The Spanish Civil War (Spanish: Guerra Civil Española), widely known in Spain simply as The Civil War (Spanish: La Guerra Civil) or The War (Spanish: La Guerra), took place from 1936 to 1939. The Republicans, who were loyal to the democratic, left-leaning and relatively urban Second Spanish Republic, in an alliance of convenience with the Anarchists and Communists, fought against the Nationalists, a Falangist, Carlist, Catholic, and largely aristocratic conservative group led by General Francisco Franco. The war has often been portrayed as a struggle between democracy and fascism, particularly due to the political climate and timing surrounding it, but it can more accurately be described as a struggle between leftist revolution and rightist counter-revolution similar to the Finnish Civil War, the Russian Civil War, and the wars fought over the formation of the Hungarian and Slovak Soviet republics. In early 1939, the Nationalists won, and Franco ruled over all of Spain until his death in November 1975.
The war began after a pronunciamiento (a declaration of military opposition) against the Republican government by a group of generals of the Spanish Republican Armed Forces, originally under the leadership of José Sanjurjo. The government at the time was a moderate, liberal coalition of Republicans, supported in the Cortes by communist and socialist parties, under the leadership of centre-left President Manuel Azaña. The Nationalist group was supported by a number of conservative groups, including the Spanish Confederation of Autonomous Right-wing Groups (Confederación Española de Derechas Autónomas, or CEDA), monarchists such as the religious conservative (Roman Catholic) Carlists, and the Falange Española de las Juntas de Ofensiva Nacional Sindicalista (FE y de las JONS), a fascist political party. Sanjurjo was killed in an aircraft accident while attempting to return from exile in Portugal, whereupon Franco emerged as the leader of the Nationalists.
The coup was supported by military units in the Spanish protectorate in Morocco, Pamplona, Burgos, Zaragoza, Valladolid, Cádiz, Córdoba, and Seville. However, rebelling units in some important cities—such as Madrid, Barcelona, Valencia, Bilbao, and Málaga—did not gain control, and those cities remained under the control of the government. Spain was thus left militarily and politically divided. The Nationalists and the Republican government fought for control of the country. The Nationalist forces received munitions, soldiers, and air support from Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy, while the Republican (Loyalist) side received support from the Communist Soviet Union and leftist populist Mexico. Other countries, such as the United Kingdom, France, and the United States continued to recognize the Republican government but otherwise followed an official policy of non-intervention. Notwithstanding this policy, tens of thousands of citizens from non-interventionist countries directly participated in the conflict. They fought mostly in the pro-Republican International Brigades which also included several thousand exiles from pro-Nationalist regimes.