The Basques: Their Struggle for Independence

By Luis Núñez Astrain; Meic Stephens | Go to book overview

Chapter 3

THE GROWTH OF BASQUE
NATIONALISM

Since the beginning of its recorded history, there has always been in the Basque Country a vigorous defence of its national identity against attempts by Madrid and Paris to impose uniformity on it. At times this resistance has taken peaceful, political and cultural forms, and at others the Basques have resorted to armed struggle.

The following may be considered as instances of armed resistance: the defence of the Kingdom of Navarra at the turn of the 15th century, the Carlist Wars of the 19th, the Basque battalions in the Civil War of 1936-39, and the present violent campaign of Euskadi Ta Askatasuna, more generally known by its initials ETA. All these are essentially different from one another, but they have in common a concern for the defence of the customs and sovereignty of the Basque Country.

The defence of Basque political sovereignty really begins in modern times with Sabino Arana Goiri, a native of Vizcaya, who was the first to formulate and express Nationalist aspirations, who devised the Basque flag, and who founded in 1895 the Partido Nacionalista Vasco (The Basque Nationalist Party). The Basque flag, which he invented, consists of a red ground symbolizing the people, the green diagonals of the cross of St. Andrew, representing the traditional Basque laws, and a white cross, the symbol of Christianity. From about 1900 Sabino Arana began referring to the Basque Country as Euzkadi, a neologism composed of the root euzko, meaning Basque, and the suffix di, which implies the whole or the collectivity. He applied the name Euzkadi (nowadays we write it as Euskadi) to the totality of the seven Basque provinces.

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