The Spanish Civil War

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Background

In the 1930's, Spain was a completely divided country that was divided by right wing Nationalist and left wing Republican parties. 

  • The Nationalists were made up of Monarchists, land owners, employers, the Roman Catholic Church and the army.
  • The Republicans were made up of workers, the trade unions, peasants and socialists

Economically, the country had been deepy hit by the Great Depression after 'The Wall Street Crash'. Partly due to this turmoil, in 1929 the military dictatorship collapsed. In 1931 the King abdicated after the Republicans came to Power.

This was followed by a period where the two political parties had periods in power as the elected government. As the country was so unstable and divided, the army rebelled and forcibly removed the the Republicans from the power. Civil War ensued. 

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The Importance of Spain in Europe

If Spain fell to the Nationalists, France would be surrounded by Fascist powers (Germany and Italy). If France was invaded by Fascist nations, the alliances between other anti-Fascist nations would be weakened. In effect, there would be one less nation to resist Fascist plans to expand their borders - one less army to stand up to them.

Spain also had strategic naval bases on the Mediterranean Sea and Atlantic Ocean that could be used by the Fascists to control shipping and for setting up submarine bases. These could be used to put military and economic pressure on other European nations. 

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International Intervention

The Fascist Powers: Hitler and Mussolini (Italy's Fascist Leader) both sent thousands of troops and weapons to Spain to aid the nationalist forces. - They both had similar aims and a common desire to see Spain fall to the right-wing Nationalists.

As Fascist allies, it was in both Germany's and Italy's interest to fight the spread of Communism so they want Spain to be right-wing Nationalist - it could be an important ally to the two countries that cound end up in future conflict.

The Democracies: France and Britain were in an awkward situation regarding Spain. They did not want the world to fall to the Nationalists, as this would strengthen the power of the Fascist alliance of Italy and Germany. Communism was a great threat to world peace.

The French and British had a mutual policy and set up a non-intervention committee that effectively blocked internation aid reaching Spain. They could not however stop Germany and Italy forces and supplies to the Nationalists. The result of this was that the Republicans had to solely rely on charity and benevolence of Stalin's Russia. 

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International Intervention (2)

The Souviet Union: The USSR sent weapons and supplies to aid the Republicans in their struggle against the forces of Fascism, but it was never as committed to the conflict as either Germany or Italy. The Russian leader, Stalin, sold only enough supplies to the Republicans to keep them fighting. Stalin was content that Germany was being kept busy with Spain rather than concentrating its efforts in eastern Europe.

The Internation Brigades: The fight against Fascism drew young men and women from all over Europe and the USA to Spain. Fighting for the Republicans, these idealists, socialists and communists, formed a rag-tag army determined to uphold democracy against the right-wing threat. At any one time up to 15,000 people were fighting in the International Brigades.

The Results: the better organised and better equipped nationalist forces won the war after Madrid was captured in 1939. Hitler's position in Europe was now strengthened since he had another potential ally in Spain - General Franco. Participation and co-operation in the Spanish war strengthened the bond between Italy and Germany. As a result, the Rome-Berlin Axis was formed. Italy and Germany were now firm allies. By ignoring the non-intervation committee and its chief architects, France and Britain, Hitler had shown his strength in European affairs. 

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Spanish life after the Civil War.

The general and dictator Francisco Franco (1892-1975) ruled over Spain from 1939 until his death. He rose to power during the bloody Spanish Civil War when, with the help of Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy, his Nationalist forces overthrew the democratically elected Second Republic. Adopting the title of “El Caudillo” (The Leader), Franco persecuted political opponents, repressed the culture and language of Spain’s Basque and Catalan regions, censured the media and otherwise exerted absolute control over the country. Some of these restrictions gradually eased as Franco got older, and upon his death the country transitioned to democracy. 

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