The Korrika, or Running, is an exhibition race held bi-annually in the Basque Country in order to celebrate, support and spread the Basque language: Euskara. Said race is organized by AEK (Basque acronym for Coordinator of Literacy and Basque Promotion), which is an organisation established in various localities of the Basque territory itself and whose aim is as simple as making the Basque language a daily communication tool. This initiative, as well as the organization AEK itself, was founded by the concerned people in the same territory. It currently takes place once every two years (being this year the 19th edition).
Why does the Basque Language need Korrika?
The The Basque Language is currently in a delicate and unsafe situation. Certainly, according to UNESCO, it is said to be in danger of extinction in various areas. As a matter of fact, the Basque Language is not even considered an official language in certain areas. However, the event being discussed, Korrika, brings the whole territory together through a joyful as well as cheery atmosphere for the two continuous weeks in which it is held.
As a consequence of, for instance, Franco's dictatorship held for 40 years, the Basque language suffered a harmful decline through a long period of oppression. Basque people were even punished by the Spanish police for speaking the only language they knew in public, arguing that it was a language in opposition to the modernisation. Moreover, speaking Basque was also prohibited in schools, where children where often punished (even physically) if caught talking Basque. The majority of linguists that have analysed the situation agree that the linguistic policies applied by Spain and France against the Basque language have highly affected the position in which the language appears to be nowadays.
Concerned by the weakening of the language, people started creating clandestine organizations where Basque was thought. The newly created Basque movement came along with the aforementioned community AEK. Once the dictatorship was over, a group of Basque innovators started working on the project that is nowadays one of the strongest held in the Basque territory: Korrika. Today, the Basque Language is still non-official in various areas in which is still spoken and some schools have stopped to even offer the possibility to study in Basque. Although progress has been made in those territories where the Basque language is considered official, the Spanish government continues to somehow oppress the rights of Basque speakers. In order to raise funds for the promotion of the Basque language, each kilometer of the race is 'sold' to a particular individual or organization, who will be the figurehead of the race during their purchased kilometer. This race leader relays a wooden baton, preserved from the first race held, and adorned with the Basque flag or Ikurriña. Every edition, the organizers of Korrika include a secret message in the baton, which is read at the end of the festival, after it has been passed hand by hand, through thousands of Basque speakers. It has always been considered an honour to carry the baton for which different organisations "buy" kilometres to support the Basque language as well as its supporter, AEK.
Organization and procedure
Korrika is usually scheduled to last two weeks. The first Korrika took place in 1980, and since, every race has followed a different route, although it always endeavours to cover a significant proportion of the historical Basque territories. The race, which proceeds continuously without even stopping during the night, has approximately a participation level of about 600,000 people.
In order to raise funds for the promotion of the Basque language, each kilometre of the race is 'sold' to a particular individual or organization, who will be the figurehead of the race during their purchased kilometre. This race leader relays a wooden baton, preserved from the first race held, and adorned with the Basque flag or Ikurriña. Every edition, the organizers of Korrika include a secret message in the baton, which is read at the end of the festival, after it has been passed hand by hand, through thousands of Basque speakers. It has always been considered an honour to carry the baton for which different organisations "buy" kilometres to support the Basque language as well as its supporter, AEK.
Behind the race leader, the immediately following participants carry a banner bearing the race slogan Euskal Herria euskalduntzen. Ni ere bai! (Spreading the Basque language in the Basque Country. Me too!) The race is conducted in an extremely jovial, uncompetitive spirit, accompanied by music and general fanfare, with roads thronged with spectators. During the period, a great many cultural activities are organised to promote the use of Basque, with the support of the Royal Academy of the Basque Language.
The Korrika has since inspired similar events in other European countries:
- Ar Redadeg in Brittany (since 2008)
- Correllengua in Catalonia (since 1993)
- Correlingua in Galicia (since 1997)
- Corsa d'Aran in the Vall d'Aran (since 1993)
- Ras yr Iaith in Wales (starting in 2014)
- Rith in Ireland (since 2010)
- Arbelaitz, Lander. "Korrika_ the world's biggest language festival?". Open Democracy. Retrieved 29 May 2015.