Start of the Spanish Civil War

17/07/1936View on timeline

The Spanish Civil War (Spanish: Guerra Civil Española) took place from 1936 to 1939. Republicans loyal to the left-leaning Second Spanish Republic, in alliance with the Anarchists and Communists, fought against the Nationalists, an alliance of Falangists, Monarchists, and Catholics, led by General Francisco Franco. Due to the international political climate at the time, the war had many facets, and different views saw it as class struggle, a war of religion, a struggle between dictatorship and republican democracy, between revolution and counterrevolution, between fascism and communism. The Nationalists won the war in early 1939 and ruled Spain until Franco's death in November 1975.

The war began after a pronunciamiento (a declaration of military opposition) against the Republican government by a group of generals of the Spanish Republican Armed Forces, originally under the leadership of José Sanjurjo. The government at the time was a moderate, liberal coalition of Republicans, supported in the Cortes by communist and socialist parties, under the leadership of centre-left President Manuel Azaña. The Nationalist group was supported by a number of conservative groups, including the Spanish Confederation of Autonomous Right-wing Groups (Confederación Española de Derechas Autónomas, or CEDA), monarchists, including both the opposing sides of Alfonsists and the religious conservative Carlists, and the Falange Española de las Juntas de Ofensiva Nacional Sindicalista (FE y de las JONS), a fascist political party. Sanjurjo was killed in an aircraft accident while attempting to return from exile in Portugal, whereupon Franco emerged as the leader of the Nationalists.

The coup was supported by military units in the Spanish protectorate in Morocco, Pamplona, Burgos, Zaragoza, Valladolid, Cádiz, Córdoba, and Seville. However, rebelling units in some important cities—such as Madrid, Barcelona, Valencia, Bilbao, and Málaga—did not gain control, and those cities remained under the control of the government. Spain was thus left militarily and politically divided. The Nationalists and the Republican government fought for control of the country. The Nationalist forces received munitions, soldiers, and air support from Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy, while the Republican side received support from the Soviet Union and Mexico. Other countries, such as the United Kingdom, France, and the United States, continued to recognise the Republican government, but followed an official policy of non-intervention. Notwithstanding this policy, tens of thousands of citizens from non-interventionist countries directly participated in the conflict. They fought mostly in the pro-Republican International Brigades, which also included several thousand exiles from pro-Nationalist regimes.

The Nationalists advanced from their strongholds in the south and west, capturing most of Spain's northern coastline in 1937. They also besieged Madrid and the area to its south and west for much of the war. After much of Catalonia was captured in 1938 and 1939, and Madrid cut off from Barcelona, the Republican military position became hopeless. Madrid and Barcelona were occupied without resistance, Franco declared victory and his regime received diplomatic recognition from all non-interventionist governments. Thousands of leftist Spaniards fled to refugee camps in southern France. Those associated with the losing Republicans were persecuted by the victorious Nationalists. With the establishment of a dictatorship led by General Franco in the aftermath of the war, all right-wing parties were fused into the structure of the Franco regime.

The war became notable for the passion and political division it inspired and for the many atrocities that occurred, on both sides. Organised purges occurred in territory captured by Franco's forces so they could consolidate their future regime. A significant number of killings also took place in areas controlled by the Republicans. The extent to which Republican authorities took part in killings in Republican territory varied.

The Spanish Civil War (Spanish: Guerra Civil Española) took place from 1936 to 1939. Republicans loyal to the left-leaning Second Spanish Republic, in alliance with the Anarchists and Communists, fought against the Nationalists, an alliance of Falangists, Monarchists, and Catholics, led by General Francisco Franco. Due to the international political climate at the time, the war had many facets, and different views saw it as class struggle, a war of religion, a struggle between dictatorship and republican democracy, between revolution and counterrevolution, between fascism and communism. The Nationalists won the war in early 1939 and ruled Spain until Franco's death in November 1975.

The war began after a pronunciamiento (a declaration of military opposition) against the Republican government by a group of generals of the Spanish Republican Armed Forces, originally under the leadership of José Sanjurjo. The government at the time was a moderate, liberal coalition of Republicans, supported in the Cortes by communist and socialist parties, under the leadership of centre-left President Manuel Azaña. The Nationalist group was supported by a number of conservative groups, including the Spanish Confederation of Autonomous Right-wing Groups (Confederación Española de Derechas Autónomas, or CEDA), monarchists, including both the opposing sides of Alfonsists and the religious conservative Carlists, and the Falange Española de las Juntas de Ofensiva Nacional Sindicalista (FE y de las JONS), a fascist political party. Sanjurjo was killed in an aircraft accident while attempting to return from exile in Portugal, whereupon Franco emerged as the leader of the Nationalists.

The coup was supported by military units in the Spanish protectorate in Morocco, Pamplona, Burgos, Zaragoza, Valladolid, Cádiz, Córdoba, and Seville. However, rebelling units in some important cities—such as Madrid, Barcelona, Valencia, Bilbao, and Málaga—did not gain control, and those cities remained under the control of the government. Spain was thus left militarily and politically divided. The Nationalists and the Republican government fought for control of the country. The Nationalist forces received munitions, soldiers, and air support from Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy, while the Republican side received support from the Soviet Union and Mexico. Other countries, such as the United Kingdom, France, and the United States, continued to recognise the Republican government, but followed an official policy of non-intervention. Notwithstanding this policy, tens of thousands of citizens from non-interventionist countries directly participated in the conflict. They fought mostly in the pro-Republican International Brigades, which also included several thousand exiles from pro-Nationalist regimes.

The Nationalists advanced from their strongholds in the south and west, capturing most of Spain's northern coastline in 1937. They also besieged Madrid and the area to its south and west for much of the war. After much of Catalonia was captured in 1938 and 1939, and Madrid cut off from Barcelona, the Republican military position became hopeless. Madrid and Barcelona were occupied without resistance, Franco declared victory and his regime received diplomatic recognition from all non-interventionist governments. Thousands of leftist Spaniards fled to refugee camps in southern France. Those associated with the losing Republicans were persecuted by the victorious Nationalists. With the establishment of a dictatorship led by General Franco in the aftermath of the war, all right-wing parties were fused into the structure of the Franco regime.

The war became notable for the passion and political division it inspired and for the many atrocities that occurred, on both sides. Organised purges occurred in territory captured by Franco's forces so they could consolidate their future regime. A significant number of killings also took place in areas controlled by the Republicans. The extent to which Republican authorities took part in killings in Republican territory varied.

Images - Spanish Civil War
Images - Spanish Civil War
Images - Spanish Civil War

The Spanish Civil War (Spanish: Guerra Civil Española) took place from 1936 to 1939. Republicans loyal to the left-leaning Second Spanish Republic, in alliance with the Anarchists and Communists, fought against the Nationalists, an alliance of Falangists, Monarchists, and Catholics, led by General Francisco Franco. Due to the international political climate at the time, the war had many facets, and different views saw it as class struggle, a war of religion, a struggle between dictatorship and republican democracy, between revolution and counterrevolution, between fascism and communism. The Nationalists won the war in early 1939 and ruled Spain until Franco's death in November 1975.


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Published in 3/04/2019

Updated in 19/02/2021

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