Children raise their fists to give the Republican salute during the Spanish Civil War. Republicans, supported by the Soviet Union, supported the democratically elected government of Spain, while the Nationalists, supported by Nazi Germany, supported the military junta that overthrew it. The Nationalists won.
Photograph courtesy Dr. Charles Smith, courtesy Wikimedia. This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.

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  • On July 18, 1936, troops under the leadership of General Francisco Franco began an uprising against the democratically elected government of Spain. This revolt quickly escalated into a civil war. The Spanish Civil War is sometimes called a prelude to World War II.
    Many foreign powers supported different sides of the Spanish Civil War. Republicans, who supported the overthrown democratic republic, were supported with munitions and money from the Soviet Union and Mexico. Volunteers, nicknamed the International Brigades, came from countries including Ireland, France, Poland, Canada, and the United States. (The group from the U.S. called themselves the “Abraham Lincoln Brigade.”) Many celebrities, such as British writer George Orwell and American novelist Ernest Hemingway, supported the Republican cause.
    Germany and Italy supported Franco’s Nationalists. International volunteers from France, Portugal, Morocco, and Scandinavia also supported Franco. Celebrities who supported the Nationalists include British novelist J.R.R. Tolkien and American writer Gertrude Stein.
    The Republicans were crushed. Franco remained Spain’s dictator for nearly 40 years. Spain was a non-belligerent during World War II, but supplied economic and military assistance to the Axis powers during the conflict.
  • Term Part of Speech Definition Encyclopedic Entry
    assistance Noun

    help or aid.

    Axis Noun

    alliance of countries that opposed the Allies during World War II. The Axis was led by Germany, Italy, and Japan.

    civil war Noun

    conflict between groups in the same country or nation.

    democratic Adjective

    having to do with a government led by its citizens, who vote for policies and/or representatives.

    dictator Noun

    person with complete control of a government.

    economic Adjective

    having to do with money.

    escalate Verb

    to increase.

    government Noun

    system or order of a nation, state, or other political unit.

    military Noun

    armed forces.

    munitions Plural Noun

    military equipment, especially weapons and ammunition.

    non-belligerent Noun

    person or nation that does not participate in a specific conflict.

    prelude Noun

    introduction, or event that comes before something else.

    republic Noun

    system of government where power rests in citizens who vote and representatives who stand for those citizens. The United States is a republic.

    revolt Noun

    rebellion or uprising.

    Soviet Union Noun

    (1922-1991) large northern Eurasian nation that had a communist government. Also called the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, or the USSR.

    troop Noun

    a soldier.

    World War II Noun

    (1939-1945) armed conflict between the Allies (represented by the United States, the United Kingdom, and the Soviet Union) and the Axis (represented by Germany, Italy, and Japan.)