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Spain: Republicanism and Civil War, 1931-1939

This map is part of a series of 19 animated maps showing the history of Europe and nations, 1918-1942.

In the early 1930s, the authoritarian regime set up by Primo de Rivera came to an end, Alphonse XIII went into exile, and Spain became a democratic republic.  The elections held in February 1936 were won by the Popular Front, a coalition of communists, socialists, anarchists and radicals. But by July 1936, a military uprising marked the beginning of three years of civil war in which Franco’s nationalists supported by the army, the Falange (the Spanish Fascist party) and the clergy fought against the Republicans who represented the working and lower middle classes.

The insurrection broke out in Spanish Morocco and spread to numerous barracks in Andalusia and the North-West regions of the Iberian Peninsula, while Madrid, Barcelona and Valencia remained in the hands of the Republicans.

Because of its strong ideological connotations, the Spanish Civil War quickly became an international conflict: Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy provided Franco with substantial assistance in terms of military equipment and troops; the Republicans, meanwhile, received arms and equipment from the USSR and their numbers were swelled by the arrival of volunteers who fought in the International Brigades.

By the end of 1936, the various groups on the Nationalists’ side had secured control over most of western Spain. During 1937, they destroyed the Northern Front in the Basque country and the Asturias. In April 1938, Franco’s troops isolated Madrid from Barcelona. Catalonia was lost by the Republicans in January 1939, while Franco took Madrid in March and set up his government. Once victory was in their hands, the Franco Regime sidelined the Falange and established a solid traditional, but non-Fascist, dictatorship.

The European democracies, particularly France and England, adopted a policy of non-intervention. The drama being played out in Spain turned out to be a prelude for the Second World War.