Azaña's self-imposed political retreat lasted only a short while; in 1934 he founded the Republican Left party, the fusion of Acción Republicana with the Radical Socialist Republican Party, led by Marcelino Domingo, and the Organización Republicana Gallega Autónoma (ORGA) of Santiago Casares Quiroga. In 1934 a bloody revolutionary coup took place in Asturias and Barcelona, mainly led by the Socialist Party (PSOE). Accused of instigating the riots, Azaña was jailed[4] on board the destroyer Sanchez Barcáiztegui anchored in the port in Barcelona, but was later acquitted.

After his release from prison in January 1935, Azaña initiated a political campaign that gave rise to the creation of the Spanish Popular Front (Frente Popular), a major left-wing coalition that won the elections of February 16, 1936. The Popular Front's victory in the February 1936 elections led to serious discontent among the traditionally conservative political groups in Spain, primarily the military, the Church, and political parties such as CEDA and the Falange. Many historians consider the Popular Front's electoral victory as the first event in the immediate chain of events that lead to the military uprising against the Second Republic on July 17-18, 1936.


Manuel Azaña's grave in Montauban, France.

On May 10, 1936, Manuel Azaña was elected President of the Republic after the removal of Alcalá-Zamora, just more than two months before the beginning of the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939). Azaña repeatedly warned his fellow Republicans that the lack of unity within the government was a serious threat to the Republic's stability. In his diaries and memoirs, on which he worked meticulously, Azaña vividly describes the various personality and ideological conflicts between himself and various Republican leaders, such as socialist leaders Francisco Largo Caballero and Juan Negrín. The election of Azaña himself as President also represented a destabilizing factor within the government, according to some views. Due to the military reforms he had enacted as Minister of War, many of the Spanish Generals did not trust Azaña and suspected him of attempting to dismantle the military entirely.

Manuel Azaña's writings during the Civil War contribute much to the study of the workings of the Republican government during the conflict. Along with his extensive memoirs and diaries, Azaña also produced a number of well-known speeches. His speech on July 18, 1938 is one of the best known of these, in which he implores his fellow Spaniards to seek reconciliation after the fighting ends, emphasizing the need for "Peace, Pity, and Pardon."

Curiously, Azaña also penned a theatrical work during the Civil War titled Vigil in Benicarló (La velada en Benicarló). Having worked on the play during the previous weeks, Azaña dictated the final version while trapped in Barcelona during the May Days violence. In the play, Azaña uses various characters to espouse the various ideological, political, and social perspectives present within the Republic during the war, hence portraying and attempting to explain the rivalries and conflicts that were damaging the political cohesion of the Republic.

With the fall of Barcelona on January 26 to Francisco Franco's Nationalist troops, Manuel Azaña fled to France by passing through the Pyrenees on foot[5] on February 5 1939, the day of Gerona's fall. He later submitted his resignation as President of the Republic.

Azaña lived in exile in France after the war, being trapped there by the Nazi German occupation regime. He died on November 4, 1940, in Montauban.[6] The Vichy French authorities refused to allow his coffin to be covered with the Republican flag.

Azaña's diary

Along many years of his political activity Azaña kept a diary. The first complete edition of the Diary was published in 2000 (ISBN 84-8432-142-8).

See also


  1. ^ [1]
  2. ^ Beevor, Antony. The battle for Spain. The spanish civil war. Penguin Books. 2006. London. p.381
  3. ^ Beevor, Antony. The battle for Spain. The spanish civil war. Penguin Books. 2006. London. p.27
  4. ^ Beevor, Antony. The battle for Spain. The spanish civil war. Penguin Books. 2006. London. p.30
  5. ^ “Police Job”, TIME Magazine, February 13, 1939
  6. ^ Beevor, Antony. The battle for Spain. The spanish civil war. Penguin Books. 2006. London. p.412

Select bibliography

External links

  • Manuel Azaña at Find a Grave
  • (French) L'association Présence Manuel Azaña (France) entend préserver la mémoire et l'histoire du dernier président de la République et celle des Républicains espagnols. Elle a son siège à Montauban et organise chaque année, le jour anniversaire de sa disparition, les "Journées Manuel Azaña".
  • (French) Site de la revue Arkheia qui a consacré un numéro intitulé à "Manuel Azaña et la France" (2007).
Preceded by
Juan Bautista Aznar Cabañas
President of the Government
Succeeded by
Alejandro Lerroux
Preceded by
Manuel Portela Valladares
President of the Government
Succeeded by
Santiago Casares Quiroga
Preceded by
Niceto Alcalá-Zamora
COA of the Second Spanish Republic.svg
President of the Republic

Succeeded by
None, Republic overthrown
Preceded by
Niceto Alcalá-Zamora
Spanish Head of State
Succeeded by
Francisco Franco Bahamonde
as dictator


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