Second Spanish Republic

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The Second Spanish Republic (19311939) was the second and last period in Spanish history in which the election of both the positions of Head of State and Head of government were in the hands of the people. The First Spanish Republic was from 18731874.

The Second Republic began on 14 April 1931 after the abdication of King Alfonso XIII, following local and municipal elections in which republican candidates won the majority of votes in urban areas. The abdication led to a provisional government under Niceto Alcalá-Zamora, and a constituent Cortes to draw up a new constitution, adopted on 9 December 1931. This led to a republican-socialist government under Manuel Azaña.

The first president was Niceto Alcalá-Zamora (19311936). The Basques and the Catalans claimed independence but did not actually immediately receive even the autonomy they wanted. The Straperlo scandal undermined the confidence in centrist republican parties and led to polarization.

Asturian Uprising

New elections on 19 November 1933 led to a right-wing victory, nominally led by the centrist radical Alejandro Lerroux but dependent on the parliamentary support of the CEDA, a party led by José María Gil Robles with support ranging from Christian Democrats to fascists. The entry of three CEDA ministers into the government on 1 October 1934 led to coups d'état by socialists and anarchists in Asturias and Catalonia on 6 October. Miners in Asturia revolted, occupying Oviedo, leading to the death of about 40 people. The uprising was put down by force by General Francisco Franco. The Uprising and its suppression divided the nation.

Spanish nationalists later pointed at this as an indication that left-wing republicans only supported democracy when they won elections, thus justifying a similar approach from the right.

The establishment of a popular front by left-wing parties enabled the left to regain power at elections on 16 February 1936, installing Manuel Azaña as the second president (1936 – 1939).

Civil War

The Republic suffered a terrible crisis when General Franco and other army officers attempted a coup on 18 July 1936, which was the start of the Spanish Civil War, this can be seen as the start of the Second World War because of the direct military aid to Franco's forces by Fascist Italy and the German Nazi Condor Legion where they tried out weapons and tactics, including the first destruction of a town by aircraft bombardment at Guernica. The Republic, under military boycott by Britain and France, was militarily inferior to Franco's Nazi aided forces and dependent for aircraft and tanks upon Stalin's distant USSR and for some of its front line troops upon International Brigades comprising socialist volunteers from around the world, whose officers were typically Russian Red Army regulars, and anarchist militias. Azaña's government lasted until February 1939, though with control over a gradually reducing proportion of Spain. The Republic formally fell when General Franco and his troops took Madrid on April 1, 1939, with the assistance of Franco's "fifth column".

A dictatorship (Franquismo) was established. During this period, Franco declared Spain to be a monarchy, but kept himself as regent to the throne. Only 36 years later, on Franco's death in 1975, did Spain revert to a royal head of state.

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