ETA (Basque Homeland and Freedom)

ETA logo
ETA logo. courtesy of Wikipedia


ETA stands for Euskadi Ta Askatasuna, which is Basque for "Basque Homeland and Freedom"

Home Base:

The Basque Country, or Euskal Herria in Basque. The Basque country spans the border between France and Spain. It has an autonomous culture and language, whose roots are believed to extend to the Paleolithic period. The area was relatively self-governing until around the turn of the 19th century.

See a map of the Basque region.

Founded in:

1959 in the Southern Basque country (the part located in Spain).

Notable attacks:

Since the late 1960s, ETA has been responsible for more than 800 deaths. Its primary tactics are bombing and targeted assassinations of political figures.

  • December 20, 1973: Assassination of Spanish prime minister Luis Carrero Blanco. Carrero was traveling in a car over a street under which ETA had placed explosives. The bombing retaliated against the bombing by the government of five political opponents.
  • June 19, 1987: A car bomb kills 21 civilians in ETA's most lethal attack
  • December 2007: Two Spanish policemen are killed during a surveillance mission with French colleagues in Capbreton, a French vacation village.


ETA wants an independent French state in the Basque region. ETA is an offspring of the Basque nationalist movement more broadly and, like the non-violent nationalist political parties, believes the Basque are a distinct nation and that it should have a sovereign state identity or, at the least, an autonomous status.


Like other revolutionary organizations with roots in ethnic nationalism, ETA was founded by members of a nationalist organization who sought a more direct route to national liberation and believed violence is justified in its pursuit. The group was originally founded as a student discussion group in 1952 at the University of Deusto, in Bilbao.

The group was founded as a Marxist-Leninist group, but is not so strictly ideological in this vein.

Backing & Affiliations:

The relationship of Basque political parties to the armed group is disputed. The Basque nationalist party Batasuna (Unity) has often been viewed as the political wing of ETA (the party was banned in Spain in 2003 for failing to condemn ETA's violent tactics. but not in France. It is on Europe's list of terrorist organizations). Subsequent political parties have arisen in the place of Batasuna in Spain, and managed to gain parliamentary seats.

Historical Context, Basque Nationalism:

Basque nationalism emerged in the 19th century following the Spanish crown's revoking of the fueros, laws that had privileged Basque autonomy in relation to the central Spanish government. Basque nationalism was further elaborated in the 20th century. The early organizers of ETA took their inspiration from other third-world or non-aligned revolutionary independence movements in the 1960s. Today, the Basque country does operate in partial autonomy.