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Assessment for Corsicans in France

Publisher Minorities at Risk Project
Publication Date 31 December 2003
Cite as Minorities at Risk Project, Assessment for Corsicans in France, 31 December 2003, available at: [accessed 1 December 2015]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.
France Facts
Area:    543,965 sq. km.
Capital:    Paris
Total Population:    58,805,000 (source: U.S. Census Bureau, 1998, est.)

Risk Assessment | Analytic Summary | References

Risk Assessment

The Corsicans' behavior diverges from many other minority groups in that their persistent rebellion is not mirrored by many factors known to cause such rebellion, such as: 1) high levels of group organization and cohesion, 2) regime instability, 3) and government repression. In contrast, factors that are thought to inhibit rebellion have not worked in Corsica, such as: 1) residing in a democratic regime, 2) efforts at negotiation and reform, 3) lack of serious regional armed conflicts.

The chances for containing these sporadic acts of terrorism are largely determined by how well recent reforms were accepted by conventional parties, and their ability to control the militant aspects of Corsican society. The greater threat to peace, however, seems to lie with the Corsicans themselves. Though the majority of Corsican nationalist violence does not take lives, there is a very strong criminal element intertwined with the nationalist movement, making any type of self-government seem unlikely. If the sporadic allegations that Corsican bombings are financially and criminally - rather than politically - motivated prove true, the quest for separatism may be cast in an entirely different light. In the meantime, however, the bombings seem likely to continue. Moreover, the resignation of the Minister of Interior, the rejection of formal autonomy proposals from the government to Corsicans, and political turmoil over the island do not show signs that the conflict will appease.

Analytic Summary

After four centuries of rule by Genoa, 14 years of self-rule, and eventual annexation by France in 1769, Corsican nationalism is well rooted in the Mediterranean island's native inhabitants (AUTON = 2). They are unique from mainland France in their culture (CUSTOM = 1) and language (LANG = 2), Corsican, a mixture of French and Italian. However, the Corsican proportion of the island's population has dwindled over the last half-century due to the immigration of mainland French, Italians, and North African Muslims, and emigration of young native Corsicans seeking greater economic opportunities (MIGRANT = 3). They remain a highly cohesive group however (COHESX9 = 5). They are represented by numerous conventional and militant organizations, the largest being the Front de la Liberation Nationale de la Corse (FLNC). The majority of Corsicans maintain that they wish to remain with France, but most support the achievement of greater autonomy through democratic methods. The militant organizations that call for full independence are numerous, unorganized, and contain non-political criminal elements; random bombings and sporadic acts of terrorism are their modus operandi (SEPX = 3).

The Corsicans experience little demographic stress, but they are relatively poor because of historical marginality (ECDIS03 = 1). The island suffers economically due to its isolation and seasonal dependence on tourism; to offset this, Corsica is highly subsidized by public funds from the national government, but there have been calls that due to their economic situation this funding needs to be increased. They are not politically discriminated against on the national-level, but the greatest concern for Corsicans is focused on regional political and cultural grievances (POLDIS03 = 0). In 1982, Corsica became a self-administering territory, and in 1991 it gained an executive council; yet despite these concessions, the bombing campaigns have continued.

Terrorism by the FLNC began in the late 1970s (REB75X = 2), reached a high in 1996-97 (REB96-97 = 4), but has remained fairly consistent over the last 25 years (REB01-03 = 2), usually in the form of bombings of French government buildings (such as the Post Offices) or businesses (banks, hotels, etc.). These bombings, while persistent, very rarely cause serious damage or deaths. Protest has remained low in comparison to the levels of rebellion (PROT01-03 = 2). This likely indicates that the majority of Corsicans do not support the terrorist campaigns of the FLNC, and many smaller organizations such as the Fronte Ribellu, Clandestinu, and the Armata Corsa.

In May 2001, the French national government controversially voted to increase the power of the Corsican legislature, and to increase protection for the Corsican language and culture on the island by 2004. These were major demands by the Corsican public, particularly those who do not favor full independence. One grievance which is difficult for any level of government to address is the Corsicans belief that most of the tourist facilities on the island are owned by non-Corsicans, therefore the Corsican people are denied the larger profits from their land, instead they are forced to work at the resorts and receive less money.


Jaffe, Alexandra "Corsica on Strike: The Power and Limits of Ethnicity" Ethnic Groups, 8, 1990. pp. 91-111.

Meister, Ulrich "Corsica: Colonial Complexes and Ambivalent Nationalism" Swiss Review of World Affairs, 39 (8), November 1989. pp. 22-5.

Lexis-Nexis news reports 1990-2003.

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