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Belgium (bĕlˈjəm), Du. België, Fr. La Belgique, officially Kingdom of Belgium, constitutional kingdom (2020 est. pop. 11,560,000), 11,781 sq mi (30,513 sq km), NW Europe. Belgium is bordered on the N by the Netherlands and the North Sea, on the E by Germany and the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg, and on the W and SW by France. Brussels is the capital and Antwerp is the chief commercial center and one of the world's major ports. Other important cities include Ghent and Liège.

Land and People

The terrain, low lying except in the Ardennes Mts. in the south, It is crossed by the Meuse and Scheldt rivers and by a network of canals. Belgium is one of the most densely populated nations in Europe. Historically, the country comprises two ethnic and cultural regions, generally called Flanders and Wallonia—Flanders embracing the northern provinces of East Flanders, West Flanders, Antwerp, Limburg, and part of Brabant, and Wallonia comprising the remainder of Brabant, Hainaut, Liège, Luxembourg, and Namur. The dividing line runs roughly east-west just S of Brussels.

Dutch is the official language in Flanders, while French is official in the south. The French-speaking people are commonly called Walloons, although the term once referred chiefly to those people in the area of the city of Liège who spoke Walloon, a French dialect. Brussels is bilingual, and German is spoken in a small section of Liège province. About three quarters of the population is Roman Catholic; the balance is largely Protestant, although there are Islamic and Jewish minorities in the cities. Many cities (most notably Bruges, Ghent, and Louvain) have preserved their medieval architecture and art, which attract thousands of tourists annually. The North Sea coast is popular in the summer.


Belgium has much fertile and well-watered soil, although agriculture engages only a small percentage of the workforce. The chief crops are wheat, oats, rye, barley, flax, sugar beets, vegetables, fruits, and tobacco. Cattle and pig raising as well as dairying (especially in Flanders) are also important.

Belgium's economy is reliant on services, transportation, trade, and industry. Coal mining, which has declined in recent years, and the production of steel and chemicals are concentrated in the Sambre and Meuse valleys, in the Borinage around Mons, Charleroi, Namur, and Liège, and in the Campine coal basin. Liège is a major steel center. A well-established metal-products industry manufactures bridges, heavy machinery, industrial and surgical equipment, motor vehicles, rolling stock, machine tools, and munitions. Chemical products include fertilizers, dyes, pharmaceuticals, and plastics; the petrochemical industry is concentrated near the oil refineries of Antwerp.

Textile production, which began in the Middle Ages, includes cotton, linen, wool, and synthetic fibers; carpets and blankets are important manufactures. Ghent, Kortrijk, Tournai, and Verviers are all textile centers; Mechelen, Bruges, and Brussels are celebrated for their lace. Other industries include diamond cutting (Antwerp is an important diamond center), glass production, and the processing of leather and wood. Over 75% of Belgium's electricity is produced by nuclear power. Belgian industry is heavily dependent upon imports for its raw materials. Most iron comes from the Lorraine basin in France, while nonferrous metal products made from imported raw materials include zinc, copper, lead, and tin.

Industrial centers are linked with each other and with the main ports of Antwerp and Ghent by the Meuse and Scheldt rivers and their tributaries, by a network of canals (notably the Albert Canal), and by a dense railroad system. Belgium exports machinery and equipment, chemicals, diamonds, metals and metal products, and processed foods. The main imports are machinery, chemicals, raw diamonds, pharmaceuticals, foodstuffs, transportation equipment, and petroleum products. About 75% of trade is with other European Union countries, chiefly Germany, the Netherlands, France, and Great Britain.


Belgium is governed under the constitution of 1831 as amended; revisions in 1993 established a federal state. Its government is a federal parliamentary democracy with a constitutional monarchy. The head of state is the hereditary monarch; the head of government is the prime minister. There is a bicameral Parliament with a 71-member Senate and a 150-seat Chamber of Representatives (or Chamber of Deputies). Political divisions fall into three main groups—Christian Democrats, Liberals, and Socialists—each of these again divided into political parties constituted along linguistic lines. The country is divided into two regions (Flanders and Wallonia) that each comprise five provinces and the capital region; there are also three linguistic communities (Dutch, French, and German).


The Beginnings of Belgium

Belgium takes its name from the Belgae, a people of ancient Gaul. The Roman province of Belgica was much larger than modern Belgium. There the Franks first appeared in the 3d cent. A.D. The Carolingian dynasty had its roots at Herstal, in Belgium. After the divisions (9th cent.) of Charlemagne's empire, Belgium became part of Lotharingia and later of the duchy of Lower Lorraine, which occupied all but the western part of the Low Countries.

In the 12th cent., Lower Lorraine disintegrated; the duchies of Brabant (see Brabant, duchy of) and Luxembourg and the bishopric of Liège took its place. The histories of these feudal states and of Flanders and Hainaut constitute the medieval history of Belgium. The salient development was the rise of the cities (e.g., Ghent, Bruges, and Ypres) to virtual independence and economic prosperity through their wool industry and trade. In the 15th cent., all of present Belgium passed to the dukes of Burgundy, who strove to curtail local liberties. Simultaneously the wool industry declined, mainly because of English competition.

With the death (1482) of Mary of Burgundy a period of foreign domination began (see Netherlands, Austrian and Spanish for the period from 1477 to 1794). Belgium was occupied by the French during the French Revolutionary Wars and transferred from Austria to France by the Treaty of Campo Formio (1797). After the defeat (1815) of Napoleon at Waterloo, just S of Brussels, Belgium was given to the newly formed kingdom of the Netherlands (the decision was made at the Congress of Vienna; see Vienna, Congress of).

Under King William I of the Netherlands, the Belgians resented measures that discriminated against them in favor of the Dutch, especially in the areas of language and religion. A rebellion broke out in Brussels in 1830, and Belgian independence was declared. William I invaded Belgium but withdrew when France and England intervened in 1832.

The Kingdom of Belgium

Belgian independence was approved by the European powers at the London Conference of 1830–31 (see under London Conference). In 1831, Prince Leopold of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha was chosen king of the Belgians and became Leopold I. A final Dutch-Belgian peace treaty was signed in 1839, and the “perpetual neutrality” of Belgium was guaranteed by the major powers, including Prussia, at the London Conference of 1838–39.

The new country was among the first in Europe to industrialize and soon led the continent in the development of railways, coal mining, and engineering. Under the rule (1865–1909) of Leopold II rapid industrialization and colonial expansion, notably in the Congo, were accompanied by labor unrest and by the rise of the Socialist party in opposition to the reactionary and clerical groups. Social conditions improved under Albert I (reigned 1909–34), who also granted universal and equal male suffrage (the vote was extended to women in 1948).

After the outbreak of World War I (Aug., 1914), Germany invaded Belgium in order to attack France by the easiest route; this flagrant violation of Belgian neutrality shocked much of the world and brought Great Britain, as one of Belgium's guarantors, into the war. The unexpected resistance of the Belgians against such heavy odds won widespread admiration, and German atrocities in Belgium, publicized by the Allies, played an important part in consolidating U.S. opinion against Germany. All of Belgium except a small strip in West Flanders, which served as a battle front throughout the war (see, e.g., Ypres), was conquered by Oct. 10, 1914, and the people suffered under a harsh occupation regime. The Belgian army, under the personal leadership of Albert I, fought in West Flanders and France throughout the war. Under the Treaty of Versailles after the war, Belgium received the strategically important posts of Eupen, Malmédy, and Moresnet, and a mandate over the northwestern corner of former German East Africa.

In World War II, Germany, which in 1937 had guaranteed Belgian neutrality, attacked and occupied Belgium in May, 1940. King Leopold III (reigned 1934–51) surrendered unconditionally on May 28, but the Belgian cabinet, in exile at London, continued to oppose Germany. German occupation inaugurated a reign of terror. Liberation by British and American troops, aided by a Belgian underground army, came in Sept., 1944. The unsuccessful German counteroffensive of Dec., 1944–Jan., 1945 (see Battle of the Bulge), caused much destruction, adding to damage previously wrought by invasion and by Allied air raids.

Postwar Belgium

Belgium's industrial plant had remained relatively intact despite the war, enabling the economy to recover far more rapidly than those of the other nations of Western Europe. The immediate political issue was the return of Leopold III, who was barred from Belgium until 1950. Popular discontent led to his abdication (1951) in favor of his eldest son, Baudouin. An economic union between Belgium and Luxembourg, formed in 1921 (the first of its kind in 20th-century Europe), was superseded in 1958 by the Benelux Economic Union, which also includes the Netherlands. An early proponent of a united Europe and a firm advocate of collective security, Belgium is the seat of many important European Union functions and the headquarters of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).

In 1960 the Belgian Congo was given its independence, with subsequent economic and political turmoil in Belgium, especially after the eruption of violence in the Congo. Belgian forces helped the French in suppressing an indigenous rebellion in Congo (Kinshasa) in 1978. Long-standing tensions between the Dutch- and French-speaking elements flared during the 1960s, toppling several governments and making it increasingly difficult to form new ones. Sweeping constitutional reform begun in the early 1970s created three partially autonomous regions (Flanders, Wallonia, and Brussels) and three politically recognized ethnic communities (French, Flemish [Dutch speakers], and German), but ethnic discord continued throughout the 1980s. New reforms passed in 1993 gave the regions additional autonomy and created a federal state.

In Dec., 1981, the Christian Democrat–Liberal coalition, under the leadership of Wilfried Martens, came into power in Belgium. His prime ministership saw unpopular economic reforms, and interparty strife toppled the government in 1987. A year later, however, a new coalition took control of the government, again led by Martens, which was composed of Socialist and Christian Democratic parties and the Flemish Volksunie (nationalist) party. In 1992 a center-left coalition government of Socialists and Christian Democrats led by Prime Minister Jean-Luc Dehaene of the Flemish Christian People's party came to power.

King Baudouin died in 1993 and was succeeded by his brother, Albert II. Following a food scare involving dioxins found in animal and dairy products, Dehaene's government fell in 1999, and Guy Verhofstadt became the new prime minister, leading a coalition of Liberals, Socialists, and Greens. Elections in 2003 resulted in a victory for the Liberals and Socialists, but the Greens lost most of their seats and were excluded from Verhofstadt's new government. In July, 2004, the Flemish Bloc, an anti-immigrant, Flemish separatist party, won nearly a quarter of the vote in regional and European elections in Flanders, but the party was subsequently convicted (Nov., 2004) of being racist and forced to disband and re-form.

The parliamentary elections in June, 2007, led to gains for the Christian Democrats, and losses for the Liberals and Socialists. Ethnic and political divisions, particularly the question of increased devolution for Dutch Belgium, stymied the formation of a new government for more than six months. In December the king asked Verhofstadt to lead an interim government for up to three months, and in Mar., 2008, Christian Democrat Yves Leterme became prime minister of a five-party coalition government.

Four months later, Leterme submitted his resignation over the broad-based government's failure to reach an agreement on increased regional autonomy. The king, however, rejected it and called for further negotiations on autonomy. Accusations of government meddling in a court case concerning the sale of the Belgian operations of Fortis, a troubled bank and Belgium's largest private sector employer, led to the government's resignation in December. The same five parties subsequently re-formed a government, with Flemish Christian Democrat Herman Van Rompuy as prime minister. When Van Rompuy resigned (Nov., 2009) to become president of the European Union's European Council, Leterme succeeded him as prime minister.

Language-community-related issues led to the collapse of the coalition in Apr., 2010. The June elections resulted in a narrow victory for the separatist New Flemish Alliance (N-VA), but it only won slightly more than one sixth of the lower-house seats. The formation of a new government became an even more prolonged affair than in 2007–8, continuing until Dec., 2011, when Flemish and French Socialist, Christian Democrat, and Liberal parties formed a six-party government with French Socialist Elio Di Rupo as prime minister. In July, 2013, the king abdicated and was succeeded by his son Philippe.

The May, 2014, parliamentary elections resulted in win for the N-VA, which increased its share of seats in the lower house to more than a fifth. The subsequent four-party government was formed by the N-VA, French and Flemish Liberals, and Flemish Christian Democrats; Charles Michel, leader of the French Liberals, became prime minister. In the aftermath of the Nov. 13, 2015, Islamic State terrorist attacks in Paris, Belgian security forces conducted raids in various parts of the country; the attacks were believed to have been planned in Belgium.

In Dec., 2018, the N-VA withdrew from the government over its signing of a nonbinding UN migration compact; Michel then continued as prime minister of a caretaker cabinet. In the May, 2019, elections, the N-VA and more radical Flemish separatists won more than a quarter of the seats, but the N-VA, the largest party with 25 seats, lost a quarter of its seats. Eight parties each won 12 or more seats, and negotiations to form a new government continued into 2020.

Sophie Wilmès became caretaker prime minister in Oct., 2019, after Michel was nominated for European Council president. In Mar., 2020, with concerns about the COVID-19 pandemic increasing (Belgium became one of the worst-hit countries of its size), Wilmès became prime minister of a minority government consisting of the French Liberals, French Christian Democrats, and Flemish Liberals and Democrats. A majority government, formed by a diverse seven-party coalition consisting of French and Flemish Liberals, Socialists, and Greens as well as Flemish Christian Democrats, finally took office in October; Alexander De Croo, leader of the Flemish Liberals, became prime minister.


See H. Pirenne, Early Democracies in the Low Countries (tr. 1963); J. Fitzmaurice, The Politics of Belgium (1983); A. Fletcher, Belgium (1985); E. Witte and H. Beardsmore, The Interdisciplinary Study of Urban Bilingualism in Brussels (1987); T. J. Hermans, ed., The Flemish Movement (1992).

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



Belgium is a state in Western Europe bounded on the southwest by France, on the north by the Netherlands, on the east by the Federal Republic of Germany and Luxembourg, and on the northwest by the North Sea. It lies at the point of intersection of important transportation routes connecting many Western European countries. Area, 30,500 sq km. Population (Jan. 1, 1969), 9,631,900. Capital, Brussels. The country is divided for administrative purposes into nine provinces (see Table 1).

Table 1. Administrative divisions
ProvincesArea (sq km)PopulationAdministrative centers
Antwerp (Antwerpen)2,9001,523,000Antwerp (Antwerpen)
Brabent (Brabant)3,3002,157,300Brussels (Bruxelles)
East Flanders(Oost-Vlaanderen)3,0001,308,300Ghent (Gent)
West Flanders(West-Vlaanderen)3,2001,046,800Bruges (Brugge)

Belgium is a constitutional monarchy. The constitution in force was adopted in 1831 and is one of the oldest in Europe. The head of state is the king, who is formally vested with broad powers (in practice exercised by the government): he appoints and dismisses ministers, senior government officials, senior army and navy officers, and court judges of all levels; concludes international agreements; promulgates decrees on matters of major importance; exercises the right of pardon; and is supreme commander in chief.

Legislative functions are performed by Parliament, which consists of two chambers—the Chamber of Representatives and the Senate, which have equal rights. The Chamber of Representatives has 212 deputies, elected directly according to a proportional representation system. The Senate consists of 178 members; 106 of them are elected by direct vote according to a proportional representation system, 48 are elected by provincial councils on the basis of one senator for every 200,000 inhabitants, and 24 are chosen by the Senate itself. The king’s sons, or if there are none, the princes of the blood, become senators at the age of 18. A high age limit (40), as well as property ownership and other qualifications, is set for senators. Since 1969, all citizens who have attained the age of 18 are entitled to vote, provided they meet a six-month residence requirement. (The history of the struggle for universal suffrage in Belgium is covered in the Historical Survey section.)

Executive power is vested in the government, which is formally answerable to Parliament. The population of each province elects a provincial council for four years, the executive organ of which—a permanent deputation—is headed by a governor appointed by the king. In the communes, communal councils are elected for a term of six years and have as their executive body a collegium of aldermen headed by a burgomaster appointed by the central authorities.

The highest judicial body is the court of cassation. There are courts of appeal in Ghent, Brussels, and Liége. The country is divided into 26 judicial districts, each with a court of the first instance. In the case of more serious criminal offenses, juries are appointed in each province. Less serious offenses are tried by justices of the peace, who function in every judicial canton (230 in all). There are commercial courts in the main cities of the country. All judges are appointed for life.

Most of the country is flat and has a mild climate. As a result of the territory’s fairly intense development, cultivated land predominates, and natural surroundings have been preserved in a fragmented way with sparse vegetation.

Terrain. The land gradually rises from the northwest to the southeast, from the low-lying coastline to the Ardennes. The North Sea coastal area is flat, with a belt of dunes as high as 30 m and approximately 1.5–2.5 km wide. At low tide a belt of sandbanks up to 3.5 km wide is exposed. Dunes and dikes prevent flooding of the fertile polders, which are approximately 15 km wide and may extend as far as 2 m below sea level. Beyond the polders are the flat, low-lying lands of lower Belgium—Flanders and the Campine (rising to an altitude of 50 m), formed from river and sea deposits. At certain places in Flanders residual hills rise to a height of 150–170 m. In middle Belgium undulating plains predominate 80–100 m high in the north and up to 180 m high in the south, with eroded relief characteristics. A large depression, in which lie the Sambre and Meuse valleys, separates middle Belgium from upper Belgium—the ancient Ardennes massif, which reaches an altitude of 694 m at the town of Botrange. At the southeastern tip there are limestone cuesta ridges rising to a height of 460 m.

Geological structure and minerals. Hercynian fold formations, which have been subjected to severe denudement, extend into southern Belgium; further north they lie buried beneath the Mesozoic and Cenozoic beds, emerging only in places along the river valleys. In the extreme north a Pre-cambrian crystalline bed lies under a massive sedimentary layer. In the Pleistocene period the territory of Belgium was repeatedly subjected to the effects of melting ice sheets, and extensive loess deposits were formed.

Belgium is rich in coal (in the Campine and along the Sambre and Meuse valleys) but has little coking coal. In the Ardennes there are small deposits of iron ore, mixed metal ores (lead, zinc, and copper), antimony, and other minerals. There are considerable supplies of building stone, including granite, sandstone, and marble.

Climate. The climate is temperate and maritime and is characterized by wet westerly and southwesterly winds. In winter the weather is mostly cloudy with frequent mist, particularly in the Ardennes. The mean temperature for January and February in the coastal areas is 3° C, in the central areas about 0° C, and in the Ardennes – 1°C. Summers are fairly cool, with frequent rain and thunderstorms. The average July temperature is 18° or 19° C and about 14° C in the Ardennes. In lower and middle Belgium the precipitation is 700–900 mm annually and in upper Belgium up to 1,250 mm. In Brussels precipitation occurs about 150 days a year and in the Ardennes up to 200 days a year.

Rivers and lakes. Belgium has a dense network of deep, quietly flowing rivers. The most important are the Meuse and its tributary, the Sambre, in upper Belgium, and the Schelde and its tributary, the Lys, in lower Belgium; they are navigable and ice-free. The maximum flow occurs during the winter months. Flooding occurs in lower Belgium, and the flow of water here is regulated by a network of pumping stations, canals, and sluices.

Soil and vegetation. In lower Belgium the natural vegetation is represented by forests of oak and birch and in the middle and upper parts by forests of beech and oak, which grow in podzolic and brown forest soils. About 18 percent of the total area of the country is woodland. The most densely wooded areas are in the Ardennes, where a national park was created in 1954 and areas have been planted with pine and fir. A special feature are the bocages in Flanders, with their strips of woodland, green hedges, and gardens. In the polders and along the river floodplains, lush meadowland vegetation and the most fertile soils are found.

Fauna. In forested areas the red deer, roe deer, wild boar, wildcat, marten, and hare have been preserved. There are many rodents, shrews, dormice, and moles and a great variety of bird life, including such game birds as pheasants, partridges, and woodcocks.

Natural regions. The coastal region consists of dunes and polders. The Flanders region is bocage-type, flat, low-lying, and occasionally marshy country, with wooded residual hills. The Campine region is a plain of sand and gravel, with pine groves on dunes and heather wasteland. The middle Belgian region is an almost entirely cultivated fertile loess plateau crossed by numerous rivers. The Ardennes region consists of a plateau and low mountains covered with beech and oak forest. The southeast (Lorraine) region has wooded limestone cuestas separated by cultivated clayey lowlands.


Dobrynin, B. F. Fizicheskaia geografiia Zapadnoi Evropy. Moscow, 1948.
Atlas de Belgique. Brusselles, 1950.
Baulig, H. “Le relief des Pays-Bas et de la Belgique, d’après deux recentes cartes morphologiques.” Annales de géographie , 1953, vol. 62, no. 330.
Poncelet, L., and H. Martin. “Esquisse climatographique de la Belgique.” Institut royal météorologique de la Belgique: Mémoires, 1947, vol. 27.


Ethnically, the population of Belgium is divided into two main groups—the Flemings (estimated at about 5.5 million inhabitants in 1970), who live in the northern half of the country (in the provinces of West Flanders, East Flanders, Antwerp, and Limburg), and the Walloons (about 4 million inhabitants), who occupy the southern half of the country (the provinces of Hainault, Namur, Liege, and Luxembourg). The boundary line between the two areas runs south of Brussels, in which district the population is ethnically mixed.

Approximately 60,000 Germans live in the eastern areas and approximately 35,000 Jews in the cities. The Walloons speak French. French and Flemish are the official state languages. Large groups of the population, particularly around Brussels and along the ethnic border, are bilingual, speaking both French and Flemish. At the end of 1966, Belgium had more than 600,000 aliens—approximately 250,000 Italians, more than 60,000 Frenchmen, and more than 50,000 Dutchmen, considerable numbers of German nationals of the Federal Republic of Germany, Spaniards, Greeks, and others. Most of the population of Belgium is Catholic. A small number are members of various Protestant sects or profess Judaism. The official calendar is Gregorian.

Belgium’s population dynamics is characterized by a slow rate of natural population growth. Between 1800 and 1868 the population increased by 1.6 times (from 3 million in 1800 to 4.8 million in 1868), whereas between 1900 and 1968 it increased 1.4 times (from 6.7 million inhabitants in 1900 to 9.6 million in 1968). After World War II (1939–45) the rate of population growth remained at the same level for some time: in 1946, about 5 people per 1,000 inhabitants; in 1966, about 4; and in 1968, about 2.

The economically active population amounted to 3.8 million in 1968,70 percent of whom were salaried (more than 50 percent of these were workers). The economically active population was distributed among the various economic sectors as follows: industry, approximately 35 percent; building, approximately 8 percent; farming and fishing, 5 percent; and transportation and communication, approximately 7 percent. The rest were engaged in other sectors, including nonproductive work.

Belgium is one of the most densely populated countries in the world. The average population density in 1968 was 316 inhabitants per sq km. In the central part of the country, toward the capital (within a radius of 60 km), the average density rises to 550 per sq km. The urban population makes up more than two-thirds of the country’s total population.

The largest towns in 1967 were Brussels (population, 1,079,000, including suburbs), Antwerp (239,800), Ghent (155,700), and Liege (152,500). According to official statistics, there are seven conurbations, centered around Brussels, Antwerp, Liège, Ghent, Charleroi, Leuven (Louvain), and Bruges.


Belgian territories up to 1830. ANCIENT TIMES AND THE FEUDAL PERIOD. The first archaeological discoveries in Belgian territory go back to the Acheulean culture. Celtic tribes of Belgae (from which the country derives its name) settled in these parts circa 300 B.C. The country of the Belgae was conquered in 57 B.C. by Julius Caesar and became a peripheral part of the Roman slave state. Its southwestern portion became part of the province of Bélgica (later Bélgica the Second) in 16 B.C., and the northeastern portion of the country became part of the Roman province of Lower Germany in 89 A.D. Between the third and fifth centuries A.D. the territory of Belgium was settled by Germanic tribes consisting of Franks and in part of Frisians and Saxons. They largely germanized the former Belgic-Roman population of northern Belgium, which subsequently became the Flemish part of the country. There was little germanization of the Belgic-Roman population of southern Belgium, and here the Walloon nation subsequently formed.

From the fifth to the ninth century Belgium formed part of the kingdom of the Franks, in which feudal relationships began to be formed. With the breakup of the Frankish state under the Verdun Treaty of 843 and as a result of subsequent divisions, the territory of Belgium was partitioned. Its western part, apportioned to the kingdom of West Francia, became in the ninth century the county of Flanders, a feudal dependency of the French kings (while the royal authority in France remained weak, this dependence was only nominal). The territory of eastern Belgium was incorporated into the duchy of Lorraine (from 959, Lower Lorraine), which was part of the kingdom of Germany (after 962, the Holy Roman Empire). In Lower Lorraine, with the process of feudal fragmentation at the turn of the 12th century, a number of feudal states came into existence. They included the duchy of Brabant, the county of Namur, Henegouwen (Hainaut), and the bishopric of Liége.

A special feature of the Belgian economy when it entered the developed feudal stage in the 11th century was the early and often intensive development of medieval towns. By the tenth century, as a result of metalworking along the Meuse River valley and wool weaving along the Schelde River valley, the towns of Ghent, Bruges, Ypres, Namur, and Liége had grown; in the 11th and 12th centuries Louvain, Brussels, Antwerp, and other cities sprang up where important land and sea trade routes met. In the 12th and 13th centuries Belgian territories, particularly Flanders, became the “workshop” of Europe and an important meeting place for international trade, with Bruges as the center. The development of towns had a tremendous effect on all aspects of Belgian life in the Middle Ages. By the second half of the 12th century some of the towns had, in their struggle with the feudal lords, obtained charters that confirmed their freedoms and privileges. The patricians held, and the merchants stood guard over, a monopoly on trade, the organization of cloth weaving, money changing, jewelry work, and other profitable activities that were preserved by such merchants’ guilds as the London Hansa in Flanders and the League of Brabant Cloth Weavers. Urban administration was also in the hands of the patricians, who cruelly exploited the craftsmen. This gave rise to sharp sociopolitical conflicts that became interwoven with dynastic and international conflicts. The growth of towns and commodity-money relations led also to great advances in rural areas in the 13th and 14th centuries. The corvée and serfdom were dying out, and the métayage system and hire for pay were becoming popular.

Many villages, like the towns, were able to obtain charters and the right to self-government from their lords. The feudal relationship began to disintegrate in the Belgian territories earlier than in most European countries, although in a number of areas, particularly Walloon areas in the south, the position of the feudal nobility remained strong.

The political history of the Belgian territories was determined to a considerable extent by the rivalry between the Belgian states (more particularly between the strongest ones—the county of Flanders and the duchy of Brabant—which had gradually united a large part of the former states of Lower Lorraine under their rule) and also by interference in the country’s internal affairs by France, England, and the Holy Roman Empire. The influence of the Holy Roman Empire on Belgian territory had been growing steadily weaker since the 12th century (Brabant had been virtually independent of the empire since the 1280’s), but the French monarchy, which was gaining strength, was applying increasing pressure on Flanders. In 1185–86 part of Flanders was incorporated into the domain of the French king as the county of Artois. In 1226 the subjection of the counts of Flanders as vassals of the king of France was confirmed, and in 1300, Flanders was occupied by French troops.

The external political struggle was interwoven with social struggle. The artisans of Flanders, united in their guilds, relied in their struggle against the patricians on the peasantry and on those counts of Flanders who were curbing patrician rule. In their external policy the Flemish guilds looked to England (the Flemish wool-weaving industry processed wool imported from England). The patricians, in order to maintain their rule, supported the alliance with France. The national struggle in Flanders against French occupation, which had begun with the “Bruges Matins” (1302), ended with the victory of the Flemish towns at the battle of Courtrai in 1302 and the expulsion of the French troops. However, the betrayal by the count of Flanders and the particularism of the towns led, when the struggle was resumed, to a compromise whereby France succeeded in incorporating the Walloon part of Flanders. The social struggle became particularly acute during the antifeudal peasant and plebeian uprising of 1323–28 in coastal Flanders, which was supported by Bruges and Ypres. The insurgents were defeated at the battle of Cassel in 1328 by the troops of the king of France and the count of Flanders.

With the start of the Hundred Years’ War (1337–1453) between France and England, some of the Belgian states (Hainaut and Brabant) supported England, while the bishopric of Liége sided with France. In Flanders, where the interests and policy of Count Louis de Nevers, who ranged himself on the side of the king of France and forbade trade with England, conflicted sharply with the interests of the towns, the war led to a new outbreak of the class struggle (the urban movement of 1338–45, led by J. van Artevelde). Toward the end of the 14th century the decline in cloth weaving and the undermined central power weakened Flanders.

In Brabant, as a result of the more active role of the towns and the strengthening of the authority of the duke, a limited monarchic system was forming, legally established by written agreements between the dukes and the various classes of the people, namely the Charter of Cortenberg (1312) and the “Joyous Entry” (1356). By the late 14th and early 15th centuries the Belgian territories (Flanders in 1384 and Brabant in 1430) became part of the Burgundian state. Brabant became the nucleus of that state, with Brussels as the ducal seat. After the breakup of Burgundy, the Hapsburg dynasty established itself in Belgium in 1477 and completely in 1482. Under the emperor of the Holy Roman Empire and king of Spain Charles V, Belgium became a component part of his empire; after the empire’s partition in 1555, Belgium became part of the Spanish state. At this time the Belgian territories formed part of a complex of 17 provinces consisting of the present-day territory of Belgium, the Netherlands, Luxembourg, and parts of northern France and were known as the Netherlands. The Belgian territories forming part of this total area are usually known as the Southern Netherlands.

The Netherlands played a leading part among the most advanced countries in Europe, in which, in the 15th century, capitalist relationships began to develop. The decline of the classical guild system was particularly well marked in the Belgian provinces. The old centers of the guild weaving industry, such as Bruges, Ghent, and Ypres, declined, and new centers based on capitalist forms of production and trade developed. For this reason, Antwerp assumed special importance. The further development of capitalist relationships was prevented by the yoke of Spanish absolutism, which rested on the Catholic Church and on part of the feudal nobility and patriciate. As a result of these contradictions, the Netherlands became the scene of the early bourgeois revolution, combining the struggle against feudalism with a war of national liberation against absolutist Spain, fought under the banner of Calvinism. Flanders became one of the main areas of the iconoclastic uprising of 1566, which marked the start of the revolt. The revolt of 1576 ended Spanish rule in the Belgian provinces; they concluded an agreement with the northern provinces of the Netherlands, where the antifeudal and anti-Spanish revolt had already ended victoriously in 1572. However, the feudal Catholic reactionary force that was allied to Spain succeeded in taking the offensive in the Belgian territories, aided by the policies of William I of Orange and the Orangists, who had crushed the democratic movement in the towns and isolated the peasant movement from it. The more backward Walloon provinces formed the Confederation, or Union, of Arras in 1579, thus breaking away from the revolutionary alliance. This enabled Spanish troops to conquer Flanders, Brabant, and other Belgian provinces by 1585 and to restore Spanish rule and Catholicism there.

The political and economic development of the northern (Dutch Republic) and southern (Belgian territories) Netherlands took different directions. While the Dutch Republic, having acquired its independence, embarked on a period of economic prosperity, the south, under Spanish rule, experienced an economic decline, and the development of capitalist relationships was held up. In 1598, Philip II of Spain made the territory of Belgium into an officially sovereign state, ruled by Albert of Austria and his wife, Isabella, Philip’s daughter. In 1621, however, this fictitious sovereignty was abolished, and the Belgian territories became an integral part of the domains of the Spanish monarchy under the administration of a vicegerent (Spanish Netherlands). Belgium became the battleground of numerous Spanish wars, first against the Dutch Republic, then France (during the wars of the second half of the 17th century, part of the Spanish Netherlands—most of Artois and part of Flanders—was ceded to France). As a result of the War of the Spanish Succession (1701–14), the Spanish Netherlands was transferred from Spain to Austria; it became the Austrian Netherlands, and Spanish rule was replaced by Austrian rule.

DEVELOPMENT OF CAPITALIST RELATIONS AND CREATION OF AN INDEPENDENT STATE (END OF THE 18TH CENTURY TO 1830). Under the influence of the French Revolution, the national liberation movement and the political parties established in the Belgian provinces after 1785—a conservative party headed by H. van der Noot (the Nootists) and a liberal party headed by J. Vonck (the Vonckists)—became very active. In October 1789 a revolt against Austrian rule broke out in Brabant, embracing all the Belgian provinces. The Austrians were driven out of the Belgian provinces by the Brabanconne Revolution of 1789–90, and the independence of the United States of Belgium was proclaimed on Jan. 11, 1790. However, the Austrian government took advantage of dissension between the Nootists, who had come into power, and the Vonckists, and, encountering no serious opposition, reestablished its authority in the country at the end of 1790.

As a result of the defeat of the Austrians at the hands of the French revolutionary forces at Fleurus on June 26,1794, the Belgian provinces were annexed by France. The abolition of Austrian rule in the Belgian provinces and their incorporation into France, legally established by an act of the Convention on Oct. 1, 1795, and confirmed in the Treaty of Campo Formio in 1797, resulted in the effective elimination of vestiges of the feudal system in the country and helped to promote the further development of capitalist relationships. At the same time, the arbitrary behavior of the French administration in the Belgian provinces and their forced participation in the Napoleonic Wars led to discontent with French rule among the populace. After the collapse of the Napoleonic empire, the Congress of Vienna of 1814–15 provided for the union of the Belgian provinces with Holland in a single kingdom of the Netherlands headed by King William I. The creation of the kingdom was an achievement of British diplomacy, which wanted a strong state established on the northeastern border of France.

The artificial union of Holland with the Belgian provinces met with little enthusiasm among either the Dutch or the Belgians. A deep-rooted hostility to the Dutch had existed for some time in the Belgian provinces because for two centuries (the 17th and 18th) Holland had closed the Schelde estuary, seriously affecting the trade of Antwerp and the entire Belgian economy. On the other hand, the Dutch feared that with the opening of the Schelde estuary, which would be inevitable after union, competition with Antwerp would damage the trade of Rotterdam and the government would have to sacrifice the interests of the Dutch merchant bourgeoisie by supporting Belgian industry.

Religious differences also affected Dutch-Belgian relations. The Belgians, among whom the influence of the Catholic Church, strengthened in the Belgian provinces during Spanish and Austrian rule, was predominant, viewed Calvinist Holland with hostility; the Dutch feared that as a result of the numerical superiority of the Belgians, the Catholic Church would have a dominant influence in the new kingdom.

The constitution established in 1815 for the kingdom of the Netherlands provided for the creation of two legislative chambers, the members of the first chamber to be appointed by the king and the deputies of the second chamber to be elected according to a qualifications system. In spite of their considerable numerical superiority, the Belgians were allotted the same number of seats in the second chamber as the Dutch. The public debt was divided equally between the two parts of the kingdom, even though the debt of the Belgian provinces did not exceed 27 million florins and the debt of the Netherlands was 589 million florins.

Infringement on the economic and political interests of the Belgian provinces in the new state led to a further growth of the national liberation movement among the Belgian population. By 1817 in Ghent and in 1819 in Verviers industrial workers had created demonstrations, and in 1823 considerable disturbances occurred among the Belgian peasantry. In the 1820’s the two main Belgian bourgeois political parties— the Liberal and the Catholic—took final shape. In 1828 they formed a coalition to combat Dutch domination.

The government of William I attempted to weaken the growth of bourgeois opposition in the Belgian provinces by introducing protectionist laws (1820), which gave Belgian industry the opportunity for rapid development in channeling it to the Dutch colonial market (Dutch East Indies and others). An industrial revolution began in the Belgian provinces in the 1820’s and 1830’s. Industrialization developed in a new sector of Belgian industry—mechanical engineering—which was furthered by the use of coke in the blast-furnace process (1820), construction of the first wide-gauge railway on the European continent (1835), and rapid expansion in the use of the steam engine (in 1830 there were already 185 engines of up to 80 horsepower in use in Belgian industry).

In 1817, William I sold the Seraing château of the Liège princes and bishops to the British engineer John Cockerill; workshops for the construction of steam engines and textile machinery were set up there, and by 1827 it had developed into a large works (2,500 workers) producing cast iron, steel, rolled metal, and machinery, until then a monopoly of Britain. A number of canals were built, including the Charleroi-Brussels, Ghent-Terneuzen, and Mons-Condé canals. The bank Société Générale des Pays-Bas (after 1830, the Société Générale de Belgique) was founded in 1822 and subsequently became the largest creditor for industrial development in Belgium.

The French revolution of July 1830 sparked the national liberation movement in the Belgian provinces, and the bourgeois revolution that began in Brussels on Aug. 25, 1830, brought an end to Dutch domination. The national congress that opened on Nov. 10, 1830, declared the independence of Belgium.

From 1830 to the end of the 19th century. The London conference of the five great powers (Russia, Great Britain, France, Austria, and Prussia) recognized the independence of Belgium on Dec. 20, 1830, and in January 1931 proclaimed its permanent neutrality. Prince Leopold of Saxe-Coburg was chosen king of the Belgians with the title of Leopold I (reigned 1831–65). The constitution adopted by the national congress in 1831 established a constitutional monarchy. It proclaimed the principle of sovereignty of the people and made the ministers answerable to Parliament. It strengthened the power of the bourgeoisie, leaving it free to exploit the workers by guaranteeing “noninterference” by the state in the “internal affairs of enterprises.” The Catholic Church was accorded unlimited freedom of religious propaganda and embarked on the establishment of a complete system of church education covering all levels of primary, secondary, and higher education.

Until 1847 the government consisted of members of both bourgeois parties, Liberal and Catholic. From 1847 to 1855 the country was governed by a Liberal cabinet, which endeavored, because of revolutionary events in Europe in 1848, to “protect” the country against the actions of the democratic forces by the use of police repression (the arrest of a number of democrats, the expulsion of Marx, who had lived in Brussels since 1845, and so on) and by the introduction of halfhearted reforms (aid to the unemployed and the extension of electoral rights in 1848).

In the middle of the 19th century Belgium became one of the industrially developed countries of Europe. In the 1850’s more coal was mined in Belgium than in all other Western European countries except Great Britain. Its railway network was the longest in the world. From the 1860’s there was rapid industrial growth, which completed the industrial revolution. The economic upsurge was most marked in Brabant and in the Sambre and Meuse valleys. Industry, with the exception of textiles, developed at a considerably slower pace in Flanders, where the most intensive development was in farming.

The growth of capitalism was accompanied by an increase in the number of workers and their activities and organization. The first workers’ organizations in Belgium appeared in the 1850’s and included the Fraternity of Textile Workers in Ghent and the Association of Militant Democracy in Brussels.

Until the appearance of sections of the First International in Belgium in the mid-1860’s, these organizations were considerably influenced by clerics and Proudhonists. The growing influence of the First International among European workers during the second half of the 1860’s led to a more active workers’ movement in Belgium and to the growth of the strike movement. Firm action by the Belgian workers toward the end of the 1860’s compelled the Belgian bourgeoisie in 1866 to recognize the right to strike and to issue a law in 1867 repealing the prohibition of workers’ associations; this prohibition had been imposed back in the period of Napoleonic rule. Attempts by the ruling classes to arrest the process of consolidation of democratic forces by means of bloody reprisals against participants in the workers’ movement were foiled by the Belgian workers.

In 1879 the Belgian Socialist Party was founded, on the basis of which the Belgian Labor Party was established in April 1885 (since 1941 it has been known as the Belgian Socialist Party). Despite strong Proudhonist and anarchist influence in the Belgian workers’ movement, the Belgian Labor Party recognized in its program of 1894 the necessity for political struggle by the working class. The creation of the Belgian Labor Party, which was described by Lenin as a transition “from nonproletarian to proletarian socialism” (Poln. Sobr. Soch., 5th ed., vol. 14, p. 165), promoted the stronger organization of the working class. The stubborn struggle of the Belgian workers forced the Belgian government to make concessions on workers’ legislation—for example, laws prohibiting payment in kind (1887) and instituting labor inspection (1888).

From the 1870’s the Belgian ruling circles headed by Leopold II (reigned 1865–1909) took part in the colonial partition of Africa. At the Berlin Conference of 1884–85, Belgium gained recognition of her special interests in the so-called Congo Free State.

Development of imperialism (late 19th and early 20th centuries). At the end of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th centuries qualitative changes characteristic of the period of monopoly capitalism appeared in the Belgian economy. The rate of concentration of production was accelerated (in 1914, 40 percent of the workers were employed by 70,000 small and medium-sized industrial enterprises, whereas 60 percent were employed by 1,700 large-scale enterprises); monopolistic amalgamations were formed in coal, metallurgical, and other industries and in the sphere of banking (Banque de Bruxelles, Solvay, Empain, and others). The Société Générale de Belgique became an important industrial and financial monopoly, and other such monopolies—for example, Brufina—came into existence.

The degree of concentration of capital in Belgium during these years was higher than in many other European countries. As a result of the intensive growth of extracting (coal) and processing (metallurgical, machine-building, textile, and others) industries and extensive intermediary trade since the beginning of the 20th century, Belgium has exported not only industrial products but also capital. A considerable portion of Belgian capital was invested in Egypt, Iran, China, and South America.

However, Belgian capitalists were most interested in Africa. In 1908 the territory of the Congo officially became a Belgian colony. After that, utilization of the natural resources and exploitation of the population of the Belgian Congo became an important source of monopoly profits. By the beginning of the 20th century Belgium had become a small imperialist country with extensive colonial possessions.

On the eve of World War I (1914–18) the Belgian economy was developing at a rapid rate. Agriculture was experiencing an intensive process of stratification of the rural population and the formation of large-scale capitalist farms. On the whole, however, Belgian agriculture was characterized by a preponderance of small farms and a high proportion of leased land (at the beginning of the 20th century the number of leaseholders of land in the rural areas was three times greater than that of owners). More than 80,000 Belgian peasants annually sought work in the towns of Belgium and in adjoining countries, such as France and Germany.

The differences between the agricultural Flemish provinces and the industrial Walloon provinces were becoming increasingly acute in the 1890’s. One specific example of this was the demand that the Flemish language be recognized as a state language on the same level as French. A law in 1898 confirmed the “principle of bilingualism” laid down in the Constitution, and state documents, inscriptions on postage stamps, seals, currency, and so on appeared in both languages.

Universal suffrage, which had been persistently demanded by democratic forces since the 1880’s, remained an important problem in Belgian domestic affairs. Strikes and mass demonstrations in support of universal suffrage took place in the late 19th and early 20th centuries—for example, the coal miners’ strikes in 1890 and the general political strike of 1893. Alarmed by the growth of this movement, Belgian ruling circles adopted a law in 1893 granting the right to vote to all male citizens 25 years of age or over; persons with a higher education and owners of real estate worth no less than 2,000 francs were entitled to two votes.

During the years preceding World War I, Belgium maintained neutrality in the struggle between the two imperialist blocs in Europe, although economically it gravitated toward Great Britain and France. On Dec. 14, 1909, and May 29, 1913, the government adopted laws introducing general military conscription. After the German invasion of Belgium on August 4, 1914, and Belgium’s subsequent entry into the war on the side of the Entente, the parliamentary group of the Belgian Labor Party voted for military credits, and the leader of the party, E. Vandervelde, joined the bourgeois government in 1914.

During World War I the territory of Belgium was occupied by German troops, except for a small part of Flanders. The Belgian government fled to Le Havre in northwestern France. While Belgian territory was occupied by the German Army, Belgian colonial troops, together with British and French colonial units, took part in the seizure of Germany’s possessions in Africa, thus paving the way for Belgium’s participation in the postwar repartition of colonies.

Period of general crisis in the capitalist system (1918–39). After World War I, Belgian imperialism was shaken by a powerful wave of the revolutionary movement brought about by postwar economic difficulties and the influence of the Great October Socialist Revolution in Russia. In 1919 large-scale strikes by mine workers occurred; the miners secured an eight-hour working day and a minimum wage. The Flemish national movement became more active, but the bourgeoisie and the royal court, with the support of the Catholic clergy—which was particularly influential in the Flemish provinces—were able to direct it to a considerable extent into chauvinist and racist channels. The so-called Flemish Nationalist Party, founded during World War I, became one of the main detachments of Belgian fascism and maintained active contacts with the German Nazis. The Belgian bourgeoisie, in its endeavor to prevent aggravation of the country’s revolutionary crisis, made a number of concessions regarding the extension of the franchise. Under the law of 1919, all male citizens acquired the right to vote, as did the widows of men who had died in combat or who had been forcibly removed to Germany during the years 1914–18; in 1921 a law was adopted providing for an eight-hour working day, and discriminatory laws on strikes and trade unions were abolished.

With the growth of the workers’ movement in Belgium, which had been strengthened by the Great October Socialist Revolution, a Flemish communist group was founded in 1919 and a Walloon communist group at the beginning of 1920. At the end of 1920 the Belgian Communist Party was established on the basis of those groups. In September 1921, at a joint congress of the Belgian Communist Party and the Communist Party of Belgium, created in May 1921 by a left-wing socialist group known as Friends of the Exploited, the Communist Party of Belgium (CPB) was founded. In the 1925 elections 34,000 electors (1.64 percent) voted for the Party. A factor that weakened the workers’ movement in Belgium was the fragmentation of the working class into different trade union organizations and political parties. Most workers supported the Belgian Labor Party or the Catholic Party.

The world economic crisis of 1929–33 strongly affected the Belgian economy. In 1932 the total volume of production was only 37 percent of the 1929 volume, and 33 percent of the metallurgical enterprises were not functioning. Between 1930 and 1932 the coal output fell from 27.4 to 21.4 million tons. The strike movement for political and economic rights gained strength with the working class. A strike of 240,000 miners and metal and other workers in 1932 was particularly important. At the same time, fascist elements were becoming more active—the Rexists in the Walloon provinces and the Flemish Nationalists in Flanders. As the Flemish Nationalists, who sought the separation of Flanders, became more active, a nationalistic Walloon movement (the Wallon-gants), which favored the separation of the Walloon provinces, came into being in the 1930’s.

Belgian industry had not regained its level before the period of economic crisis by the eve of World War II. In 1939 its total production output stood at about 76 percent of the 1929 level. Furthermore, the economic sectors that had developed were primarily engaged in manufacturing war materials. The 1939 budget had a deficit of 650 million francs. At the end of 1938 the number of unemployed stood at 432,000.

Belgium’s policy between the world wars was determined by its participation in nearly all the international actions of the imperialist powers—France, Great Britain, and the United States—whose aim was to organize military blocs and rejected the creation of a system of collective security in Europe. Under the Versailles Peace Treaty of 1919, the German districts of Eupen and Malmédy were joined to Belgium, as well as the so-called neutral and Prussian sector of Moresnet. Belgium also received the mandate to a part of the territory of former German East Africa—Ruanda-Urundi. It was granted the right to reparations from Germany. With Belgium’s entry into the League of Nations in 1919, the status of permanent neutrality of the Belgian state established in 1831 was abolished. During the first years after World War I, Belgian ruling circles, headed by Albert I (reigned 1909–34), desired an alliance with France, which wanted hegemony over Europe. On Sept. 7, 1920, Belgium concluded a military convention with France. In 1921 agreements were concluded with Luxembourg providing for a customs union and a single currency (the Belgian franc). Belgian troops participated in the occupation of the Ruhr in 1923. During this period Belgian monopolies secured important positions in the economies of Poland, Rumania, Yugoslavia, and a number of African and Asian countries. In the middle of the 1920’s, when France’s position in Europe was considerably weakened as a result of the Ruhr conflict of 1922–23, Belgium established closer relations with Great Britain and the United States. Under the Locarno Pact of 1925, Great Britain and France guaranteed Belgium’s security.

Belgian coalition governments (Catholics, Liberals, and right-wing Socialists) pursued a policy of nonrecognition of the USSR for 18 years (until 1935) and participated in various anti-Soviet campaigns. It was not until July 12, 1935, that the Belgian government established diplomatic relations with the USSR.

In 1936, Belgium denounced the Franco-Belgian military convention of 1920 and announced its repudiation of its obligations under the Locarno agreements of 1925. On Oct. 14, 1936, Leopold III (reigned 1934–44) announced Belgium’s return to her policy of neutrality. The Belgian government headed by the right-wing socialist P. H. Spaak (May 1938–February 1939) actively pursued a policy of noninterference, which was in effect conducive to fascist Germany’s aggression against Austria and Czechoslovakia and to the strangulation of Republican Spain.

1939–45. On May 10, 1940, the fascist German army, in violation of Belgian neutrality, invaded Belgian territory. The Belgian government appealed for help to Great Britain and France, which on the same day sent their forces into Belgium. Notwithstanding the determination of the Belgian people to resist the aggressor, King Leopold III, commander in chief of the army, signed an act of surrender, thereby committing an act of betrayal against his country. On the same day the government of the Catholic H. Pierlot fled to France, and after a few days it proceeded to London, where it remained until September 1944. The fascists drove out all democratic organizations in occupied Belgium. By June 1940 the president of the Belgian Labor Party, G. De Man, announced the “self-dissolution of the party” and began to collaborate with the occupiers. The leaders of the Liberal and Catholic parties also collaborated with the Hitlerites.

The Communist Party of Belgium was the only political party to head the patriotic forces of Belgium and organize a large-scale resistance movement in the country. During the first years of the occupation a patriotic organization known as the Belgian Independence Front was created. The CPB led armed detachments of the resistance movement, which numbered more than 50,000 men in 1943–44. During the years of the fascist German occupation more than 40,000 Belgian patriots were arrested by the Gestapo and more than 15,000 of them were shot or tortured, including 2,000 Communists. In September 1944 the port of Antwerp and the whole region of Liége was freed from the German fascists by armed detachments of the resistance movement and by the population in revolt.

In September 1944, British and American troops, taking advantage of the favorable situation created by the Soviet Army’s victories on the Soviet-German front and using the forces of the Belgian resistance movement, liberated Belgian territory from the fascist German forces. After returning from London, the Pierlot government was reorganized to include two Communists and one representative of the Belgian Independence Front. However, the reactionary majority of the Pierlot government began to oppose the democratic forces as early as November 1944 by ordering the disarmament of the Belgian patriots who had taken part in the resistance movement. The resignation of the Communists from the Pierlot government on Nov. 16, 1944, and the public indignation aroused when a peaceful demonstration against the acts of the government was fired upon brought about the resignation of the Pierlot cabinet. Reactionary policies led to a government crisis that lasted almost three months. In 1945 a government was formed by the Socialist Van Acker that included two representatives of the CPB. However, this government, because of the opposition of its reactionary majority, also failed to meet the workers’ demands for the democratization of political and economic life. At the same time, some leaders of the Christian Social Party, founded in 1945 and reconstituted from the Catholic Party, raised the question of the return to the throne of Leopold III, who was at the time in Switzerland. Mass demonstrations by the workers upset the plans of the reactionaries. In July 1945 the Van Acker government was obliged to take a position against the return of the king.

Since 1945. After World War II the surge of the democratic movement, headed by the Communist Party of Belgium (which in 1945 had more than 70,000 members), compelled Belgian ruling circles to adopt a number of reforms; thus, in 1947 a social security law was adopted, in 1948 active collaborators with the Hitlerites were removed from state and municipal organs, and the franchise was granted to all women. At the same time, the forces of reaction rallied round the Christian Social and Liberal parties and with the support of the ruling circles of the USA embarked on an offensive against the political and economic rights of the Belgian workers. In March 1947 the Communists were forced to leave the government of the Socialist C. Huysmans, and that same month a constitutional government headed by Spaak, who had remained in office from 1947 to 1949, was formed; it brought about the adoption by Belgium of the Marshall Plan, which helped to make the country’s economy dependent on the interests of American capital.

In 1948 in Belgium there were 155 strikes, in which more than 334,000 workers participated. There was a countrywide strike of 500,000 workers in July 1950 in connection with the return of Leopold III to Belgium (the king abdicated in favor of his son Baudouin in August 1950) and a two-week general miners’ strike in the Borinage in 1959 protesting the plans of the government of the Catholic G. Eyskens (in office 1958–61) to close down the pits in that region. The strike spread throughout the coal basin of Wallonia, and the number of workers on strike after the miners had been joined by the metal and railway workers totaled over 200,000.

With the growth of the national struggle for liberation in Africa, Belgian ruling circles were compelled to grant independence to their colonies—the Congo in 1960 and Ruanda-Urundi in 1962. After the Congo had been proclaimed a republic on June 30, 1960, the Belgian colonialists, having failed to place a puppet government at its head, provoked bloody conflicts there in July 1960; the conflicts were used as a pretext for maintaining Belgian troops in Congolese territory. At the same time, Belgian imperialists were trying to dismember the country and particularly to separate the mineral-rich province of Katanga. In the fall of 1960, Belgian ruling circles organized a revolt against the lawful government of the Congo, headed by Patrice Lumumba.

The crisis in the Congo created a tense internal political situation in Belgium. In November 1960 the government of the Catholic G. Eyskens introduced a bill in Parliament, the so-called single law, providing for increases in direct and indirect taxation and reductions in allocations for social needs and having as its aim to shift the burden of making up the loss of capital in the Congo to the workers. In December 1960 the biggest general strike ever took place in the country. It continued until Jan. 22, 1961, and led to the resignation of the Eyskens government and the dissolution of Parliament. In 1961 a coalition government with the Catholic T. Lefévre as prime minister that included representatives of the Christian Social Party and the Belgian Socialist Party was formed. The government attempted to paralyze the incessant strikes by the adoption in 1963 of antidemocratic laws (on the “maintenance of order”), which restricted the right of the workers to strike. After parliamentary elections in May 1965, a new government was formed by the Catholic P. Harmel from representatives of the same parties as in the previous government. In January 1966 a miners’ strike broke out in the province of Limburg in protest against the government’s plan to close down the coal mines. A wave of strikes and demonstrations of solidarity with the miners swept through the whole country. The government was forced to make concessions, while the Socialists, under pressure from the rank and file of their party, left the government. In March 1966 a new government of Catholics and Liberals (who since 1961 have called themselves the Party of Liberty and Progress), headed by the Catholic P. Vanden Boeynants, was formed. In view of the economic depression and the mounting crisis in 1967, special laws were adopted giving the government emergency powers.

The unstable internal political situation led to an aggravation of the national question. In 1968 the Flemish students of the University of Louvain, the most important Catholic university center in the country, demanded that the sections of the university in which instruction was given in French should be transferred to Wallonia. The government refused. As a result, the Catholic ministers left the government and the Vanden Boeynants cabinet fell on Feb. 7. Parliament was then dissolved, and a prolonged government crisis followed, which ended only on June 17, 1968, when a coalition government of Catholics and Socialists, headed by G. Eyskens, was formed.

During the I950’s and 1960’s the Belgian working class struggled to raise the standard of living as well as to create political reforms. During the Borinage strikes of 1959 and especially during the general strike of 1960—61, one of the main demands of the strikers was for fundamental democratic changes. However, the representatives of the Belgian Socialist Party in the government (1961–66) continued to follow their policy of collaborating with the right, causing deep discontent among the masses. In 1964, as a mark of protest against this policy, some left-wing members left the party to form the Socialist Confederation of Workers in October 1965.

Between 1961 and 1967 the CPB worked out a program of “structural reforms” that provided for the limitation and elimination of the total power of the monopolies through the nationalization of industries, establishment of workers’ control over enterprises, reduction of military expenditure, democratization of the political structure, withdrawal of Belgium from the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), and settlement of the national question on a federal basis, with broad powers being given to local authorities. This program was supported at the 19th congress of the CPB in November 1968, which called on Belgian Communists to intensify their struggle against the monopolies and to create a democratic front of progressive forces headed by the working class. In April 1968 a mass trade-union demonstration was held with the support of the CPB. In the spring of 1968 more than 230,000 construction and industrial workers went on strike. In the summer of the same year there was a wave of strikes in Charleroi, Liege, and other cities, and in late 1969 and early 1970, 23,000 men participated in strikes in the province of Limburg.

Belgium has been a member of the United Nations since 1945. Its postwar orientation in foreign policy has been determined by its participation in the system of aggressive groupings formed with the assistance or direct participation of the United States. It has been a member of Benelux since 1943–44. It was one of the initiators of the Brussels Pact of 1948, and in 1949 it became a member of NATO. In 1950 an agreement on military aid was signed between Belgium and the United States. In 1955 the Belgian Parliament approved the Paris Agreements of 1954, in accordance with which Belgium joined the Western European Alliance.

Belgium participates in the most important international monopolistic organizations, such as the European Coal and Steel Union (since 1951) and the Common Market (since 1951).

During the second half of the 1950’s there was an increase in practical contacts between Belgium and the USSR. On Oct. 25,1956, an agreement on cultural cooperation between the two countries was signed. In 1964, Minister for Foreign Affairs P. H. Spaak announced Belgium’s refusal to participate in the creation of NATO multilateral nuclear forces. However, at the same time Belgium participated in the work of the NATO Nuclear Defense Affairs Committee (1965) and offered Belgian territory to house the staff of the NATO supreme allied commander of the allied armed forces in Europe and of the NATO council, evacuated from France (1967). The North Atlantic Military Committee was transferred from the USA to Belgium (1967). In April 1969 the Belgian representatives voted at a session of the NATO council in favor of extending the period of validity of the North Atlantic Alliance, but they put forward a number of proposals to change the activities of the organization, more particularly to shift its emphasis from military aspects to political ones (the so-called first Harmel plan). At the same time, there was a proposal to make the Western European Alliance play a more active role, with the object of achieving a political and economic union of Europe (the so-called Harmel plan). In 1969 and 1970, Belgium repeatedly stressed the desirability of solving the problems of ensuring European security and particularly called for the convening of a general European conference. It strengthened its relations with all the European socialist countries. In 1969 a Soviet-Belgian agreement on economic and scientific-technical cooperation was concluded.


Marx, K. “Pis’mo redaktoru gazety Reforme.” In K. Marx and F. Engels, Soch., 2nd ed., vol. 4.
Marx, K. “Belgiiskie izbieniia.” Ibid., vol. 16.
Marx, K. “ ‘Obraztsovoe gosudarstvo’ Bel’giia.” Ibid., vol. 5.
Marx, K. “Obraztsovoe konstitutsionnoe gosudarstvo.” Ibid.
Engels, F. “Dvizheniia 1847 goda.” Ibid., vol. 4.
Engels, F. “Evropeiskie rabochie v 1877 g.,” [chaps.] 2–3. Ibid., vol. 19.
Lenin, V. I. “Voinstvuiushchii militarizm i antimilitaristskaia taktika sotsial-demokratii.” Poln. sobr. soch., 5th ed., vol. 17.
Lenin. V. I. “Zadachi revoliutsionnoi sotsial-democratii v evropeiskoi voine.” Ibid., vol. 26.
Lenin, V. I. “Russkie Ziudekumi.” Ibid.
Lenin, V. I. “Sotsializm i voina.” Ibid.
Lenin, V. I. “Imperializm, kak vysshaia stadia kapitalizma.” Ibid., vol. 27, pp. 356, 371–77, 399, 413.
Lozinskii, S. G. Istoriia Bel’gii i Gollandii v novoe vremia. St. Petersburg, 1908.
Rubinin, E. V. Sovremennaia Bel’giia. Moscow, 1945.
Tanin, S. M. Gos. stroi Bel’gii. Moscow, 1958.
Kerov, V. L. “K voprosu ob usilenii ekspluatatsiu krest’ianstva v Iuzhnykh Niderlandakh (Bel’gii) i Severnoi Frantsii v seredine XIII veka.” In the collection Srednie veka, issue 7. Moscow, 1955.
Chistozvonov, A. N. Niderlandskaia burzhuaznaia revoliutsiia XVI v. Moscow, 1958.
Chistozvonov, A. N. Gentskoe vosstanie 1539–1540 gg. Moscow, 1957.
Pankov, Iu. N. Rabochee dvizhenie v Bel’gii, 1945–1965. Moscow, 1966.
Solov’eva, L. I. Polozhenie i bor’ba rabochego klassa Bel’gii, 1958–1968. Moscow, 1969.
Chlepner, B. S. Sto let sotsial’noi istorii Bel’gii. Moscow, 1959. (Translated from French.)
Renard, K. Oktiabr’ 1917 goda i bel’g. rabochee dvizhenie. Moscow, 1968. (Translated from French.)
Dechesne, L. Histoire économique et sociale de la Belgique. Paris-Liege, 1932.
Jouret, G. Histoire économique de la Belgique. Mons, 1937.
Pirenne, H. Histoire de Belgique des origines á nos jours, vols. 1–7. Brussels, 1900–32. New edition: vols. 1–4. 1948–52. (Parts translated into Russian: Srednevekovye goroda Bel’gii. Moscow, 1937. Niderlandskaia Revolutsiia. Moscow, 1937.)
Linden, H. van der. Manuel d’histoire de Belgique, vols. 1–2. Brussels, 1926.
Guyot de Mishaegen, G. Histoire de Belgique. Namur, 1953.
Algemene Geschiedenis der Nederlanden, vols. 1–12. Utrecht, 1949–58.
Meeüs, A. Histoire des Beiges. Paris, 1958.
Van der Kindere, L. La formation territoriale des principautés beiges au moyen age, vols. 1–2. Brussels, 1902–03.
Hymans, L. Histoire parlementaire de la Belgique de 1830 a 1880, series 1 (vols. 1–5), series 3 (vols. 1–2), series 4 (vols. 1–2). Brussels, 1877–1913.
Chlepner, B. S. Le marché financier beige depuis cent ans. Brussels, 1930.
Lewiński, J. L’évolution industrielle de la Belgique. Brussels, 1911.
Bertrand, L. Histoire de la democratie et du socialisme en Belgique depuis 1830, vols. 1–2. Brussels-Paris, 1906–07.
Daye, P.Léopold II. Paris, 1934.
Bertrand, L. Histoire de la coopération en Belgique, vols. 1–2. Brussels, 1903.
Vandervelde, E. Le Parti ouvrier Beige 1885–1925. Brussels, 1925.
Clough, S. B. A History of the Flemish Movement in Belgium. New York, 1930.
Baudhuin, F. Histoire économique de la Belgique 1914–1939, 2nd ed., vols. 1–2. Brussels, 1946.
Garson, J. Les relations extérieures de la Belgique (1939–1914). Brussels [1946].
Wullus-Rudiger, J. Les origines Internationales du drame beige de 1940. Brussels, 1950.
Cudell, G. Histoire du mouvement ouvrier beige. [No place] 1960.

A. N. CHISTOZVONOV (up to the 18th century) and E. V. RUBININ (from the 18th century)

Political parties. The Christian Social Party (Parti Social Chrétien; Kristelijke Volkspartij) was formed in 1945. It was reconstituted from the Catholic Party, which had been formed in the 1820’s. The party is composed of representatives of the wealthy financial bourgeoisie, the Catholic clergy, major landowners, and Catholic working people. In 1968–69 it was reconstituted into a Flemish wing and a Walloon wing, with a membership of 250,000.

The Belgian Socialist Rarty (Parti Socialiste Beige; Belgische Socialistische Partij) was founded in 1885 and was known as the Belgian Labor Party until 1940. It consists of part of the petite bourgeoisie and a considerable proportion of the working people. It is a member of the Socialist International and had a membership of 130,000 in 1970. In 1964 a group of left-wing socialists left the Belgian Socialist Party and formed the Socialist Confederation of Workers.

The Party of Liberty and Progress (Parti de la Liberté et du Progrés; Partij voor Vrijheid and Vooruitgang), known until 1961 as the Liberal Party, was formed in the 1820’s. It represents various levels of the bourgeoisie and part of the intelligentsia. It had a membership of 50,000 in 1970.

The People’s Union (Volksunie) was formed in 1954 from Flemish Nationalist organizations and had a membership of about 11,000 in 1970.

The Communist Party of Belgium (Parti Communiste de Belgique; Belgische Communistische Partij) was founded in 1921 and in 1970 had about 14,000 members.

Trade unions and other social organizations. Trade unions came into being in Belgium in the 1850’s. In 1968 there were more than 1,605,000 trade union members in Belgium—70 percent of all workers and employees. One of the largest trade unions is the Belgian General Federation of Labor, founded in 1945, which had a membership of more than 800,000 in 1970,70 percent of them workers. It comprises 14 trade unions and has been a member of the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions since 1949. It is under the influence of the leaders of the Belgian Socialist Party.

Another of the largest trade unions is the Confederation of Christian Trade Unions, founded in 1908, which had a membership of 950,000 in 1970. It comprises 18 Christian trade unions and is a member of the World Confederation of Labor. It is under the influence of the Christian Social Party.

Another of the largest trade unions is the General Confederation of Liberal Trade Unions of Belgium, which was founded in 1930 and had a membership of 100,000 in 1970. It comprises employees, teachers, and a small number of workers in small-scale industrial enterprises and is under the influence of the Freedom and Progress Party.

The Society for Belgian-Soviet Friendship was founded in 1929. The Belgian Society for the Defense of Peace was formed 20 years later. The Movement of May 8, which has as its aim the struggle for peace, was founded in 1962 and comprises 60 organizations, including women’s groups, youth and former front-line soldiers’ groups, and political prisoners’ groups, including the General Federation of Labor, the Confederation of Christian Trade Unions, and the General Confederation of Liberal Trade Unions.

The Association of Women in the Struggle for Peace and Welfare was founded in 1949, the Union of Communist Youth of Belgium in 1957, and the National Conference of Former Political Prisoners in 1952.

The Front of National Independence was set up during World War II and consists of members of the former resistance movement. The Christian Movement of Independents is a Catholic organization created in 1955 by extreme right-wing elements of the Christian Social Party; its members are small proprietors, tradesmen, and artisans.


General state of the economy. Belgium forms part of the group of small, industrial, highly developed capitalist states of Western Europe characterized by highly concentrated industrial production, a considerable volume of capital export, and large-scale national and international monopolies. An important source of capital accumulation was the exploitation of the natural resources and people of the Congo (a Belgian colony since the end of the 19th century). By the beginning of the 20th century, imperialist Belgium had attained a high level of development in its productive forces; there was rapid development in machine building, particularly in transport machines. The number of workers had already reached about 1 million, a higher proportion of the total population than in the large European countries. Lenin, describing the conditions and history of the Belgian workers’ movement, spoke of the “tremendous development of industrial capitalism, almost the highest in the world” (Poln. sobr. soch., 5th ed., vol. 14, p. 165).

After World War II the Belgian economy had to face difficulties that increased as the general crisis of the capitalist system worsened. The Belgian franc was devalued to about one-half its former value, while military expenditures increased. The rate of increase of industrial production during the period 1945–65 was lower than in other capitalist countries (2–4 percent), and the growth index of the gross national product was relatively low (approximately 4 percent). Belgium lagged somewhat behind other Western European countries in the renovation of industrial equipment, and this had an adverse effect on its further economic development. For example, it was approximately five to seven years behind other developed European countries in transferring from coal to liquid fuels.

Periods of relatively low increase in economic development alternated with periods of industrial stagnation, primarily because of a decrease in home demand. To some extent this was related to the monopolies’ lack of interest in making large-scale capital investments for the reconstruction of obsolete sectors of industry. The cost of living went up, taxation grew heavier, and unemployment remained a serious problem throughout this period.

The growth of the national liberation movement in the Belgian colonies of the Congo and Ruanda-Urundi and their advance toward independent political development dealt a blow to the state monopolistic circles of Belgium. The problem of foreign market outlets, to which many of the country’s manufactures are directed, grew more acute. The monopolies’ attempts to adjust to the postwar situation and to maintain their level of industrial production and external economic position were one of the reasons why Belgium joined the European Coal and Steel Community and the Common Market. However, the elimination of many barriers among members of the European Economic Community (EEC) under the Treaty of Rome aggravated Belgium’s difficulties—for example, a number of pits were closed in the coal industry.

Among the six major countries that are members of the EEC, Belgium ranks fifth in overall industrial production, but Belgian companies maintain a leading position in certain sectors—in zinc smelting, diamond cutting, copper and lead refining, and window-glass production. On a per capita basis, Belgium stands among the main capitalist countries for certain branches of industrial production: in 1967 the per capita figures for steel and oil products were 1 and 1.4 tons, respectively. Decisive positions in Belgium’s economy are held by monopolistic associations with wide international connections—for example, the Société Générale de Belgique, a banking and industrial concern that controls more than half of the country’s industrial enterprises, particularly in the fields of heavy industry, energy, and transportation; Lonois; Brufina-Confinindus, which is connected with the Banque de Bruxelles; Solvay, a trust monopolizing the production of soda and soda products in the capitalist world, with ties with the chemical industries of the German Federal Republic, the United States, and Great Britain; Petrofina, a petroleum refinery, and Cockerill-Ougrée-Providence, a ferrous metals producer which smelts one-third of Belgian steel.

At the same time, Belgium is dependent on foreign capital, in whose hands approximately one-third of the production capacity of Belgian industry is concentrated. This is invested mainly in the automobile assembly industry (American General Motors and Ford), oil refining (American Exxon and others), the aluminum industry (Aluminium Français), chemicals (ACU, BASF, Dupont de Nemours), metallurgy (the monopolistic Rothschild group), and many other economic sectors. In 1969 foreign capital invested in Belgium amounted to 33.2 billion Belgian francs, one-third of which came from the United States (the Federal Republic of Germany was second and Great Britain was third).

Industry. The characteristic features of Belgian industry are its high technical level and its highly skilled manpower; at the same time, its raw material resources are restricted. The old branches of Belgian industry—coal, metallurgy, and textiles—retain their primary importance, while the new ones, such as the chemical, petrochemical, and electronics industries, are increasing relatively slowly their proportion of the entire industrial structure. (The industrial structure is shown in Table 2, the output figures for the main types of industrial products in Table 3.)

Table 2. Principal branches of industry in 1968
 Total output %Number of workers %
Metallurgy and mechanical engineering2836
Fuel and chemical industries1013
Textile, sewing, and shoe industries9.712
Total industry and construction100100

ENERGY AND EXTRACTIVE INDUSTRIES. In 1968 about 30 percent of energy was derived from coal (the main mineral wealth of the country) and 60 percent from oil (imported). Coal is mined in two basins: the northern basin in the Campine region produces more than half of the total output; the southern basin, in the region around Mons, Namur, and Liege, is one of the oldest in the world and is gradually declining. The coal is used for the production of gas (2.4 billion cu m) and electricity. There is an atomic power station at Mol in the province of Antwerp.

MANUFACTURING INDUSTRIES. The manufacturing industries use mainly imported materials; the most important are branches of heavy industry—metallurgy and metalworking and the main chemical industries. Production in these branches is often combined in a single enterprise. Important light industries are the food, textile, and sewing industries.

The ferrous metal industry is one of the oldest and most developed industries in the country. Belgium is the seventh largest steel smelter in the capitalist world. The metallurgical enterprises, grouped mainly along the “black belt” (Liége-Charleroi), specialize in the production of structural rolled steel and steel plates (mainly thin). In the nonferrous metal industry, Belgium ranks seventh among capitalist nations in output volume. Two-thirds of the output is exported. Enterprises are concentrated in the northeast (including the province of Antwerp), and they all specialize in the processing of imported semifinished products, crude metals, and concentrates.

Mechanical engineering is the most important branch of Belgian industry, and about 40 percent of its production is exported. Transport machinery predominates, particularly the assembly of foreign automobiles from imported parts, including Volga and Moskvich cars (Antwerp and Ghent), shipbuilding (in Hoboken, Temse, and others), and the production of railway equipment, coaches (Nivelles, Bruges, Tubize), and locomotives (Liege). The next most important branch is the electrotechnical industries, which amount to approximately one-fifth of the total value of the mechanical engineering industry. Worth noting are the production of weight-lifting equipment, machine tools, textile machinery, and firearms.

The oil-refining industry is located mainly in the Antwerp harbor area; plant capacity was approximately 30 million tons in 1969. Foreign oil trusts, especially the Anglo-American ones, exert a strong influence in the oil-refining sector. They own about one-half of Belgium’s oil-refining capacity, storage space, and shipping fleet.

The building materials industry is of considerable importance, particularly the production of glass (window, plate, and mirror glass), which is concentrated in the province of Hainaut. Belgium is the largest exporter of glass in the world, exporting one-third of the world total of glass by capitalist countries. Antwerp has the world’s largest number of diamond-cutting enterprises.

The textile industry, which employs some 130,000 workers,

Table 3. Main industrial products
Electrical energy, millions of kW-hr5,60013,00020,00027,600
Coal, tons30,000,00029,000,00019,800,00013,000,000
Petroleum products, tons500,0005,300,00016,000,00026,400,000
Cast iron, tons3,800,0005,700,0008,400,00011,200,000
Steel, tons3,900,0006,300,0009,200,00013,000,000
Copper (refined), tons130,000236,000309,400358,000
Zinc (refined), tons226,000237,000240,000260,000
Lead (refined), tons85,00099,000111,000110,000
Nitrogen, tons72,000234,000398,000594,000
Cotton fabrics, tons53,00085,00075,40071,000
Woolen fabrics, tons16,00030,00038,30037,500
Paper and cardboard, tons235,000384,000505,000702,000
Cement, tons3,000,0004,700,0005,900,0009,000,000
Vessels (launched), register tons139,00054,00097,000
Automobiles (assembled)57,000123,000515,000558,000
Railroad cars5,6003,5001,900

is the main branch of light industry and comprises many small and medium-sized enterprises situated mainly in East and West Flanders. Practically all kinds of woolen, cotton, linen, and artificial fiber yarns and fabrics are manufactured, as well as carpets. Spinning mills in 1967 operated 3 million spindles and 40,000 looms.

AGRICULTURE. Although agriculture is highly intensive, its role in the economy is not important. Belgium is a country of small and medium-sized farms. Of all the cultivated land (1.6 million hectares in 1967), 50 percent belongs to farms of between 5 and 20 ha. As a rule, these farms are the principal suppliers of food to towns, providing most of their commodities; most of the livestock, technical equipment, machinery, and hired farm labor are concentrated in such large enterprises. Farms of this size amounted to only 10 percent of the total number of farms in 1965, 90 percent of the farms having areas of less than 5 ha. Extreme fragmentation of landed property is characteristic in the industrialized areas, two-thirds of all plots being on leased land. The leaseholders include many industrial workers who combine work at an enterprise with truck farming. In 1968, 84,600 tractors, 7,900 combines, and 52,100 milking machines were in use in Belgium.

The most important sector in Belgian agriculture is the meat and dairy industry, which-accounts for two-thirds of the total income from agricultural production. (For livestock statistics, see Table 4.)

Poultry farming has been developed, and there are 12 million laying hens. Plant cultivation is adapted to livestock requirements. Two-thirds of the total farming area is used for growing fodder. Wheat, rye, oats, and barley are grown. The average crop capacity for wheat is more than 30 centners per hectare;

Table 4. Livestock
1Milk output 3.8 million tons in 1967

barley, 30 centners; oats, 32; and rye, 25.2. Numerous nurseries growing hothouse plants, vegetables, and flowers are located near urban areas. (For figures on cultivated lands and yield of main crops, see Table 5).

Forestry is of small importance in the Belgian economy. Most forests have been cut down; there were about 600,000 ha of woodland in 1966. The main wooded areas are in the Ardennes region, where approximately 2 million cubic meters of timber are cut each year, one-half of which is sent to the sawmills, the rest being used in the coal mines and for the pulp and paper industry. Local supplies meet only half of the country’s timber needs.

Fishing is primarily marine. Herring, cod, plaice, and other fish are caught. The total annual catch between 1960 and 1967 averaged over 60,000 tons a year.

Transportation. Belgium ranks first in the capitalist world in the density of its railroad network (there were 4,300 km of track in 1968). The main railroad junction is Brussels. The dense network of inland waterways (about 1,600 km) consists of practically ice-free rivers and numerous canals, including the Albert Canal. The merchant navy had a total displacement of 900,000 gross register tons in 1968 and carried only about one-tenth of the total volume of Belgian sea freight, most of which goes through Antwerp, one of the largest seaports in the world (freight turnover in 1968 was 72 million tons). Automotive transport has been developed, and in 1969 there were 1,938,000 motor vehicles, 1,667,000 of

Table 5. Land under cultivation and yield of main crops
 Area under cultivation (hectares)Yield (tons)
Sugar beets64,00090,0003,114,0005,200,000
Flax (fiber)27,00029,00031,00037,000

which were cars. There are more than 10,000 km of motor highways. The national airline, Sabena, provides an extensive air communications network. A heavy volume of freight and passenger traffic is characteristic of all forms of transportation in Belgium.

External economic relations. The Belgium-Luxembourg Economic Union ranks seventh in the capitalist world in the volume of its total foreign trade and is among the top nations in volume of exports per capita. Foreign trade is of vital importance to Belgium, since its economy is dependent on foreign markets. Belgium imports one-half of its food, two-thirds of its industrial raw materials, and almost all its oil, ore, industrial diamonds, cotton, and wool. About 40 percent of industrial production is exported. Approximately one-half of Belgian exports consists of metals and industrial equipment. Other traditional exports are textiles, glass, cement, cinematographic materials, and diamonds.

Belgium’s geographical proximity to the nations of Western Europe has led to the fact that three-quarters of its foreign trade is directed toward those nations. Its main trading partners are the countries of the Common Market—the Federal Republic of Germany, the Netherlands, France, and Italy—which take up two-thirds of its trade. The proportion of Belgium’s foreign trade in 1969 with socialist countries was 1.4 percent (about 1 percent with the Soviet Union). Belgium’s foreign trade with the USSR comes under the Provisional Trade Convention Between the USSR and the Belgium-Luxembourg Economic Union of Sept. 5, 1935. Belgium’s foreign trade policy is largely dependent on the policy of the EEC.

Monetary system. Belgium’s credit system is headed by the bank of issue, the National Bank of Belgium. About one-half of the capital and two-thirds of the deposits of all commercial banks are concentrated in the Société Genérale de Belgique and the Banque de Bruxelles. The state budget has a constant deficit. The monetary unit is the Belgian franc, which is also circulated in Luxembourg. Its gold value was 0.01777 g, and its official rate is fixed at 50 Belgian francs for one US dollar. The USSR Gosbank rate for 100 Belgian francs in 1970 was one ruble and 80 kopecks.

Economic-geographic regions. The Brussels-Antwerp region is industrial; the central region (northern Hainaut, the Hesbaye plateau, and Hageland) is agrarian-industrial; the northwest (Flanders) and northeast (Campine) regions are industrial-agrarian; the region of the Sambre and Meuse valleys (Mons, Charleroi, Liége, Namur) is industrial; and the southern region is agrarian.


Streletskaia, L. N. Bel’giia: Ekonomiko-geograficheskaia kharakteristika. Moscow, 1962.
Kamenskii, N. N. Bel’giia: Ekonomika i vneshniaia torgovlia. Moscow, 1963.
Lefebvre, V. La Belgique et le Congo au milieu du 20 siècle. [Charleroi, 1952.]
Joye, P. Les trusts en Belgique, 3rd ed. Brussels, 1961.
Baudhuin, F. La Belgique 1900–1960: Explication économique de notre temps. Louvain, 1961.
Joyce, P. La Belgique devant la crise. Brussels, 1967.


The Belgian armed forces consist of land, air, and naval forces, totaling 116,000 men in early 1969. The king is supreme commander in chief. The armed forces are under the direct command of the minister of defense, who is a civilian and to whom the chief of the general staff, who is in effect in command of all the armed forces, is subordinate. Recruitment for the armed forces is conducted on the basis of general conscription. The period of service is 12–15 months, and the draft age is 20. For military administration purposes, Belgium is divided into three territorial areas (Brussels, Antwerp, and Liege) and the naval area of Ostend.

The land forces consist of front-line troops (one army corps of two mechanized divisions) and territorial defense forces, totaling some 83,500 men. The front-line troops are supplied with up-to-date American weapons and military technical equipment, including tactical rockets, atomic artillery (203.2 mm howitzers), and Hawk antiaircraft guided missiles. They are assigned to the combined armed forces of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and stationed on the territory of the Federal Republic of Germany. Belgium has no nuclear weapon stockpiles of its own. The air force numbers approximately 20,000 men and has 280 tactical aircraft, mainly American, including two squadrons (36 F-104A aircraft) carrying nuclear weapons. Weapons also include the Nike antiaircraft guided missile. The Belgian air force is assigned to the combined NATO air forces. The naval forces number some 5,000 men and consist of about 80 vessels, most of them small.

In 1967 the senior political and military organs (staffs) of NATO were transferred from France to Belgium. Belgium has 14 air bases on its territory; these are used by other NATO countries.

Medicine and public health. In 1968 the birthrate was 14.8 per thousand inhabitants, and the mortality rate 12.8; infant mortality in 1967 was 23 per thousand live births. A noninfectious pathology is prevalent. The main causes of death are heart disease linked with atherosclerosis, malignant growths, and cerebral hemorrhage. The mortality rate for children’s diseases is very low. All infections and parasitical diseases account for 15.6 percent of the total mortality rate. The incidence of intestinal diseases is low and poliomyelitis has been practically eliminated, but lung tuberculosis is still prevalent (9.3 per 10,000 inhabitants).

The Ministry of Public Health and Family Welfare is responsible for the work of medical and public health institutions. It applies measures to combat social diseases and is in charge of social maintenance services, hospital services, housing conditions, and so on. Each of the nine provinces has public health inspectors who deal with the prevention of infectious diseases, the sanitary control of food products, medicosocial work, medical services for schoolchildren, and so forth. Hospitals belong primarily to various social organizations, religious communities, or private individuals. Most physicians are engaged in private practice. Belgium has an obligatory system of social insurance covering sickness, disability, and pregnancy. The insured, all paid employees and the members of their families—about 8.4 million persons in all—are entitled to compensation for part of their medical expenses and hospitalization. In 1966, Belgium had 75,100 hospital beds, or 7.9 beds per thousand inhabitants. In 1968 there were 16,400 working physicians in Belgium, or one physician per 586 inhabitants; there were 2,300 dentists, 6,000 pharmacists, and 3,800 midwives. Physicians receive their training at the four medical faculties of the universities of Brussels, Ghent, Liege, and Louvain. Zeebrugge, Ostend, and Spa are known as health resorts.


Veterinary services. On the whole, the condition of livestock is satisfactory in terms of infectious and parasitic diseases. However, cases of brucellosis and enzootic mastitis persist among cattle. In the 1960’s leukosis was widespread among cattle. Erysipelas is a common disease among hogs, and cases of rinderpest occur sporadically. Cases of Newcastle disease and fowl pox occur in poultry farming. In 1965 epizootic hoof-and-mouth disease (type C) appeared on Belgian territory. Some farm animal diseases tend to be more frequent in some natural regions than in others. Thus, lep-tospirosis among swine, salmonellosis among cattle, and fascioliasis are found in the coastal areas. Outbreaks of such transmissible diseases as babesiosis and rabies appear on the plateau of upper Belgium; there were 41 cases of rabies in 1966.

In 1969 there were approximately 1,300 veterinarians in Belgium. The best-qualified specialists are trained at the veterinary faculty of Brussels University. Veterinary problems are studied at the National Veterinary Institute for Scientific Research and at the Institute for Social Hygiene and Epidemiology. Belgian veterinary services are administered by two ministries, the Ministry of Agriculture and the Ministry of Public Health and Family Welfare. The veterinary network covers the entire country.


The first (church) schools arose in Belgian territory in the early Middle Ages. At the end of the 18th century private schools began to appear. The system of state secular schools was developed in the 19th century. Since 1914 a law on universal compulsory education for children from six to 14 years of age has been in force. Instruction in the primary and secondary schools is given in the children’s native language, either Flemish or French. In all types of secondary schools the other language is taught as a subject. In higher educational institutions instruction is given in one or both languages. Belgium has both state and private schools; most of the latter are affiliated with the Catholic Church; more children attend Catholic schools than secular schools. In its struggle for educational supremacy, the Catholic Church uses the ethnic differences among the population, the strong traditions of particularism in the provinces and communes, and its influence on the faithful. This struggle often takes the form of “school wars,” which are often of a highly political nature. The state sector of education is run by the Ministry of Education and Culture; the private sector (Catholic) is run by the secretariat of Catholic Education.

The first link in the educational system is the preschool institution (nursery school) for children of three to six. In 1969 there were 460,000 children in such schools. The primary school covers a period of six years. Instruction is based on the principles worked out by O. Decroly. In the school year 1968–69, 1,016,000 children attended state primary schools.

Secondary schools also cover a period of six years and are divided into two cycles of three years each. The first cycle in a secondary school has three divisions—classical, modern, and prevocational (for students who do not intend to go on to the second cycle). In the second cycle the classical division is subdivided into Latin and Greek, Latin and mathematics, and Latin and natural sciences sections; the modern division, into natural sciences and commercial sections. In the school year 1968–69 some 300,000 students attended secondary school.

Vocational training is given in six-year vocational and technical schools. Vocational schools are based on the primary school and provide training in industrial subjects. In the school year 1968–69, more than 347,000 students attended vocational schools.

Technical schools train middle-level technical personnel and admit students who have completed their first cycle at a secondary school. Students graduating from a technical school may proceed to a higher technical school. In the school year 1968–69, more than 146,000 students attended technical schools.

Primary and nursery school teachers receive four years of training after completing the first cycle of secondary school. First-cycle secondary school teachers receive two years of training after graduation from secondary school. Second-cycle secondary school teachers must be university graduates.

There are 21 higher educational institutions in Belgium, including five universities—in Antwerp (state university founded in 1965), Louvain (Catholic university founded in 1425), Liège and Ghent (both state universities founded in 1817), and Brussels (the so-called Free University, founded in 1834). In the academic year 1968–69, some 90,000 students attended these universities. The main libraries are the Belgian National Library in Brussels, founded in 1837, which has over 2.6 million volumes, and the university libraries of Brussels (founded in 1846, with 750,000 volumes), Ghent (1817, with 1.5 million volumes), Liège (1817, with 1.2 million volumes), and Louvain (1425, with 980,000 volumes). The museums include the Royal Museum of Fine Arts in Antwerp, founded in 1890; the Belgian Royal Museum of Fine Arts (founded in 1830, including the Museum of Ancient Art and the Museum of Modern Art); the royal museums of art and of history in Brussels, both founded in 1835; the Royal Museum of Central Africa in Tervueren, founded in 1897; and the Municipal Arts Gallery in Bruges, founded in 1930.


Science before the establishment of an independent state (1830). Belgian science and scholarship before 1830 were considerably influenced by the special features that had marked the history of the country: the prolonged fragmentation of the territory into small principalities and then provinces, with the result that science could for a long time develop only at a provincial level; the union of the Belgian and Netherlands territories in the 15th and 16th centuries into a single Netherlands (during this period it is difficult to distinguish Belgian scholarship from that of the Netherlands); and national dependence from the 16th to the early 19th centuries.

In the eighth and the first half of the ninth centuries, the Belgian territories were one of the centers of the “Carolin-gian renaissance.” Flourishing in the late tenth and the 11th centuries, the church schools of the Liège bishopric became important centers of medieval culture, whose influence extended far beyond the bounds of the Belgian lands. The best known of the Belgian chroniclers at the end of the 11th and the beginning of the 12th centuries was Sigebert of Gembloux, a monk of the Benedictine abbey of Gembloux in Brabant. Foremost among theologians and philosophers were Wibald of Stavelot and especially Siger of Brabant, the principal representative of Western European Averroism. In the 12th and 13th centuries, first in Flanders and then in Brabant, the earliest secular historical works to be written in the national languages instead of medieval Latin began to appear.

The works of the Flemish poet Jacob van Maerlant popularized in the vernacular not only the historical but the natural-scientific knowledge of the time. The intellectual life of the period was influenced by the wide circles of burgher society, and the awakening self-awareness of the burgher class was becoming ever more marked. This was reflected in the spread of the heretic movement. The need to fight epidemics promoted medical research and the publication of medical works; one of the first, by Jehan Ypermann, appeared in the 14th century. Noteworthy representatives of the Western European chronicles of chivalry in the 14th century were the Liége canon Jean le Bel and more especially Jean Froissart, a native of Valenciennes.

The period that began with the centralization of Belgian territories under the rule of the dukes of Burgundy was marked by an upsurge in cultural and intellectual activity. In 1425 a university was founded in Louvain, the first on Belgian soil. The greatest historian of the Burgundian school was Georges Chastellain, official historiographer of the dukes of Burgundy. He was replaced in that position by Jean Molinet, who continued as court historiographer under the Habsburgs. New forms of historical literature appeared, such as memoirs; a 15th-century example is the memoirs of Philippe de Commines, a native of Flanders.

The upsurge in science and culture in 16th-century Belgium was connected with the beginning of capitalist relations in Belgian territories, the epoch of the great geographical discoveries, the cultural movement of the Renaissance, and the struggle for freedom against Spanish rule. The growth of science and culture was encouraged by the spread of the art of printing, beginning in the 1470’s; the books produced by the printing press of C. Plantin in Antwerp from the middle of the 16th century were famed throughout Europe.

Antwerp, the world center of trade and navigation at the time, also became the center of European cartography. The physician, mathematician, astronomer, and cosmographer Gemma Frisius proposed a method of determining longitude based on the use of accurate chronometers. Abraham Or-telius published his famous atlas, the Theater of the World. The best known of all Antwerp cartographers was Mercator, the accuracy of whose many atlases exceeded that of all other contemporary publications in the field.

Rembert Dodoens (Dodonaeus), a physician and the outstanding botanist of his time, worked in Ghent and Bruges. The chemist R. Fuchs published a guide to distillation which was for many years the best-known work on the practice of chemistry.

In the 16th and first half of the 17th centuries Belgium produced two important scientists whose influence made itself felt for almost 200 years. The first, A. Vesalius, who started a new era in anatomy, presented the structure of the human body as observed by himself in his examination of corpses, and criticized the teachings of Galen which had reigned supreme in medicine for 14 centuries. The second, J. B. van Helmont, was the foremost representative of iatrochemistry. He developed original ideas on vital activity but is equally well-known for his experimental research work.

The suppression of the bourgeois revolution and of the war of liberation in the late 16th century in the Belgian provinces and the return to Spanish rule, accompanied by the feudal Catholic reaction, put an end to the incipient development of scientific thought. Scientific centers were transferred to the north—Leiden and Amsterdam—and a number of scientists and scholars of Belgian origin continued their activities in Holland—for example, S. Stevin, the founder of hydrostatics. In the Belgian provinces education came into the hands of the Jesuits. Only certain branches of science such as mathematics were developed, and then only within certain limits. In 1692 the astronomer and mathematician M. van Velden was summoned before the courts and compelled to renounce the Copernican system which he had defended.

Medicine in the 17th century was represented by A. van den Spieghel (Spiegelius), a physician and anatomist of Brussels, who described the lobe of the liver (named after him) and the forms of hernias. He also studied the anatomy of the nervous system.

Historiography assumed an official clerical character (the patriotic chronicles of the Flemish Calvinist E. van Meteren were published beyond the borders of Belgium). At the same time, some success was achieved in auxiliary historical subjects through the activities of the learned society of the Bol-landist Jesuits, who began issuing the collection of the Lives of the Saints, which is still appearing today.

Only toward the end of the 18th century was there some progress in science and education. In 1773 secular teachers replaced Jesuits in schools providing general education. The Royal Academy of Sciences, Letters, and Fine Arts had been founded the previous year; it was closed down in 1794 by the French but resumed its activities in 1816. In 1817 the universities of Ghent and Liege were established. In 1826 the Brussels Botanical Garden was laid out, and the Royal Observatory was opened in Brussels the following year.

Development of science from 1830.NATURAL AND TECHNICAL SCIENCES. After the creation of an independent Belgian state in 1830 and as a result of the needs of capitalist production, a period of intensive scientific development began. Of the natural sciences, chemistry made the greatest strides in the 19th century, followed by the medical and biological sciences. In 1836 a mining institute was established in Mons. The first geologist in Belgium was J. d’Omalius d’Halloi, who in 1808 published Geological Experiments in Northern France and in 1822 the Experimental Geological Map of the Netherlands. A geological map of Belgium was finished by A. Dumont in 1849. The extension of metallurgical enterprises in the southern provinces of the country and the subsequent exploitation of the Congo’s natural resources had a marked effect on the further development of geology and mining. Among the noteworthy Belgian geologists and mineralogists in the late 19th and early 20th centuries were Renart, M. Lohest, L. Crismer, J. Cornet and others.

Among the outstanding chemists of the 19th century were J. Stas and E. Solvay. Stas, who was a professor at the Military Academy in Brussels, determined the atomic weights of a series of elements. Solvay invented the soda-manufacturing process (a factory was built in 1863) which has spread throughout the world and replaced the process of N. Leblanc. Solvay was the organizer of the Solvay congresses from 1911 onward. F. A. Kékulé, who set up the first special chemical laboratory in Belgium, was invited at Stas’ initiative to teach at Ghent University in 1858.

The annexation of the Congo and the exploitation of its natural resources influenced the development not only of geology but also of botany and zoology. The founder of zoology was M. de Sely. P. J. van Beneden conducted researches in parasitology, while his son, E. van Beneden, laid the foundation for cytological and embryological research in Belgium. The zoologist and palaeontologist L. Dollo formulated the principle of the irreversibility of evolution. E. de Wildeman played an important part in the development of geobotany.

J. Bordet was awarded the Nobel Prize in 1919 for his work on immunology. C. Heymans received the Nobel Prize in 1938 for his work on respiratory processes in animals and man. Z. Bacq gained importance as a physiologist, pharmacologist, and radiobiologist and performed valuable work on the biochemistry and toxicology of nervous activity and the prevention of radiation sickness. E. P. van Ermengem discovered the bacteria causing botulism.

One of the first mathematicians to deal with problems of mathematical statistics was A. Quételet, the author of a two-volume history of mathematics and the physical sciences in Belgium (1864).

In number theory, C. de la Vallée Poussin achieved important results in 1896 in his study of the distribution of prime numbers. Other noteworthy mathematicians include Mansion, a specialist in analysis, and the geometricians de Tilly and A. Demoulin. The physicist J. Plateau was a pupil of Quételet.

Important studies were carried out in the 19th and 20th centuries in astronomy, astrophysics, and geophysics. The astronomer J. Houzeau de Lehaye gave a description of the Milky Way which is regarded as classic. C. Fyevey was the first in Belgium to carry out spectroscopic astronomical investigations and the first Belgian astrophysicist. The climatologist and meteorologist A. Lancaster was active in the field of atmospheric research. Z. Gramme’s dynamo was one of the most important inventions of the century. The great scientific historian J. Sarton, a native of Ghent, was first active in Belgium. In the 1930’s A. Piccard carried out the first explorations of the stratosphere by means of a stratospheric balloon; after World War II he did interesting research work in the world’s ocean depths. The greatest achievement in theoretical physics in 20th-century Belgium was that of G. Lemaître, professor at Louvain University, who proposed a model of the “expanding universe.”

The first years after World War II were marked by an increase in the scope of scientific and technical research work in agriculture and in various other economic sectors: in the ferrous metal industry, by improving Thomas steel and creating new forms of finished steel production; in the nonferrous metal industry, by more deep ore dressing, with a greater degree of purity of metals, and by mastering the production of such rare metals as cobalt, uranium, germanium, tantalum, niobium, and selenium; in mechanical engineering, by investigating the properties of new materials and by manufacturing new types of articles; in the pharmaceuticals industry, by synthesizing hormones, vitamins, antibiotics, various vaccines, and so on; and in the chemical industry, by developing new kinds of nitrogen fertilizers, increasing the number of chlorine products, producing ethylene and surface active substances, and improving colored light-sensitive materials used in industry and science.

At the same time, there was a noticeable drop in the demand for scientific and technical progress in fundamental research and development for new and progressive spheres of activity. Accordingly, the government made itself responsible for a considerable part of the costs of these activities. A nuclear energy research center was set up in Mol, which has two educational-scientific reactors for producing isotopes, testing materials, and conducting biological and chemical research and one experimental reactor for industrial purposes.

Since the end of the 1950’s, a centralizing reform of the state organs for the administration of scientific work has been in progress. A ministry of science, as well as other state organs and a consultative body—the National Council for Scientific Development—was formed.

The National Fund for Scientific Research, the Fund for Collective Basic Research, the Fund for Medical Scientific Research, and the Interuniversity Institute for Nuclear Sciences are combined under one general administration and together direct fundamental research conducted by the major research institutions. Two centers have also been set up to coordinate and encourage the development of applied technological research—an institute for promoting scientific research in industry and agriculture and the Belgian Directorate for raising the productivity of labor.

To extend basic research, Belgium is participating in such intergovernmental organizations as Euratom, the European Space Research Organization, and the European Organization for Nuclear Research.

SOCIAL SCIENCES. The social sciences, which in Belgium were much influenced by the main trends and schools of the French, English, and German bourgeois social sciences, have been affected primarily by the struggle between the clerical and secular forces in political life and science, the development of the working class and socialist movements, and by the problems connected with the economic development of the country, with its state and legal organization, colonial policy, Flemish movement, and so on. The main champion of clerical influence on the sciences has been the Catholic University of Louvain, and the main center of bourgeois, anticlerical liberal sciences has been the so-called Free University of Brussels, to which the Institute of Social Sciences was added at the end of the 19th century; known since 1901 as the Solvay Institute of Sociology, it is a major center of bourgeois social science. From the end of the 19th century the views of the thinkers and leaders of the Belgian Labor (later Socialist) Party—for example, E. Vandervelde, C. Huysmans, L. de Brouckére, L. Bertrand, J. Destree, H. de Man, and P. H. Spaak—acquired some prominence in Belgian philosophical, sociological, and economic thought. They reflect the steadily growing process of opportunistic regeneration in the party. The present official ideology of the Belgian right-wing socialists is that of democratic socialism. Today, Marxist thought in Belgium is represented in the works of the active members of the Belgian Communist Party and in the decisions adopted at its congresses.

Economic science. Until the middle of the 20th century economics in Belgium was mainly concerned with accounts of the development of the national economy and was influenced by the main theoretical views reached by bourgeois economists abroad. From the 1850’s to the 1880’s, the dominant views were those of economic liberalism, which opposed interference by the bourgeois state in the economic life of the country and defended the unlimited freedom of private enterprise. From the 1880’s a tendency to admit state interference became apparent (E. Laveley, whose views are close to German “Katheder Sozialismus,” and others). In the first half of the 20th century such economic historians as H. Pirenne, H. van Hautte, G. des Marez, and H. van Werveke have written works on various periods in the development of Belgian economy, either generally or on some separate sector. F. Baudhuin wrote an original history on more than a half century of Belgium’s economic development.

Among contemporary Belgian economists, the theory of neoliberalism (F. Baudheim and A. Lamfalussy, for example) has gained considerable currency. It holds that state monopolistic regulation must allow for the observance of the principles of free competition. The creation of the Common Market in Western Europe has led to increased interest by Belgian scholars in the problems of capitalist integration (P. Rutsart and others).

At the end of the 1950’s a group of bourgeois economists emerged who endeavored to work out more flexible ways of analyzing economic development by the use of applied mathematics (J. Wallbrock, E. S. Kirschen, L. Morissens, for example). The exponents of this movement support state monopolistic regulation of the economy. In 1959 the Programming Bureau (now the Planning Bureau) was established; it drew up the first two medium-term programs for the economic development of the country (1962–65 and 1967–70). The progressive trends in Belgian economic science are mainly represented by Marxists (E. Burnel, P. Joye, and others) and by a few other economists (G. Spitaels, J. de Boe, and others) who take a critical stand against the dominance of monopolies in the economic life of the country.

Philosophy. The influence of Catholic doctrine is strong in Belgian philosophy. At the end of the 19th century, the Catholic University of Louvain became the international center of neo-Thomism through the efforts of Cardinal Merrier; there, in 1888–89, he founded the Higher Institute of Philosophy, or the School of Thomas Aquinas. As early as 1894 he had begun the journal Revue néoscolastique (since 1946, Revue philosophique de Louvain) and laid the foundations of the neo-Thomist school of philosophers (M. de Wolf, L. de Raeymaker, and others). During the 1950’s and 1960’s some Louvain philosophers deviated from orthodox Thomism and gravitated towards existentialism—for example, A. de Waelhens, a follower of the German philosopher Heidegger. The papers of the German philosopher E. Hus-serl are preserved at Louvain University under the direction of L. van Breda and the publication of his manuscripts, as well as the study of phenomenology, is actively pursued there.

The best-known philosophers of the 20th century at Brussels University are J. Dwelshauwers, a psychologist who was mainly influenced by the French philosopher Bergson; P. Decoster, whose teachings developed under the influence of French spiritualism; and J. Maréchal, who endeavored to combine Kantianism with neo-Thomism.

Several late 19th-century and 20th-century sociologists achieved distinction in Belgium: E. Dupréel, a protagonist of psychologism in sociology; H. de Man, who opposed Marxism on the basis of intuitionism; A. Jeanne, a follower of E. Durkheim and J. Gurvitch; R. Clement, active in industrial sociology; and J. Max, who has written works on the sociology of cognition.

Jurisprudence. The study of jurisprudence in Belgium began to develop in the 1830’s and 1840’s. Belgian jurists at that time advocated a specific national form of the Belgian bourgeois state which combined British institutions with French political practices. The works of Belgian jurists of the mid-19th century formulated the bourgeois parliamentary principles accepted in the jurisprudence of a number of bourgeois countries. In contemporary jurisprudence a formal legal trend predominates. Representatives of this trend include P. Vigny, the author of a number of works on legal theory and constitutional and administrative law; J. Vla-minck, an authority on state law; and A. Buttgenbach, an expert on administrative law.

The sociological side is far less strongly represented. The works of A. Mast and V. Ganshof van der Meersch, while showing a sociological bent, are not free of purely legal analysis of legal institutions and norms. A much more clearly marked sociological trend may be seen in the works of such Belgian jurists as R. Evalenko and F. DeBuyst, who analyze the legal aspects of Belgian political life in the tradition of bourgeois political parties. They are mainly grouped around the Belgian Institute of Political Sciences, which has published the journal Res publica since 1959. Belgium’s adoption of a considerable number of public law institutions from Great Britain and France and of principles of French civil law and so forth has led to the development of comparative jurisprudence, centered in the Institute of Comparative Jurisprudence. Founded in 1908, the institute has published the Revue de droit international et de droit comparé since 1923.

Historiography. The development of national Belgian historiography was stimulated by the revolution of 1830, the establishment of an independent Belgian state, and the whole social movement of the period, which promoted the growth of national consciousness and interest in the country’s historical past. In 1834 a royal historical commission was established and work was begun on the organization of archives and the publication of historical sources (L. Gachard). Among the most important Belgian historians of the 19th and early 20th centuries were J. Kerviyn de Lettenhove, who represented the reactionary Catholic trend in Belgian historiography; A. Henne, who was liberally oriented and wrote a ten-volume work on the history of Belgium in the reign of Charles V; L. van der Kindere, who dealt mainly with Belgian cities in the Middle Ages; and P. Fredericq. The historians of the 19th century were mainly interested in political and historical-legal aspects of Belgian history. One of the basic works of this kind is the multivolume Parliamentary History of Belgium which was begun in the 1870’s by the liberal historian and politician P. Hymans.

The turn toward the study of Belgium’s socioeconomic problems is associated with the name of H. Pirenne, the most outstanding Belgian historian of the late 19th century and first third of the 20th. He created his own concept of the history of Belgium and exerted considerable influence on subsequent bourgeois historiography. Among the Belgian historians of the 20th century who have dealt with various aspects of Belgian history, more particularly the history of the Middle Ages, are L. Verrier and F. Ganshof (both of whose works also cover the general problems of Western-European feudalism), F. Vercanteren, H. van Werveke, L. Halkin, and L. van der Essen.

Intensive work is being carried on by a group of historian-economists, including H. van Hautte, E. Schol-mers, and H. van den Wee. A large group of Belgian and Dutch historians produced the multivolume General History of the Netherlands, stressing the common historical past and present of the Benelux countries. Belgium has an important center for bourgeois Byzantine studies (school of H. Gré-goire, Byzantion journal) and also for ancient Eastern studies (J. Pirenne, Egyptologist and supporter of the cyclic theory; the Assyriologist J. Dossin; and others).

From the end of the 19th century, African studies occupied an important place in historical, ethnographical, and other fields of research (G. van der Kerken, J. Vansina, J. Cuvelier, and others). Many works were written from a colonial or neocolonial standpoint. At that time, social-democratic historical literature also began to appear; its authors (E. Vandervelde, L. de Brouckére, L. Bertrand, J. Destrée, and others) paid special attention to the history of the socialist and working-class movement in Belgium, which they viewed from a reformist position. The Vandervelde Institute has been publishing the History of the Socialist Working Class Movement in Belgium, which adopted the same position, since 1960.


Inventaire des ressources scientifiques beiges, vols. 1–10. Brussels, 1946–58.
Le mouvement scientifique en Belgique. (Fèdèration beige des sociètès scientifiques.) [Brussels, 1966.]
Annuaire de l’académie royale des sciences, des lettres et des beaux arts de Belgique. Brussels, Brussels-Liége, 1835—.
Storia delle scienze, vols. 1–3. Turin, 1962.
De Wulf, M. Histoire de la philosophie en Belgique. Brussels-Paris, 1910.
Arnould, M. A. Historiographie de la Belgique des origines á 1830. Brussels, 1947.
Vercauteren, F. Cent ans d’histoire nationale en Belgique, vol. 1. Brussels, 1959.
A. N. SHAMIN, R. A. NOVIKOV (natural and technical sciences), G. A. KHOMIANIN (economic science), and I. S. KRYLOVA (jurisprudence)
Scientific institutions. The main research work in Belgium is concentrated in state scientific institutions (about 70 in all), universities, research associations for specific sectors of industry (about 50), and private enterprises (about 500).
The most important state research institutions include the Royal Observatory, the Royal Meteorological Institute, the Royal Institute of Natural Sciences, the National Center for Research on Microorganisms, the Belgian Institute for Space Aerology, the Nuclear Energy Research Center, the National Institute for the Extractive Industries, the Ministry of Agriculture Institute for Chemical Research, the Institute of Public Hygiene and Epidemiology, and the Von Karman Institute for the Dynamics of Liquids.
After 1965 two university centers were formed in Belgium, in Mons and Antwerp. Apart from the main universities in Louvain, Brussels, Ghent, and Liege, there are about ten university faculties independent of the main universities.
Industrial associations or centers for industrial research exist for nearly all branches of Belgian industry. They are financed by the state as well as by the firms. The best known include the National Center of Metallurgical Studies, the Scientific and Technical Center of the Belgian Textile Industry, the National Glass Institute, the National Institute of the Coal Industry, the National Mining Institute, the Central Laboratories for Electric Power, the Belgian Center for the Study of Corrosion, and the Scientific and Technical Building Center.
Belgium has learned academies in literature and the arts, medicine, archaeology, and so on, including the Belgian Royal Academy of Sciences, Letters, and Fine Arts, founded in 1772, and the Belgian Royal Medical Academy, founded in 1841. There are also institutions of an academic type, such as the Royal Institute of International Relations. However, these institutions are not scientific research centers. Their functions are to bring together scientific personnel; to encourage individual scholars and scientists by awarding annual prizes; to propagate and disseminate scientific knowledge through the publication of journals, the organization of public lectures, and so on.
There are many scientific societies.


In 1968, Belgium had some 50 daily newspapers with a total circulation of over 2 million. In addition there were 53 weekly and monthly periodicals. The most important newspapers in French and Flemish are Le soir, founded in 1887 (circulation, 300,000), which is officially independent but in fact is an organ of the Party of Liberty and Progress (PLP); De Standaard, founded 1914, which, with its provincial issues, has a circulation of 212,000 and reflects the interests of the Flemish bourgeoisie; Het laatste Nieuws, founded 1888, circulation over 290,000, an organ of the PLP; La derniére heure, founded 1906, circulation 160,000, an organ of the PLP; La libre Belgique, founded 1884, circulation 170,000, an organ of the Christian Social Party (CSP); Temps nouveaux, founded 1946, circulation 120,000, organ of the CSP; De Volksgazet, founded 1914, circulation 120,000, organ of the Belgian Socialist Party (BSP); Le peuple, founded 1885, circulation 100,000, organ of the BSP; Le drapeau rouge, founded 1921, circulation about 7,500, published in French, organ of the Communist Party of Belgium (CPB); De rode Vaan, founded 1921, published in Flemish, organ of the CPB; and La cité, founded 1950, circulation about 40,000, organ of the Confederation of Christian Trade Unions.

Radio broadcasting began in Belgium in 1924 and television broadcasting in 1953. The National Radio and Television Institute (NRTI) administers both media. In 1960 two public bodies, known as broadcasting institutes, were created within the NRTI: one administers radio and television broadcasts in French, the other administers broadcasts in Flemish. There are three radio and two television channels. Broadcast facilities are in Brussels.


As a result of historical peculiarities in the state and territorial development of Belgium, its state borders do not correspond to divisions between historical cultural regions. During the period of feudal fragmentation, from the tenth to the 14th centuries, the feudal domains in the southern part of what is now Belgium differed little in culture from northern France, and the culture of the northern part resembled that of the territory which now constitutes the Netherlands (Holland).

When all parts of the historical Netherlands (the present territories of Belgium, the Netherlands, Luxembourg, and part of northern France) were united in the late 14th and 15th centuries under the rule of Burgundy, their common culture was established, so that the culture of Belgium in the 15th and 16th centuries can be treated separately only to a certain extent.

The literature of the Belgian people developed basically in two languages—French in the southern provinces and Flemish in the northern provinces.

French. The first literary documents in French appeared in Belgium about 1200. The main forms of medieval Belgian literature were historical chronicles and epic tales about the Crusades. The anonymous narrative poem Aucassin and Nicolette was composed in Flanders. Chivalrous literature flourished in the 13th and 14th centuries—the fabliau, romances, songs, and tales of chivalry. The famous minstrels included J. de Conde and V. de Couvain. The anonymous Crowning of Reynard, written about 1280, is a satire on worldly and church rule. Jean Froissart’s Chronicle of Flanders appeared in the 14th century. In the 15th century the novella form became popular—for example, One Hundred New Novellas by A. de la Sale. The poetry of G. Chastellain contains political and patriotic themes.

During the Renaissance the 16th-century humanist J. Lemaire de Beiges fought against the dominance of the Church. The poems of A. du Haignay, L. des Masures, and others were influenced by the poets of the French Pléiade. P. van Marnix van St. Aldegonde, a Protestant, was the author of pamphlets in the style of Rabelais. During the religious wars of the 17th century, Belgian literature was in a state of crisis. The French emigré E. Breuché de la Croix wrote on worldly themes in verse and prose. B. H. de Walef was the author of the epic poem The Giants (1725) and of lyrical works in the classical style. The plays of D. Coppée, P. Bello, and others were based on religious themes.

Educational themes entered literature in the mid-18th century via the treatises of F. de Nelis and others. Liége became the center of the new trends. The works of Voltaire and the Encyclopedic Journal were published in Liége, where literary societies and groups were also established. A. B. Reynier wrote revolutionary-sounding verse, and J. N. Bas-senge attacked Church obscurantism in his poems. During the French Revolution many revolutionary songs, verses, and fables appeared, most of them anonymous. From 1801 to 1818 the Poetic Almanacs appeared in Brussels.

Works in the romantic vein appeared in Belgium, at the beginning of the 19th century, but the Belgian romantics were mainly imitators of Byron (for example, F. Lesbrous-sart, author of the narrative poem The Belgians, 1810) and, later, of Victor Hugo (for example, the poet and dramatist A. van Hasselt, author of the verse collection Primroses, 1834). B. Quinet’s lyrical poetry is religious in spirit. H. Moke wrote such historical novels as The Sea-Beggars (1827). The novels of J. de Saint Genois, J. B. Comance, F. Bogaerts, and others deal with national history. E. Smits wrote heroic tragedies on historical subjects, including Marie de Bour-gogne (1823) and Jeanne de Flandres (1827).

The Belgian bourgeois revolution of 1830 promoted the development of realism and social themes in literature.

T. Wenslenragd wrote lyrical verse of a realistic character on political and antiwar themes. His collection The Blast Furnace (1844) evokes images of industrial Belgium. The poet E. Wacken, in his collection Fantasies, called on the peoples of the whole world to unite.

In the mid-19th century, realistic trends with elements of naturalism prevailed in Belgian literature. The French Republican émigres of the 1850’s and 1860’s exerted a considerable influence. Realism was advocated by the periodical Ulenspiegel, to which C. de Coster contributed. In such volumes as National Poems (1856), F. Stevens attacked Napoleon III from a democratic standpoint. E. Leclercq was the author of antibourgeois novels (The Quiet House, 1872, for example). The novels of J. Demoulin, a friend of Blanqui and Proudhon, are imbued with a spirit of democracy (The Blindworm, 1874). The outstanding work of this period is the Legend of Ulenspiegel, which combines a deep hatred of Catholicism and monarchy and a broad attack on the feudal world with popular humor and a longing for national liberation. The theme of solitude is characteristic of the essayist O. Pirmez.

From the early 1880’s literary life acquired greater content and meaning. The group of writers producing the periodical Young Belgium were struggling for an original Belgian culture, though some of the members of the group, such as M. Waller, I. Gilkin, and Maurice Maeterlinck, defended nonpolitical art. The periodical Art moderne, under its socialist director E. Picard, defended a politically active literature on the side of the forces of democracy. At the end of the 1880’s, C. Lemonnier, E. Verhaeren, and G. Rodenbach broke away from Young Belgium, which was becoming reactionary. The novels of C. Lemonnier (The Bloodsucker, 1886) and G. Eekhoud (The New Carthage, 1888) sharply condemned bourgeois reality.

From the 1890’s symbolism became prevalent in Belgian literature. The plays of Maeterlinck are imbued with a sense of isolation and doom (The Blind, 1890, and others); however, his fairy-tale play The Blue Bird (1908) stands out in its humanistic faith in man’s ability to conquer the powers of darkness.

The heroes of Georges Rodenbach’s novels (Dead Bruges, 1892) and verses (“The Kingdom of Silence,” 1891) live in an atmosphere of sadness. Among the symbolists were A. Mockel, C. van Lerberghe, A. Giraud, and I. Gilkin. The poet M. Elskamp is noted for his religious themes. In the 1890’s E. Verhaeren overcame his symbolistic subjectivism; his best works, which have earned international fame, are characterized by a revolutionary approach. They include Tentacled Cities (1895), Tumultuous Powers (1902), Multiple Splendor (1906), and the play Dawn (1898).

At the beginning of the 20th century the prevalent form was the “regional” novel, depicting life and customs in various parts of Belgium. M. des Hombiaux described rural Wallonia;G. Garnir, the Brussels petite bourgeoisie; and G. Vir-rés, the customs of Limburg province. The life of the urban poor is depicted in the novels of H. Krains, L. Delattre, and N. Doff. Socialist ideas are expressed in the works of J. Destrée (Secret of Each Day, 1927), M. Renard (Our Daily Bread, 1919), F. Mahutte (No Horizon, 1896), and P. Nothomb (Novel About 1830, 1930). The works of M. Gauchez, L. Christophe, R. Vivier and others deal with World War I.

Frans Hellens, who was influenced by Gorky, wrote social novels in the 1920’s and 1930’s. His novels and verses faithfully depict contemporary Belgian life. The main theme in the novels of C. Burniaux is the wretched childhood of the poor (Aquarium, 1933). The poetry of A. Ayguesparse contains revolutionary ideas, while the poems of R. Vivier (The Locked Miracle, 1939) are lyrical and humanistic. The psychological dramas of F. Crommelynck (The Magnificent Cuckold, 1921) combine farce with tragedy.

During the Hitler occupation, the Communist poet R. Blieck, who died in a concentration camp, praised in his verse the courage of the antifascists. J. Varin, C. Moisse, D. Scheinert, and Ity Hassel wrote poetry on patriotic themes attacking fascism. The social novels of D. Gilíes (Coupon 44, 1956) describe bourgeois morals and manners during World War II. The novelist, poet, and publicist D. Scheinert wrote about the people’s struggle against the occupiers in his antifascist novel The Long-eared Fleming (1959; Russian translation, Pier Klok—Long Ears, 1966). A. Ayguesparse describes in some of his best stories the way people behaved during the fascist occupation (When Judas Was Known as Cicero, 1962).

Contemporary Belgian poetry is vivid and very varied. The lyrical poetry of M. Carême, G. Norge, A. Bernier, J. de Bosschère and others is imbued with a humanistic world outlook and democratic traditions.

Flemish. Until the beginning of the 18th century, Flemish literature was in part Netherlands literature. From the end of the 16th century, the center of Netherlands culture moved to the north, but in the Southern Netherlands, on territory that is now Belgian, literature continued to be written in the language of the Netherlands (Dutch), the Belgian version of which was called Flemish from the 17th century onward. J. de Harduyn, the author of the love sonnets Real Love for Rosamund (1613) which are part of the spiritual verse cycle Songs in Praise of God (1620), combined religious and Renaissance themes. A. Poirters, who preached against the Reformation, expressed his religious and political views in his novel The World Unmasked (1644) which mixed didactic prose with verse. W. Ogier wrote The Seven Deadly Sins, topical farces in the form of morality plays; their humor, lively dialogue, and intriguing plots made them popular in the 17th century. M. de Swaen composed merry Fastnachtspiele (The Beautiful Shoemaker’s Wife, or Zeal Rewarded). Most of his religious poems have mystical overtones.

In the 18th century, as French culture gained a stronger hold on Belgium, the national Flemish culture fell into decline, although its traditions were preserved in folklore and historical legends. The growth of national democratic feeling led to a movement for the revival of Flemish culture, the center of which became Ghent. The Flemish romanticists were at the same time educators and proponents of the development of a national literary language. The poet, historian, and philologist J. F. Willems, who led the movement for the revival of national culture, celebrated the heroic past of the Flemish people in patriotic verse (To the Belgians, 1818). The romanticist H. Conscience, in his historical and social novels (The Lion of Flanders, 1838, and others) was a forerunner of the realistic trend in literature. K. L. Ledeganck composed poems in the style of national Flemish songs. In the second half of the 19th century, democratic literature close to critical realism in spirit became important. Attempts at writing social novels were made by such writers as D. Sleeckx, A. Bergmann, V. Loveling, and A. Wazenaar. There are freedom-loving themes in J. de Geyter’s poetry. Mystical-religious moods were represented, in the poems of the Catholic priest G. Gezelle. P. de Mont, who began by writing realistic verse, developed into a symbolist in his later work. The poet A. Rodenbach was an advocate of art for art’s sake. The democratic “movement of the eighties,” which developed during that period, wanted to introduce broad social themes into Flemish literature, thereby raising its significance. The works of C. Buysse and S. Streuvels (the novel Along the Roads, 1902, and others) deal with Flemish peasant life, while E. de Bom was the author of the first psychological novel, Fragments (1898). The work of L. Baekelmans, who wrote novels about the capitalist town, shows leanings toward naturalism.

At the beginning of the 20th century the decadent schools began to play a leading role, and the realism of Streuvels’ early work turned into decadence. H. Teirlinck depicted the morbid psychology of individualists of the intelligentsia (Johan Doxa, 1917). The symbolist poet K. van de Woes-tijne became the idol of the Flemish decadents. A. Vermeylen was the author of the mystical-symbolic novel The Wandering Jew (1906). F. Timmermans, the author of the novel Pallieter, 1916, endeavored to restore to literature the exuberance of the Netherlands Renaissance. The poet R. de Clercq, whose verse reflects the struggle of the Flemish proletariat, was influenced by socialist ideas. The poet and novelist W. Elsschot, author of The Tanker (1942), defended democratic ideas, exposed the evils of imperialism, and glorified the joy of life in his sonnets and ballads. The pioneer of Flemish expressionism, P. van Ostayen, expressed in verse the anarchist revolt against capitalism. In the early 1930’s expressionism was attacked by M. Roelants who later joined M. Gijsen and G. Walschap in the ranks of reaction.

After World War II a group of progressive writers advocated peace and democracy. L. P. Boon looked for his heroes in the working-class quarters. M. Duyze wrote a work on the heroic resistance of the Belgian people to the Hitler occupation (The Sacred Anger, 1952). P. van Aken’s novel Only the Dead Can Save Themselves (1947) exposes fascism, while G. Walschap’s novel Uprising in the Congo (1953) attacks colonialism. In such novellas as My Friend the Murderer (1958), Gijsen sharply condemned the American way of life. A participant in the Belgian resistance movement, the poet and Communist M. Braet called for a struggle for peace and social justice. The works of V. Ruyslinck show the fatal effects of a war psychosis on people; the play Bride in the Morning (1955) and other works by H. Claus describe in a modernist form the evils of imperialism.


Stikhi bel’giiskikh poetov. Compiled by M. Vaksmakher and V. Chesnokov. Moscow, 1959. (Translated from French.)
Mitskevich, B. Sharl’ de Koster i stanovlenie realizma v Bel’giiskoi literature. Minsk, 1960.
Iz sovremennoi bel’giiskoipoezii. Compiled by M. Vaksmakher and V. Chesnokov. Moscow, 1965. (Translated from French, Flemish, and Walloon.)
Andreev, L. G. Sto let bel’giiskoi literatury. Moscow, 1967. (With bibliography.)
Rasskazy bel’giiskikh pisatelei. Compiled and with a foreword by I. Shkunaeva. Moscow, 1968. (Translated from Flemish and French.)
Liebrecht, H., and G. Rency. Histoire illustrée de la litérature beige de langue française. Brussels, 1926’.
Histoire illustrée des lettres françaises de Belgique. Brussels, 1958.
Anthologie poétique de l’exposition 88 poetes belges de langue française. Brussels. 1958.
Anthologie des jeunes poètes beiges d’aujourd’hui. [Courtrai, 1959.]
Le roman contemporain en Belgique. Brussels, 1965.
Mallinson, V. Modern Belgian literature: 1830–1960. London [1966]. (With bibliography.)
Lissens, R. F. De vlaamse letterkunde, 4th ed. Amsterdam-Brussels, 1967.
Culot, J.-M. Bibliographie des écrivains français de Belgique (1881–1950), vol. 1. Brussels, 1958.

M. N. VAKSMAKHER (literature in French) and I. V. VOLEVICH (literature in Flemish)

Monuments of Celtic and ancient Roman art survive in Belgium. In the Middle Ages, Belgium was broken up into feudal domains; trade and industrial towns—which were rapidly growing rich—became centers, for artistic development. In the 11th and 12th centuries the romance style was prevalent; examples are the churches in Liege and Tournai, the castles of the counts of Flanders in Ghent, and the bronze casting and jewelers’ work which flourished in the Meuse Valley. In the 13th and 14th centuries the gothic, which reached a high level in Flanders and Brabant, was exemplified in the cathedrals of Bruges, Ghent, Brussels, Antwerp, and Mechelen; city fortifications; town towers and belfries; the cloth halls of Ypres and Bruges; private homes; sculpture of portals and funeral monuments; and murals, paintings, and miniatures.

With the union of the Southern and Northern Netherlands under Burgundian rule at the end of the 14th century, a single Netherlands art school was formed in which the art of the more developed Southern Netherlands (the Belgium of today) played the dominant role. In the 15th century and the first third of the 16th, particularly in Brabant, a mundane late gothic (“flamboyant”) architecture flourished, especially in the magnificent monuments to the independence and wealth of the towns—the town halls of Brussels, Courtrai, Ghent, Louvain, and Oudenaarde. At the same time, Belgian towns became the main centers of Renaissance painting in the Netherlands style, founded by Jan van Eyck.

In the 16th century, Renaissance principles triumphed in Belgian architecture, sculpture, and decorative arts. In painting a conflict developed between the Italianized eclectic art of the Romanists and the national realistic trend in painting, which reached its highest expression in the creations of P. Brueghel. During the 13th and 16th centuries the architectural complexes of the central parts of Brussels, Antwerp, Ghent, Bruges, and other cities were constructed with spacious squares and picturesque streets and quays.

After the Netherlands Bourgeois Revolution of 1566–1609, Belgian art formed a separate school of its own, known until the end of the 18th century as the Flemish school. The Flemish baroque art of the 17th century combined display and ornate splendor (encouraged by the Catholic church and the aristocracy) with the old Netherlands cultural traditions and with the unique national-realistic tendencies which the revolution had awakened.

The architecture of the 17th century is distinctive in its ceremonial and festive air, in its unrestrained picturesque-ness, its abundance of rich molded ornamentation: tall, narrow town houses with stepped and ornate gables; and churches—triple-nave basilicas and rotundas—monasteries, hospitals, and pawnshops designed by the architects W. Coe-bergher, J. Frankart, P. Huyssens, W. Hesius, and L. Fayd’-herbe. Italian influences are visible in Rubens’ house in Antwerp, and French influences in the fortifications and municipal buildings of the southern towns.

Rubens played a decisive role in 17th-century Flemish painting. His works are imbued with a warm love of his country and its people; the sweep and exuberant energy of his brush are combined with a powerful and full-blooded vitality. Among his many assistants and followers were A. van Dyck, a master of spiritual and refined portraiture; J. Jordaens, who found his somewhat crude and plebeian subjects among the peasantry and the burghers; F. Snijd-ers, whose large still-life paintings are full of energy and vitality; and the landscape painter L. van Uden.

Another branch of Flemish realistic painting depicts peasant life and landscapes on small canvases: A. Brou-wer’s paintings are dramatically expressive; those of D. Teniers, idyllic; and those of J. Siberechts, dully realistic. The 17th-century landscape painters J. de Momper and J. Brueghel (“Velvet”) and the portrait painter C. de Vos adhered to the Netherlands art traditions of the 16th century. L. de Vadder, J. d’Arthois, and C. Huysmans painted elegantly executed, colorful landscapes. A. Janssens, G. Seghers, and T. Rombouts were followers of the Italian painter Caravaggio.

In sculpture, side-by-side with ornate splendor (A. Quel-lyn, J. Delcour, H. Verbruggen) strong characteristics of realistic vitality—for example, in the child figures of C. and F. Duquesnoy and the reliefs of L. Fayd’herbe—were found. Flemish paintings were reproduced in copper-plate engravings (P. Sautman, L. Vorsterman, P. Pontius, and S. Bols-wert), on wood (C. Jegher), and in tapestries woven in Brussels, Antwerp, and Bruges. The bobbin lace and needlepoint of Flanders and Brabant are famous.

Flemish art in the 18th century retained certain baroque traditions visible in the paintings of V. Janssens and P. J. Verhageen, but it was subjected more and more to the principles of classicism spreading from France and Austria, as evidenced in works by the architects J. P. Bauerscheidt and L. B. Dewez, the sculptors L. Delvaux and J. L.Godecharle, and the painter H. Lens. The portrait busts by Godecharle and the genre paintings and factory interiors of L. Defrance brought a fresh realistic element into Flemish art.

In the 19th century an original Belgian art developed, at first in classical forms—for example, the works of the architect L. Roelandt and the historical painter F. J. Narvaez, a master of the realistic portrait. The revolution of 1830 was instrumental in bringing about Belgium’s rapid transformation into a developed capitalist country with sharp social contradictions, creating the complexity and contrasts of its artistic culture. Side by side with imposing town centers and ornate eclectic buildings (the architecture of J. P. Cluysenaar, L. Suys, and J. Poelaert), industrial suburbs and slum districts were growing.

The romantic school of the second quarter of the 19th century subsequently degenerated into drawing-room academism—for example, patriotic works of the historical painters G. Wappers and L. Gallait and the sculptor V. Geefs; the confused fantastical allegories of A. Wiertz; the stylized scenes of old Flemish life by H. Leys; and the landscapes of T. Fourmois. But Belgian romantics helped to pave the way for the swift growth of democratic realism in the second half of the 19th century, a trend which is evident in scenes from rural and town life by C. deGroux, H. de Braekeleer, and J. Stobbaerts, and in the landscapes of L. Dubois, I. Boulenger, and W. Vogels.

The representatives of democratic realism formed the Free Association of Fine Arts in 1868. Meanwhile, the sculpture and paintings by the outstanding realist artist C. Meunier were depicting the heroic spirit of labor and the hard life of the workers and peasants. At the end of the 19th century, Belgium became the mother country of the “modern” style of architecture (H. van de Velde and V. Horta), characterized by the free composition of public buildings and private houses, the negation of any orderly system in architecture, the artistic inclusion of new forms of construction and materials, and individualistic, whimsical curved lines and planes. The traditions of realism were combined with fleeting impressionistic observation by E. Klaus, A. Evenepoel, and T. van Rysselberghe; with grotesque fantasy by J. Ensor and the graphic artist J. de Bruycker; with mystical symbolism and pessimism by E. Laermans, L. Frederic, and F. Rops and especially by the masters of the Latem school (V. de Saedeleer, G. van de Woestijne), headed by the sculptor G. Minne.

The search for rational solutions in Belgian architecture began after World War I in settlements planned by H. Hoste, L. van der Swaelman, and V. Bourgeois and in buildings by E. van Averbeke, S. Jasinski, J. Moutschen. Between 1920 and 1930 the neoclassical movement was influential. The principles of contemporary architecture became more firmly established after 1945 (architects H. van Kuyck, R. Braem, M. Brunfont, and L. Stynen) in the construction of new residential districts, transport systems, industrial installations, and public and commercial buildings. In Brussels, Antwerp, and Liége, neighborhood units were built with public centers and multistoried or mixed buildings; by 1958 highways had been rebuilt and tunnels and viaducts constructed in Brussels.

The quest for narrow formal-stylistic forms of expression played a prominent part in 20th-century art in Belgium (G. de Smet, J. Brusselmans, A. Saverijs), including surrealism (P. Delvaux, R. Magritte), and abstract art. The subjective reinterpretation of national traditions was conveyed in the dramatic expression of C. Permeke’s pictures, the strong impulsive spirit of the paintings and sculpture of R. Wouters, and the intimate lyricism of the primitivist E. Tytgat. A realistic objectivity is characteristic of I. Opsomer’s paintings and C. Leplae’s sculpture. The principles of social realism are embodied in the multifaceted works of F. Masereel, who fought against imperialistic wars and the enslavement of man, and in the canvases of K. Peiser, P. Paulus, and R. Somville, dedicated to workers and the urban poor. In the decorative art of the 20th century, objects in the “modern” style, created by the Art Nouveau group (H. van de Velde and V. Horta) may be noted as well as ceramic sculpture (P. Caille) and rugs displaying the life and struggle of the Belgian people (R. Somville, E. Dubrunfant, and L. Deltour).

Traditional rural buildings in Belgium are simple and have practically no decorations. In the Flemish provinces the normal type of house Combines, under one roof extending lengthwise, the living quarters and the farm building. The enclosed yard, framed by massive brick or half-timber buildings, is common. Popular forms of people’s art include lace-making, iron and copper-crafting, and wood carving.


Gershenzon-Chegodaieva, N. M. Flamandskie zhivopistsy. Moscow, 1949.
Bel’giiskoe iskusstvo kontsa XIX-XX, vekov ot Men’e do Permeke. [Exhibition.] Catalogue. Moscow, 1956.
Fromantin, E. Starye mastera. Moscow, 1966. (Translated from French.)
L’art en Belgique du moyen-âge à nos jours. Brussels, 1939.
Encyclopédie de l’architecture et des arts en Belgique, vols. 1–3. Brussels, 1958.


Belgian music developed out of the musical traditions of the peoples inhabiting present-day Belgium—the Flemings in the northern part of the country, linked to cultural traditions of the Netherlands; and the Walloons in the southern part, who were subjected to French cultural influences. These differences in national culture are discernible both in folk music and in professional musical art.

The general basis from which Belgian music developed was the so-called Franco-Flemish Netherlands school of the 15th and 16th centuries; its polyphonic art, based on the creation of national song, was developed at the time of the Renaissance and exerted the greatest influence on the composers’ schools of western Europe. Its most important representatives were natives of the Belgian provinces—J. Ob-recht, A. Willaert, Josquin des Prez, and Orlande de Lassus—who created the finest examples of church and secular polyphonic choral works. Their traditions were followed by the church choral schools.

After the 17th century, Belgian music lost its leading role in European music; many important composers of Belgian origin were working in France—for example, A. E. M. Grétry and F. J. Gossec in the 18th century and C. Franck in the 19th. Subsequent Belgian music was mainly imitative in character. Belgian composers in all genres looked toward French, Italian, and German models.

At the beginning of the 18th century, operas and opera-ballets of J. B. Lully, A. Destouches, A. Campra, and other French composers were staged at the Monnaie Theater, founded in Brussels in 1700. At the end of the 18th century the operas of A. E. M. Grétry, F. J. Gossec, P. A. Mon-signy, F. A. Philidore and others were being shown. In 1759, P. van Maldere’s Mascarade pastorale, the first comic opera by a Belgian composer, was produced. Belgian music, however, remained eclectic. Its own national features took shape after an independent state of Belgium was formed in 1830.

In the 19th century the Antwerp school formed from the Flemish branch, which turned toward Flemish folklore and the German school of composers. It was headed by Peter Benoît, composer of operas, cantatas, and symphonies, who strove to achieve national musical independence for Belgium; by his pupil J. Blockx, well-known for his musical-dramatic productions; L. Dubois, who imitated Wagner; and by P. Gilson and E. Tinel.

The Walloon branch turned toward French musical culture, mainly the opera, and toward the work of César Franck. Noteworthy representatives of this group were A. Dupont, G. Huberti, G. Lekeu, V. Vreuls, and J. Jongen.

Among works composed in the oratorio and cantata forms, which have a long tradition, the works of Peter Benoit and E. Tinel are outstanding. The development of these forms and of other forms of religious music was encouraged by choral art, which has been popular in Belgium since ancient times. (There are many choral societies and frequent choir competitions.)

At the turn of the 19th century a national school for voice training was founded. The male singers E. van Dyck and E. Blauwaert and, later, the woman singer V. Bovy are noteworthy. A strong influence was exerted by Weber and Liszt in symphonic music and by Wagner in opera. From 1890 to 1910 the work of some Belgian composers reveals the influence of Russian composers of the “Russian Five” (The Sea and symphonic variations by Gilson and A. de Boeck’s symphony).

The highest level of musical development was reached in Belgium in the instrumental concerto genre, more particularly in the virtuoso violin. This was partly because of Belgium’s school for violinists, which achieved world renown and produced such outstanding artists as C. Bériot, H. Vieuxtemps, E. Ysaÿe, H. Leonard, M. Marsick and C. Thomson. Bériot, Vieuxtemps, and others are also known as composers of virtuoso violin works. The Belgian school for cellists also produced some outstanding virtuosos, among them F. Servais, A. Batta, and F. Demunck.

In the 20th century, Belgian music reflected the impressionistic style and various avant-garde trends, such as ato-nality and serialism.

Important musicologists of the 19th century were F. J. Fetis and F. A. Gevaert (who also composed comic and historical operas), F. van Duyse and A. Friedenthal, who researched Flemish folk songs, and M. Kufferath, who studied medieval music. The musicologists of the 20th century include C. van der Borren, president of the Belgian Society of Music, and J. O. Stellfeld.

Personalities in contemporary music include the composers J. Absil, R. Defossez, F. Quinet, A. Souris, and M. Poot; the orchestral conductors F. André and D. Defauw; and the violinists A. Grumiaux and C. van Nest.

Belgian musicians are trained at conservatories in Brussels, Liege, Ghent, Antwerp, and Mons (Institute of Music), at local musical academies in Tournai, Charleroi, and other towns, and at the Institute of Church Music in Mechelen. The most important musical center is Brussels, which has concert societies and symphony orchestras, as well as the Monnaie Theater. Every three years the Queen Elisabeth International Contest for Pianists and Violinists, which has acquired world fame, is held in Brussels. In Liege contests are held for quartets, chamber music, and string instruments. Opera theaters were founded in Antwerp (1893) and Ghent (1900).


Leirens, C. La musique beige, 2nd ed. Brussels, 1954.
Wangermee, R. La musique beige contemporaine. Brussels, 1959.

In the 14th century the cities of Flanders and Brabant were known for their festivals, at which troubadours, trouvères, buffoons, jugglers, and mimes gave performances, often accompanied by dances. The dance was further developed at various aristocratic festivities: masquerades, interludes, pantomimes, tournaments, and between courses at banquets. Gradually, court representations took on the form of opera and ballet performances.

The first ballet group was formed at the Monnaie Theater in 1705. The performances presented there were mainly taken from the French theater—for example, the opera ballets of J. B. Lully and A. Destouches. In the 18th century more ballets were added to the repertoire, some with music by Belgian composers. Many ballets were produced in the 1770’s by the ballet master Saint-Léger and at the beginning of the 19th century by the ballet masters Oudar and Hus. Between 1819 and 1831 the ballet master J. Petipa produced 15 works set to music by Belgian composers, in addition to ballets composed by F. Hérold and J. Schneidshoffer. Between 1830 and 1890 productions were staged in Brussels by the ballet masters Bartholomin, Angieles, Desplace, Hus, L. Petipa, F. Hanssen, Poigny, Laffont, and G. Saracco. Famous European ballerinas such as Marie Taglioni and Fanny Ellsler performed there.

While ballets were brought over from Paris, such as De-libes’s Coppélia in 1871 and Sylvia in 1888, the ballets of composers living in Belgium—R. Bernier, Fievet, Miry, and Tourai—were also produced in the 1850’s and 1860’s, and ballets by Lagay and K. Hanssens the Younger in the 1870’s. Between the 1860’s and 1890’s the ballets of the composer O. Stoumon were especially successful (Farfolla, 1894, and others).

At the end of the 19th century, the repertoire of the Monnaie Theater included ballets by E. Mathieu and by one of the best known Belgian composers, J. Blockx (Dear One, 1888). Other ballets in its repertoire were by F. Flon (Forget-me-not, 1886) and L. Dubois (Smylis, 1891). At the beginning of the 20th century the ballet masters Saracco and F. Ambrosini were working in Brussels. For some time the prima ballerina was C. Brianza. Ballets were produced by V., d’Indy (Istar, 1913) and by G. Lauweryns (When the Gat’s Away, 1908, and Hopjes).

Toward the middle of the 20th century all opera theaters in Belgium had their own ballet corps. The ballet master Et-chévery worked in Brussels, J. Brabants in Antwerp, and J. Lazzini, in Liège. But until the late 1950’s, ballet, even in Brussels, did not enjoy any great popularity. Interest in this form of art revived after the Brussels International Exhibition of 1958, at which many international groups performed.

Since 1960 the Ballet of the 20th Century, formed by its French director, M. Béjart (who works under contract), has been performing at the Monnaie Theater. Among his productions are a ballet evening with music by I. Stravinsky (1960), a multimedia production The Four Sons of Aymon (based on a Belgian legend, in collaboration with the ballet master G. Charrat, 1960), the ballet oratorio In Quest of Don Juan (1962), Ode to Joy (to Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, 1964), Romeo and Juliet (to Berlioz, 1966), and Bakhti (to Indian music, 1968).


Dramatic art in Belgium developed in the French and Flemish languages. The sources of the theater in the country are found in the religious rites of the Middle Ages, which included elements of dramatic action. From the 13th to the 15th century, liturgical dramas in Latin, as well as morality and mystery plays in French and Flemish, were performed. At the beginning of the 15th century, the life of the theater became more active as the result of the appearance in Ghent, Brussels, Antwerp, and other towns of what were known as the associations of rhetoricians. These were associations of a guild type, whose members recited verses and plays they had composed. (By the beginning of the 18th century most of these associations had ceased to exist.) During the Renaissance, in the 16th century, well-known authors of plays included L. des Mazures and G. de Vivre in French and M. Casteleyn and C. Everaert in Flemish. The development of dramatic art in the 16th and 17th centuries was hampered by religious persecution and wars.

Religious themes are typical of the 17th century drama. The best-known playwrights writing in French during this period were D. Coppée, B. A. de Walef, P. Bello, and J. B. Lagrange; M. de Swaen and W. Ogier were the foremost Flemish playwrights. In 1650 a wooden theater was constructed in Brussels, in which foreign companies appeared. The Monnaie Theater, founded in Brussels in 1700, had, with its opera group, a drama company which performed plays mainly by French dramatists (Racine, Crébillon, and J. F. Regnard). In 1782 a theater was built in Brussels, later known as Du Parc. At first circus companies performed here and pantomimes were staged; after 1870 plays were performed. The French dramatists of the 17th and early 18th centuries, primarily imitators of French classicism, exerted a strong influence on the work of 18th-century Belgian dramatists. The play Sabine, or the Belgians by Néel (1782) is the first attempt to produce a play on Belgian life.

On the eve of the Belgian revolution of 1830, when there was an awakening of national consciousness, E. Smits wrote tragedies modeled on classical plays of the French Revolution. After the formation of an independent Belgian state in 1830 and until the end of the 19th century, romanticism became widespread in the theater (plays in French by P. Noyer, F. Bogaerts, and E. Wacken). A period of active development in Flemish dramaturgy began. Theaters were opened in Ghent (1847), Antwerp (the National Theater, 1853), and Brussels (the National Stage, 1883, and the Flemish Theater, 1864; since 1895 known as the Royal Flemish Theater). Plays by F. Gittens, A. Hendrickx, P. F. van Korkoven, and others were produced.

Since the turn of the 20th century, the works of the symbolist playwrights M. Maeterlinck, C. van Lerberghe, G. Rodenbach, and M. Duterme have strongly influenced the development of Belgian theaters. Their works were produced at the House of the Arts, founded in Brussels in 1895 and known from 1897 to 1899 as the New Theater. The production of Verhaeren’s social drama Dawn by the literary and artistic section at the People’s House in Brussels in 1898 reflects the social awakening of the 1890’s and the growth of the working-class movement.

The crisis in the art of the theater in Europe at the beginning of the 20th century was reflected in the Belgian theater, which had been subjected to modernistic influences. At the beginning of the century and in the period 1920–1930 the best-known Belgian dramatists writing in French were G. van Zipe, C. Spaak, M. van Ghelderode, F. Crommelynck, and H. Soumagne. Those writing in Flemish were H. Teirlinck and G. Martens. The theatrical repertoire in the 1920’s and 1930’s was eclectic in character.

During the fascist German occupation (1940–1944), and despite persecution by the occupiers, the mobile Theater of the Resistance was formed, producing H. Closson’s The Four Sons of Aymon, a play with patriotic implications.

Coexisting with such older theaters as the Du Parc and the Gallery in Brussels and the Royal National and the Netherlands Chamber in Antwerp are theaters like Le Rideau (founded in 1942–43) and de la Bourse (founded in 1948), both in Brussels, and the state theatrical group in Ghent. Plays by H. Hensen, H. Claus, P. Willems, Sartre, Brecht, Arthur Miller, P. Weiss, Albee, and others are produced.

Students are trained for the theater at the Royal Conservatory in Brussels, the School of Dramatic Art of the Royal Flemish Conservatory, and at other institutions.


Raber, F. Histoire du théâtre français en Belgique . . ., vols. 1–5. Paris-Brussels, 1878–1880.
Liebrecht, H. Le théâtre franqais à Bruxelles au XVII et au XVIII siècle. Paris, 1923.
Lilar, S. Soixante ans de théàtre beige. Brussels, 1952.


In 1908 the first Belgian film studio was established at Harreveld and film productions began, to be interrupted by World War I. In 1919 the Belgian Film Company was created, and in 1922 the Belgian Film Studios at Mechelen near Brussels, as well as others, were established. In the 1920’s some 20 feature films were shot, some of them by foreign producers. From the end of the 1920’s certain Belgian filmmakers who had been influenced by British, German, and Soviet film work sought new forms of expression and made experimental films. The directors C. De-keukeleiere, H. Storck, A. Cauvin, and later P. Haesaerts created ethnographic, landscape, and art films and achieved considerable success in these fields.

Belgian feature films include Smugglers’ Feast, 1952, directed by H. Storck; Seagulls Are Dying in the Harbor,1955, directed by R. Kuypers, I. Michiels, and R. Verhavert; The Puny Flower Is Drooping Already, 1960, by P. Meyer; A Train Leaves Every Hour, 1962, by A. Kavens; The Man With the Shaved Head, 1966, by A. Delvaux; Farewell, 1966, by R. Verhavert; and The Long Explanation, 1968, by E. Degelin. There is a cinematheque in Brussels. Film periodicals are Cinégraphie beige and Reisch’s.

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


Official name: Kingdom of Belgium

Capital city: Brussels

Internet country code: .be

Flag description: Three equal vertical bands of black (hoist side), yellow, and red; the design was based on the flag of France

National anthem: “La Brabançonne”

National motto: French: “L’Union fait la force,” Dutch: “Eendracht maakt macht” (Strength lies in unity)

Geographical description: Western Europe, bordering the North Sea, between France and the Netherlands

Total area: 12,566 sq. mi. (32,547 sq. km.)

Climate: Temperate; mild winters, cool summers; rainy, humid, cloudy

Nationality: noun: Belgian(s); adjective: Belgian

Population: 10,392,226 (July 2007 CIA est.)

Ethnic groups: Fleming 58%, Walloon 31%, mixed or other 11%

Languages spoken: Dutch 60%, French 40%, German less than 1%

Religions: Roman Catholic 75%, others (including Protes­tant, Jewish, Muslim, Anglican, Greek and Russian Ortho­dox, and none) 25%

Legal Holidays:

All Saints' DayNov 1
Armistice DayNov 11
Assumption DayAug 15
Christmas DayDec 25
Easter MondayApr 25, 2011; Apr 9, 2012; Apr 1, 2013; Apr 21, 2014; Apr 6, 2015; Mar 28, 2016; Apr 17, 2017; Apr 2, 2018; Apr 22, 2019; Apr 13, 2020; Apr 5, 2021; Apr 18, 2022; Apr 10, 2023
Independence DayJul 21
Labor DayMay 1
New Year's DayJan 1
Holidays, Festivals, and Celebrations of the World Dictionary, Fourth Edition. © 2010 by Omnigraphics, Inc.


a federal kingdom in NW Europe: at various times under the rulers of Burgundy, Spain, Austria, France, and the Netherlands before becoming an independent kingdom in 1830. It formed the Benelux customs union with the Netherlands and Luxembourg in 1948 and and was a founder member of the Common Market, now the European Union. It consists chiefly of a low-lying region of sand, woods, and heath (the Campine) in the north and west, and a fertile undulating central plain rising to the Ardennes Mountains in the southeast. Languages: French, Flemish (Dutch), German. Religion: Roman Catholic majority. Currency: euro. Capital: Brussels. Pop.: 10 339 000 (2004 est.). Area: 30 513 sq. km (11 778 sq. miles)
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005
References in periodicals archive ?
In dieser Hinsicht kann man auf die wettbewerbsstarken Kartoffelverarbeitungsanlagen in den Niederlanden und Belgien zahlen; sie gehen innovative Wege, verbessern sie, und arbeiten in der Regel auf einer soliden Basis.
Atka NV aus Puurs, Belgien gehort zu denjenigen Shrimps-Verarbeitern, die von den zusatzlichen Auftragen nach dem Konkurs von Ken Bell International in Grossbritannien profitieren.

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