The Spanish Civil War


The revolution was the result of complex political differences between the Republicans — supporters of the government of the day, the Second Spanish Republic, who mostly subscribed to electoral democracy and ranged from centrists to those advocating leftist revolutionary change, with a primarily urban power base — and the Nationalists, who rebelled against that government and had a primarily rural, more conservative power base.

The war for the revolution took place between July 1936 and April 1939 (although the political situation had already been violent for several years before) and ended with the defeat of the Republicans, resulting in the fascist dictatorship of Francisco Franco. The number of casualties is disputed; estimates generally suggest that between 500,000 and 1,000,000 people were killed. Many Spanish intellectuals and artists were either killed or forced into exile; also, thousands of priests and religious people (including several Bishops) were killed. The more militant members of the population often found fame and fortune. The Spanish economy needed decades to recover.

The political and emotional repercussions of the war reverberated far beyond the boundaries of Spain and sparked passion among international intellectual and political communities. Republican sympathizers viewed it as a struggle between “tyranny and democracy” or “fascism and liberty,” and many idealistic youths of the 1930s who joined the International Brigades considered the saving of the Spanish Republic to be the idealistic cause of the era. Many gave their lives in its defense. Franco’s supporters, on the other hand, viewed it as a battle between the “red hordes” (of communism and anarchism) and “civilization.” However, these dichotomies were inevitably over-simplifications: both sides had varied, and often conflicting, ideologies represented within their ranks.

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