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Asturias

Asturias (ästōˈryäs) [key], autonomous region (1990 pop. 1,128,372) and former kingdom, NW Spain, S of the Bay of Biscay and E of Galicia, and coextensive with Oviedo prov. It was established as an autonomous region in 1981. Drained by numerous swift rivers, it is crossed by the well-forested Cantabrian Mts. High rainfall and cool temperatures have favored a large dairy industry. Along the coast, apple orchards are the source of a world-famous cider, and corn is a major crop. Gijón is the chief port, and fishing is a major occupation. Most of the population, however, is engaged in coal and iron mining and steel manufacturing.

The name Asturias is derived from an Iberian people that lived there before the Roman conquest (2d cent. B.C.). When the Moors overran the peninsula, Christian nobles fled into the Asturian mountains. They created the first Christian kingdom of Spain (see Pelayo) and defended themselves at the battle of Covadonga. From Asturias came the Christian reconquest of Spain, as the successors of King Alfonso I extended their control over Asturias, Galicia, León, and parts of Castile, Navarre, and Vizcaya. Astorga was one of the chief cities of the Asturian kingdom in the 9th cent.

In the 10th cent. the capital was moved from Oviedo to León, and the kingdom of Asturias became the kingdom of Asturias and León, which three centuries later was united with the kingdom of Castile. In 1388, John I of León and Castile made his son prince of the Asturias—the title borne from that time on by the heir to the throne. The Asturians are noted for their stubborn courage and independence—traits shown in the warfare against Napoleon, in various uprisings against the Spanish government, in the civil war of 1936–39, and in the general strike of 1962.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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