Spanish Civil War

Spanish Civil War
Part of the Interwar period
Infobox collage for Spanish Civil War.jpg
(clockwise from top-left)
Date17 July 1936 – 1 April 1939
(2 years, 8 months, 2 weeks and 1 day)

Nationalist victory



Supported by:


Supported by:

Commanders and leaders
Republican leadersNationalist leaders
1936 strength:[1]
  • 800,000+ combatants[2]
  • 59,380 international volunteers
  • 31 ships
  • 12 submarines
  • 13,000 Sailors
1938 strength:[3]
  • 450,000 infantry
  • 350 aircraft
  • 200 tanks

2,000 British volunteers
2,800 American volunteers
1936 strength:[4]
  • 58,000 Army
  • 68,500 Gendarmes
  • 16 operational ships
  • 7,000 Sailors[5]
1938 strength:[6]
  • 600,000 infantry
  • 600 aircraft
  • 290 tanks
Casualties and losses
175,000 killed in action[7] 100–130,000 civilians killed inside the Francoist zone[8]
British: 500 killed and 1,200 wounded
American: 900 killed and 1,500 wounded[9]
110,000 killed in action[7] 50,000 civilians killed inside the Republican zone[10]
149,213–2,000,000 total killed.[11]
Part of a series on the
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Events leading to World War II
Treaty of Versailles1919
Treaty of Trianon1920
Treaty of Rapallo1920
Franco-Polish alliance1921
March on Rome1922
Corfu incident1923
Occupation of the Ruhr 1923–1925
Mein Kampf1925
Pacification of Libya 1923–1932
Dawes Plan 1924
Locarno Treaties 1925
Chinese Civil War 1927–1936
Young Plan 1929
Great Depression 1929–1941
Japanese invasion of Manchuria1931
Pacification of Manchukuo 1931–1942
January 28 Incident 1932
World Disarmament Conference 1932–1934
Defense of the Great Wall 1933
Battle of Rehe 1933
Tanggu Truce 1933
Nazis rise to power in Germany1933
Italo-Soviet Pact 1933
Inner Mongolian Campaign1933–1936
German-Polish Non-Aggression Pact1934
Franco-Soviet Treaty of Mutual Assistance1935
Soviet–Czechoslovakia Treaty of Mutual Assistance1935
Anglo-German Naval Agreement1935
Second Italo-Ethiopian War1935–1936
Spanish Civil War1936–1939
Anti-Comintern Pact1936
Suiyuan Campaign1936
Second Sino-Japanese War1937–1945
USS Panay incident 1937
AnschlussMar. 1938
May crisis May 1938
Battle of Lake KhasanJuly–Aug. 1938
Undeclared German-Czechoslovak WarSep. 1938
Munich Agreement Sep. 1938
First Vienna Award Nov. 1938
German occupation of CzechoslovakiaMar. 1939
German ultimatum to LithuaniaMar. 1939
Slovak–Hungarian WarMar. 1939
Final offensive of the Spanish Civil WarMar.–Apr. 1939
Danzig CrisisMar.–Aug. 1939
British guarantee to PolandMar. 1939
Italian invasion of AlbaniaApr. 1939
Soviet–British–French Moscow negotiationsApr.–Aug. 1939
Pact of SteelMay 1939
Battles of Khalkhin GolMay–Sep. 1939
Molotov–Ribbentrop PactAug. 1939
Invasion of PolandSep. 1939

The Spanish Civil War (Spanish: Guerra Civil Española)[nb 1] 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, a Falangist, Carlist, Catholic, and largely aristocratic group led by General Francisco Franco. The war was known as a struggle between democracy and fascism, particularly due to the international political climate. 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.[12][13] 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 such as the religious conservative (Roman Catholic) Carlists, and the Falange Española de las Juntas de Ofensiva Nacional Sindicalista (FE y de las JONS), a fascist political party.[nb 2][14] 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 (Loyalist) side received support from the Soviet Union and Mexico. Other countries, such as the United Kingdom, France, and the United States, continued to recognize 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.[14]

The war became notable for the passion and political division it inspired and for the many atrocities that occurred, on both sides. Organized purges occurred in territory captured by Franco's forces so they could consolidate their future regime.[15] A significant number of killings also took place in areas controlled by the Republicans.[16] The extent to which Republican authorities took part in killings in Republican territory varied.[17][18]


The 19th century was a turbulent time for Spain. Those in favour of reforming Spain's government vied for political power with conservatives, who tried to prevent reforms from taking place. Some liberals, in a tradition that had started with the Spanish Constitution of 1812, sought to limit the power of the monarchy of Spain and to establish a liberal state. The reforms of 1812 did not last after King Ferdinand VII dissolved the Constitution and ended the Trienio Liberal government.[19] Twelve successful coups were carried out between 1814 and 1874.[19] Until the 1850s, the economy of Spain was primarily based on agriculture. There was little development of a bourgeois industrial or commercial class. The land-based oligarchy remained powerful; a small number of people held large estates called latifundia as well as all the important government positions.[20]

In 1868 popular uprisings led to the overthrow of Queen Isabella II of the House of Bourbon. Two distinct factors led to the uprisings: a series of urban riots and a liberal movement within the middle classes and the military (led by General Joan Prim) concerned with the ultra-conservatism of the monarchy. In 1873 Isabella's replacement, King Amadeo I of the House of Savoy, abdicated owing to increasing political pressure, and the short-lived First Spanish Republic was proclaimed.[21][22] After the restoration of the Bourbons in December 1874,[23] Carlists and Anarchists emerged in opposition to the monarchy.[24][25] Alejandro Lerroux, Spanish politician and leader of the Radical Republican Party, helped bring republicanism to the fore in Catalonia, where poverty was particularly acute.[26] Growing resentment of conscription and of the military culminated in the Tragic Week in Barcelona in 1909.[27]

On April 2, 1931, the Republicans won the elections and the Spanish Second Republic was proclaimed. King Alfonso XIII resigned and went into exile.

Spain was neutral in World War I. Following the war, the working class, industrial class, and military united in hopes of removing the corrupt central government, but were unsuccessful.[28] Popular perception of communism as a major threat significantly increased during this period.[29] In 1923 a military coup brought Miguel Primo de Rivera to power; as a result, Spain transitioned to government by military dictatorship.[30] Support for the Rivera regime gradually faded, and he resigned in January 1930. He was replaced by General Dámaso Berenguer, who was in turn himself replaced by Admiral Juan Bautista Aznar-Cabañas; both men continued a policy of rule by decree. There was little support for the monarchy in the major cities. Consequently, King Alfonso XIII gave in to popular pressure for the establishment of a republic in 1931 and called municipal elections for 12 April of that year. The socialist and liberal republicans won almost all the provincial capitals, and following the resignation of Aznar's government, King Alfonso XIII fled the country.[31] At this time, the Second Spanish Republic was formed and would remain in power until the culmination of the Spanish Civil War.[32]

The revolutionary committee headed by Niceto Alcalá-Zamora became the provisional government, with Alcalá-Zamora as president and head of state.[33] The republic had broad support from all segments of society.[34] In May, an incident where a taxi driver was attacked outside a monarchist club sparked anti-clerical violence throughout Madrid and south-west Spain. The government's slow response disillusioned the right and reinforced their view that the Republic was determined to persecute the church. In June and July the Confederación Nacional del Trabajo (CNT) called several strikes, which led to a violent incident between CNT members and the Civil Guard and a brutal crackdown by the Civil Guard and the army against the CNT in Seville. This led many workers to believe the Spanish Second Republic was just as oppressive as the monarchy and the CNT announced their intention of overthrowing it via revolution.[35] Elections in June 1931 returned a large majority of Republicans and Socialists.[36] With the onset of the Great Depression, the government attempted to assist rural Spain by instituting an eight-hour day and redistributing land tenure to farm workers.[37][38]

The Church was a frequent target of the revolutionary left in the Republic and in the War. Only during the Civil War revolutionaries destroyed/burned some 20,000 churches -including several cathedrals-, also church ornamentation (artworks, paintings, tombs), books, archives, and palaces.[39][40] Vast number of affected buildings are today defunct.

Fascism remained a reactive threat, helped by controversial reforms to the military.[41] In December a new reformist, liberal, and democratic constitution was declared. It included strong provisions enforcing a broad secularization of the Catholic country, which included the abolishing of Catholic schools and charities, which many moderate committed Catholics opposed.[42] Republican Manuel Azaña became prime minister of a minority government in October 1931.[43][44] In 1933 the parties of the right won the general elections, largely owing to the anarchists' abstention from the vote,[45] increased right-wing resentment of the incumbent government caused by a controversial decree implementing land reform,[46] the Casas Viejas incident,[47] and the formation of a right-wing alliance, Spanish Confederation of Autonomous Right-wing Groups (CEDA). The recent enfranchisement of women, most of whom voted for centre-right parties, was also a contributing factor.[48]

Events in the period following November 1933, called the "black two years", seemed to make a civil war more likely.[49] Alejandro Lerroux of the Radical Republican Party (RRP) formed a government, reversing changes made under the previous administration[50] and granting amnesty to the collaborators of the unsuccessful uprising by General José Sanjurjo in August 1932.[51][52] Some monarchists joined with the then fascist-nationalist Falange Española y de las JONS ("Falange") to help achieve their aims.[53] Open violence occurred in the streets of Spanish cities, and militancy continued to increase,[54] reflecting a movement towards radical upheaval, rather than peaceful democratic means as solutions.[55] On 5 October 1934, the Acción Republicana and the Socialists (PSOE) and Communists attempted a general left-wing rebellion. The rebellion had a temporary success in Asturias and Barcelona, but was over in two weeks. Azaña was in Barcelona that day, and the Lerroux-CEDA government tried to implicate him. He was arrested and charged with complicity in the rebellion.[56]

In the last months of 1934, two government collapses brought members of the CEDA into the government.[57][58] Farm workers' wages were cut in half, and the military was purged of Republican members.[58] A popular front alliance was organized,[58] which narrowly won the 1936 elections.[59] Azaña led a weak minority government, but soon replaced Zamora as president in April.[60] Prime Minister Santiago Casares Quiroga ignored warnings of a military conspiracy involving several generals, who decided that the government had to be replaced to prevent the dissolution of Spain.[61]

Other Languages
Bân-lâm-gú: Se-pan-gâ Lōe-chiàn
беларуская (тарашкевіца)‎: Грамадзянская вайна ў Гішпаніі
brezhoneg: Brezel Spagn
Fiji Hindi: Spanish Civil War
français: Guerre d'Espagne
한국어: 스페인 내전
Bahasa Indonesia: Perang Saudara Spanyol
Lëtzebuergesch: Spuenesche Biergerkrich
नेपाल भाषा: स्पेनी गृहयुद्ध
Plattdüütsch: Spaansche Börgerkrieg
Simple English: Spanish Civil War
srpskohrvatski / српскохрватски: Španski građanski rat