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The 20th 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 nationalism.

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 ETA.

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.

21th century

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 modernization.

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 administration.


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