SPAIN - HISTORY - 20th AND 21th CENTURY
The bombing of Gernika during the Spanish Civil War,
1937The 20th century brought little peace; Spain played a
minor part in the scramble for Africa, with the
colonization of Western Sahara, Spanish Morocco and
Equatorial Guinea. The heavy losses suffered during the
Rif war in Morocco helped to undermine the monarchy.
A period of dictatorial rule under General Miguel Primo de
Rivera (1923–1931) ended with the establishment of the
Second Spanish Republic. The Republic offered political
autonomy to the Basque Country, Catalonia and Galicia and
gave voting rights to women.
The bitterly fought Spanish Civil War (1936-39) ensued.
Three years later the Nationalist forces, led by General
Francisco Franco, emerged victorious with the support of
Germany and Italy. The Republican side was supported by
the Soviet Union and Mexico, but it was not supported by
the Western powers due to the British-led policy of
Non-Intervention. The Spanish Civil War has been called
the first battle of the Second World War; under Franco,
Spain was neutral in the Second World War though
sympathetic to the Axis.
The only legal party under Franco's regime was the Falange
española tradicionalista y de las JONS, formed in 1937;
the party emphasized anti-Communism, Catholicism and
After World War II, Spain was politically and economically
isolated, and was kept out of the United Nations until
1955, when it became strategically important for the U.S.
to establish a military presence on the Iberian Peninsula.
In the 1960s, Spain registered an unprecedendent economic
growth in what was called the Spanish miracle, which
gradually transformed it into a modern industrial economy
with a thriving tourism sector.
Upon the death of General Franco in November 1975, his
personally designated heir Prince Juan Carlos assumed the
position of king and head of state. With the approval of
the Spanish Constitution of 1978 and the arrival of
democracy, political autonomy was established. In the
Basque Country, moderate Basque nationalism coexisted with
a radical nationalism supportive of the terrorist group
In 1982, the Spanish Socialist Worker's Party (PSOE) came
to power, which represented the return to power of a
leftist party after 43 years. In 1986, Spain joined the
European Community (which was to become the European
Union). The PSOE was replaced by the PP after the latter
won the 1996 General Elections; at that point the PSOE had
served almost 14 consecutive years in office.
On January 1, 2002 Spain terminated its historic peseta
currency and replaced it with the Euro, which has become
its national currency shared with 13 other countries from
the Euro zone. This culminated a fast process of economic
The scene of one of the Madrid bombings On March 11, 2004,
a series of bombs exploded in commuter trains in Madrid,
Spain. This act of terror killed 191 people and wounded
1,460 more, besides possibly affecting national elections
scheduled for March 14, three days after the attack.
The Madrid train bombings had an adverse effect on the
image of the then-ruling conservative party Partido
Popular (PP) which polls had indicated were likely to win
the elections, thus helping the election of Zapatero's
Partido Socialista Obrero Español (PSOE).
There were two nights of incidents around the PP
headquarters, with the PSOE and other political parties
accusing the PP of hiding the truth by saying that the
incidents were caused by ETA even though new evidence that
pointed to an Islamic attack started appearing.
These incidents are still a cause of discussion, since
some factions of the PP suggest that the elections were
"stolen" by means of the turmoil which followed the
terrorist bombing, which was, according to this point of
view, backed by the PSOE.
March 14, 2004, three days after the bombings, saw the
PSOE party elected into government, with Rodriguez
Zapatero becoming the new President Del Gobierno or prime
minister of Spain thus replacing the former PP
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