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The journey

History of the euskaltzale movement

Like all social movements, the Basque language associations movement has experienced highs and lows throughout its history: the creation of new associations and the closing of some existing ones, successful initiatives and others that fell short of their goals, achievements and failures.

There are many dates, initiatives and people that could be highlighted in the history of Basque language associations, but we have opted to include in this summary projects, events and dates that have represented a milestone for the social movement.


1963: Foundation of the Elgoibarko Izarra Society

Elgoibarko Izarra is the oldest of the federated associations in Euskaltzaleen Topagunea. It was created following the initiative of several euskaltzales from Elgoibar at a time when no Basque language associations yet existed. In its early years it was a cultural association that helped the Basque-speaking schools in Elgoibar promote the Basque language and culture. Even though it isn’t the oldest Basque society, since it didn’t share the roles and characteristics of today’s associations in its nascent years, but it is the oldest of the associations in Topagunea.

Elgoibarko Izarra entered a new stage in 1990. Following in the footsteps of the Basque language associations that were springing up in the surrounding towns, it turned into a meeting point for Basque speakers, took on the same roles and characteristics as the Basque language associations and set the use of the Basque language as its main objective.


1981: Ttipi-Ttapa magazine is launched

Ttipi-Ttapa magazine is the pioneer of local media in Basque. The magazine, which today continues to report on Baztan, Bertizarana, Bortziriak, the Leitza area, Malerreka, Sara, Urdazubi and Zugarramurdi, was founded in 1981. It later became the first media outlet in the Basque Country to publish its content on the internet (today the website).

Ttipi-Ttapa focused its reporting on local information in Basque and was delivered door to door. This made it a benchmark for local information in its distribution area. Ttipi-Ttapa opened the way for the local media outlets that were launched in the following years in towns and counties across the Basque Country. Harnessing the opportunities offered by desktop publishing tools, dozens of local magazines were launched and have become the most widely read media in many places.


1983: Founding of the Arrasate Euskaldun Dezagun association

The AED association was founded in Arrasate and was the first to be established as a Basque language association.

Several local euskaltzales created the association, which would focus on encouraging and using the Basque language after organising a series of talks on sociolinguistics. The association was founded with two main objectives: to create tools and spaces for living in Basque in Arrasate and to connect the euskaltzale community. Not only was it the forerunner of Basque language associations (following its example, dozens of local associations were created across the Basque Country), but the AED association has also been a benchmark for exemplary initiatives across various fields. Associations including Txatxilipurdi (which focuses on leisure time for children); the ARKO association (Arrasate communication), which in turn founded the Arrasate Press magazine; Arrasate Telebista and Arrasate Radio were created by or with the support of the association. Together with the other Basque language associations in the area, ARKO later set up the Goiena group at a regional level. AED has also been a point of reference for the EuskaLan group, which promotes Basque in the workplace, and the Ekin Emakumeak association for Basque-speaking women.

1991: Adorez eta atseginez seminar

The birth of Basque language associations in the 1990s was strongly influenced by the thesis published in 1987 by José María Sánchez Carrión called “Txepetx“, published in Un futuro para nuestro pasado , claves de la recuperación del euskara y teoría social de las lenguas (A Future for Our Past, Keys to Reviving the Basque Language and the Social Theory of Languages), as well as the sociolinguistic studies and theoretical principles that arose around it.

To develop and analyse Txepetx’s theoretical principles, a group of Basque speakers organised the Adorez eta atseginez seminar based on the Eskoriatza teachers’ school (today HUHEZI at the University of Mondragon). The participants in this seminar did important outreach work and the seminar was a tremendously helpful for those who joined the Basque language associations.

Also noteworthy is that the AED association started publishing Jazten magazine around the same time. Ten issues of Jazten were published from 1989 to 1994 and it was an important tool for developing the ideas behind the Basque language associations’ movement. The digitised issues of Jazten magazine can be found on this website.


1993: The Bagera Association of Donostia launched the Mintzalaguna project

topagunea-mintzalaguna-bagera-sorreraThe first mintzalaguna (Basque language practice) project was launched in San Sebastian.

The initial idea was simple: to bring together people who do not use Basque on a regular basis with those who use it daily, creating groups where they could practise the language. Originally a project designed for those who were learning Basque, it has since been opened up to many different types of participants.

The project that Basque language association Bagera set up quickly spread to other communities and areas. The expansion began in Gipuzkoa, reached Bizkaia in the late 1990s, and has been open to all corners of the Basque Country since 2004. The first seminar on mintzalaguna projects was held in Eibar in 1998.

1993: Conference on Basque associations in Arrasate

On the AED association’s tenth anniversary, with the Basque association movement on the rise, a conference was organised in Arrasate to assess the associations’ work and start designing their future. At the conference, the associations’ areas of work and their relationships with other movements in the network of organisations to promote the Basque language were analysed.

The conference was also an opportunity to discuss how to coordinate Basque language associations and collaboration with other organisations. Iñaki Arruti and Fernando Muniozguren’s paper “Euskararen normalizaziorako entitateen arteko elkarlana” (Collaboration of Entities for the Normalisation of the Basque Language) spoke to the need to carve out spaces for collaboration in every community, which they called normakultzaindia.

All the papers from these conferences were published in issues 8 and 9 of Jazten magazine.


1995: Kafe Antzokia, Bilbao

Kafe Antzokia was opened to create a physical and symbolic space for the Basque speakers scattered around Bilbao. It was spearheaded by the Zenbat Gara association, affiliated with the Gabriel Aresti language school. The Kafe Antzokia founders set out to create spaces and opportunities so that Basque language learners could have social spaces where they could interact naturally in Basque outside Basque schools. Kafe Antzokia later served as the home of diverse projects (including Bilbo Hiria radio, the Erroa publishing house, the Algara festive group and Kurkuluxetan leisure club).

This project, a landmark in the world of Basque culture, has served as a model for other projects and meeting places that have been created in other towns and cities in the Basque Country.


1996: Creation of Euskara Elkarteen Topagunea

“Euskara elkarteen Topagunea Oinarriak”, the document that laid the foundations of what would become the new federation, was approved in Berbara in November 1995. Several associations then took the first steps to create the federation.

The first session was celebrated on 1 February 1997 in Durango, attended by representatives of the 29 associations from Araba, Bizkaia, Gipuzkoa and Nafarroa who came together to create the Euskara Elkarteen Topagunea federation.

The first Board of Directors, nine delegates chaired by Fernando Muniozguren, representative of the Eibar Basque language association, was also appointed at this meeting… Eta Kitto! euskara elkartea!

The committees for culture, communication, conventions and leisure were set up in the months following the creation of the federation.

1997: The Kultur Errota circuit opens

Kultur Errota was launched in the autumn of 1997 under the Basque motto “Biraka dabilen harria, sorkuntzan ari den herria”, which can be literally translated as “stone that rolls, a people who create”

The recently created Euskaltzaleen Topagunea immediately came to symbolise the project, a relationship that continues to this day through its efforts to promote the work of Basque-language creators throughout the Basque Country.

The central aim of Kultur Errota is to share and showcase Basque-created culture, to raise awareness about expressions of Basque culture in the towns and cities where Basque language associations exist. To this end, a broad circuit of small-format screenings was organised to give Basque creators an opportunity to present their work.


1998: 3rd Local Media Conference in Arrasate

The Arrasate Komunikabideak ARKO association held the 3rd Local Media Conference in Arrasate in 1998. Representatives of local media that had come together under Topagunea had already started work on the federation’s media committee by that time.

It is important to note the significant steps taken in those early years, particularly to centralise services that could be shared, like IT (which lasted for several years), for example, and the centralised management of grants (currently still in operation).




2001: Conference on managing the Basque language associations in Gernika

Conference on managing the Basque language associations in Gernika The first Euskaltzaleen Topagunea conferences were held on 18 and 19 January at the Elai Alai hall in Gernika. This conference marked the start of what would later become an almost annual event: celebrating conferences to discuss issues of interest to the Basque language association movement. This event, held at the beginning of the year, is now called Topaldia.

The first conference examined the management of Basque language associations and also reflected on the development of each area of work that the associations were involved in. To that end, members of Basque language associations were invited to speak, as were representatives from other social movements and the business world.


2003: The project launches

The project was Topagunea’s first project designed to encourage the participation of young people and teenagers.

The project was launched to foster cultural activity during leisure time and was based on three major cornerstones:

  • Gazte Kultur Zirkuitua (a circuit that offered workshops related to cultural creation for young people).
  • Gazte Sortzaileak (which sought out young cultural creators and referred them to the circuits) 
  • Gazte Sortzaile Sariak (an annual competition for young creators).

Starting in 2004, two competitions were organised as part of the Gazte Sortzaile Sariak: Herriko Graffiti lehiaketa (graffiti competition) and Ikus-entzunezkoen Rallya (audiovisual rally). The graffiti competition was launched under the name of Spraikada (the first one was held in Mendaro in 2004) and was held for six editions in total. The audiovisual rally is called Kameratoia (the first was a one-day event in Eibar in 2005) and is now an annual competition.


2004: Debut of the Laburbira short film circuit

Launched in 2004, the primary goal of the short film circuit was to promote short films in Basque. Many of the Basque-language short films produced at that time were entered into international competitions or circuit, but the opportunities to see them in the Basque Country were very limited. A selection of the year’s films was therefore made and screenings were held in different towns and cities. The initiative launched by Laburbira in 2004 has continued uninterrupted and remains an annual event today.

Laburbira and Kameratoia, which were held later, were the springboard for Euskaltzaleen Topagunea’s audiovisual work. In fact, two other initiatives were launched in the following years to publicise Basque creators and creations: Irudienea, the Basque-language audiovisual event held at Durangoko Azoka (the Durango fairgrounds) and the Benito Ansola competition, a joint intiative with the Zine Bilera (film fair) in Lekeitio to promote new audiovisual creations in Basque.


2006: Bidaide Plan, to promote mintzapraktika (oral practice) projects

In 2005, Euskaltzaleen Topagunea published the “Euskaldun berrien erabilera programak” (Programmes for New Basque Speakers) manual. That same year, it organised the “Mintzapraktika egitasmoak: erabilera eragiteko tresna eraginkorrak” (Oral Practice Projects: Effective Tools to Facilitate Use) conference in Durango.

Mintzapraktika/ berbalagun projects have gradually extended throughout the Basque Country in recent years, and the plan is to leverage the experienced gained to give these projects a fresh boost.

In the following years, the agreement reached with the Basque Government’s Vice-Ministry of Language Policy was vital for Euskaltzaleen Topagunea to implement the Bidaide plan, which aimed to promote and strengthen mintzapraktika projects. This was followed by an agreement with AEK and significant growth in the years that followed. In just a few years, the mintzapraktika projects expanded across almost the entire Basque Country and jumped from having 3,600 participants to 6,000.

MintzaEguna, a festival for the members of the Mintzalagun community, was launched that same year (2006). Once a year the mintzalagunak (mintzapraktika participants) get together in May or June at different locations in the Basque Country. The first edition was celebrated between Iruñea and Atarrabia.


2009: The Auzoko project launches

In response to a concern shared by Euskaltzaleen Topagunea and UEMA (association of Basque-speaking municipalities), in 2008 a project was designed to familiarise newcomers to towns where Basque is the main language used with the language. The programme was called Auzoko and was piloted in several towns: groups of Basque speakers in towns with different sociolinguistic conditions started forming groups to welcome newcomers who had no previous contact with the Basque language.

Auzoko was Euskaltzaleen Topagunea’s first initiative in the field of linguistic diversity. New projects followed: small pocket dictionaries to introduce newcomers to the Basque language (60 dictionaries can be found on the website), the Lingolang diversity programme for schools, the Zubideiak (to promote social dialogue on linguistic diversity and the promotion of Basque), small welcome guides for newcomers produced in collaboration with local town councils, etc.


2011: 1st Congress: Basque Language Associations in the 21st Century

Topagunea kicked off a long process of reflection in January 2010. On 23 January, 110 representatives from Basque language associations met in Durango for an event called “Gogoetan: XXI. mendeko euskara elkarteak” (Reflection on Basque Language Associations in the 21st Century). The programme included talks and workshops.

The event ended with an important conclusion: the need to initiate a reflection within the movement of Basque language associations that would culminate in a congress.

After a long process of reflection, the document called “Euskaldunon elkarteen oinarriparrak” (Foundations and Challenges for Basque Language Associations) was approved at the conference held on 26 February 2011 at the Alhóndiga in Bilbao.

The approved paper set out the main challenges facing the Basque language movement in the coming decades. The document was the result of a full year’s work, during which a commission created for this purpose proposed the draft document and the associations submitted their contributions.
This document marked the course of Euskaltzaleen Topagunea’s work during the decade following the congress.


2012: 2nd Congress: from federation to movement

A second phase of reflection began immediately after the end of the first congress.

The main topics discussed included the organisation, self-funding and work of Topagunea: the name and nature of the movement, internal organisation, balancing voluntary and professional work, internal communication, community support, relations with institutions and the provision of services.

Both the federation and the movement of Basque associations needed to be equipped to move in the right direction. Finally, Topagunea’s priority tasks (19 conclusions) were approved in the document titled “Federaziotik mugimendura. Eraldabideak”.

As a result of the congress, one of the first decisions was to change the name of Topagunea Euskara Elkarteen federazioa to Euskaltzaleen Topagunea.

2012: Creation of local media unit Tokikom

The media has always played a major role in Topagunea. Local media have had a significant impact on the federation’s efforts because of their influence, work and scale (both economically and in terms of the number of employees). The communication committee that spearheaded this area until 2012, and many of Topagunea‘s major projects (for example, the IT service, setting up a publishing system, creating the Herri komunikabideak kooperatiba cooperative and the association of local television stations, etc.) have come from this committee.

The high level of professionalism and pace of work this area requires led to the creation of Tokikom, Topagunea’s sister organisation, in 2012 as a way to bring together the local media. Twenty associations and companies that manage media outlets participated in creating Tokikom, and they were joined by Euskaltzaleen Topagunea as a founding member. Today, Tokikom‘s members manage 60 media outlets that work with local information. Tokikom has 3 main tasks: joint coordination of local media, managing shared areas of action and developing and promoting the sector.

2012: First TopaEguna in Azkoitia

One of the main tasks following the congress was to promote the cohesion and internal promotion of the movement of Basque language associations. To this end, events for members of Basque language associations started to be organised.

  • The first was held in Azkoitia on 19 May 2012.
  • Two main proposals came out of the event: to present 25 exemplary projects for Basque language associations (most of them developed within the movement itself, but also from other movements) and celebrate the day with a festive spirit. This first event was called Gunea Eguna, although in following years it was held under a different name: Topaeguna.

Three other editions of Topaeguna were held in the following years in:

  • Soraluze
  • Derio
  • Lasarte-Oria.

2015: Berrikasi eta Berrikusi

One of the conclusions of the Euskaltzaleen Topagunea congresses was that the task of promoting reflection and offering training to the members of Basque language associations was set as a priority.

In early 2013, sociolinguistics experts linked to the euskaltzales movement began to meet. The working group was renamed Topalabe once it strengthened its dynamics. These dynamics began by sharing concerns and reflections on the Basque normalisation process. The first result of this shared reflection was the Berrikasi eta Berrikusi (Re-Learning and Revision) report.

In this first document, the Topalabe group argued that the status of the Basque language was at a turning point. The group analysed this shift in the document Berrikasi eta Berrikusi, which makes a critical analysis of the last decades and proposes strategies that could be critical for the new cycle. Over the months that followed, these reflections were shared, discussed and debated among the organisations involved in the process of normalising Basque.


2018: Euskaraldia

From 23 November to 3 December 2018, the Euskaraldia social exercise was implemented throughout the Basque Country to promote the use of Basque and overcome inertia to encourage a change in linguistic habits.

A total of 225,000 people participated by adopting the role of either ahobizi or belarriprest in the “11 days in Basque” initiative.

The initiative was co-organised by commissions set up in 405 towns across all the provinces of the Basque Country and by more than 200 organisations. Euskaraldia is an initiative promoted by Euskaltzaleen Topagunea in coordination with institutions from all over the Basque Country (the Basque Government, the Government of Navarre, the Community of Agglomeration of the Basque Country and the Basque Language Public Body) and with driving forces in the field of Euskalgintza and other spheres. The initiative has been held every two years since this first edition of Euskaraldia.

In 2013, Euskaltzaleen Topagunea launched the Euskarak 365 egun initiative to mark the International Day of the Basque Language, which had been organised for the previous two years by the Berbaro association in Durango and celebrated throughout the Basque Country. The aim was to celebrate the year-round work of the euskaltzales movement and for Basque speakers to participate in the public space. It was held for five years. The next step was Euskaraldia.

Euskaraldia was the result of the merger of several social engagement initiatives that were emerging at the local level in different parts of the Basque Country. Taking the performance of Lutxo Egia in Bilbao in June 2015 as an example, the initiative implemented in 2016 by residents of the San Sebastián neighbourhood of Egia spread to many towns in the Basque Country, Including Agurain, Arrigorriaga, Lizarra, BAM (Baiona-Angelu-Miarritze), Zuia, Deusto, Trapagaran and Lasarte-Oria. The methodology created in Lasarte-Oria (based on the roles of ahobizi and belarriprest was the springboard for setting up Euskaraldia.


    1. Datuen arduraduna: Euskaltzaleen Topagunea
    2. Datuen helburua: Topagunearen egitasmo eta ekimenen berri bidaltzea.
    3. Datuen biltegia: Profesional Hosting-n ostatutako datu-basea
    4. Eskubideak: Zure informazioa mugatu, berreskuratu edota ezabatu dezakezu edozein unetan.

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