The Spanish Civil War of 1936-1939 was an armed conflict between the conservatives (church, land owners and Fascist elements) against the Republicans, socialists, communists and anarchists in Spain. The civil war broke out or started with a military or army uprising in Morocco on 17th July 1936 triggered by the events in Madrid and it eventually spread to mainland Spain. The war was led by General Francisco Franco, a senior army officer in the Spanish army.


The Spanish civil war led to the collapse of the Republican government in Spain. The Second Spanish Republic was defeated by the Nationalist army of the rebels under General Franco in 1939 because it was militarily weak yet the rebels were being supported by strong powers like Germany and Italy. As a result, democracy in Span was destroyed by this civil war.

It led to massive loss of lives on both sides of the conflict. Up to one million people that included combatants and civilians were killed in this conflict, which was the most devastating in the Spanish history. For example, over 6,000 priests and monks lost their lives because of the church’s involvement in this civil war.

It increased the media involvement in war coverage. Because the Spanish civil war was a major international event that even involved foreign powers, it was given wide spread media coverage. The war was therefore covered by well-known international reporters like Ernest Hemingway, George Orwell and Robert Capa. Some of these reporters even produced international award winning films about the Spanish civil war. For example, Ernest Hemingway and Lillian Helina co-produced the “Spanish Earth“, a film which was used to advertise Spain’s need for military and monetary aid during the civil war.

It attracted the intervention of the foreign powers. The Spanish Civil War aroused widespread passion across Europe and the world, which was increased by the efforts to both sides to win international support. As a result, Germany and Italy aided General Franco with planes, tanks and arms so as to stop the spread of communism in Spain while the Soviet Union (Russia) supported the Republican side. In addition, thousands of communists and radicals from France, the USSR, America and elsewhere formed the International Brigades composed of foreign volunteers to aid the republicans. These foreign forces successfully defended Madrid until the end of the civil war.

The Spanish Civil War of 1936-1939 led to the massive destruction of property. During the course of this three years’ war, there was widespread destruction of cities like Madrid and Barcelona as well as churches and homes using modern weapons like mortars, tanks and air crafts that were supplied by the foreign countries. As a result, a lot of property was destroyed in Spain by the war which left the country devastated.

The Spanish Civil War of 1936-1939 made the Fascists (dictators) popular in Europe. The Spanish Civil War was the first great clash of the 20th century ideologies of dictatorship and democracy as the rebel Nationalist army led by General Franco was aided by Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy while the Spanish republican government was supported by communist Soviet Union (Russia) and many volunteers from the liberal democratic nations. The success of the civil war in 1939 marked the triumph or success of dictatorship over western democracy. This therefore boosted the image of the Fascists or Axis powers in Europe.

The war clearly promoted the appeasement policy. The appeasement policy was a policy that was followed by the British and later French of avoiding war with aggressive powers such as Germany and Italy by giving in to their demands provided they were not too unreasonable. During the Spanish Civil War, the western democratic powers like Britain, France, Sweden and Belgium pursued a policy of non-intervention and therefore did not support the liberal democratic government of Spain. This was a clear manifestation of the appeasement policy and it stopped the Spanish conflict from becoming a global conflict as the situation had indicated especially with the intervention of some foreign powers.

The war led to the displacement of many Spanish people. The civil war that raged on for three years forced many people to migrate from Spain to other European countries like France, Russia and Latin America where they became refugees. This increased their suffering while staying in these foreign countries.

It led to the establishment of Fascism or dictatorship in Spain under General Franco. After their victory in 1939, the Nationalists installed a dictatorial regime in Spain under General Franco that lasted for thirty six years until General Franco’s death in November 1975. Therefore, the Spanish civil war led to the extension of fascism (dictatorship) to Spain which marked the end of liberal democracy that Spain had enjoyed since 1931 when the Second Spanish Republic was established.

It enabled the Germans and the Russians to use the war as a testing ground for their weapons. The Spanish civil war involved the use of modern weapons that were availed to the two warring sides by Germany and the Soviet Union (Russia). These included sub-machine guns, mortars (bombs), artillery, tanks and combat air crafts among others. This therefore increased the arms race in Europe which threatened peace and stability and eventually led to the outbreak of World War II in 1939.

The Spanish Civil War consolidated the friendship between Adolf Hitler of Germany and Benito Mussolini of Italy. Following their common foreign policy in Spain where they jointly supported General Franco against the Republican government, the two fascist leaders became great allies. This therefore led to formation of an alliance of dictators known as the Berlin-Rome Axis on 25th October 1936 which united the two fascist states. This alliance was later joined by Hirohito of Japan to form the Berlin-Rome-Tokyo Axis or an alliance of the Axis powers. The formation of these alliances partly contributed to the outbreak of the World War II in 1939.

It increased the Russian hostility towards the Germans and Italians. Before the Spanish civil war, the relations between communist Russia and Germany together with Italy had been hostile because Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini were anti-communists and yet Russia was a major communist country following the success of the 1917 Bolshevik revolution. When Russia clashed with Germany and Italy during the Spanish civil war, this intensified the Russian enemity towards Germany and Italy especially following the victory of the fascists in Spain by 1939. This therefore drew communist Russia to the western democratic or capitalist powers of Britain and France during World War II of 1939-1945.

The civil war enabled the Spanish to overcome the Great Economic Depression. The depression which broke out in 1929 had resulted into a period of economic stagnation characterized by collapse of industries, increased unemployment and poverty in Spain. With the economic assistance from Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy, Spain was able to recapitalize her economy which helped her to recover from the economic hardships that had been caused by the Great Economic Depression.

It encouraged Adolf Hitler of Germany to pursue further aggressive policies in Europe. When Adolf Hitler succeeded in invading Spain with the support of Italy so as to install a fascist regime under General Franco, this encouraged him to conduct further acts of aggression in Europe. For example, in 1938 Hitler invaded Austria, in March 1939 he also attacked and occupied Czechoslovakia and finally in September 1939, he attacked Poland. Such aggressive foreign policies of Adolf Hitler partly contributed to the outbreak of World War II in 1939.

The Spanish Civil War generated a new wave or method of warfare that had never been there before. This was characterized by the use of tanks and air crafts that spread terror through the bombing of cities. This was because during the war, Spanish cities like Madrid and Barcelona were heavily bombarded by the German and Italian air crafts. Such war strategies were adopted during World War II. For example, USA bombed the two Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August 1945 which ended the Japanese resistance in World War II.

It unearthed or exposed the weakness of the League of Nations. During the Spanish Civil War, Russia, Germany and Italy ignored the League of Nations covenant on arms which had limited the manufacture and use of deadly weapons after World War I. They instead resorted to the massive exportation of arms like tanks, air crafts, sub-machine guns and bombs to Spain. However, the League of Nations was unable to stop these powers from doing so which therefore exposed its weakness as an international body that was charged with the responsibility of maintaining world peace and stability after World War I.

The Spanish civil war of 1936-1939 contributed to the outbreak of World War II in 1939. The Spanish civil war served as a military ground for World War II because Germany, Italy and Russia used it to test their weapons and tactics. It was also a dress rehearsal of World War II as it split the world into forces that either supported democracy or dictatorship in Europe. This division of the world on ideological grounds eventually led to the outbreak of World War II in 1939.


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