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Asturias (ästo͞oˈryäs), autonomous community and coextensive prov., 4,093 sq mi (10,602 sq km), and former kingdom, NW Spain, S of the Bay of Biscay and E of Galicia. It was established as an autonomous community in 1981. Drained by numerous swift rivers, it is crossed by the well-forested Cantabrian Mts. High rainfall and cool temperatures have favored a large dairy industry. Along the coast, apple orchards are the source of a world-famous cider, and corn is a major crop. Oviedo is the capital. Gijón is the chief port, and fishing is a major occupation. Coal and iron mining and steel manufacturing, however, were until recently the most important economic sectors, but both have suffered declines, with mining in an especially sharp decline. Tourism is increasing in importance.
The name Asturias is derived from an Iberian people that lived there before the Roman conquest (2d cent. B.C.). When the Moors overran the peninsula, Christian nobles fled into the Asturian mountains. They created the first Christian kingdom of Spain (see Pelayo) and defended themselves at the battle of Covadonga. From Asturias came the Christian reconquest of Spain, as the successors of King Alfonso I extended their control over Asturias, Galicia, León, and parts of Castile, Navarre, and Bizkaia (Vizcaya). Astorga was one of the chief cities of the Asturian kingdom in the 9th cent.
In the 10th cent. the capital was moved from Oviedo to León, and the kingdom of Asturias became the kingdom of Asturias and León, which three centuries later was united with the kingdom of Castile. In 1388, John I of León and Castile made his son prince of the Asturias—the title borne from that time on by the heir to the throne. The Asturians are noted for their stubborn courage and independence—traits shown in the warfare against Napoleon, in various uprisings against the Spanish government, in the civil war of 1936–39, and in the general strike of 1962.
historical region in northern Spain, on the coast of the Bay of Biscay. Administratively, it forms the province of Oviedo. Its area is 10,600 sq km; in 1970 its population was 1,045,600. Its main city is Oviedo. The southern part of Asturias is located within the boundaries of the watershed ridges of the Cantabrian Mountains (elevations to 2,400–2,500 m) and its northern slopes. There is a very hilly littoral plain in the north. The climate is moderate and damp (so-called damp Spain). There are short, deep mountain rivers (Navia, Nalón, and others). The region has broad-leaved forests.
Asturias is an industrial and agrarian region; mining and other branches of heavy industry are developed. About 50 percent of all those employed in Asturias are employed in mining. About 70 percent of the total Spanish output of coal (7–8 million tons a year) is concentrated in Asturias. Mercury, iron and manganic ores, copper, and tungsten are also extracted. Almost 10 percent of the national output of electric power (2.7 billion kilowatt-hours in 1965) is produced in Asturias. The main branch of manufacturing is ferrous metallurgy, which provides almost 50 percent of the national output of cast iron and steel and 33 percent of the output of rolled iron. The main plants are located in the cities of Aviles (the largest complex in the country), Gijón, La Felguera, and Mieres. Nonferrous metallurgy became important in the 1950’s; Aviles is the main center. Asturias accounts for about 33 percent of the national production of aluminum (1965); there are zinc and copper smelting plants. The region’s industries include chemicals (production of acids, fertilizers, and explosives) and shipbuilding (Gijón). Equipment for the mining and metallurgy industries is produced at La Felguera and Oviedo; weapons are produced at Oviedo and Trubia. Other industries are cement, glass, food (including fish canning), and woodworking.
Asturias’ agricultural specialty is raising dairy and meat livestock. Meadows and pasture—for the most part, natural—make up 71 percent of all the land employed for agriculture (1964). Corn, beans, potatoes, and feed crops are produced. There is orchard cultivation of the Central European variety (chiefly apple trees) and a fishing industry. The main fishing port is Avilés; Gijón is the coal port.
In antiquity, Asturias was the region where the Asturians settled. After protracted resistance to the Roman conquest (first century B.C.), Asturias, along with part of Galicia, was set off as a separate province in 216. The Reconquista was initiated in Asturias. In 718, after Pelayo’s victory over the Arabs (the battle at Covadonga), Asturias became an independent kingdom (with its capital at Oviedo). From 924, the expanded kingdom was known by the name of the kingdom’s new capital, León; in 1230 it was united with Castile. From 1808–1813, Asturias was the stronghold of armed resistance to the French occupiers (on May 24, 1808, the Asturian junta declared war on Napoleonic France). Asturias became one of the leading industrial regions of Spain as of the 19th century. In 1934 the workers of Asturias started an antifascist armed uprising (October Battles of 1934). From July 1936 to October 1937, they heroically defended Asturias against the fascist forces besieging it. Asturias was one of the main centers of the antifascist partisan movement between 1937 and 1948 and the center of the strike movement during 1962 and 1963.