Korrika (Basque for running) is an exhibition race held bi-annually in the Basque Country in order to raise funds for the adult Basque-language teaching organization AEK.[n 1] It is one of the largest demonstrations gathering support for a language in the world, and the longest relay race worldwide, with 2.557 kilometres in 2017, running day and night without interruption for 11 days. The Korrika is celebrated beyond its fundraising goal, encouraging, supporting and spreading the Basque language itself.
This initiative, as well as the organization AEK itself, was founded by people concerned with the language. It currently takes place in spring once every two years, with 2017 as its 20th edition.
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 considered an official language in certain areas. However, this non-competitive relay race brings the whole territory together through a joyful and cheery atmosphere for the two weeks in which it is held.
During Franco's dictatorship lasting for 40 years, the Basque language underwent a rapid 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 contrary to modernization. Moreover, speaking Basque was also prohibited in schools, where children where often punished (even physically) if caught talking Basque. A majority of linguists analyzing the situation agrees that the language policies applied by Spain and France against Basque have greatly damaged the position the language shows today.
Concerned by the weakening of the language, people started creating clandestine organizations where Basque was taught. The newly created Basque movement put together the association AEK for the teaching and alphabetization of the language. 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. Their main idea was to carry their claim across the territory, instead of concentrating all the people on the same area. The first edition set off, among criticism on the 'foolishness' of the idea, in Oñati on November 29th, 1980 and concluded on December 7th in Bilbao.
Organization and procedure
Korrika is usually scheduled to last ten days. 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. The first baton was designed by Remigio Mendiburu and it can be seen in San Telmo Museum, San Sebastián. The current baton was designed by the sculptor Juan Gorriti. 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, that changeson every edition. The race is conducted in an extremely jovial, uncompetitive spirit, accompanied by music and general fanfare, with roads thronged with spectators. Each edition has its own song, made by different and recognized artists. 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.
Since its inception Korrika has made a different course every time, with a motto and a song.
|1||1980: November 29 - December 7||Oñati-Bilbao||Zuk ere esan bai euskarari||Xabier Amuriza|
|2||1982: May 22 - May 30||Iruñea-Donostia||AEK, euskararen alternatiba herritarra and Korrika, herriaren erantzuna euskararen alde||Akelarre|
|3||1983: December 3 - 11||Baiona-Bilbao||Euskaraz eta kitto!||Egan|
|4||1985: May 31 - June 9||Tardets-Iruñea||Herri bat, hizkuntza bat!||Lontxo Aburuza|
|5||1987: April 3-12||Hendaye-Bilbao||Euskara, zeurea||Oskorri|
|6||1989: April 14-23||Iruñea-Donostia||Euskara Korrika eta kitto and Euskal Herriak AEK||Xanti eta Maider|
|7||1991: March 15-24||Gasteiz-Baiona||Korrika euskara, euskaraz Euskal Herria||Irigoien Anaiak and Mikel Erramuspe|
|8||1993: March 26 - April 4||Iruñea-Bilbao||Denok maite dugu gure herria euskaraz||Tapia eta Leturia|
|9||1995: March 17 - 26||Donibane Garazi - Gasteiz||Jalgi hadi euskaraz||Maixa eta Ixiar, Alex Sardui, Kepa Junkera|
|10||1997: March 14 - 23||Arantzazu - Bilbao||Euskal Herria Korrika!||Gozategi|
|11||1999: March 19-28||Iruñea - Donostia||Zu eta ni euskaraz||Joxe Ripiau|
|12||2001: March 29 - Aprli 8||Gasteiz - Baiona||Mundu bat euskarara bildu||Fermin Muguruza|
|13||2003: April 4 - 13||Maule - Iruñea||Herri bat geroa lantzen||Mikel Laboa and Ruper Ordorika|
|14||2005: March 10 - 20||Orreaga - Bilbao||Euskal Herria euskalduntzen. Ni ere bai!||Afrika Bibang|
|15||2007: March 22 - April 1||Karrantza - Iruñea||Heldu hitzari, lekukoari, elkarlanari, euskarari, herriari||Niko Etxart and El Drogas|
|16||2009: March 26 - Aprli 5||Tudela - Gasteiz||Ongi etorri euskaraz bizi nahi dugunon herrira!||Betagarri|
|17||2011: April 7 - 17||Trebiñu - Donostia||Maitatu, ikasi, ari... Euskalakari||Gose|
|18||2013: March 14 - 24||Andoain - Baiona||Eman Euskara Elkarri||Esne Beltza|
|19||2015: March 19 - 29||Urepele - Bilbao||Euskahaldun||Various artists|
|20||2017: March 30 - April 9||Otxandio - Iruñea||Bat Zuk||Various artists|
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)
- Basque acronym for Coordinator of Literacy and Basque Promotion
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