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A member of an ethnic group inhabiting the western Pyrenees on both sides of the French-Spanish border; this region in known as the Basque Country. The Basques possess a distinctive culture and language, perhaps the result of their relative isolation from the rest of Europe until comparatively recently. It has been suggested that their ancestors migrated to Europe from the Caucasus about 12,000 years ago and about 5000 years ago moved to the Basque country. Although the Basque country is divided between France and Spain, the Basques have maintained an identity separate from both states. From the 14th century onwards the Basques were renowned for their fishing and whaling skills. Basque culture underwent a revival in the late 19th century, which ensured its continuance into the 20th century. During the Spanish Civil War, the Basques supported the Republic; in reprisal, German aircraft acting on behalf of Franco's Nationalists destroyed the Basque town of Guernica in 1937. Under Franco's regime, concerted attempts were made to suppress the Basque culture and language. In recent decades many Basques in Spain have campaigned for an independent Basque state, through the nationalist party Herri Batasuna or its violent military wing ETA (Basque Fatherland and Liberty). In March 2006 ETA declared a permanent ceasefire after 40 years of terrorist activity.

Subjects: History

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