Basque Country

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Basque Country

Basque Country (băsk, bäsk), Basque Euzkadi, Span. País Vasco, autonomous community, 2,793 sq mi (7,233 sq km), N Spain, S of the Bay of Biscay and bordering on France in the northeast, comprising the provinces of Araba/Álava, Gipuzkoa (Guipúzcoa), and Bizkaia (Vizcaya or Biscay). The region includes the W Pyrenees and is bounded in the southwest by the Ebro River. It is crossed by the Cantabrian Mts. (In a wider sense the name also applies to other territories largely inhabited by Basques: Spanish Navarre and Basses-Pyrénées dept. in France.) Bilbao, capital of Bizkaia prov., is the largest Basque city and one of the chief industrial centers of Spain. Other cities include San Sebastián, capital of Gipuzkoa prov.; Vitoria-Gasteiz, capital of Araba/Álava prov.; and historic Guernica. Although Basque was recognized as the official language of the region in 1978, most Basques speak French or Spanish. In the densely populated coastal provinces of Bizkaia and Gipuzkoa the chief occupations are mining of iron, lead, copper, and zinc and metalworking, shipbuilding, and fishing. Araba/Álava is primarily agricultural; corn and sugar beets are grown, and wine and apple cider are made. Tourism is also important. Traditional Basque farming culture has given way to industrial development and emigration to France and the Americas.

For the history of the three provinces up to 1936, see Basques. Shortly after the outbreak of civil war in 1936 the Spanish government granted the three provinces autonomy. The Basque nationalist leader, José Antonio de Aguirre, was elected president of the autonomous government, but a large part of its territory was soon in insurgent hands. The fighting was over by Sept., 1937, and the new Franco regime abolished Basque autonomy. Basque nationalism remained strong, however, and the region achieved autonomy again in 1979, electing its first parliament the following year. In its campaign for Basque self-determination, the militant Basque Homeland and Freedom (Euzkadi Ta Azkatasuna; ETA) mounted a terrorist campaign in which more than 850 people died; political parties linked to the ETA were repeatedly banned. A 1998–99 cease-fire by the ETA ended without a negotiated settlement. The regional government has sought even greater autonomy through political means. A plan for “free association” with Spain was passed by the region's parliament in 2004, but the plan was not approved by the Spanish Cortes. In Mar., 2006, the ETA announced a “permanent” cease-fire, and called for negotiations; the Spanish government agreed to talks three months later. A bombing in Dec., 2006, however, ended the chance for talks, and in June, 2007, the ETA ended its cease-fire. In Oct., 2007, the entire leadership of Batasuna, a party linked to the ETA, was arrested. In May, 2009, a regional government led by the Socialists took office; it was the first time since autonomy was restored that Basque Nationalists had not led the government. The ETA, under pressure from Basque separatist parties, announced a new truce in 2010, and then in 2011 said it had ended its armed campaign; it turned over arms stockpiles in 2017 and said it had disbanded in 2018. The Basque Nationalists won a plurality in the 2012 and 2016 regional elections.

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Basque Country


(Vascongadas; Vasconia; Euzkadi in Basque), a historic national district in northern Spain on the coast of the Bay of Biscay. It was an autonomous region in Spain in 1936–37. Area, 7,260 sq km. Population, 1,834,500 in 1969, most of whom are Basques. It includes the provinces of Vizcaya, Guipúzcoa, and Álava. The chief city and port is Bilbao. The Basque country occupies the lower eastern portion of the Cantabrian Mountains (elevation to 1,475 m) and the coastal hills rising above the Bay of Biscay. The climate is temperate maritime. The forests consist of broad-leaved trees (beech, oak, chestnut).

The Basque country is a major heavy industry region, which accounts for almost one-sixth of the gross value of output of the manufacturing industry in Spain. Despite depleted deposits and diminishing yields, the Basque country (province of Vizcaya) produces more than one-fourth of the total iron ore output in Spain (1.7 million tons in 1963). Lead and zinc ore deposits are also exploited (in the province of Guipúzcoa and, to some extent, in Vizcaya). The Basque country provides only one-fifth of its own electric power requirements—that is, 729 million kilowatt-hours, 41.5 percent of which is supplied by a thermal electric power plant (1966). The chief manufacturing industries are metallurgy (17.5 percent of the total work force and 40 percent of the gross value of output of the manufacturing industry of the region) and metalworking and machine-building (55 percent of the total work force and 30 percent of the gross value of output). The Basque country accounts for more than one-fourth of the total production of cast iron and more than one-third of the production of steel and rolled metal in Spain. Metallurgical production is concentrated in the Bilbao area; steel foundries and rolling mills are also located in the provinces of Guipúzcoa and Álava. Shipbuilding (approximately one-third of all dockyards in the country, including the two largest shipyards in Bilbao), the machine tool industry, the production of railroad equipment, electrical equipment, hoists, weapons, and so forth are well-developed. Bilbao and San Sebastián are the principal machine-building centers. Other industries include chemicals (production of acids and fertilizers, plastics, coke by-products), paper (approximately one-fourth of the total output in Spain), cement, and food. The agricultural specialty of the maritime provinces is the raising of meat and dairy livestock; farming is the principal activity of the province of Álava. Viticulture and wine making are carried on in all areas. The fishing industry is centered at the port of Pasajes. Seaside health resorts are concentrated mainly in the area around San Sebastián.


Geografía de España, vol. 2. Barcelona, [1955].


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.