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buber.net > Basque > History > Foreign Writer's Quotations about the Basques
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Foreign Writer's Quotations about the Basques

This document was sent to me by Xabier Ormaetxea. Eskerrik asko, Xabier!

"The Basques are courteous and agreeable and have a trustworthy bearing. Their houses and their clothes are clean and their customs make their land a pleasant place.

Despite living on the borders of both France and Spain, the Basques have their own character and outlook, different from the French and the Spanish. The language is different in words, formation and intonation, with place names that sound very strange, almost all of them deriving from their ancient roots.

The Basques are as lively and affable as one could imagine, and they will often dance and play music even after the hardest day's work. Travellers cannot fail to note the difference between the cheerful serenity of the Basques and the seriousness of the Castilians, their neighbours."

Freidrich Heinrich Alexander HUMBOLDT
Baron Humboldt
German geographer and diplomat (1769-1859)

"The Basques are a 'cosmic' race that can be found in every continent and on every sea, giving an example of diligence, integrity and modesty."

Mexican writer and philosopher (1881-1959)

"A large part of southern and central Europe was populated by Basques or people related to the Basques."

German politician (1879-1956)
Secretary General, Munich Oriental Society

"The Basque language is the despair of scholars and the most mysterious of all known languages."

English novelist and essayist (1894-1963)

"If the Basques have preserved their language and their own distinctive stock, the explanation is not to be found in the geographical features of their land, but in their character.

Anyone who approaches the Basques without prejudices will find them of great interest, not as an exception among the other races in the world, but as a living museum of man's history, where one can understand and see what remains of an ancient Europe, now disappeared from other regions, but which is still alive in this peaceful corner of the Pyrenees."

English writer

"An ivory tower should be built to protect the Basque people and their language, to ensure that this jewel does not disappear."

Niko MARR Georgian writer and philosopher(1865-1934) Rector of the University of Tbilisi, Minister of Culture in the Czar's Govemment

"Chairs in Basque should be set up at all universities, to prevent the loss of anything to do with the Basques. Such a move would benefit everyone.

It is the only means we have of knowing what words are the oldest in Europe, perhaps the world."

Secretary, International Anthropology & Linguistic Circle, Philadelphia

"The preservation of euskara, the Basque language, is one of the most extraordinary phenomena in the history of philology. It is the only case of an archaic language surviving, of a language resisting the invasions of other languages for centuries and retaining its own personality."

Antonio TOBAR Rector of the University of Salamanca

"Euskara is the only surviving European language that predates the arrival of the IndoEuropean languages. Its preservation is providential. It is the best contribution that the Basques could make to the study of European, not to say world civilization."

Nils Collet VOGT
Norwegian poet (1864-1923)
Professor at the University of Oslo

"The tree of Guernica has preserved the antiquity that illumes their elders; no tyrant has stripped its leaves, nor gives it shade to convert or traitor."

Fray Gabriel Tellez TIRSO DE MOLINA Spanish writer(1583-1648)

"The Basques are one of those singular nationislands that are found in the world, entirely different from the peoples that surround them, and their language, in the midst of so many simple languages, is an island that can be compared to the peaks that emerge from the waters of a flooded land.

The Basques are perhaps unique in the world, and certainly in Europe, and their origins remain unknown to us. It is astonishing to think that, at the end of the 19th century, sn prodigal in discoveries of every kind, the origin of this nation should still be a mystery."


"The Basques always preserved their independence, their autonomy, as we now say, making use of a Greek word. A long time before the Swiss had formed their confederation, Iruracbat; long before the English had won for themselves their Magna Carta; long before the North Americans and the French had proclaimed their declarations of the rights of man and the citizen; they had organised a representative government, and their representatives met beneath the tree of Guernica. Thus they had government for the people, by the people, they had self government."

French writer
From a conference published in the 'EL SIGLO' newspaper, November 13, 1879

"The Basques are perhaps the last survivors of a prehistoric population of Europe, pushed to the place they now occupy, close to the Pyrenees, by the IndoEuropean peoples."

Professor VALLOIS

"The Basques are the pure descendants of the people that occupied Europe in the Palaeolithic and which, in the rest of the continent, crossbred with the arrivals from Asia."

Pasteur Institute

" ... after studying the customary laws of Europe, I place the Basque Foral Laws above the Swiss laws, also endorsed by their centuries'-long existence.

For their virtues, their union and above all the local freedoms they enjoy, the Basques provide us with an example that one scarcely knows how to praise enough, maintaining their allegiance to the best social constitution in Europe."

From: "L'OrganisaUon de la familie"
Fédéric LE PLAY
French economist and sociologist (18O6- 1882)

"What is, then, this ancient people whose traditions celebrate unflagging valour and which, even in our times, has given so often proof of its heroism? Where do they come from? What is their relation to the other inhabitants of Europe and the rest of the world? These are impossible questions to answer.

The Basques are the mysterious race par excellence. They are alone among the multitude of the rest of mankind. They have no known family."

French writer and geographer (183O- 19O5)

"The four Basque and Navarre provinces are the oldest, most historic, most independent-minded, with the most traditional freedom ... they are the freest provinces, and the happiest."

Emilio Castelar
Spanish writerandpolitician (1832-1899)
(From the daily Spanish parliamentary record, August 23, 1873;p. 1,818)

"Everyone who has visited the Basque country longs to return; it is a blessed land."

Victor Hugo
French poet and novelist (18O2- 1885)

"The freedoms of the Basques, like all those begot and weaned by history, profit those that may avail of them and do harm to no man, unless we consider harm the understandable envy that they excite in others."

Antonio Canovas del Castillo
Spanish poliUcian and man of letters (1825-1897)

"I ask you to note that, whether because of the layout of the country, or the tremendous courage of its people, or because of the strength of its attachment to its freedoms, when a nation has been in a position to offer stiff resistance to any attempt at destroying its laws, that nation has resisted.

I would also ask you to note that when by dint of striving to conquer this remarkable unity, an attempt was made to terminate the Foral laws, this could only be done by violent means ...

In any case, we have the example of the Basque provinces, which continue to live with a set of political and civil laws that are completely different from those in effect in the rest of Spain."

Francisco Pi y Maragall
Catalonian politician and legal adviser (1824-1901)

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