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Breton nationalist

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Title: Breton nationalist  
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Subject: 1944 in literature, Biographical Dictionary of the Extreme Right Since 1890, Erwan Vallerie, Olier Mordrel, Breton nationalism and World War II, Francis Renaud (sculptor), Lake Guerlédan
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Breton nationalist

Breton nationalism is the nationalism of the traditional province of Brittany in France. Brittany is considered to be one of the six Celtic nations (along with Cornwall, Ireland, Wales, the Isle of Man and Scotland). Like the nationalism of many neighbouring regions, Breton nationalism combines political as well as cultural aspects.

The political aspirations of Breton nationalists include the desire to obtain the right to self-rule, whether within France or independently of it, and to acquire more power in the European Union, United Nations and other international institutions.

Breton cultural nationalism includes an important linguistic component, with Breton and Gallo speakers seeking equality with French language in the region. Cultural nationalists also seek a reinvigoration of Breton music, traditions and symbols, and the forging of strong links with other Celtic nations.

The French government's official position is to consider Brittany as a part of France, a position claimed to date from the time when the March of Neustria was controlled by Roland, but dating officially from the dynastic marriage in 1491 of Anne, Duchess of Brittany with the king of France. This could include a range of views, from allowing Brittany a devolved government to curbing wishes for independence.


Breton nationalist politics offers some contrasts with other forms of nationalism, such as those of Wales or the Basque Country. The principal Breton party, the Union démocratique bretonne (UDB) is classed as regionalist rather than separatist (or nationalist strictly speaking) by Parisian electoral analysts, as the UDB seeks devolution rather than full independence.

Brittany has not been granted devolved powers as seen with the Scottish Parliament, Welsh Assembly and the Northern Ireland Executive in the United Kingdom, or with self-rule within the larger state, as in the Basque Country and Basque Government in Spain. This means that nationalist politics occurs only at the local level, as the Breton nationalists are currently unrepresented in the French National Assembly. There is, however, a regional assembly with limited powers. Regional politics, however, remains a particularly vexed issue for Breton nationalists, as historic Brittany is divided between two French regions: Brittany and the Pays-de-la-Loire. The reunification of Brittany into a single administrative region has become a major political demand of Breton nationalists, one shared by a broad swath of the Breton political spectrum.

Parties with a Breton nationalist agenda include those seeking autonomy, such as the UDB or the Parti Breton, several federalist groups, anarchists such as Treger Disuj, traditionalists (linked to French royalism and legitimism), independentists, and Extreme right such as Adsav.

Culture and language

Breton cultural movements are diverse and include many more active participants than the political parties with a Breton agenda. Since the late nineties, Breton culture has witnessed a large increased in popularity, not only within Brittany but throughout France.

In addition to French, which is spoken in Brittany since the late Middle Age, the Breton linguistic area traditionally comprises two major regional languages : the Gallo language, which is a romance language, and the Breton language, which is a Celtic language closely related to Welsh and even more to Cornish.

Breton language was traditionally spoken only in the western part of the region (Lower Brittany), as Gallo was spoken in the East (Upper Brittany).

While at the beginning of the 20th century, only a minority of these Bretons were even able to understand French, the Breton and the Gallo languages have been progressively uprooted by French. Currently, only a minority of Bretons are able to understand the regional languages of Brittany and this number is steadily decreasing. In order to invert this trend, an organization named Diwan was created in 1977. The goal of this association is to propose schooling in Breton through a system of total immersion. Unlike other schools in France, including private schools, the institutions belonging to Diwan operate almost totally without any support from the French government, a recent decision by the French constitutional council (2001) declaring teaching exclusively in Breton unconstitutional, French being the official language of the Republic. Since the 1970s however, an increasing number of schools have adopted a system of bilingualism.

In the 1980s and 1990s, but peaking in the early 2000s, there were some television programs translated into Breton. TV Breizh was a Breton-speaking TV channel offered programming fully in Breton, but the station went out of business by 2007.


The name Breton movement, or Emsav in Breton (pronounced [ẽmzao], meaning uplifting, renovation), is used to group the major Breton political and cultural movements. Some feel the term (or the movements themselves) does not adequately reflect the diversity, internal divisions and conflicts within Brittany.

Traditionally, the history of the Breton movement is split into three periods, the First Emsav being the birth of the Breton movement in the nineteenth century and before 1914, the Second Emsav covering the period 1914-1945 and the Third Emsav for the post-war movements. The historic memory of the Second Emsav has been tarnished in the memory of many by the collaboration of most leading Breton nationalists during the Nazi occupation of France. After the war, the movement was widely discredited politically and several of these members arrested as collaborators. The second Emsav essentially disappeared. After the Second Emsav went into limbo, Breton nationalism remained practically silent for two decades.

The Third Emsav was closely associated with the upsurge of social contestation during the 1960s. This last movement was grown on its own without links with the previous nationalist movements and, in sharp contrast with the earlier ideology, occupied the left side of the political spectrum with affinity ranging from social liberalism and social democracy to revolutionary Marxism. This can help to explain the reluctance that some members of the movement feel toward the term 'nationalism' which, in France, carries right-wing connotations. The movement has experienced continued momentum through the growth of regional identities across Europe in the 1980s and to the present.

Recently, a new branch of the movement, Adsav (pronounced [adzao]), a far right wing organization, has appeared. This movement is, like other nationalist parties, very small and has no connection with the organization from the third Emsav.

Economic nationalism

Small-business owners have formed groups to defend the interests of small and medium sized businesses in Brittany. The label "Produit en Bretagne" is now used by them in order to create and advance the image of Brittany in other countries.

Efforts have also been made to promote the Breton language. In 2001, TV Breizh was created. However, little of its content is in Breton. The Breton language is also spoken for a few hours on the public television station France 3 region Ouest.

In 2004, a regional mobile telecommunications operator was set up with the name Breizh Mobile to serve the area.

See also

Brittany portal
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