1936-1939- Spanish Civil War
The Spanish civil war started due to tensions that arose 5 years earlier when, after losing a vote to maintain Spain’s Monarchy in 1931, King Alfonso XIII withdrew from the political scene and essentially left the throne of Spain open to a new form of rule. A new Second Republic was established and ruled for two years. The constitution was reformed under this transitional government and citizens were given increased rights and freedoms. While this pleased several regions, there were groups, particularly nationalists that did not agree with these changes. As these new reforms did not play out to Spaniards predictions, friction increased between Nationalist and Conservative forces. Organized by Francisco Franco, an activist group of “right wing military officers” began a revolution in July 1936 in an attempt to overthrow Spain’s current republican government (History.com). Franco encouraged other military leaders to join the revolution and with their help established a strong base in Morocco. Now controlling a port right on the coast, Franco was able to enlist the help of the Army of Africa. A few cities were able to stamp out the revolutionaries before they were able to gain much control, but Franco’s control was spreading. He had little difficulty capturing the majorly conservative cities, but some regions such as Bilbao and Madrid clung to the independence afforded to them by the Second Republic and fought against Franco’s forces. Both sides spent time trying to secure territories throughout Spain in order to gain strategic locations and support for their side. Propaganda also came in to play as this was a way for Spaniards to tell the rest of the world what was happening in their country. Supported by the fascist powers of Italy and Germany, the nationalist had better access to effective aid such as military weaponry. They were also more strategic than the Republicans who were aided by the USSR, the US and a number of European democracies. Franco pulled together his various groups of nationalist and supporters under the Spanish fascist party known as “Falange” (history.com).
Weakened Republican forces were unable to keep up their defense of the region of Catalonia and its fall was a major victory to Nationalists. Eventually Franco defeated the Republican Party for good in 1939 when he was successful in overtaking Madrid. They tried to propose a peace treaty, but Franco would not have it and the Republicans were forced to surrender. This marked the official end of the Spanish Civil War and Franco took over power as the head of the state. Now, citizens who were found to be republican were imprisoned and in some cases executed. An estimated 500,000 fled throughout Europe and around 30,000 children were evacuated in attempts to protect them from worse fates. The war left some areas greatly damaged and Republicans were put to work rebuilding the country through infrastructure reconstruction. Around 200,000 people ultimately died as a result of the war, but there is not a definite record of how many of these deaths occurred after the war was officially over. Franco ruled as a fierce dictator until his death in 1975.