French Corsica, “the island of beauty” shaken by nationalist unrest

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The French island of Corsica is in turmoil following the attack in prison of a nationalist militant considered by some as a hero and others as a cold-blooded murderer. Here are five things to know about France’s “island of beauty,” famed for its gorgeous beaches, where Napoleon Bonaparte was born and where British Admiral Lord Nelson lost an eye.

Sea and mountain

The fourth largest island in the Mediterranean after Sicily, Sardinia and Cyprus is a tourist magnet, with some 200 beaches.

Also a hiker’s paradise, it has 120 mountain peaks over 2,000 meters (6,600 feet), with Monte Cinto being the highest at 2,706 meters.

French, British, French again

After being conquered by the Romans and then falling under Byzantine rule, Corsica was ruled by the Genoese of Italy before becoming French in 1768, just in time for the birth of the future Emperor Napoleon on the island a year later. .

But for two years after the French Revolution, the island was an autonomous part of the British Empire.

Caught in the struggle between Paris and Corsican nationalists was British Admiral Lord Nelson, who lost his sight in his right eye during the Battle of Corsica in 1794.

Governor assassinated

The separatist National Liberation Front of Corsica (FLNC) launched a bombing campaign in the mid-1970s targeting state infrastructure and senior French officials.

Violence by various underground groups continued into the 1980s and 1990s, culminating in the assassination of Claude Erignac, the island’s top central government official, on February 6, 1998.

In 2014, the FLNC canceled its armed campaign.

ruling nationalists

Since 1991, the island of 340,000 inhabitants has enjoyed greater autonomy than other French regions, particularly in terms of education, the environment and transport.

The nationalist coalition that came to power on the island in 2015 has called for more autonomy.

Paris, however, rejected many of his demands, including that the Corsican language be recognized as an official language alongside French and that “political prisoners” like Yvan Colonna, who was convicted of Erignac’s death, be amnesty.

Rich diet

It may be one of the poorest regions of France with little heavy industry, but Corsicans enjoy a rich diet including wild boar and deliciously creamy goat’s milk cheese, pasta and olives. . The main sources of income, apart from tourism, are the production of wine, livestock, citrus fruits and peaches.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP)

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