Corsica was ruled by the Republic of Genoa
from 1284 to 1755, when it became a self-proclaimed, Italian
. In 1768, Genoa officially ceded it to Louis XV of France
as part of a pledge for the debts
it had incurred by enlisting France's military help in suppressing the Corsican revolt; in 1769 France subsequently went on to annex
it. Napoleon Bonaparte
was a native Corsican, born that same year in Ajaccio. His ancestral home, Maison Bonaparte
, is today a significant visitor attraction and museum. Because of Corsica's historical ties to Italy and especially Tuscany
, the island has retained many Italian cultural
elements, and many Corsican surnames are rooted in the Italian peninsula
, the native tongue, is recognised as a regional language by the Government of France
Geographic map of Corsica
The medieval influence of Pisa
in Corsica can be seen in the Romanesque-Pisan style of the Church of Aregno
The origin of the name Corsica is subject to much debate and remains a mystery. To the Ancient Greeks
it was known as Kalliste
, or Cirné
. The last three variations derive from the most ancient Greek name of the island, "Σειρηνούσσαι" ("Seirinoussai", meaning of the Sirens
) — the very same Sirens mentioned in Homer
Corsica has been occupied continuously since the Mesolithic
era. Its population was influential in the Mediterranean
during its long prehistory.
After a brief occupation by the Carthaginians
, colonization by the ancient Greeks
, and an only slightly longer occupation by the Etruscans
, it was incorporated by the Roman Republic
at the end of the First Punic War
and, with Sardinia
, in 238 BC became a province
of the Roman Republic
The Romans, who built a colony in Aléria
, considered Corsica as one of the most backward regions of the Roman world. The island produced sheep, honey, resin
and wax, and exported many slaves, not well considered because of their fierce and rebellious character.
Moreover, it was known for its cheap wines, exported to Rome, and was used as a place of relegation, one of the most famous exiles being the Roman philosopher Seneca
Administratively, the island was divided into pagi
, which in the Middle Ages became the pievi
, the basic administrative units of the island until 1768.
During the diffusion of Christianity, which arrived quite early from Rome and the Tuscan harbors, Corsica was home to many martyrs and saints: among them, the most important are Saint Devota
and Saint Julia
, both patrons of the island. Corsica was integrated into Roman Italy
by Emperor Diocletian
Middle Ages and early-modern era
In the 5th century, the western half of the Roman Empire collapsed, and the island was invaded by the Vandals
and the Ostrogoths
Briefly recovered by the Byzantines
, it soon became part of the Kingdom of the Lombards
. This made it a dependency of the March of Tuscany
, which used it as an outpost against the Saracens
. Pepin the Short
, king of the Franks
's father, expelled the Lombards and nominally granted Corsica to Pope Stephen II
In the first quarter of the 11th century, Pisa
and Genoa together freed the island from the threat of Arab invasion.
After that, the island came under the influence of the republic of Pisa
To this period belong the many polychrome churches which adorn the island, and Corsica also experienced a massive immigration from Tuscany, which gave to the island its present toponymy
and rendered the language spoken in the northern two-thirds of the island very close to the Tuscan dialect
Due to that, then began also the traditional division of Corsica in two parts, along the main chain of mountains roughly going from Calvi
: the eastern Banda di dentro
, or Cismonte
, more populated, evolved and open to the commerce with Italy, and the western Banda di fuori
, or Pomonte
, almost deserted, wild and remote.
The crushing defeat experienced by Pisa in 1284 in the Battle of Meloria
had among its consequences the end of the Pisan rule and the beginning of the Genoese influence in Corsica:
this was contested initially by the King of Aragon
, who in 1296 had received from the Pope the investiture over Sardinia
A popular revolution against this and the feudal lords, led by Sambucuccio d'Alando
, got the aid of Genoa. After that, the Cismonte
was ruled as a league of comuni
and churches, after the Italian experience.
The following 150 years were a period of conflict, when the Genoese rule was contested by Aragon, the local lords, the comuni and the Pope: finally, in 1450 Genoa ceded the administration of the island to its main bank, the Bank of Saint George
, which brought peace.
In the 16th century, the island entered into the fight between Spain and France for the supremacy in Italy.
In 1553, a Franco-Ottoman
fleet occupied Corsica
, but the reaction of Spain
and Genoa, led by Andrea Doria
, reestablished the Genoese supremacy on the island, confirmed by the Peace of Cateau-Cambresis
The unlucky protagonist of this episode was Sampiero di Bastelica
, who would later come to be considered a hero of the island. Their power reinstated, the Genoese did not allow the Corsican nobility to share in the government of the island, and oppressed the inhabitants with a heavy tax burden. On the other hand, they introduced the chestnut tree on a large scale, improving the diet of the population, and built a chain of towers
along the coast to defend Corsica from the attacks of the Barbary pirates
from North Africa.
The period of peace lasted until 1729, when the refusal to pay taxes by a peasant sparked the general insurrection of the island against Genoa.
The island became known for the large number of mercenary soldiers and officers it produced. In 1743, over 4,600 Corsicans, or 4% of the entire population of the island, were serving as soldiers in various armies (predominantly those of Genoa, Venice, and Spain), making it one of the most militarized societies in Europe.
Rise and annexation of the Corsican Republic
In 1729 the Corsican Revolution for independence from Genoa began, first led by Luiggi Giafferi
and Giacinto Paoli, and later by Paoli's son, Pasquale Paoli
. After 26 years of struggle against the Republic of Genoa
(plus an ephemeral attempt to proclaim in 1736 an independent Kingdom of Corsica under the German adventurer Theodor von Neuhoff
), the independent Corsican Republic
was proclaimed in 1755 under the leadership of Pasquale Paoli and remained sovereign until 1769, when the island was conquered by France
. The first Corsican Constitution
was written in Italian (the language of culture in Corsica until the middle of the 19th century) by Paoli.
The Corsican Republic was unable to eject the Genoese from the major coastal fortresses (Calvi and Bonifacio). After the Corsican conquest of Capraia
, a small island of the Tuscan Archipelago
, in 1767, the Republic of Genoa
, exhausted by forty years of fighting, decided to sell the island to France which, after its defeat in the Seven Years' War
, was trying to reinforce its position in the Mediterranean. In 1768, with the Treaty of Versailles
, the Genoese republic conceded the region to the French troops to subdue the rebels and Genoa had to pay for the costs, the French though remained in forts and never seriously faced the rebellion in order to make the expenditure costs of the army levitate and induce the Genoese to not being able to afford to pay the debt, later French reclaimed so rights to occupy the island but that was never actually ceded or approved by the Republic of Genoa
. After an initial successful resistance culminating with the victory at Borgo
, the Corsican republic was crushed by a large French army led by the Count of Vaux
at the Battle of Ponte Novu
. This marked the end of Corsican sovereignty. Despite triggering the Corsican Crisis
, whose government gave secret aid, no foreign military support came for the Corsicans. However, nationalist feelings still ran high. Despite the conquest, Corsica was not incorporated into the French state until 1789.
Following the outbreak of the French Revolution
in 1789, Pasquale Paoli was able to return to Corsica from exile in Britain. In 1794, he invited British forces under Lord Hood
to intervene to free Corsica from French rule. Anglo-Corsican forces drove the French from the island and established an Anglo-Corsican Kingdom
. Following Spain's entry into the war, the British decided to withdraw from Corsica in 1796. Corsica returned to French rule.
Corsicans commemorating the anniversary of the birth of Napoleon
Despite being the birthplace of the Emperor, who had supported Paoli in his youth, the island was neglected by Napoleon's government.
In 1814, near the end of the Napoleonic Wars
, Corsica was briefly occupied again by British troops. The Treaty of Bastia
gave the British crown sovereignty over the island, but it was later repudiated by Lord Castlereagh
who insisted that the island should be returned to a restored French monarchy
After the restoration, the island was further neglected by the French state. Despite the presence of a middle class in Bastia and Ajaccio, Corsica remained an otherwise primitive place, whose economy consisted mainly of a subsistence agriculture, and whose population constituted a pastoral society, dominated by clans
and the rules of vendetta
. The code of vendetta required Corsicans to seek deadly revenge for offences against their family's honor. Between 1821 and 1852, no fewer than 4,300 murders were perpetrated in Corsica.
During the first half of the century, the people of Corsica were still immersed in the Italian cultural world: the bourgeoisie sent children to Pisa
to study, official acts were enacted in Italian and most books were printed in Italian.
Moreover, many islanders sympathised with the national struggle
which was taking place in nearby Italy in those years: several political refugees from the peninsula, like Niccolò Tommaseo
, spent years in the island, while some Corsicans, like Count Leonetto Cipriani [fr]
, took active part in the fights for Italian independence.
Despite all that, during those years the Corsicans began to feel a stronger and stronger attachment to France. The reasons for that are manifold: the knowledge of the French language, which thanks to the mandatory primary school started to penetrate among the local youth, the high prestige of French culture, the awareness of being part of a big, powerful state, the possibility of well-paid jobs as civil servants, both in the island, in the mainland and in the colonies, the prospect of serving the French army during the wars for the conquest of the colonial empire, the introduction of steamboats
, which reduced the travel time between mainland France from the island drastically, and — last but not least — Napoleon himself, whose existence alone constituted an indissoluble link between France and Corsica. Thanks to all these factors by around 1870 Corsica had landed in the French cultural world.
From the 19th century into the mid-20th century, Corsicans also grew closer to the French nation through participation in the French Empire. Compared to much of Metropolitan France, Corsica was poor and many Corsicans emigrated. While Corsicans emigrated globally, especially to many South American countries, many chose to move within the French Empire which acted as a conduit for emigration and eventual return, as many young Corsican men could find better job opportunities in the far corners of the Empire where many other French hesitated to go. In many parts of the Empire, Corsicans were strongly represented, such as in Saigon
where in 1926 12% of European were from Corsica.
Across the French Empire, many Corsicans retained a sense of community by establishing organizations where they would meet regularly, keep one another informed of developments in Corsica, and come to one anothers’ aid in times of need.
Monument to the 50th anniversary of the liberation of Corsica during WWII in Solaro
Corsica paid a high price for the French victory in the First World War: agriculture was disrupted by the years-long absence of almost all of the young workers, and the percentage of dead or wounded Corsicans in the conflict was double that of those from mainland France. Moreover, the protectionist policies of the French government, started in the 1880s and never stopped, had ruined the Corsican export of wine and olive oil, and forced many young Corsicans to emigrate to mainland France or to the Americas. As reaction to these conditions, a nationalist movement was born in the 1920s around the newspaper A Muvra
, having as its objective the autonomy of the island from France. In the 1930s, many exponents of this movement became irredentist
, seeing annexation of the island to fascist Italy as the only solution to its problems. Under Benito Mussolini
annexation of Corsica had become one of the main goals of Italy's unification policy.
The Corsicans who promoted the ideal of Corsican irredentism published mainly in Italy, because of the persecutions from the French regime in the island in the first half of the 20th century. Many Corsicans, notably Petru Giovacchini
, Simon Petru Cristofini
and Marco Angeli di Sartèna
, supported Italian irredentism
on the island. Cristofini was executed by the French authorities; Angeli and Giovacchini were also condemned to death, but they escaped in Italy.
Between the late fifties and the seventies, proposals to conduct underground nuclear tests
in the mines of Argentella, the immigration of 18,000 former settlers from Algeria ("Pieds-Noirs
") in the eastern plains, and continuing chemical pollution (Fanghi Rossi
) from mainland Italy increased tensions between the indigenous inhabitants and the French government. Tensions escalated until an armed police assault on a pieds-noirs-owned wine cellar in Aleria
, occupied by Corsican nationalists on 23 August 1975. This marked the beginning of the Corsican conflict
, an armed nationalist struggle against the French government. Ever since, Corsican nationalism
has been a feature of the island's politics, with calls for greater autonomy and protection for Corsican culture and the Corsican language
, or even full independence. Some also support the union of Corsica to Italy
Some groups supporting independence, such as the National Liberation Front of Corsica
, have carried out a violent campaign that includes bombings and assassinations targeting buildings and officials representing the French government; periodic flare-ups of raids and killings culminated in the assassination of Prefect Claude Érignac
In 2013, Corsica hosted the first three stages of the 100th Tour de France
, which passed through the island for the first time in the event's 110-year history.
Murder rate in Europe
In 2013, Corsica had the highest murder rate in Europe which were the result of family feuds between clans on the island and vendettas or revenge actions against insults against the honor of a family.
Corsica still had the highest murder rate in 2020. The most common victims of gun murders are prominent business people or local mayors.
The Bay of Calvi
: Corsica is the most mountainous Mediterranean island.
Corsica was formed about 250 million years ago with the uplift of a granite
backbone on the western side. About 50 million years ago sedimentary rock was pressed against this granite, forming the schists
of the eastern side. It is the most mountainous island in the Mediterranean, a "mountain in the sea".
It is 183 km (114 mi) long at longest, 83 km (52 mi) wide at widest, has 1,000 km (620 mi) of coastline, more than 200 beaches, and is very mountainous, with Monte Cinto
as the highest peak at 2,706 m (8,878 ft) and around 120 other summits of more than 2,000 m (6,600 ft). Mountains comprise two-thirds of the island, forming a single chain. Forests make up 20% of the island.
In 2005 the population of Corsica was settled in approximately 360 communities.
The station of Sari-Solenzara
records the highest year-round temperatures of Metropolitan France with an annual average of 16.41 °C over the 1981–2010 period. Sunshine hours are not available for same period but this was 2715 h for 2008–2016.
Zones by altitude
The island is divided into three major ecological zones by altitude.
Below 600 metres (2,000 ft) is the coastal zone, which features a Mediterranean climate
, with hot, dry summers and mild, rainy winters. The natural vegetation is Mediterranean forests, woodlands, and shrubs. The coastal lowlands are part of the Tyrrhenian-Adriatic sclerophyllous and mixed forestsecoregion
, in which forests and woodlands of evergreen sclerophyll oaks
predominate, chiefly holm oak
) and cork oak
). Much of the coastal lowlands have been cleared for agriculture, grazing and logging, which have reduced the forests considerably.
There is considerable birdlife in Corsica. One famous example is the bearded vulture
. In some cases Corsica is a delimited part of the species range. For example, the subspecies of hooded crow
, Corvus cornix
occurs in Corsica, but no further south.
From 600 to 1,800 m (2,000 to 5,900 ft) is a temperate montane zone
. The mountains are cooler and wetter, and home to the Corsican montane broadleaf and mixed forests
ecoregion, which supports diverse forests of oak
, and broadleaf deciduous trees, with vegetation more typical of northern Europe. The population lives predominantly below 900 m (3,000 ft), with only shepherds and hikers at 600 to 900 m (2,000 to 3,000 ft).
From 1,800 to 2,700 m (5,900 to 8,900 ft) is a high alpine zone
. Vegetation is sparse. This zone is uninhabited.
Parc Naturel Régional de Corse
Corsica, like all the other Mediterranean islands, was home to indigenous animals of the Pleistocene
, some endemic to it and some coming to it and Sardinia
(as Sardinia was joined to Corsica for much of the Pleistocene). After the proliferation of humans in the Mesolithic
, these began to disappear, partly from extinction of the species, and partly from eradication only in Corsica. However, it is now known that many species managed to survive the Mesolithic, and many were still present well into recorded history.
Saint-Nicolas church in Feliceto
Corsica has a population of 322,120 inhabitants (January 2013 estimate).
At the 2011 census, 56.3% of the inhabitants of Corsica were natives of Corsica, 28.6% were natives of Continental France
, 0.3% were natives of Overseas France
, and 14.8% were natives of foreign countries.
The majority of the foreign immigrants in Corsica come from the Maghreb
, who made up 33.5% of all immigrants in Corsica at the 2011 census), and from Southern Europe (particularly Portuguese
, 22.7% of immigrants on the island), and Italians
Place of birth of residents of Corsica
(at the 1982, 1990, 1999, and 2011 censuses)
) is the official and most widely spoken language on the island. Italian
was the official language of Corsica until 9 May 1859
when it was replaced by French. Corsican
), a minority language
that is closely related to medieval Tuscan
), has a better prospect of survival than most other French regional languages
: Corsican is the second most widely spoken language, after French and ahead of standard Italian. However, since the annexation of the island by France in the 18th century, Corsican has been under heavy pressure from French, and today it is estimated that only 10% of Corsica's population speak the language natively, with only 50% having some sort of proficiency in it.
The language is divided into two main varieties: Cismuntanu
, spoken respectively northeast and southwest of the Girolata - Porto Vecchio
line. This division was due to the massive immigration from Tuscany which took place in Corsica during the lower Middle Ages: as a result, the Cismuntanu
became very similar to the Tuscan dialects, being part of the Italo-Dalmatian language group
, while the Ultramuntanu
could keep its original characteristics which make it much more similar to a Southern Romance language
Therefore, due to the differences between the main dialectal varieties, many linguists classify Corsican as an Italo-Dalmatian language,
while others consider it a Southern Romance one.
From the mountains to the plains and sea, many ingredients play a role. Game such as wild boar (Cingale
) is popular. There also is seafood and river fish such as trout. Delicacies such as figatellu
(also named as ficateddu
), made with liver, coppa
, ham (prizuttu
are made from Corsican pork (porcu nustrale
). Characteristic among the cheeses is brocciu
(similar to ricotta), which is used as a fresh ingredient in many dishes, from first courses (sturzapreti
) to cakes (fiadone
). Other cheeses, like casgiu merzu
("rotten cheese", the Corsican counterpart of the Sardinian casu martzu
), casgiu veghju
are made from goat or sheep milk. Chestnuts are the main ingredient in the making of pulenta castagnina
and cakes (falculelle
). A variety of alcohol also exists ranging from aquavita
(brandy), red and white Corsican wines
), muscat wine (plain or sparkling), and the famous "Cap Corse" apéritif produced by Mattei. The herbs which are part of Maquis
) and the chestnuts and oak nuts of the Corsican forests are eaten by local animals, resulting in a noticeable flavour in the food there.
Corsica has produced a number of known artists:
Since 2017, no Corsican football club has played in Ligue 1 and are currently littered through the second, third, fourth and fifth tiers of French football. AC Ajaccio
and SC Bastia
are the highest placed teams, both competing in Ligue 2, SC Bastia having returned to the league in 2020-21 for the first time since the 2016-17 season, FC Bastia-Borgo
currently competes in the Championnat National and Gazélec Ajaccio
currently competes in the Championnat National 2. ÉF Bastia
previously competed in Regional 1, but in 2021 merged with fellow Corsican team Association de la Jeunesse de Biguglia, to form Football Jeunesse Étoile Biguglia. Tour de Corse
is a rally held since 1956, which was a round of the World Rally Championship
from 1973 to 2008 and later the Intercontinental Rally Challenge
and European Rally Championship
. The Tour de Corse returned as a World Rally Championship round in 2015.
Map of Corsica
On 2 March 1982, a law was passed that gave Corsica the status of territorial collectivity
), abolishing the Corsican Regional Council. Unlike the regional councils, the Corsican Assembly has executive powers over the island.
In 1992, three institutions were formed in the territorial collectivity of Corsica:
A local referendum
held in 2003, aimed at abolishing the two départements
to leave a territorial collectivity with extended powers, was voted down by a narrow margin. However, the issue of Corsican autonomy
and greater powers for the Corsican Assembly continues to hold sway over Corsican politics.
The Gross domestic product
(GDP) of the region was 9.6 billion euros in 2018, accounting for 0.4% of French economic output. GDP per capita adjusted for purchasing power was 25,400 euros or 84% of the EU27 average in the same year. The GDP per employee was 103% of the EU average.
Corsica's coastline is a major driver for tourism – coastline by the town of Propriano
Tourism plays a big part in the Corsican economy. The island's climate, mountains, and coastlines make it popular among tourists. The island has not had the same level of intensive development as other parts of the Mediterranean and is thus mainly unspoiled.[why?]
Tourism is particularly concentrated in the area around Porto-Vecchio and Bonifacio in the south of the island and Calvi in the northwest.
In 1584 the Genoese
governor ordered all farmers and landowners to plant four trees yearly; a chestnut
, and mulberry
tree. Many communities owe their origin and former richness to the ensuing chestnut woods.
Chestnut bread keeps fresh for as long as two weeks.
Corsica produces gourmet cheese, wine, sausages, and honey for sale in mainland France and for export. Corsican honey, of which there are six official varieties, is certified as to its origin (Appellation d'origine contrôlée
) by the French National Institute of Origin and Quality (Institut National des Appellations d'Origine
Corsica's main exports are granite and marble, tannic acid, cork, cheese, wine, citrus fruit, olive oil and cigarettes.
Corsica has four international airports:
All airports are served by regional French airline Air Corsica
, as well as Air France which mainly offers connections to Paris-Orly
. Budget carriers such as EasyJet
offer seasonal connections to different cities in Europe.
Looking north across the Strait of Bonifacio from the northern tip of Sardinia; the southern coast of Corsica is barely visible through the haze of distance.
Corsica is well connected to the European mainland (Italy and France) by various car ferry lines. The island's busiest seaport is Bastia
, which saw more than 2.5 million passengers in 2012.
The second busiest seaport is Ajaccio
, followed by L'Île-Rousse
and Porto Vecchio
in the south also have smaller ferry docks and are seasonally served from France (Marseille), while Bonifacio's
harbour is only frequented by smaller car ferries from the neighbouring island of Sardinia
There are several groups and two nationalist
parties (the autonomist Femu a Corsica
and the separatist Corsica Libera
) active on the island calling for some degree of Corsican autonomy
from France or even full independence. Generally speaking, regionalist proposals focus on the promotion of the Corsican language
, more power for local governments, and some exemptions from national taxes in addition to those already applying to Corsica.
The French government is opposed to full independence but has at times shown support for some level of autonomy. There is support on the island for proposals for greater autonomy, but polls show that a large majority of Corsicans are opposed to full independence.
In 1972, the Italian company Montedison dumped toxic waste off the Corsican coast, creating what looked like red mud in waters around the island with the poisoning of the sea, the most visible effects being cetaceans
found dead on the shores. At that time the Corsican people
felt that the French government did not support them. To stop the poisoning, one ship carrying toxic waste from Italy was bombed.
have used means such as the removal of French names (often also Italian) on road signs.
Nationalist organisations started to seek money, using tactics similar to those of the Mafia
, to fund violence. Some groups that claim to support Corsican independence
, such as the National Liberation Front of Corsica
, have carried out a violent campaign since the 1970s that includes bombings
and assassinations, usually targeting buildings and officials representing the French government or Corsicans themselves for political reasons.
A war between two rival independence groups led to several deaths in the 1990s. The peaceful occupation of a pied-noir
vineyard in Aléria
in 1975 marked a turning point when the French government responded with overwhelming force, generating sympathy for the independence groups among the Corsican population.
In 2000, Prime Minister Lionel Jospin
agreed to grant increased autonomy to Corsica. The proposed autonomy for Corsica would have included greater protection for the Corsican language
), the island's traditional language, whose practice and teaching, like other regional or minority languages in France
, had been discouraged in the past. According to the UNESCO
classification, the Corsican language is currently in danger of becoming extinct.
However, plans for increased autonomy were opposed by the Gaullist
opposition in the French National Assembly
, who feared that they would lead to calls for autonomy from other régions
(such as Brittany
, or Provence
), eventually threatening France's unity as a country.
On 13 December 2015, the regionalist coalition Pè a Corsica
(English: For Corsica), supported by both Femu a Corsica and Corsica Libera and led by Gilles Siméoni, won the territorial elections with a percentage of 36.9%.
On 17 December 2015, Jean Guy Talamoni was elected President of the Assembly of Corsica and Gilles Simeoni was elected Executive President of the Council of the Region. In addition, legislation granting Corsica a greater degree of autonomy was passed.
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