History

The Royal Basque Society of The Friends of The Country and the Basque Language

EMILIO MÚGICA ENECOTEGUI
Amigo de Número de la Real Sociedad Bascongada de los Amigos del País

The first Statutes (1765) of the Royal Basque Society of the Friends of the Country proclaimed, among the purposes of the organization, its desire to improve and cultivate the Basque language, along with the desire to compile the most significant written work in Basque and to perfect Basque poetry and to adopt the Irurac bat (three are one) symbol as a seal and motto for this new society. Student rules and regulations at the Bergara Seminary stated that language studies must start with the national languages, which are Basque and Castilian Spanish, although Latin and French were also preferred languages. The widespread existence within the Basque Country of sharply divergent formal and informal varieties of language used in different social contexts comes from the delayed emergence of the written language and the subsequent illiteracy of the Basque speakers, with the exception of the ecclesiastical state.

Peñaflorida wrote both in Castilian Spanish and Basque. Some of his music with lyrics in Basque included the sung part of El borracho burlado, considered the first Basque opera, some carols written under a pseudonym for Christmas 1762 called Gavon Sariac, the song Irten ezazu for the Candelaria, the zortziko (Basque folk dance music) entitled Adio provintziya and a Lord's Prayer Aita gurea. He supported Campomanes' idea to write a Basque dictionary, which was embarked upon by Aizpitarte who also discussed the notion of creating a Basque language academy, and that idea was taken up by Aizkibel. Peñaflorida expressed his displeasure at the reluctance to submit texts written in Basque to the Society that had become available in Madrid. There was no response from Munibe to the letter sent by a priest from Valladolid, asking him to write in Basque to ensure secrecy. In such a case we would have learned about the epistolary style in Basque of the person who would later be honoured by Euskaltzaindia-Academy of Basque Language on the bicentenary of his death. However, a letter to his son Ramón is mentioned, in which he says "your small piece of news written in Basque has given us great pleasure, not only for the particular news it contains, but as proof of your regard to keep your native language alive".

The descendants of certain eminent Society members used Basque at the Bergara Seminary for their speeches or greetings to students at public events. Due consideration was given to the particular nature of the Basque setup in the preparation of those who were going to occupy prominent positions in the running of their country through their own history, geography and culture. Yet as many seminarians were accepted from other places, including from overseas, difficulties started emerging, particularly with regard to the language. Besides in the original Society statutes, there is concern for Castilian Spanish grammar and spelling to be taught, for which they adapted existing texts in dialogue format. However, complaints were made by some members, who reiterated the principle that the grammar of the native language should be the first to be taught. They were made to see the existence of government regulations that required the teaching of Castilian Spanish and reminded them of the practice of the ring as a means for repressing the presence of the Basque language in the classrooms.

Furthermore, the Enlightenment benefited linguistic unity, so a leading member such as Foronda (who had proposed dividing Spain into square sections and assigning a number but no name) who regarded things by their usefulness, did not see the variety of languages as beneficial for communication or as a means for bolstering industry and trade. Moguel, the author of Peru Abarka and a teacher at the Bergara Seminary, who was presented as the first defender of the language in respect of the jurisdiction, stated he was moved by compassion on hearing the children translating Basque into Spanish.

Larramendi, a Jesuit, and ardent defender of the language, said shortly before the early days of the Society that the Basques did not seem to appreciate their language and they did not even write letters in Basque, with the letter from Bishop Zumárraga from Mexico in 1537 being a rarity. While Basque is absent from the volume of letters from the early days of the Society, when the bonds of mutual friendship gained momentum, the triumvirate formed by Munibe, the by then Count of Peñaflorida, Eguía the future Marquis of Narros and Altuna, the friend who Rousseau praises in his Confessions would casually use their usual vernacular language during their gatherings at Azkoitia. The initial trivial meetings would end up forming an Enlightenment-style of academy, where they discussed science, philosophy, history and literature, in addition to cultivating music.

Their concerns on the Enlightenment were initially reflected in education, leading to the creation of the Seminary's pedagogical project during the different eras. Peñaflorida affirmed that teaching was not only the Society's main purpose but its only purpose until, with the Age of Enlightenment waning, the time came to properly apply the ideas and reasons to particular objectives, as happened when the Society began teaching literature, music and science, leading to the most widely publicized accomplishment of the Laboratorium Chemicum regarding tungsten and platinum, along with the development of agricultural, craft and industrial activities; the creation of a Civil Society that never adopted, as such, the title "Economic" unlike those promoted by the government, emerged following its example, although this term is often erroneously attributed to it.

After the death of Peñaflorida, challenges would be revealed in the seminary which, along with the financial situation, would have an impact on the progress made at the Royal Basque Society of the Friends of the Country. It was also affected by the decline of the Societies of Friends of the Country and the inquisitorial suspicions caused by the French Revolution and the War of Independence.

Until, in an atmosphere of suspicion towards all things Basque and once the many obstacles were overcome, the current Royal Basque Society of the Friends of the Country re-emerged in 1944.

It is worth mentioning the closing ceremony held in Azkoitia 1965 for the bicentenary celebrations of the creation of the Bascongada, with many high profile figures in attendance, including the then Ministers for Education and Industry. The Director of the Society began by recalling the density of speakers and the interest in creating professorships for the study of Basque in the three provinces where the society was based and also in Navarre. Lora Tamayo offered his support for what he considered a just and noble pursuit to contribute to the preservation of the language, in the context of serious philological research. Similarly, when an Extraordinary Deliberative Assembly was held in 2002, one of the conclusions accepted was to promote, as in the foundation stage, the Basque language, although a certain failure to maintain regular use of Basque in the Society was also claimed, making it necessary to promote its public use and use in publications, with the special support for Egan and the desire to create a Basque language and literature seminar being mentioned.

On the occasion of the 250th anniversary, together with the increasing use of Basque at events and in publications, of note in recent years is the reproduction, including studies and illustrations, of the translation Don Kijote Mantxako by Berrondo along with an anthology in Basque of the work and edition of the memoirs of the dialectologist Yrizar. In addition, submissions were made in Basque at the international "Illustration and Illustrations" Congress in 2007 and which was held in Madrid in 2012, alongside other institutions, during a conference on the Basque language acknowledging it as a language with a future and an event to honour it. The most outstanding achievement is the 1948 edition of Egan (at the height of the Franco regime) as a supplement to our Bulletin, at first including important work in Basque and Castilian Spanish, and later only in Basque. Change to the proclamation Asmo berri came into being in 1954, with the resolve to promote high cultural standards with diligent and topical planning. This work is carried out in the sections on research and creation, children's and young people's literature, several topics grouped under the name "patches" (adabakiak) and reviews. The journal also publishes reprints and carries out interesting work in the French Basque Country, otherwise known as Iparralde (Northern Basque Country), working in association with Euskaltzaleen Biltzarra.

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DIRECTION OF THE ROYAL BASQUE SOCIEY OF THE FRIENDS OF THE COUNTRY

Palacio Intsausti
Aptdo. 105 – 20720 AZKOITIA
Tel. 943 285 577
E-mail: intsausti.rsbap@gmail.com

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