Basque Country

Basque Country
The region comprising three provinces in N Spain, on the Bay of Biscay, inhabited by Basques: 2,803 sq mi (7,260 sq km); pop. 2,104,000: also called Basque Provinces

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French Pays Basque

Cultural region, extreme southwestern France.

It extends from the Anie Peak of the Pyrenees to the coast around Biarritz on the Bay of Biscay. The region has been largely spared the problems associated with Basque separatism in Spain's Basque Country. Fishing and tourism are economic mainstays.
Spanish País Vasco

Autonomous community (pop., 2001: 2,082,587) and historical region, northern Spain.

Bounded by the Bay of Biscay, it consists of the modern provinces of Vizcaya (Biscay), Álava, and Guipúzcoa and has an area of 2,793 sq mi (7,234 sq km); its capital is Vitoria-Gasteiz. Inhabited by Basques, the area retained virtual autonomy until the 19th century, when it suffered repression under Alfonso XII. A separatist movement succeeded in regaining Basque autonomy in 1936 under the short-lived Republican government, but autonomy was withdrawn by Francisco Franco in 1939. Though limited autonomy was granted in 1980, a campaign of terrorism against the Spanish government continued. Álava is an agricultural region, while metallurgical industry is concentrated around Bilbao.

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French  Pays Basque  

      cultural region within the département of Pyrénées-Atlantiques, extreme southwestern France, bordering the western Pyrenees Mountains where they adjoin the Basque provincias of Spain, along the Bay of Biscay. The region extends from the Anie Peak of the Pyrenees to the magnificent rock-bound coast around Biarritz and Saint-Jean-de-Luz on the Bay of Biscay. The climate is very wet, rainfall exceeding 120 inches (3,000 mm) per year in the mountains, and numerous rivers divide the landscape into countless verdant valleys that support both agriculture and forestry. The Basque, who speak a language that is among the oldest in Europe, are ethnically distinct from the people who surround them in France and Spain, having preserved their identity among the waves of migrants who have passed through the region since prehistoric times. Along the coastal fringe, known for its pleasant climate, tourism is the economic mainstay with resorts such as Biarritz, Saint-Jean-de-Luz, Ciboure, and Hendaye. There is also some fishing. Inland, on the foothills of the Pyrenees, sheep are extensively grazed for the production of cheese. The region has been largely spared from the problems associated with the Basque separatist movement in the Basque provincias of Spain and has provided a refuge for exiles of that and other conflicts in Spain.

Spanish  País Vasco , Basque  Euskadi  or  Euskal Herria 
 comunidad autónoma (autonomous community) and historic region of northern Spain encompassing the provincias (provinces) of Álava, Guipúzcoa, and Vizcaya (Biscay). The Basque Country is bounded by the Bay of Biscay to the north and the autonomous communities of Navarra to the east, La Rioja to the south, and Cantabria to the west. The Pyrenees Mountains (Pyrenees) separate the region from the Basque Country of France to the northeast; however, the ethnically similar autonomous community of Navarra makes up most of the border with the French Basque region. The autonomous community of the Basque Country was established by the statute of autonomy of 1979. Its government consists of a president and a parliament. The capital is Vitoria-Gasteiz. Area 2,737 square miles (7,089 square km). Pop. (2007 est.) 2,141,860.

      The mountains of Vizcaya and Guipúzcoa are formidably jagged, and the rivers are short and rapid, cutting sharp gorges through the mountains. Average annual precipitation is about 50 inches (1,270 mm), exceeding 60 inches (1,500 mm) around San Sebastián and dropping to half that amount in the Ebro basin. An Atlantic climate prevails in the northeast, characterized by relatively heavy and regular precipitation. A sub-Mediterranean climate prevails in the southern intermontane basin of Álava.

      The population of the Ebro River basin is concentrated in small communal nuclei surrounded by open fields and vineyards. The population of the Pyrenees, by contrast, is more widely dispersed and centres on the individual farmstead, the caserío, allowing for intensive cultivation of small plots in the mountains. The rapid industrialization of the region since the mid-19th century has caused such coastal cities as Donostia–San Sebastián and Bilbao to grow at the expense of settlements in the hinterlands. Population density is highest along the coast; some four-fifths of the Basque population is concentrated in greater Bilbao.

      Álava province presents an open landscape suitable for the cultivation of cereals and grapes. The Basques (Basque) of the Pyrenees have traditionally been herders, although the introduction of crops from the Americas (corn [maize] and potatoes) has resulted in the expansion of cultivation since the early modern period. Álava remains the most agricultural of the Basque provinces, though its city, Vitoria-Gasteiz, has undergone considerable industrialization since the early 1950s.

      Vizcaya and Guipúzcoa provinces are heavily industrialized, having exploited their extensive resources of iron and timber since the late Middle Ages. The Basque metallurgical industries are heavily concentrated in Bilbao and along the banks of the Nervión River. Outside Bilbao there are metallurgical, food-processing, and chemical industries, while the paper industry centres on Tolosa and the banks of the Oria River. Service industries are highly developed in the Basque Country; Donostia–San Sebastián is a major resort city, and Bilbao is one of the leading financial centres of Spain.

      Traditional Basque culture has declined with the urban and industrial development of the region, and emigration to France and the Americas has sharply reduced the population living in caseríos. Basques have long sought autonomy. The separatist movement of the 1930s culminated in a statute of autonomy on Oct. 5, 1936. Gen. Francisco Franco (Franco, Francisco) suppressed Basque separatism the following year; extremists in the movement subsequently launched a campaign of terrorism against the Spanish central government. Continued terrorist acts of the Euzkadi Ta Azkatasuna ( ETA; Basque for “Basque Homeland and Liberty”) made Basque regionalism one of the most destabilizing forces in Spanish political life.

Vicente Rodriguez

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Universalium. 2010.

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