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Euskal Herria, the land of the Basque People, the oldest nation in Europe, has maintained its language, culture and traditions almost intact until the XXI century despite constant pressure from the French and Spanish states. This has happened thanks to one of the most interesting and important socio-political movements of the continent.

  • Basque Country (Euskal Herria in Basque)
  • Languages
    • Basque (900.000)
    • Spanish (2.700.000)
    • French (300.000)
  • 3.000.000 inhabitants
  • 8,088 sq miles

Euskal Herria, the land of the Basque language has been inhabited for thousands of years by different tribes including the Vascones, these tribes are mentioned in texts from ancient Greece and Rome.

Precisely the Romans had a great influence in the Basque Country, traces of their passage through these lands are still visible today and cities like Iruñea/Pamplona (the historical capital of the Basques) were founded by the Romans.

The fall of the Roman Empire led to the creation of Visigoth settlements but these never came close to conquer the Basques.

The Kingdom of Pamplona was created in the ninth century and its first king was Iñigo Arista, later renamed into Kingdom of Navarre, would be independent territory until the sixteenth century.

The Duke of Alba following the orders of King Ferdinand the Catholic conquer the Kingdom of Navarre between 1512 to 1524, there were major battles and pockets of resistance to this invasion but eventually the kingdom of Navarre would be reduced to the northern territories.

The southern provinces would maintain the “fueros” (a native a set of rules) but this were finally abolished in 1876.

The origins of modern nationalism goes back to the nineteenth century, after the abolition of the “fueros” and the industrial revolution organizations as the Basque Nationalist Party (1895) or Euskaltzindia, the Basque language academy founded in 1918 arises.

In 1930 ANV is founded, a nationalist left-wing party contrary the bourgeois and Catholic ideas of the PNV.

The Spanish Civil War and the subsequent Franco dictatorship had terrible consequences for the history of the Basque Country, bombardments, deaths, exiles, prisoners, loos of all national and social rights, repression ….

It was in this context of dictatorship and brutal repression where a new generation of young people created ETA in 1959, ETA agglutinated the independence and socialist ideas around the concept of the Basque working people and pledged to use all kinds of methods on the struggle for the right of self-determination of the Basque Country, among them the armed struggle.

During the last years of Francos dictatorship the Basque Country lived through turbulent years of social unrest, demands for national and social rights took to the streets, the terrible repression that followed would leave dead on the streets of Euskal Herria and prisons will continue to fill with Basque political prisoners.

In 1978, the Spanish constitution was approved, this defends the unbreakable unity of Spain and appoints the army as guarantor, the majority of Basque society did not approve this constitution.

A year later a new referendum was held to approve an autonomous status for the provinces of Araba, Bizkaia and Gipuzkoa, the Basque pro independence left positioned itself against the new status because divided the southern provinces leaving Navarre apart and did not recognize the right to self-determination of the Basque people, the text was finally approved with 53 % of the vote.

The new status led to the creation of an autonomous government with limited powers, today the majority of Basque people believe this model to be exhausted and that a new framework is needed.

Herri Batasuna, a pro-independence left wing coalition was created and would play an important role in Basque politics.

Torture will be a constant in police stations, and in some cases such as the one of Joseba Arregui will end with the life of Basque militants.

The popular struggle would put an end the nuclear power plant project in Lemoiz.

Groups like the GAL will start a dirty war campaign.

Hundreds of young people would join the movement of insubordination by refusing to serve in the Spanish army.

The Basque Country will also live a socio-cultural explosion, the so-called Basque radical rock was born, and self-managed projects as community radio stations or Gaztetxes (youth squats) will be created all around the country.

During all these years the Basque Country has seen three failed negotiations processes in 1989, 1999-2000 and 2006-2007.

In 2008 the pro independence left would begin a process of internal debate that would lead to the declaration of Zutik Euskal Herrria, a series of events will follow, as the ceasefire declaration by ETA on the 5th of September 2010.

Currently the pro independence left has a political party, Sortu and is integrated into the EH BILDU coalition, which has become a major force in the Basque electoral landscape (currently second force in the Basque parliament and first in number of councilors).

 

The Euskara language is the language of the Basques, is not an Indo-European language and its origins are clear, it is considered an isolate language.
It has different dialects and is spoken throughout the Basque territory although the percentages vary depending on the area, although it is often said that a third of the population speaks the Basque language.

Mythology is also an important part of Basque culture, the goddess Mari is the central character of Basque mythology.

These beliefs have survived to this day in the form of stories or legends, and in some rural areas rituals from the ancient religion of the Basques are still performed.

Traditional sports ( Herri Kirolak ) that have their origins in work activities in rural areas are also essential to understand the Basque culture, perhaps the most famous sport is handball.
Removal of stone or aizkolaris are also very popular among the Basques and are spectacular to the eyes of the visitor.

Another important part of Basque culture is the bertsolaritza, an art of improvisational singing in Basque part of every celebration and festival in the Basque Country.

In 2013 more than 13,000 people attended the finals of the National Bertso Championship in Barakaldo.