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Bertan > The Basque language > Fin de siècle
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Fin de siècle


At the end of the nineteenth century and beginning of the twentieth centuries, the Basque Country underwent the profound social and economic changes of industrialisation. A traditional agricultural society gave way to the hegemony of urban life, with a burgeoning intelligentsia eager to revive the Basque language. Leading figures such as Azkue, Campion and Urkijo promoted historical and linguistic research, literature and associations to champion the Basque tongue. In the midst of the nationalist ideology, there was also an increased pride in local values, with the development of magazines in Basque, poetry and songs, floral games and Basque fiestas.

161. The process of industrialisation particularly affected Biscay and Gipuzkoa, with major growth in industry and mining in the Bilbao area. The demand for labour brought migrants from neighbouring provinces. The difficulty of absorbing so many new arrivals resulted in social tension, with Spanish prevailing over Basque. 162. Arturo Campion (Pamplona, 1854-1937) was a politician and writer and an eager historian and linguist. His extensive oeuvre encompassed the phonetics, grammar and dialectology of the Basque Language. As well as writing stories, legends and historical novels, his contribution to research is considered to be especially important, particularly his Gramatica de los cuatro dialectos literarios de la lengua euskara (1884). With Urkijo, Azkue and Luis de Eleizalde, he was one of the four founders of Euskaltzaindia and he also participated in the creation of the Asociación Euskara de Navarra (1877) along with other illustrious Navarrese. 163. In 1895, the four territorial (provincial) governments of Alava, Biscay, Gipuzkoa and Navarre, faced with a total ban on the use of Basque in schools, called on the Minister for Development (in the government of Cánovas del Castillo, prime minister under King Alfonso XII) to require teachers wishing to fill vacancies in primary education to have a knowledge of Basque. 164. In 1901, a circular from the Civil Governor of Navarre, Benito Francia, warned teachers from the Basque-speaking area of Navarre, that use of the native language was forbidden, and that no subject could be taught in any language other than Spanish, in the general interests of the fatherland. 165. At the start of the twentieth century, in the large urban nuclei, the public administration and academia were dominated by Spanish and French. Nonetheless, it was precisely in urban areas that the first Basque revival movements arose among the intelligentsia of the era. (Oil painting by Aurelio Arteta). 166. José María Iparragirre Balerdi, (Urretxu, 1820-1881), musician and bertsolari (improvising poet), dubbed the "Basque bard". At the height of the Romantic movement, he joined the Carlists (1835) and with the French revolutionaries (1848), lived in exile in France and in Argentina. Throughout his fascinating life he composed and sang in the Basque tongue. One of his most popular compositions was the zortziko, Gernikako Arbola (1853). 167. The "ring" punishment was a bitter symbol of the prohibition suffered by the Basque language in the street and especially in schools. Joxe Miel Barandiaran told of his experience as a boy in 1890: If the teacher heard anyone speaking in Basque, he was made to wear a ring; this ring passed from student to student, as they made the same mistake (…). The boy wearing the ring felt alone, shunned by his classmates and consumed by the fear of the beating he might receive, for punishment was meted out to the boy wearing the ring at the end of the week. 168. Xareta. Labourd. Lapurdi. 169. Two Basque-language newspapers in California. Escualdun Gazeta (1885) was published in Los Angeles by the lawyer Martin Biskailuz and targeted at the Basque community in the city (Biskailuz's son Eugene held the position of sheriff of Los Angeles for a record length of time), and the weekly Californiako Eskual Herria 1893), published for six years by Jean Pierre Goytino. 170. Julio Urkijo Ibarra (Deusto, 1871-1950) was a specialist in law and linguistics, student of dialects and proverbs and leading expert on Basque bibliography. He collected almost 11,000 books, manuscripts and publications from the Basque Country. He set up the Revista Internacional de Estudios Vascos (International Journal on Basque Studies), RIEV (1907), the best showcase of Basque culture and science. Alongside Azkue and Aranzadi, he created the scientific journal Euskalerriaren alde (1911). Deputy Chairman of Eusko Ikaskuntza until 1930, he was one of the four founders of Euskaltzaindia and ran its library and research section. His library, left to the Koldo Mitxelena Kulturunea in Donostia/San Sebastian, is now owned by the Provincial Government of Gipuzkoa and available to the public for consultation. 171. Sabino Arana Goiri (Abando, 1865-1903), was the ideologue of pro-independence Basque nationalism, founder of the Partido Nacionalista Vasco (Basque Nationalist Party), and designer –with his brother Luis– of the Basque flag, the ikurriña. Convinced that it was necessary to create literature in Basque to develop a native culture, he produced abundant work on the language, politics, history and literature, and founded various newspapers. He was imprisoned twice, his publications were banned and his party centre (batzoki) was closed down. For Arana, the Basque language was one of the features of Basque identity, and he was a pioneer and a fanatical defender of lexical purism. 172. Resurrección María de Azkue. Writer, linguist and folklore researcher (Lekeitio 1864-1951). At an early stage, Azkue saw the need for an Academy of the Basque Language. He was one of the founders of Euskaltzaindia, over which he presided from 1919 to 1951. His work marked the beginning of scientific study of the Basque language, with his Morfología vasca (1923-1934) and his surveys of Basque speakers, Erizkizundi Irukoitza (1922). His vast oeuvre includes music, theatre, novel, journalism and education. Some of his most important works include Diccionario Vasco-Español- Francés, 1905, Cancionero popular vasco, Euskal Erriaren Yakintza (1935-47), and others based on Basque folklore. 173. Segura.
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