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The renaissance of the basque language


The abolition of the Liberties (1876) put an end to moves towards greater local autonomy, but at the same time there was a new growth in interest in the history, culture and language of the Basque Country. In the four provincial capitals of the Southern Basque Country (Hegoalde) associations grew up to address these issues. Essential new institutions were founded, such as Eusko Ikaskuntza – the Society of Basque Studies – and Euskaltzaindia –the Academy of the Basque Language. In all the provinces, newspapers and literature in Basque flourished: from the beginning of the century to 1936 around 300 books were published in Basque. This was the socalled " Basque Cultural Renaissance".

174. Europe in general was going through a period of profound political change and struggles. 175. La Semana Trágica de Barcelona [The Tragic Week of Barcelona. ]. Oil painting by Ramón Casas, 1909. 176. Eusko Ikaskuntza –the Society of Basque Studies– was created in 1918 on the express initiative of the provincial governments (diputaciones) of Alava, Biscay, Gipuzkoa and Navarre to promote the Basque language and Basque culture. When the Civil War of 1936 brought Basque cultural life to a standstill, the activities of Eusko Ikaskuntza were suspended. The society did not become active again until the latter period of the dictatorship in 1978. 177. Poster of the Second Congress of Basque Studies organised in Pamplona by Eusko Ikaskuntza in 1920 and devoted to teaching. 178. Map by Jouzas Parsaitis (Jean Gabrys) showing the languages spoken in Europe and their nations. It was published in Lausanne in 1918 by the Union des Nationalités, an organisation promoting selfdetermination for European nations. 179. In 1876, Julián Gayarre (Erronkari, 1844-1890), was lauded at the Scala in Milan as one of the world's finest tenors. With innumerable awards to his name throughout his musical career, he always spoke of and cultivated his love of the Basque language, which he could speak and write. 180. Bidarrai. 181. In 1880, José de Manterola Beldarrain (San Sebastian, 1849- 1884), writer, journalist and schoolteacher, created the magazine Euskal-Erria with contributions from nearly all the Basque intellectuals of the period. Director of the Municipal Library, he published his Cancionero Vasco Euskal-Erria in 1877, coinciding with the literary renaissance in Urruña and Sara. 182. The Basque language had its detractors, even among the Basque intelligentsia of the period. Miguel de Unamuno (Bilbao 1864-1936), writer and Basque speaker, wrote that: With either Basque or Catalan, one cannot think of elevated matters. We have to ensure that every Spanish citizen is firstly a good Spaniard and after that, universal. 183. From 1876 to 1936, theatre in the Basque language developed in close association with the movement in defence of Basque singularity. Leading figures included Toribio Alzaga (1861), who held San Sebastian City Council's Municipal Chair of Basque Oration, the magazine Antzerti, the Basque Theatre Festival (1934, 1935 and 1936) organised by Euskaltzaleak, the weekly drama readings on Radio Donostiarra, and Manu Sota y Lauaxeta's itinerant theatre company which travelled the towns of Biscay. 184. Euskaltzaindia, the Academy of the Basque Language, was first proposed at the 1918 congress of Eusko Ikaskuntza in Oñati. It began operating the following year, with the general task of promoting the creation of a standard literary language and encouraging better knowledge, study and dissemination of the Basque language. 185. In 1910, the bishop of Vitoria, José Cadena y Eleta, signed a circular in which he mentioned the "depraved purposes" of those wishing to baptise their children in Basque, as he had been requested by what he called "individuals from that Party" (the Basque Nationalist Party). 186. The publication of magazines in Basque reached a high water mark in 1921 and continued to flourish until 1930. Magazines from this period include: Zeruko Argia (Pamplona, 1919), Euskera (Bilbao, 1920), Argia (San Sebastian, 1921), Arantzazu (1921), Eusko Folklore (San Sebastian, 1921), Eusko-Deia (1921), Kaiku (1921), Gure Misiolaria (1924) among others. In the Northern Basque Country too, magazines such as Gure Herria (Bayonne, 1921) acted as launch pads for the work of many writers. 187. The opera Amaya by Jesús Guridi premiered in 1920 at the Coliseo Albia theatre in Bilbao. It was based on the historical novel by Francisco Navarro Villoslada Amaya o los vascos en el siglo VIII (1879). The fictional work by the writer from Viana (1818), took hold of the popular imagination, making Amaya the most popular girl's name in the Southern Basque Country in recent years. 188. Poster of the restaging of the work in 1987, sponsored by the Basque Government, by Xabi Otero. 189. The Campos Eliseos theatre in Bilbao became the birthplace of Basque opera. Between 1909 and 1910, it was saw the premières of Maitena, by Etienne Decrept; Mendi mendiyan by Usandizaga; Lide ta Ixidor by Santos Intxausti and Mirentxu by Jesús Guridi. 190. At the end of the nineteenth century, the burgeoning Basque middle class also looked to Europe and the artistic movements of the period. From impressionists to cubists, the painters of the time —Zubiaurre, Arrupe, Guiard and Arteta— depicted the rural Basque Country and its lower classes, and reflected the great social changes of the time. Painting by Jose Arrue.
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