Nation profile

Brittany
Breizh

General information
Population
4,713,813 inhabitants (2017)
Area
34,023 km²
Institutions
Regional Council of Brittany and General Council of the Department of Loire-Atlantique
Major cities
Rennes, Nantes, Brest, Saint-Nazaire, Quimper, Lorient, Vannes
State administration
French Republic
Territorial languages
Breton, Gallo (Oil language)
Official languages
French
Major religion
Christianity (Catholicism)
National day
19 May (Gouel Erwan / Saint Yves)

Presentation

Brittany is a country in Western Europe, located on the peninsula formed by the Armorica massif, between the English Channel and the Bay of Biscay. The country is currently part of the French Republic, where it is divided into two administrative regions. Brittany has developed its own culture over the centuries, with Celtic roots and Latin influences.

Several waves of Celtic peoples populated Brittany before and after Roman rule. Brittany was left out of Frankish rule, and in the 9th century AD Breton nobles Nominoé and Erispoé consolidated the independence of the Duchy of Brittany, which maintained political autonomy until the 16th century, when it was incorporated into France.

At the end of the 19th century, Brittany witnessed a revived interest in its own culture. At the beginning of the 20th century, the birth of modern Breton nationalism took place. From the 1960s onwards, cultural, linguistic and political Bretonism —both pro-autonomy and pro-independence— became a force with a continued presence and prominence in Breton society.

Language

Breton is the only language of the Celtic branch spoken in a non-island territory, and is the historical and national language of the Breton people. Due to a continuous process of Frenchization, the proportion of Bretons who speak the language has been declining, to the point that in 2018 (Sociolinguistic Survey of Brittany) Breton was spoken by just over 5% of the population, i.e. about 210,000 people. The average age of the speakers was 70 years old. However, its teaching in some public schools, as well as in schools of the Diwan network, ensures that at least several thousand pupils learn it every year.

Breton speakers are concentrated in the western half of the country, with the exception of a nucleus of about 10,000 people in the city of Rennes. Several thousand people in the city of Paris also speak Breton, as a product of emigration.

In the eastern half of Brittany, Gallo —a linguistic variety of Oil languages, of which standard French is also a part— is traditionally spoken. According to the Sociolinguistic Survey of Brittany, in 2018 5% of the Breton population —some 190,000 people— were Gallo speakers. The language is not taught in school, thus its learning depends almost exclusively on a meager family transmission.

National identity

According to a 2013 IFOP survey for Bretons magazine, 37% of the Breton population define themselves as "Breton first" and 46%, "French first". The same opinion poll shows that 44% of Bretons want the reunification of Brittany (36% are against) and 18% support independence from France.

A 2000 CSA poll for Le Télégramme news paper had put support to independence at 23%.

In 2018, the Dibab association commissioned a poll (carried out by TMO) according to which 40% of Bretons supported that Brittany had direct representation in the international sphere (39% were against). 35% of Bretons supported law-making powers for Brittany (49% against). In the same poll, about half of those surveyed favoured reunification (30% against).

Government and politics

Brittany is divided into two administrative regions. The region of Brittany brings together 4 of the 5 departments of Brittany (Ille-et-Vilaine, Côtes-d’Armor, Morbihan, and Finisterre), while the fifth (Loire-Atlantique) lies within the region of the Pays de la Loire. This separation dates from 1941, and was consolidated in the successive French regional organizations of 1956, 1972, and 2015. Breton nationalism considers it as illegitimate, and demands the reunification of the five Breton departments.

The administrative region of Brittany is governed by the Regional Council, an assembly made up of 83 members elected by universal suffrage every six years. The Regional Council has a cabinet headed by a president. The Regional Council has executive —but not legislative— powers in economic development, promotion of Breton and Gallo languages, culture, transport, environment, and sports, among others.

The department of Loire-Atlantique is governed by a Departmental Council with 31 members, also elected by universal suffrage every six years. It is governed by the Standing Committee, headed by a president. Departments in France have executive powers over matters of social welfare, jobs, libraries and archives, culture and education, urban planning, tourism, and environment, among others.

Breton politics has been traditionally dominated by the French Socialist Party (PS). As for the Breton parties, the two main ones as regards their electoral support are the Breton Democratic Union and For Brittany.

The Breton Democratic Union (UDB) is a center-left, green party. Founded in 1964, it is the oldest among those in operation. It has usually enjoyed representation on the Regional Council. The UDB proposes a particular status for a reunified Brittany, with legislative autonomy, within the framework of a federal France. It is part of Regions et Peuples Solidaires and the European Free Alliance.

For Brittany is a center-left party founded in 2010 by Carhaix mayor Christian Troadec. The party struggles for legislative and fiscal autonomy of Brittany and reunification.

Two other parties with lower electoral support (0.5% in the 2015 regional election) are the Breton Party and Breizhistance.

The Breton Party (PB) is a centrist party founded in 2000. It advocates the reunification and sovereignty of Brittany within the framework of a federal Europee, autonomy within France being an intermediate step for that goal.

Breizhistance is a pro-independence socialist party founded in 2009 by part of Emgann’s members. The party not being very active, in 2020 some Breizhistance’s members left and founded a new pro-independence, anti-capitalist organization, Douar ha Frankiz (DHF).


Links

Politics
Region of Britany bretagne.bzh
Department of Loire-Atlantique loire-atlantique.fr
Public Office of the Breton Language brezhoneg.bzh

Language and culture associations
Cultural Institute of Brittany skoluhelarvro.bzh
Kevre Breizh (umbrella association) kevrebreizh.org
Diwan (Breton-medium schools) diwan.bzh
Div Yezh div-yezh.bzh

Other Bretonist associations
Bretagne Réunie / Breizh Unvan bretagnereunie.bzh
À la bretonne alabretonne.com

Media
Le Telegramme letelegramme.com
Bretons bretons.bzh
7 Seizh 7seizh.info
Brezhoweb brezhoweb.com
Breizh Info breizh-info.com
NHU Bretagne nhu.bzh
Al Liamm alliamm.bzh

(Last updated November 2020.)