The History Of Corsica


We do not know very well when man set foot in Corsica: the oldest traces of habitat date back to 8,500 BC. AD and it was long considered that the oldest human remains date back to 6 570 BC. AD, but the collective burial of Campu Stefanu (near Sollocaro) yielded somewhat older skeletons (6500 to 7000 BC).

Some think that man could have arrived on foot (almost) dry by Cap Corse around 60,000 BC. AD, at a time when the sea level was much lower than today. But today, archaeologists tend to favor a seasonal occupation, which would have started in the Mesolithic, around 10,000 BC. JC, by fishermen from the mainland. For a permanent occupation, it will be necessary to wait a few more millennia: probably around 5750 BC. AD, when the 1st “colonists”, farmers-breeders arriving from Provence or Italy with their domestic animals settled on the island.

In the 6th century, the Greeks of Phocée (Asia Minor) founded what is now Marseille, then Alalia (Aléria). The Phocaeans exploit mines and saltworks, plant vines and olive trees. Little concerned, the Corsi graze their herds in the mountains. But in 535, the Etruscan and Carthaginian fleets defeated the Phocaeans (naval battle of Aleria), and the Phoceans went to look elsewhere.

Then come the Romans, around 225 BC. AD They take nearly 1 century to subdue Corsica, succeeding there after the trifle of 10 military expeditions. Roman colonists settle.

filitosa© gdefilip - Adobe Stock - Filitosa prehistoric site

Corsicans versus Corsicans

The Romans remain 700 years. The great invasions slide over the island. Vandals in 456, Goths 1 century later, followed by the Byzantines. In 725, the Lombards landed ... to be driven out by the Franks. Then, afterwards, a whole series of terrifying raids, the Moors or Saracens, try their luck.

In 754, Pépin le Bref promised Corsica to the Holy See (in exchange for being the first king of France consecrated by the Pope). His son Charlemagne kept the promise, but the Saracens regained a foothold in Corsica. The Pepin fleet of Italy will definitely kick the Moors out of these waters. The feudal lords, often Tuscan or Ligurian, decide to share the island. It is against the old customs of the clans. The island becomes the fiefdom of the bishopric of Pisa.

Genoa persists

In 1284, Genoa destroyed the Pisan fleet. Those who have fallen asleep Corsican wake up Genoese. For 5 centuries, they will seek by all means to regain their independence. In 1358, an antinobiliary revolt led to a system of self-managed village communities. Part of the island is then freed from feudal lords.

In 1453, a curious twist: Genoa rents Corsica to its creditors. It is the opulent bank of Saint-Georges that will bring peace and prosperity back to the island.

But Genoa, ally of Charles Quint, will undergo the assaults of the main adversary of this one, the king of France Henri II. Supported by a Turkish corsair, French troops conquer the island. The islanders are abandoned.

Once again powerful on the island, Genoa exploits the island to the limit. The Corsicans will not forget it. In 1729, a famine led the population to take up arms. In 1735, the Corsicans went so far as to proclaim independence. Genoa responds with the blockade of the island.

A leader without a crown

In 1755, Pasquale Paoli was elected leader of the Resistance. He dreams of independence.

At the Treaty of Versailles (1768), Genoa, ruined, asked the King of France to restore order in Corsica on his behalf. The island is ceded for 4 years, but Genoa will never see its former possession again, Louis XV annexing the island, which explains why today even more than one Corsican considers that the French have illegally appropriated the island. . It is in turmoil. Corsica ceded like a common commodity: we were going to see!

Paoli must flee to England. Amnestied, he returned to the island in 1791. Scandalized by the anti-religious excesses of the Terror, he turned around and proclaimed an independent Anglo-Corsican kingdom under British protection. But the English did not designate him as viceroy, they preferred Sir Gilbert Elliott, helped by Pozzo Di Borgo. Amer, Paoli returned to England in 1795.

Napoleon, the "Little Corsica"

A certain Carlo-Maria Buonaparte launched an appeal to arms against "the last invaders" from France. Quite quickly, however, the flamboyant paolist turns into a "collaborator" of the French, against a title of nobility.

In 1789, Corsica was divided between the Paolists and the "popular", who wanted to propagate the Revolution. The young man is. But soon, his patriotic ardor opposes them.

Then, Bonaparte gives way to Napoleon, and for the latter, Corsica is not the primary concern: the island will be maintained under an exceptional regime for several years and the Emperor will only return there. times, for a week!

French Corsica

In view of its long history of unrest, Corsica has lived the last two centuries in relative peace. After its annexation, France did not remain inert. The population is growing and the economy is developing. Island plagues (vendetta, divisions, banditry) decline at the beginning of the following century. The island will benefit from technical progress (roads, railways ...), especially under Napoleon III, who will do more for the island than his illustrious uncle.

But at the turn of the 20th century, Corsica ran out of steam. Traditional activities - olive oil production, chestnut cultivation, cork oaks - are in decline, undermined by competition from other Mediterranean islands. Then the Great War decimated the Corsicans, recruited en masse: 12,000 men were killed out of the 45,000 mobilized. However, these men are the custodians of agricultural know-how and of a large part of Corsican culture. And Corsica, with little or no industry, is looking for itself, having no other choice but to emigrate: to South America (Venezuela, Puerto Rico) and, above all, mainland France, from where many islanders will leave for the colonies (it is estimated that 20% of the "colonial" were of Corsican origin at the beginning of the 20th century. s).Those who will go to Paris will often succeed in political spheres and ... banditry: it is not so far, the time when Pigalle was "held" by the Corsicans.

Corsica liberated by the Corsicans!

The Second World War plunges Corsica into turmoil. Pressed to "return" the island to Italy, Mussolini occupies it in defiance of the armistice agreements. The Corsican Resistance is getting organized.

The year 1943 will be particularly costly for the Resistance, but on September 8, the capitulation of Italy gives the signal for the insurrection, organized by the Corsican resistance fighters. 3,000 Moroccan soldiers land in Ajaccio on September 23, following a call from their sultan (and future king) Mohammed V. This decisive support is often forgotten. Ajaccio is released immediately. Bastia, devastated by the fighting and the Allied bombardments, is also liberated.

"The gun or the fishing rod"

The Corsican independence movement did not start yesterday, with Sampiero Corso or Pasquale Paoli, he often led the island's history. In the 1960s, Corsica opened up, after a long torpor, to regionalist turmoil . One movement above all embodies this generation that wants to live in the country: the ARC, the Corsican Regionalist Action of the Siméoni brothers. With the stiffening of the 1970s, the ARC becomes frankly autonomist, and the young people push the very charismatic Edmond Simeoni to get more wet.

On August 17, 1975, in Corte, Simeoni promises to “fight with his face uncovered”, to offer, “in the service of a sacred cause, the freedom and the blood of his militants”. Stupor of his troops, especially since he concludes, martial: "A revolutionary, or he wins, or he dies." "

The turning point of Aléria

In August 1975, the Pieds-Noirs were accused of taking advantage of subsidies and subsidized loans from banks, but also of trafficking in wine in the eastern plain, while hundreds of Corsican farmers were in the shackles. Michel Poniatowski, who runs the house. With a very firm hand. He sent 1,200 men and 4 machine guns to Aleria to solve the problem: 2 gendarmes were killed. Simeoni becomes a prisoner, and Corsica supports him as one man, but a week later, 10 other activists are arrested. The clashes in Bastia turned into street combat, a CRS was killed, but a week later, 10 other militants were arrested. The clashes in Bastia turn into street combat.

The blue nights of the FLNC

The radicals founded the FLNC (Front for the National Liberation of Corsica) in 1976, after a blue night. Symbols of the State, posts, collections, gendarmeries, jump regularly. As well as the wild constructions of the coast (up to 800 per year), and without ever causing deaths. Many on the island view this type of action with kindness. 

The hydra with armed arms

On the political level, successive governments have failed in their attempts to resolve the “Corsican problem”. The creation of the Corsica region in 1970, the opening of a university in Corte, the development of new statutes for the island in 1982, that of a Territorial Assembly, tax advantages and even amnesties, nothing is wrong. In fact, the bidding continues, the attacks too.

No less than a dozen nationalist currents coexist or clash ... The State lacks serious interlocutors.

Internal struggles, personal rivalries, serial settling of scores, Mafia collusion and the lifting of the “revolutionary tax” (a vulgar racket), all this testifies to villainous methods. The drift reached new heights with the assassination of Prefect Érignac in 1998. For its part, the State accumulated blunders, one day "authorizing" a meeting of several hundred armed men, without intervening, another by buying a peace. ephemeral with millions, or by ordering the gendarmes to set fire to a hut ( Chez Francis ), using the violence that he fights ... The prefect Bonnet loses his place (May 1999).

Matignon chords

Jospin decides, in 1999, to gather around a table. The government, the nationalists and the Corsican elected representatives of the traditional parties. 
In the summer of 2000, Jospin pulls a consensus out of his hat. A master stroke of a great illusionist, because everyone therefore sees what they like: exact extent of the legislative power granted to Corsica, obligation or not to learn the Corsican language, taxation, all this is mentioned, but not in The detail. Big misunderstanding . 
Chevènement, Minister of the Interior, resigned. 
In the opposing camp, there is discord: the attacks and assassinations resume (about thirty in 2001).

The 2000s

The change of political situation, in 2002, buries these agreements.

The improvement in government-nationalist relations did not survive a summer of 2003 rich in twists and turns: the arrest of Yvan Colonna, the victory of the "no" in the referendum on the evolution of the status of the island and the verdict in the The trial of the assassination of Prefect Érignac led the nationalist camp to harden its position.

And the attacks resume at an accelerated pace ... before a new truce is announced. In the 2004 regional elections, the nationalists suffered a setback: only 8 seats out of 51 in the Territorial Assembly.

In the process, the arrival at the Ministry of the Interior of Dominique de Villepin, admirer of Napoleon, does not help to relax the atmosphere.

From 2004 to 2006, the nationalist camp and the government were in a kind of armed peace , punctuated by plasticage. Eternal Corsica ...

The meetings of Corte , in August 2007, mark a clear divide between “separatists” and “autonomists”. This will lead, in 2014, to the announcement by the FNLC that it is laying down its arms . The organization is losing speed in the face of the new generation of autonomists, led by Gilles Siméoni (son of Edmond) and who refuse the violence of the "hooded". The FNLC, in order not to lose face, tried to argue that it had won the fight for "ideas", the demands made since the creation of the movement having made their way into people's minds, sometimes even beyond the ranks. nationalists.

Balance sheet of 38 years of violence: 10,500 attacks were committed on the island . This does not mean the final end of all violence on the island, the FLNC being only one component of the nationalist movement. 
Moreover, in September 2019, a small group announced the ... reorganization of the FNLC!

The year 2020 in Corsica

The news has of course been dominated, as everywhere else, by the Covid-19. The Ajaccio region has been hit hard. The hospital resources being insufficient on the island (the island does not have a CHU), it was necessary to evacuate some patients on the mainland. 
In view of the tourist season, the executive had pleaded for "a green pass" , a kind of health passport for tourists, an idea freshly welcomed and abandoned. The island only refueled in August, plunging the entire tourist sector (which accounts for 31% of the island's economy including transport) into a slump.
The municipal elections, which the autonomist-nationalist camp approached with relative concern, fearing a sanction vote for its hesitant management of many cases, were on the contrary a success: Bastia remained in Pierre Savelli thanks to the divisions of the opposition and Porto-Vecchio, the third largest city in Corsica, returned to the autonomist Jean-Christophe Angelini who put an end to 80 years of “reign” of the family (in the broad sense) Rocca-Serra. A symbolic victory, the rest of Corsica having chosen stability.

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