The Civil War ended in the Basque Country in 1937, but would continue for two years in the remaining parts of the state loyal to the republic. During those two years, a strategy of state terror was applied to Basque Society.

It is estimated that about 25.000 Basques died during the war and those suspected of affiliation with republican ideologies were summarily executed.

To compound the sense of defeat and loss within the Basque Country, the new francoist state officialy branded Biscay and Gipuzcoa as “traitorous” provinces. This served to legitimize the state terror imposed on the inhabitants of the two provincies. These inhabitants were terrorized for being Basque.

From the middle of 50s on, the Spanish policy was of total suppression of the Basque language. The teaching of the language was prohibited in all schools and the use of Basque was also prohibited in all public places, including casual conversations in the street. Basque cultural societies and their publications were proscribed (declared out of law).

In response to this repression of all public expression, for many the family became an intimate location of political education. While the Spanish Church hierarchy had sided with Franco though the war, many Basque priests had defended the Basque nationalist cause. Those priests who had been sympathetic to Basque nationalism were considered traitors.

As such, the Spanish aothorities imprisoned more than four hundred Basque priests with sixteen executed for treason. Those in the Basque clergy who managed to remain in Euskal Herria, were often the only source, outside the family, transmitting the Basque language to younger generations.

Eusko Jaurlaritza after Civil War.

After the war, the leadership of the Basque nationalist movement went into exile, so that between 1939 and 1945 nationalist activity was entirely restricted. This strategy involved an early commitment to the allied cause during the World War II and in 1941, after negotiations with General Charles de Gaulle´s “Free French” organization in London, a Basque military unit was stablished; however, Winston Churchill forced the disbandment of it the following year.

More importantly for the allies, a spy network was established in Euskal Herria during 1942, to monitor movements between Francoist Spain and German-controlled France. However, the principal wartime activity of Basques was that of transporting refugees into the Spanish state and fighting against the Nazi occupiers.

In 1944, the Gernika Battalion was created out of the Basque nationalist refugees and incorporated into the foreign regiment of the French state army.

In 1945, the exiled Basque government met for the first time since the Civil War. A subsequent agreement between exiled political groups from the Spanish state reaffirmed the legality of the Second Republic and the Basque Statute of Autonomy. The president of the exiled government, Jose Antonio Agirre, had settled in Washington in 1945, from where he began lobbying the United States to help the Basque cause against Franco. After 1945, PNV also began organizing a coordinated resistance against the dictator.

First actions of Basques against the Dictatorship.

Thereafter, between 1945 and 1947, a series of symbolic acts had been done to unsettle the Francoist authorities: the Ikurriña was planted on highly visible locations such as monuments; nationalist slogans and the prohibited word “Euzkadi” were painted on walls; and a statue of General Emilio Mola was blown up in Bilbo in 1946.

The Spanish State, between 1946 and 1947, made a number of arrests that led to imprisonments and even executions.

The initial period of resistance to the Francoist state culminated in May 1947, when a widespread general strike in the Basque Country was convened to protest the harsh conditions imposed by the dictatorship. There followed a wave of industrial protests in a concerned attempt to unsettle the state, culminating in another general strike in 1951, which also turned into violent clashes between police and workers. However, as in the 1947 protest, the rest of Spain did not support the Basque action and this allowed Franco to concentrate all the authorities in the Basque Country.

Abroad, Aguirre met with American State Department officials in 1950 to discuss the country´s policy toward the Spanish state and to bring down Franco´s regime. However, American policy was already in the process of an action that would ease international relations with Franco, as they came to an agreement.

The industrialization that began in the middle of 1950 encouraged waves of immigrants to converge in the centres of development, which were the town and cities of the Basque Country. By 1960, population reached to “flood proportions”.

Political violence: ETA and Basque Nationalism.

Between 1947 and 1951, despite the successful mobilization of Basque workers in protest against the Spanish state, many activists were arrested and imprisoned.

At the same time, the clandestine network of PNV had been severaly weakened, leaving a number of young activists to organize their own activities independently of established groups.

In 1951, one group of young people, principally composed of students, some of whom had been active in EIA (Society of Basque Students), began meeting on an informal basis in Bilbo for secret discussion in Basque about common interest and Basque culture in general. The results of these meetings were the published in an internal newsletter by the name “Ekin”.

Between 1951 and 1953, the group, now named Ekin as well, dedicated its time to the intellectual investigation and publication of Basque historical and cultural information.

In 1953, Ekin counted two cells, representing Biscay and Gipuzcoa. Their purpose was, first, to serve as an educationalorganization aimed at diffusing Basque language, history and culture; and second, learning from the mistake of EIA, they proposed the creation of a truly clandestine Basque Nationalist political organization. From 1953 on, the group began to attract the attention of PNV, and finally, the two established a dialogue. In Gipuzcoa, this took the form of a close relationship between Ekin and Eusko Gaztedi, the youth wing of PNV, that led to be called as EGI.