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The Spanish Civil War

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The Spanish Civil War (July 1936Ð'-April 1939) was a conflict in which the incumbent Second Spanish Republic and political left-wing groups fought against a right-wing nationalist insurrection led by General Francisco Franco, who eventually succeeded in ousting the Republican government and establishing a personal dictatorship. It was the result of the complex political, economic and even cultural divisions between what Spanish writer Antonio Machado characterized as the two Spains. The Republicans ranged from centrists who supported capitalist liberal democracy to communists or anarchist revolutionaries; their power base was primarily urban (though it also included landless peasants) and secular and was particularly strong in industrial regions like Asturias and Catalonia. The conservative Basque Country also sided with the Republic, largely because it, along with nearby CataluÐ"±a sought autonomy from the central government which would later be suppressed by the centralizing nationalists. The ultimately successful Nationalist rebels had a primarily rural, wealthier, and more conservative base of support, were mostly Roman Catholic, and favoured the centralization of power. Some of the military tactics of the war foreshadowed World War II, although both the nationalists and the republicans relied overwhelmingly on infantry rather than modern use of blitzkrieg tactics with tanks and airplanes.

While the war lasted only about three years, the political situation had already been violent for several years before. The number of casualties is disputed; estimates generally suggest that between 300,000 and 1,000,000 people were killed. Many of these deaths, however, were results not of military operations but the outcome of brutal mass killings perpetrated on both sides. The war started with military uprisings throughout Spain and its Colonies, which were followed by Republican reprisals against the Church. There were massacres of Catholic clergy and churches, monasteries and convents were burned with severe impact to the rich Spanish historical and artistic heritage. Twelve bishops, 283 nuns 2,365 monks and 4,184 priests were murdered. In the wake of the war, both sides initiated a mass killing of opponents where house searches were carried out, and unwanted individuals were often jailed or killed.

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