Location of the Basque Country
|Official language(s)||Basque, Spanish, French|
8,088 sq mi
Even though they are not necessarily synonyms, the concept of a single culturally Basque area spanning various regions and countries has been closely associated since its inception with the politics of Basque nationalism. As such, the region is considered home to the Basque people (Basque: Euskaldunak), their language (Basque: Euskara), culture and traditions. Nevertheless the area is neither linguistically nor culturally homogeneous, and the very Basqueness of parts of it, such as southern Navarre, remains contentious.
The modern claim for the extent of the Basque Country, coined in the nineteenth century, is seven traditional regions. Some Basques refer to the seven regions collectively as Zazpiak Bat, meaning "The Seven [are] One".
The Spanish Basque Country (Spanish: País Vasco y Navarra, Basque: Hegoalde) includes two main regions: the Basque Autonomous Community (capital: Vitoria-Gasteiz) and the Chartered Community of Navarre (capital: Pamplona).
The Chartered Community of Navarre (10,391 km²) is a uniprovincial autonomous community. Its name refers to the medieval charters, the Fueros of Navarre. The Spanish Constitution of 1978 states that Navarre may become a part of the Autonomous Community of the Basque Country if it was so decided by its people and institutions. To date, the results of regional elections have shown a clear rejection of this option. The ruling Navarrese People's Union has repeatedly asked for an amendment to the Constitution to remove this clause.
The French Basque Country (Basque: Iparralde) is the western part of the French département of Pyrénées Atlantiques. In most contemporary sources it covers the arrondissement of Bayonne and the cantons of Mauléon-Licharre and Tardets-Sorholus, but sources disagree on the status of the village of Esquiule. Within these conventions, the area of Northern Basque Country (including the 29 km² of Esquiule) is 2,995 km².
The French Basque Country is traditionally subdivided into three provinces:
However, this summary presentation makes it hard to justify the inclusion of a few communes in the lower Adour region. As emphasized by Jean Goyhenetche, it would be more accurate to depict it as the reunion of five entities: Labourd, Lower Navarre, Soule but also Bayonne and Gramont.
According to some theories, Basques may be the least assimilated remnant of the Paleolithic inhabitants of Western Europe (specifically those of the Franco-Cantabrian region known as Azilian) to the Indo-European migrations. Basque tribes were mentioned by Greek writer Strabo and Roman writer Pliny, including the Vascones, the Aquitani and others. There is considerable evidence to show their Basque ethnicity in Roman times in the form of place-names, Caesar's reference to their customs and physical make-up, the so-called Aquitanian inscriptions recording names of people and gods (approx. 1st century, see Aquitanian language), etc.
Geographically, the Basque Country was inhabited in Roman times by several tribes: the Vascones, the Varduli, the Caristi, the Autrigones, the Berones, the Tarbelli and the Sibulates. Many believe that except for the Berones and Autrigones they were non-Indo-European peoples, the ethnic background of the most westerly tribes is not clear due to lack of information. Some ancient place-names, such as Deba, Butrón, Nervión, Zegama, suggest the presence of non-Basque peoples at some point in protohistory. The ancient tribes are last cited in the 5th century, after which track of them is lost, with only Vascones still being accounted for, while extending far beyond their former boundaries, e.g. in the current lands of Álava and most conspicuously around the Pyrenees and Novempopulania.
The Cantabri, encompassing probably present-day Biscay, Cantabria, Burgos and at least part of Álava and La Rioja, lived to the west of Vascon territory in the Early Middle Ages, but the ethnic nature of this people, often at odds with and finally overcome by the Visigoths, is not certain. The Vascones around Pamplona, after much fighting against Franks and Visigoths, founded the Kingdom of Pamplona (824), inextricably linked to their kinsmen the Banu Qasi. All other tribes in the Iberian Peninsula had been, to a great extent, assimilated by Roman culture and language by the end of the Roman period or early period of the Early Middle Ages (though ethnic Basques extended well east into the lands around the Pyrenees until the 9-11th centuries).
In the Early Middle Ages (up to the 9-10th centuries) the territory between the Ebro and Garonne rivers was known as Vasconia, a blurred ethnic area and polity struggling to fend off the pressure of the Iberian Visigothic kingdom and Muslim rule from the south and the Frankish push from the north. By the turn of the millennium, after Muslim invasions and Frankish expansion under Charlemagne, the territory of Vasconia (to become Gascony) fragmented into different feudal regions, e.g. the viscountcies of Soule and Labourd out of former tribal systems and minor realms (County of Vasconia), while south of the Pyrenees, besides the above Kingdom of Pamplona, Gipuzkoa, Álava and Biscay arose in the current lands of the Southern Basque Country from the 9th century onward.
These westerly territories pledged intermittent allegiance to Navarre in their early stages, but were annexed to the Kingdom of Castile at the end of the 12th century, so depriving the Kingdom of Navarre of direct access to the ocean. In the Late Middle Ages, important families dotting the whole Basque territory came to prominence, often quarreling with each other for power and unleashing the bloody War of the Bands, only stopped by royal intervention and the gradual shift of power from the countryside to the towns by the 16th century. Meanwhile, the viscountcies of Labourd and Soule under English suzerainty were finally annexed to France after the Hundred Years' War at the defeat of Bayonne in 1451.
In Navarre, the civil wars between the Agramontese and the Beaumontese paved the way for the Spanish conquest of the bulk of Navarre from 1512 to 1521. The Navarrese territory north of the Pyrenees remaining out of Spanish rule was formally absorbed by France in 1620. In the decades after the Spanish annexation, the Basque Country suffered attempts at religious, ideological and national homogenization, coming to a head in the 1609-1611 Basque witch trials at either side of the border of the kingdoms.
Nevertheless, the Basque provinces still enjoyed a great deal of self-government until the French Revolution in the Northern Basque Country, when the traditional provinces were reshaped to form the current Pyrénées-Atlantiques department along with Béarn. On the Southern Basque Country, the Charters were upheld up to the civil wars known as the Carlist Wars, when the Basques supported heir apparent Carlos and his descendants to the cry of "God, Fatherland, King" (the Charters finally abolished in 1876). The ensuing centralised status quo bred dissent and frustration in the region, giving rise to Basque nationalism by the end of the 19th century, influenced by European Romantic nationalism.
Since then, attempts were made to find a new framework for self-empowerment. The occasion seemed to have arrived on the proclamation of the 2nd Spanish Republic in 1931, when a draft statute was drawn up for the Southern Basque Country (Statute of Estella), but was discarded in 1932. In 1936 a short-lived statute of autonomy was approved for the Gipuzkoa, Álava and Biscay provinces, but war foiled any progress. After Franco´s dictatorship, a new statute was designed that resulted in the creation of the current Basque Autonomous Community and Navarre, with a limited self-governing status, as settled by the Spanish Constitution. However, a significant part of Basque society is still attempting higher degrees of self-empowerment (see Basque nationalism), sometimes by acts of violence. The French Basque Country, meanwhile, lacks any political or administrative recognition whatsoever, while a large number of regional representatives have lobbied to create a Basque department, to no avail.
The Basque Country has a population of approximately 3 million as of early 2006. The population density, at about 140/km² (360/sq. mile) is above average for both Spain and France, but the distribution of the population is fairly unequal, concentrated around the main cities. A third of the population is concentrated in the Greater Bilbao metropolitan area, while most of the interior of the French Basque Country and some areas of Navarre remain sparsely populated: density culminates at about 500/km² for Biscay but falls to 20/km² in the northern inner provinces of Lower Navarre and Soule.
A significant majority of the population of the Basque country live inside the Basque Autonomous Community (about 2,100,000, or 70% of the population) while about 600,000 live in Navarre (20% of the population) and about 300,000 (roughly 10%) in Northern Basque Country.
José Aranda Aznar writes that 30% of the population in the Basque Country Autonomous Community were born in other regions of Spain and that 40% of the people living in that territory do not have a single Basque parent.
Most of these peoples of Galician and Castilian stock arrived in the Basque Autonomous Community in the late 19th century and throughout the 20th century, as the region became more and more industrialized and prosperous and additional workers were needed to support the economic growth. Descendants of immigrants from other parts of Spain have since been considered Basque for the most part, at least formally.
Over the last 25 years, some 380,000 people have left the Basque Autonomous Community, of which some 230,000 have moved to other parts of Spain. While certainly many of them are people returning to their original homes when starting their retirement, there is also a sizable tract of Basque natives in this group who have moved due to a Basque nationalist political environment (including ETA's killings) which they regard as overtly hostile. These have been quoted to be as high as 10% of the population in the Basque Community.
Various Romani groups existed in the Basque Country and some still exist as ethnic groups. These were grouped together under the generic terms ijituak (Gypsies) and buhameak (Bohemians) by Basque speakers.
In the Middle Ages, many so-called Franks of Occitan language settled along the Way of Saint James in Navarre and Guipuscoa but were eventually assimilated. Navarre also held Jewish and Muslim minorities but these were expelled or forced to assimilate after the Spanish conquest in the 16th century. One of the outstanding members of such minorities was Benjamin of Tudela.
Since the 1980s, as a consequence of its considerable economic prosperity, the Basque Country has received an increasing number of immigrants, mostly from Eastern Europe, North Africa, Latin America, Sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia, and China, settling mostly in the major urban areas.
Currently, the predominant languages in the Spanish Basque Country and French Basque Country are, respectively, Spanish and French. In the historical process of forging themselves as nation-states, both Spanish and French governments have, at times, tried to suppress Basque linguistic identity. The language chosen for public education is the most obvious expression of this phenomenon, something which surely had an effect in the current status of Basque.
Despite being spoken in a relatively small territory, the rugged features of the Basque countryside and the historically low population density resulted in Basque being a historically heavily dialectalised language, which increased the value of both Spanish and French, respectively, as lingua francas. In this regard, the current Batua standard of the Basque language was only introduced by the end of the 20th century, which helped Basque move away from being perceived – even by its own speakers – as a language unfit for educational purposes.
While the French Republics –the epitome of the nation-state– have a long history of attempting the complete cultural absorption of ethnic minority groups —including the French Basques— Spain, in turn, has at most points in its history granted some degree of linguistic, cultural, and political autonomy to its Basques. Basques have been historically overrepresented both in the Spanish Marine and military ever since the time of the Spanish Empire until recently, same as Basque ports have been historically crucial to inland Spain. Until they became progressively undone starting with the Carlist Wars, these historical ties resulted in the generation of a local Basque bourgeoisie, clergy and military men, historically close to the Spanish Monarchy, especially in the Spanish colonization of the Americas. In all, there was a gradual absorption of Spanish language in the Basque-speaking areas of the Spanish Basque Country, a phenomenon initially restricted to the upper urban classes, but progressively reaching the lower classes. Western Biscay, most of Alava and southern Navarre have been Spanish-speaking (or Romance-speaking) for centuries.
But under the regime of Francisco Franco, the government tried to suppress the newly born Basque nationalism, as it had fought on the Republican side of the Spanish Civil War in Gipuzkoa and Biscay. In general, during these years, cultural activity in Basque was limited to folkloric issues and the Roman Catholic Church, while a higher, yet still limited degree of tolerance was granted to Basque culture and language in Álava and Navarre, since both areas mostly supported Francoist troops during the war.
Nowadays, the Basque Country within Spain enjoys an extensive cultural and political autonomy and Basque is an official language along with Spanish. In Spain, it is favoured by a set of language policies sponsored by the Basque regional government which aim at the generalization of its use. It is spoken by approximately a quarter of the total Basque Country, its stronghold being the contiguous area formed by Guipúzcoa, northern Navarre and the Pyrenean French valleys. It is not spoken natively in most of Álava, western Biscay and the southern half of Navarre. Of a total estimation of some 650,000 Basque speakers, approximately 550,000 live in the Spanish Basque country, the rest in the French.
The Basque education system in Spain has three types of schools differentiated by their linguistic teaching models: A, B and D. Model D, with education entirely in Basque, and Spanish as a compulsory subject, is the most widely chosen model by parents. In Navarre there is an additional G model, with education entirely in Spanish.
In Navarre the ruling conservative government of Unión del Pueblo Navarro opposes Basque nationalist attempts to provide education in Basque through all Navarre (which would include areas where it is not traditionally spoken). Basque language teaching in the public education network is therefore limited to the Basque speaking north and central regions. In the central region, Basque teaching in the public education network is fairly limited, and part of the existing demand is served via private schools or ikastolak. Spanish is spoken by the entire population, with few exceptions in remote rural areas.
The situation of the Basque language in the French Basque Country is tenuous,[vague] where monolingual public schooling in French exert great pressure on the Basque language. Basque teaching is mainly in private schools, or ikastolak.
The earliest university in the Basque Country was the University of Oñati, founded in 1540 in Hernani and moved to Oñati in 1548. It lasted in various forms until 1901. In 1868, in order to fulfill the need for college graduates for the thriving industry that was flourishing in the Bilbao area, there was an unsuccessful effort to establish a Basque-Navarrese University. Nonetheless, in 1897 the Bilbao Superior Technical School of Engineering (the first modern faculty of engineering in Spain), was founded as a way of providing engineers for the local industry; this faculty is nowadays part of the University of the Basque Country. Almost at the same time, the urgent need for business graduates led to the establishment of the Commercial Faculty by the Jesuits, and, some time thereafter, the Jesuits expanded their university by formally founding the University of Deusto in Deusto (now a Bilbao neighbourhood) by the turn of the century, a private university where the Comercial Faculty was integrated. The first modern Basque public university was the Basque University, founded November 18, 1936 by the autonomous Basque government in Bilbao in the midst of the Spanish Civil War. It operated only briefly before the government's defeat by Francisco Franco's fascist forces.
Several faculties, originally teaching only in Spanish, were founded in the Basque region in the Francisco Franco era. A public faculty of economics was founded in Sarriko (Bilbao) in the 1960s, and a public faculty of medicine was also founded during that decade, thus expanding the college graduate schools. However, all the public faculties in the Basque Country were organized as local branches of Spanish universities. For instance, the School of Engineering was treated as a part of the University of Valladolid, some 400 km away from Bilbao. Indeed, the lack of a central governing body for the public faculties of the Bilbao area, namely those of Economics in Sarriko, Medicine in Basurto, Engineering in Bilbao and the School of Mining in Barakaldo (est. 1910s), was seen as a gross handicap for the cultural and economic development of the area, and so, during the late 1960s many formal requests were made to the Francoist government in order to establish a Basque public university that would unite all the public faculties already founded in Bilbao. As a result of that, the University of Bilbao was founded in the early 1970s, which has now evolved into the University of the Basque Country with campuses in the western three provinces.
There are numerous other significant Basque cultural institutions in the Basque Country and elsewhere. Most Basque organizations in the United States are affiliated with NABO (North American Basque Organizations, Inc.).
Since the 19th century, Basque nationalism (abertzaleak) has demanded the right of some kind of self-determination, which is supported by 60% of Basques in the Basque Autonomous Community, and independence, which would be supported in this same territory, according to a poll, by approximately 36% of them. This desire for independence is particularly stressed among leftist Basque nationalists. The right of self-determination was asserted by the Basque Parliament in 1990, 2002 and 2006. According to Article 2 of the Spanish Constitution of 1978, Article 2, "The Constitution is based on the indissoluble unity of the Spanish nation, the common and indivisible homeland of all Spaniards". Therefore, since this precludes a declaration of independence of Spanish regions, some Basques abstained and some even voted against it in the referendum of December 6 of that year. However, it was approved by a clear majority at the Spanish level, and simple majority at Navarrese and Basque levels. The derived autonomous regimes for the BAC was approved in later referendum but the autonomy of Navarre (amejoramiento del fuero: "improvement of the charter") was never subject to referendum but just approved by the Navarrese Cortes (parliament). There are not many sources on the issue for the French Basque country.
Euskadi Ta Askatasuna (ETA) is recognized as a terrorist organization by the European Union and the United States. In 2006, ETA declared a "permanent ceasefire" after nearly 40 years fighting for independence from Spanish and French authorities and the annexation of all Basque lands to a united, socialist state. In June 2007, ETA officially ended the "permanent ceasefire". Since then it has committed several bomb attacks and assassinations. In September 2010 ETA again announced a permanent cessation of violence.
The main sport in the Basque Country, as in the rest of Spain and much of France, is football. The top teams Athletic Bilbao, Real Sociedad, Osasuna, Eibar, Alavés, Real Unión and Barakaldo play in the Spanish national league. Athletic Bilbao has a policy of hiring only Basque players. This policy has been applied with variable flexibility. Real Sociedad used to practice the same policy, until they signed Irish striker John Aldridge in the late 80's.
Cycling as a sport is popular in the Basque Country. Cycling races often see Basque fans lining the roads wearing orange, the corporate color of the telco Euskaltel, coining the term the orange crush during the Pyrenees stages of the Tour de France. Miguel Indurain was born in Atarrabia (Navarre), and he won 5 French Tours.
Two professional, UCI ProTeam cycling teams hail from the Basque Country Euskaltel-Euskadi and Movistar Team. The Caisse d'Épargne cycling team traces its history back to the Banesto team that included Indurain. The Euskaltel-Euskadi cycling team is commercially sponsored, but also works as an unofficial Basque national team and is partly funded by the Basque Government. Its riders are either Basque, or at least have grown up in the Basque cycling culture, present and former members of the team have been strong contenders in the Tour de France held annually in July and Vuelta a España held in September. Team leaders have included riders such as Iban Mayo, Haimar Zubeldia, Samuel Sánchez and David Etxebarria.
In the north, rugby union is another popular sport with the Basque community. In Biarritz, the local club is Biarritz Olympique Pays Basque, the name referencing the club's Basque heritage. They wear red, white and green, and supporters wave the Basque flag in the stands. They also recognize 16 other clubs as "Basque-friendly". A number of 'home' matches played by Biarritz Olympique in the Heineken Cup have taken place at Estadio Anoeta in San Sebastian.
The most famous Biarritz & Basque player is the legendary French fullback Serge Blanco, whose mother was Basque. Michel Celaya captained both Biarritz and France. French number 8 Imanol Harinordoquy is also a Biarritz & Basque player. Aviron Bayonnais is another top-flight rugby union club with Basque ties.
Before the banning of rugby league in 1940, a Basque club was the last to celebrate winning the cup.
Pelota (jai alai) is the Basque version of the European game family that includes real tennis and squash. Basque players, playing for either the Spanish or the French teams, dominate international competitions.
Mountaineering is popular due to the mountainous terrain of the Basque Country and its proximity to the Pyrenees. Alberto Iñurrategi Iriarte (Aretxabaleta, 1968) is one of the most respected mountaineers in the world. The Basque mountaineer has managed to crown the 14 eight thousands in the world, all of them "Alpine" style, i.e. without oxygen and few camps and without Sherpas. This is something only 8 people on the planet have achieved. Juanito Oiarzabal (from Vitoria) holds the world record for number of climbs above 8,000 meters, with 21. There are also great sport climbers in the Basque Country, such as, Josune Bereziartu, the only female to have climbed the grade 9a/5.14d; and Iker Pou, one of the most versatile climbers in the world. Patxi Usobiaga, proclaimed world champion in Xining, China, 2009. Edurne Pasaban is already the first woman climbing the fourteen eight-thousanders.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to: Basque Country|
Dictionary and translator for handheld
New : sensagent is now available on your handheld
A windows (pop-into) of information (full-content of Sensagent) triggered by double-clicking any word on your webpage. Give contextual explanation and translation from your sites !
With a SensagentBox, visitors to your site can access reliable information on over 5 million pages provided by Sensagent.com. Choose the design that fits your site.
Improve your site content
Add new content to your site from Sensagent by XML.
Crawl products or adds
Get XML access to reach the best products.
Index images and define metadata
Get XML access to fix the meaning of your metadata.
Please, email us to describe your idea.
Lettris is a curious tetris-clone game where all the bricks have the same square shape but different content. Each square carries a letter. To make squares disappear and save space for other squares you have to assemble English words (left, right, up, down) from the falling squares.
Boggle gives you 3 minutes to find as many words (3 letters or more) as you can in a grid of 16 letters. You can also try the grid of 16 letters. Letters must be adjacent and longer words score better. See if you can get into the grid Hall of Fame !
Change the target language to find translations.
Tips: browse the semantic fields (see From ideas to words) in two languages to learn more.