SPANISH CIVIL WAR (1936-39)

The Spanish Civil War devastated Spain from1936 to 1939. It began after an attempted coup d’état by a group of Spanish Army generals against the government of the Second Spanish Republic.

Following the military coup, working-class revolutions spread across the country in support of the Republican government, but were all brutally put down by the army.

The war ended with the victory of the “conservative” nationalist forces, the overthrow of the “liberal” Republican government, and the founding of a dictatorship led by General Francisco FRANCO.

The Nationalists received the support of Fascist Italy and Nazi Germany, as well as Portugal. The Soviet Union supported the Republican side.

The war increased international tensions in Europe in the lead-up to World War II, and was largely seen as a proxy war between the Communist Soviet Union and Fascist Italy and Germany. In particular, new tank warfare tactics and the aerial terror bombing of cities were a “preview” of the mass destruction and “total warfare” of the next “world”war.(1939-45)

The previous century was turbulent for Spain. The country had undergone several civil wars and revolts between reformist “liberals” and status quo “conservatives”.

Liberals sought to abolish feudalism and establish a “modern” state.

“Conservatives” sought to maintain traditional “feudal” society, rallying to the cry of “God, Country and King”.

Tensions rose in the 1930s. Radicals became more aggressive, and conservatives turned to paramilitary and vigilante actions.

According to official sources, 330 people were assassinated and 1,511 were wounded in political violence; records show 213 failed assassination attempts, 113 general strikes, and the destruction of 160 religious buildings.

The liberal Second Republic enacted a number of controversial reforms such as the Agrarian Law of 1932, distributing land among poor peasants.

Millions of Spaniards had been living in more or less absolute poverty under the firm control of the aristocratic landowners in a quasi-feudal system.

Spain experienced general strikes and street conflicts, including a miners’ revolt in northern Spain and riots in Madrid.

Liberal reforms created strong opposition from the landowners and the aristocrats.

Liberal anti-clericalist acts of the government infuriated the Church, while military cutbacks and reforms further alienated the military.

Conservatives protested against what they viewed as escalating liberal anti-religious terror, land expropriations, and hasty agricultural reforms, which they considered Bolshevist (radical Marxists) and anarchist.

The war was cast by Republican sympathizers as a struggle between “tyranny and democracy”, and by Nationalist supporters as between Communist and Anarchist “red hordes” and “Christian civilization”.

Nationalists also claimed to bring security and direction to an ungoverned and lawless societies.

Atrocities were committed on both sides of the conflict.

The Spanish Civil War often pitted family members, neighbors, and friends against each other.

Many civilians were killed for their political or religious views by both sides.

An estimated total of 300,000+ people died as a consequence of the war. Out of them probably 120,000+ were civilians executed by either side.