Spanish Civil War Quiz

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By jwblackwell



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The Spanish Civil War was fought from 1936 to 1939 between the Republicans and the Nationalists, who were an alliance of various right-wing parties and led by General Francisco Franco. The war was viewed as a struggle between dictatorship and republican democracy, between revolution and counterrevolution, and between fascism and communism. The Nationalists received support from Fascist Italy, Nazi Germany and Portugal, while the Republican side received support from the Soviet Union and Mexico. Despite the official policy of non-intervention, tens of thousands of citizens from non-interventionist countries directly participated in the conflict. The Nationalists won the war, and Franco established a dictatorship in which all right-wing parties were fused into the structure of the Franco regime. The war became notable for the passion and political division it inspired and for the many atrocities that occurred, including organized purges and mass executions. The 19th century was a turbulent time for Spain, with many liberals seeking to curtail the authority of the Spanish monarchy and establish a nation-state under their ideology and philosophy. There were several attempts to realign the political system to match social reality, and a series of civil wars known as the Carlist Wars transpired throughout the middle of the century. Spain was neutral in World War I, but following the war, wide swathes of Spanish society united in hopes of removing the corrupt central government of the country in Madrid. In 1931, King Alfonso XIII of Spain relented to popular pressure for the establishment of a republic, and the Second Spanish Republic was formed. The republic remained in power until the culmination of the civil war five years later. The revolutionary committee headed by Niceto Alcalá-Zamora became the provisional government, with Alcalá-Zamora himself as president and head of state. In November 1933, the right-wing parties won the general election, and events in the period after November 1933, called the "black biennium", seemed to make a civil war more likely.Background to the Spanish Civil War

  • Anarchist socialists and anarchists believed that the existing political order was illegitimate.

  • Reversals of land reform resulted in expulsions, firings, and arbitrary changes to working conditions in the central and southern countryside in 1935.

  • The government led by the Radical Republican Party went through a series of crises in 1935, leading to President Niceto Alcalá-Zamora calling another election.

  • The revolutionary left-wing masses took to the streets and freed prisoners after the Popular Front narrowly won the 1936 general election.

  • Polarisation in Spain just before the coup was so intense that physical confrontations between leftists and rightists were a routine occurrence in most localities.

  • Within the first month of the Popular Front's government, nearly a quarter of the provincial governors had been removed due to their failure to prevent or control strikes, illegal land occupation, political violence, and arson.

  • The revolt was devoid of any particular ideology, and the major goal was to put an end to anarchical disorder.

  • Franco was a key player in planning the military coup, as he was respected in the Army of Africa, the Army's toughest troops.

  • The killing of José Calvo Sotelo, a leading Spanish monarchist and a prominent parliamentary conservative, with police involvement aroused suspicions and strong reactions among the government's opponents on the right.

  • The arbitrary use of lethal force by the state and a lack of action against the attackers led to public disapproval of the government, encouraging important sectors of the right to join the rebellion.

  • The rising was intended to be a swift coup d'état, but the government retained control of most of the country.

  • The rebels failed to take any major cities with the critical exception of Seville, which provided a landing point for Franco's African troops, and the primarily conservative and Catholic areas of Old Castile and León, which fell quickly.Overview of the Spanish Civil War

  • The Spanish Civil War began with a military coup on July 17, 1936, led by Nationalists who opposed the Republican government.

  • The coup was not universal, and the Republicans controlled almost all the east coast and central area around Madrid, as well as most of Asturias, Cantabria and part of the Basque Country in the north.

  • The militias that rose to meet the rebels were often untrained and poorly armed, but the rebellion was not universal, and enough officers and soldiers had joined the coup to prevent it from being crushed swiftly.

  • The Nationalists had secured the support of around half of Spain's territorial army, some 60,000 men, joined by the Army of Africa, made up of 35,000 men, and just under half of Spain's militaristic police forces.

  • The Spanish Republican Army had just 18 tanks of a sufficiently modern design, and the Nationalists took control of 10. Naval capacity was uneven, with the Republicans retaining a numerical advantage, but with the Navy's top commanders and two of the most modern ships in Nationalist control.

  • The war was cast by Republican sympathizers as a struggle between tyranny and freedom, and by Nationalist supporters as communist and anarchist red hordes versus Christian civilization.

  • The coup divided the armed forces fairly evenly, with an estimated 87,000 troops loyal to the government and some 77,000 joining the insurgency.

  • From August, both sides launched their own, similarly scaled conscription schemes, resulting in further massive growth of their armies.

  • The Republic received diplomatic support, volunteers, weapons, and vehicles from Mexico and the USSR, while other countries remained neutral.

  • The Nationalist base largely consisted of the middle classes, conservative peasant smallholders in the North, and Catholics in general.

  • The Spanish Civil War exposed political divisions across Europe, with the right and Catholics supporting the Nationalists to stop the spread of Bolshevism, and the left seeing the war as a necessary battle to stop the spread of fascism.

  • The war involved large numbers of non-Spanish citizens who participated in combat and advisory positions, with Germany, Italy, and the Soviet Union providing the most significant foreign involvement.Support for Nationalists and Republicans in the Spanish Civil War

  • The Soviet Union signed on officially, but ignored the embargo, and France was especially accused of allowing large shipments to Republican troops.

  • The League of Nations' reaction to the war was influenced by a fear of communism and was insufficient to contain the massive importation of arms and other war resources by the fighting factions.

  • Italy supplied machine guns, artillery, aircraft, tankettes, the Aviazione Legionaria, and the Corpo Truppe Volontarie (CTV) to the Nationalist cause. The Italian CTV would, at its peak, supply the Nationalists with 50,000 men.

  • Adolf Hitler quickly sent in powerful air and armoured units to assist the Nationalists. The Nazi German actions included the formation of the multitasking Condor Legion, a unit composed of volunteers from the Luftwaffe and the German Army (Heer) from July 1936 to March 1939.

  • The Estado Novo regime of Portuguese Prime Minister António de Oliveira Salazar played an important role in supplying Franco's forces with ammunition and logistical help.

  • The Conservative government of Britain maintained a position of strong neutrality and sent warships to try to stop shipments. It was theoretically a crime to volunteer to fight in Spain, but about 4,000 went anyway.

  • Romanian volunteers were led by Ion Moța, deputy-leader of the Iron Guard ("Legion of the Archangel Michael"), whose group of Seven Legionaries visited Spain in December 1936 to ally their movement with the Nationalists.

  • Despite the Irish government's prohibition against participating in the war, about 600 Irishmen, followers of the Irish political activist and co-founder of the recently created political party of Fine Gael (unofficially called "The Blue Shirts"), Eoin O'Duffy, known as the "Irish Brigade", went to Spain to fight alongside Franco.

  • The Communist International immediately reinforced its activity sending to Spain its leader Georgi Dimitrov and Palmiro Togliatti, the chief of the Communist Party of Italy. From August onward aid started to be sent from Russia, over one ship per day arrived at Spain's Mediterranean ports carrying munitions, rifles, machine guns, hand grenades, artillery and trucks.

  • Many non-Spaniards, often affiliated with radical communist or socialist entities, joined the International Brigades, believing that the Spanish Republic was a front line in the war against fascism. The units represented the largest foreign contingent of those fighting for the Republicans.

  • Although General Secretary Joseph Stalin had signed the Non-Intervention Agreement, the Soviet Union contravened the League of Nations embargo by providing material assistance to the Republican forces, becoming their only source of major weapons.

  • The Republic paid for Soviet arms with official Bank of Spain gold reserves, 176 tonnes of which was transferred through France and 510 directly to Russia, which was called Moscow gold.

  • The Soviet Union directed Communist parties around the world to organise and recruit the International Brigades. Another significant Soviet involvement was the activity of the People's Commissariat for Internal Affairs (NKVD) inside the Republican rearguard.


Test your knowledge of the Spanish Civil War with our quiz! From the causes and background of the conflict to the major players involved, this quiz will challenge you to recall key events and details of one of the most passionate and politically divisive wars in modern history. Learn about the ideologies and foreign support that shaped the Nationalists and Republicans, the military strategies and battles that defined the conflict, and the lasting impact of the war on Spain and beyond. Whether you're a history buff or just looking to expand your

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