Terrorism and Ethno-nationalism: The Basques in Spain

by Will Stallings


Ethnic identity and national unity have together defined the creation of states throughout the centuries. The two, however, clash for supremacy at all stages of development and their interrelations define the shared history of a state’s people. Through the unique history of the Spanish state, the Basque language and its people were allowed to remain relatively undisturbed and autonomous under successive kingdoms and governments. It remained alone amongst pre-Roman languages, surviving the Roman Empire, al-Andalusia, and the unification of the Spanish crown. However, throughout the 19th and 20th centuries, the gradual reduction of special liberties that the Basques maintained was slowly eroded by war and nationalization. The Spanish Civil War brought a swift end to the freedoms that the Basque people experienced in regards to language and culture, and the backlash against the Francoist regime gave rise to the terrorist organization Euskadi Ta Askatasuna, or ETA, that is discussed in this article. Even after the end of the regime, the ETA continued to agitate the Spanish government for independence, rejecting the autonomy granted and committing terrorist acts in the goal of a Basque state. The years that are discussed are between 1839 and 2018, but the years of the conflict span from 1959 to 2018, which are the years that the ETA were in operation. In this presentation, I am going to argue that terrorism and ethnonationalism were used to both oppress the Basque people under the Franco regime and support the creation of a Basque nation-state through violent action.