Spanish Civil War

The Spanish Civil War (Spanish: Guerra Civil Española)[note 2] was a civil war in Spain fought from 1936 to 1939 between the Republicans and the Nationalists. Republicans were loyal to the left-leaning Popular Front government of the Second Spanish Republic, and consisted of various socialist, communist, separatist, anarchist, and republican parties, some of which had opposed the government in the pre-war period.[12] The opposing Nationalists were an alliance of Falangists, monarchists, conservatives, and traditionalists led by a military junta among whom General Francisco Franco quickly achieved a preponderant role. Due to the international political climate at the time, the war had many facets and was variously viewed as class struggle, a religious struggle, a struggle between dictatorship and republican democracy, between revolution and counterrevolution, and between fascism and communism.[13] According to Claude Bowers, U.S. ambassador to Spain during the war, it was the "dress rehearsal" for World War II.[14] The Nationalists won the war, which ended in early 1939, and ruled Spain until Franco's death in November 1975.

Spanish Civil War
Part of the interwar period

Clockwise from top-left: members of the XI International Brigade at the Battle of Belchite; Granollers after being bombed by Nationalists aviation in 1938; Bombing of an airfield in Spanish Morocco; Republican soldiers at the siege of the Alcázar; Nationalist soldiers operating an anti-aircraft gun; The Lincoln Battalion
Date17 July 1936 – 1 April 1939
(2 years, 8 months, 2 weeks and 1 day)
Location
Result

Nationalist victory

Belligerents

Republicans

Nationalists

Commanders and leaders
Strength
1936 strength:[1]
  • 446,800 combatants[2]
  • 31 ships
  • 12 submarines
  • 13,000 sailors
1938 strength:[3]
  • 450,000 infantry
  • 350 aircraft
  • 200 tanks

  • 59,380 international volunteers
  • 3,015 Soviet technicians
  • 772 Soviet pilots
1936 strength:[4]
  • 58,000 soldiers
  • 68,500 gendarmes
  • 16 operational ships
  • 7,000 sailors[5]
1938 strength:[6]
  • 600,000 infantry
  • 600 aircraft
  • 290 tanks

Casualties and losses
  • 110,000 killed in action (including executions)[7][8][9]
  • 100,000–130,000 civilians killed inside the Francoist zone[10]
  • 90,000 killed in action[7][8][9]
  • 50,000 civilians killed inside the Republican zone[11]
c. 500,000 total killed[note 1]
Events leading to World War II
  1. Treaty of Versailles 1919
  2. Polish–Soviet War 1919
  3. Treaty of Saint-Germain-en-Laye 1919
  4. Treaty of Trianon 1920
  5. Treaty of Rapallo 1920
  6. Franco-Polish alliance 1921
  7. March on Rome 1922
  8. Corfu incident 1923
  9. Occupation of the Ruhr 1923–1925
  10. Mein Kampf 1925
  11. Second Italo-Senussi War 1923–1932
  12. Dawes Plan 1924
  13. Locarno Treaties 1925
  14. Young Plan 1929
  15. Great Depression 1929
  16. Japanese invasion of Manchuria 1931
  17. Pacification of Manchukuo 1931–1942
  18. January 28 incident 1932
  19. Geneva Conference 1932–1934
  20. Defense of the Great Wall 1933
  21. Battle of Rehe 1933
  22. Nazis' rise to power in Germany 1933
  23. Tanggu Truce 1933
  24. Italo-Soviet Pact 1933
  25. Inner Mongolian Campaign 1933–1936
  26. German–Polish declaration of non-aggression 1934
  27. Franco-Soviet Treaty of Mutual Assistance 1935
  28. Soviet–Czechoslovakia Treaty of Mutual Assistance 1935
  29. He–Umezu Agreement 1935
  30. Anglo-German Naval Agreement 1935
  31. December 9th Movement
  32. Second Italo-Ethiopian War 1935–1936
  33. Remilitarization of the Rhineland 1936
  34. Spanish Civil War 1936–1939
  35. Italo-German "Axis" protocol 1936
  36. Anti-Comintern Pact 1936
  37. Suiyuan campaign 1936
  38. Xi'an Incident 1936
  39. Second Sino-Japanese War 1937–1945
  40. USS Panay incident 1937
  41. Anschluss Mar. 1938
  42. May Crisis May 1938
  43. Battle of Lake Khasan July–Aug. 1938
  44. Bled Agreement Aug. 1938
  45. Undeclared German–Czechoslovak War Sep. 1938
  46. Munich Agreement Sep. 1938
  47. First Vienna Award Nov. 1938
  48. German occupation of Czechoslovakia Mar. 1939
  49. Hungarian invasion of Carpatho-Ukraine Mar. 1939
  50. German ultimatum to Lithuania Mar. 1939
  51. Slovak–Hungarian War Mar. 1939
  52. Final offensive of the Spanish Civil War Mar.–Apr. 1939
  53. Danzig Crisis Mar.–Aug. 1939
  54. British guarantee to Poland Mar. 1939
  55. Italian invasion of Albania Apr. 1939
  56. Soviet–British–French Moscow negotiations Apr.–Aug. 1939
  57. Pact of Steel May 1939
  58. Battles of Khalkhin Gol May–Sep. 1939
  59. Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact Aug. 1939
  60. Invasion of Poland Sep. 1939

The war began after the partial failure of the coup d'état of July 1936 against the Republican government by a group of generals of the Spanish Republican Armed Forces, with General Emilio Mola as the primary planner and leader and having General José Sanjurjo as a figurehead. The government at the time was a coalition of Republicans, supported in the Cortes by communist and socialist parties, under the leadership of centre-left President Manuel Azaña.[15][16] The Nationalist group was supported by a number of conservative groups, including CEDA, monarchists, including both the opposing Alfonsists and the religious conservative Carlists, and the Falange Española de las JONS, a fascist political party.[17] After the deaths of Sanjurjo, Emilio Mola and Manuel Goded Llopis, Franco emerged as the remaining leader of the Nationalist side.

The coup was supported by military units in Morocco, Pamplona, Burgos, Zaragoza, Valladolid, Cádiz, Córdoba, and Seville. However, rebelling units in almost all important cities—such as Madrid, Barcelona, Valencia, Bilbao, and Málaga—did not gain control, and those cities remained under the control of the government. This left Spain 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 Fascist Italy, Nazi Germany and Portugal, 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. Despite 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. Following the fall without resistance of Barcelona in January 1939, the Francoist regime was recognised by France and the United Kingdom in February 1939. On 5 March 1939, in response to an alleged increasing communist dominance of the republican government and the deteriorating military situation, Colonel Segismundo Casado led a military coup against the Republican government, with the intention of seeking peace with the Nationalists. These peace overtures, however, were rejected by Franco. Following internal conflict between Republican factions in Madrid in the same month, Franco entered the capital and declared victory on 1 April 1939. Hundreds of thousands of Spaniards fled to refugee camps in southern France.[18] Those associated with the losing Republicans who stayed were persecuted by the victorious Nationalists. Franco established a dictatorship in which all right-wing parties were fused into the structure of the Franco regime.[17]

The war became notable for the passion and political division it inspired and for the many atrocities that occurred. Organised purges occurred in territory captured by Franco's forces so they could consolidate their future regime.[19] Mass executions on a lesser scale also took place in areas controlled by the Republicans,[20] with the participation of local authorities varying from location to location.[21][22]


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