Wallonia

Redirected from Walloon region
Walloon Region
Région wallonne ()
Waals Gewest ()
Wallonische Region
—  Region of Belgium  —


Anthem: "Le Chant des Wallons"
Coordinates: [http://toolserver.org/~geohack/geohack.php?pagename=Wallonia&params=type:city(3456775)_region:_N_0_E_type:other
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Country Belgium
Capital Namur
Government
 - Minister-President Rudy Demotte
Area
 - Total  dunams (16844 km2 / 
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 sq mi)
Population (January 1, 2008)
 - Total 3456775
 Density
 - Urban density
 - Rural density
 - Metro density
 -  Density
 -  Density
Demographics
 - Languages French, German
ISO 3166 code BE-WAL
Celebration Day 3rd Sunday of September
Website www.wallonie.be

Wallonia (French: Wallonie, German: Wallonie(n), Dutch: Wallonië , Walloon: Waloneye) is the predominantly French-speaking southern region of Belgium. It makes up 55% of the territory of Belgium and includes about 33% of its population. Walloon Region is the name given to the regional government of Wallonia. Most of Wallonia, along with Brussels, is also governed by the French Community of Belgium, for matters mainly related to culture and education. The small German-speaking minority in the east forms the German-speaking Community of Belgium, which has its own government and parliament for culture-related issues. The demonym for Wallonia is Walloon.

During the industrial revolution, Wallonia trailed only the United Kingdom in industrialization, capitalizing on its extensive deposits of coal and iron. This brought the region wealth, and, from the beginning of the 19th to the middle of the 20th centuries, Wallonia was the more prosperous half of Belgium. Since World War II, however, the importance of heavy industry has greatly declined, and the Flemish Region surpassed Wallonia in wealth as Wallonia economically declined. Wallonia now suffers from high unemployment and has a significantly lower GDP per capita than Flanders. The economic inequalities and linguistic divide between the two are major sources of political conflict in Belgium.

The capital of Wallonia is Namur, and its largest metropolitan area is Liège, while its most populous municipality proper is Charleroi. Most of Wallonia's major cities and two-thirds of its population lie along the Sambre and Meuse valley, the former industrial backbone of Belgium. To the north lies the Central Belgian Plateau, which, like Flanders, is relatively flat and agriculturally fertile. In the southeast lie the Ardennes; the area is sparsely populated and mountainous. Wallonia borders Flanders and the Netherlands in the north, France to the south and west, and Germany and Luxembourg to the east.

Terminology

The term Wallonia can mean slightly different things in different contexts. One of the three federal regions of Belgium is still constitutionally defined as the Walloon Region, but the region's government has renamed it Wallonia, and it is commonly called Wallonia.[1][2] Preceding April 1, 2010, when the renaming came into effect, Wallonia would sometimes refer to the territory governed by the Walloon Region, whereas Walloon Region referred specifically to the government. In practice, the difference between the different meanings is small, and what is meant is usually clear based on context.

The root of the word Wallonia, like the words Wales, Cornwall and Wallachia,[3] is the Germanic word Walha, meaning the strangers. Wallonia is named after the Walloons, the population of the Burgundian Netherlands speaking Romance languages. In Middle Dutch (and French), the term Walloons also included the French-speaking population of the Prince-Bishopric of Liège [4] or the whole population of the Romanic sprachraum within the medieval Low Countries.

History

Julius Caesar conquered Gaul in 57 BC. The Low Countries became part of the larger Gallia Belgica province which originally stretched from Switzerland to Holland. The population of this territory was Celtic with a Germanic influence which was stronger in the north than in the south of the province. Gallia Belgica became progressively romanized. The ancestors of the Walloons became Gallo-Romans and were called the "Walha" by their Germanic neighbours. The "Walha" abandoned their Celtic dialects and started to speak Vulgar Latin.[5]

The Merovingians gradually gained control of the region during the 5th century, under Clovis. Due to the fragmentation of the former Roman Empire, Vulgar Latin regionally developed along different lines and evolved into several langue d'oïl dialects, which in Wallonia became Picard, Walloon and Lorrain.[5] The oldest surviving text written in a langue d'oïl, the Sequence of Saint Eulalia, has characteristics of these three languages and was likely written in or very near to what is now Wallonia around 880 AD.[6] From the 4th to the 7th century, the Franks established several settlements, probably mostly in the north of the province where the romanization was less advanced and some Germanic trace was still present. The language border began to crystallize between 700 under the reign of the Merovingians and Carolingians and around 1000 after the Ottonian Renaissance.[7] French-speaking cities, with Liège as the largest one, appeared along the Meuse river and Gallo-Roman cities such as Tongeren, Maastricht and Aachen became Germanized.

The Carolingian dynasty dethroned the Merovingians in the 8th century. In 843, the Treaty of Verdun gave the territory of present-day Wallonia to Middle Francia, which would shortly fragment, with the region passing to Lotharingia. On Lotharingia's breakup in 959, the present-day territory of Belgium became part of Lower Lotharingia, which then fragmented into rival principalities and duchies by 1190. Literary Latin, which was taught in schools, lost its hegemony during the 13th century and was replaced by old French.[5]

In the 15th century, the Dukes of Burgundy took over the Low Countries. The death of Charles the Bold in 1477 raised the issue of succession, and the Liégeois took advantage of this to regain some of their autonomy.[5] From the 16th to the 18th centuries, the Low Countries were governed successively by the Habsburg dynasty of Spain (from the early 16th century until 1713-14) and later by Austria (until 1794). This territory was enlarged in 1521-22 when Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor gained the Tournai region from France.[5]

Present-day Belgium was conquered in 1795 by the French Republic during the French Revolutionary Wars. It was annexed to the Republic, which later became the Napoleonic Empire. After the Battle of Waterloo, Wallonia became part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands under King William of Orange.[5] The Walloons played an active part in the Belgian Revolution in 1830. The Provisional Government of Belgium proclaimed Belgium's independence and held elections for the National Congress.[5]

Industrial revolution

In the 19th century, the area began to industrialize, and Wallonia was the first fully industrialized area in continental Europe.[8] This brought the region great economic prosperity, which was not mirrored in poorer Flanders and the result was a large amount of Flemish immigration to Wallonia. Belgium was divided into two divergent communities. On the one hand, the very catholic Flemish society was characterized by an economy centered on agriculture, and, on the other hand, Wallonia was the center of the continental European industrial revolution where liberal and socialist movements were rapidly emerging.[9] Major strikes and general strikes took place in Wallonia, including the Walloon jacquerie of 1886, the Belgian general strike of 1893, 1886, 1893, 1902, 1913 (for universal suffrage), 1932 (depicted in Misère au Borinage), and 1936, the general strike against Leopold III of Belgium (1950), and the 1960-1961 Winter General Strike for autonomy for Wallonia.

The profitability of the heavy industries to which Wallonia owed its prosperity started declining in the first half of the 20th century, and the center of industrial activity shifted north to Flanders. Wallonia would be surpassed in economic development by Flanders only in the 1960s, when industrial production in the northern part of Belgium would catch up with Wallonia. The loss of prosperity caused social unrest, and Wallonia sought greater autonomy in order to address its economic problems. In the wake of the 1960-1961 Winter General Strike, the State reform in Belgium process got under way. This reform started partly with the linguistic laws of 1962-63, which defined the four language areas within the constitution. But the strikes of 1960 which took place in Wallonia more than in Flanders are not principally linked with the four language areas nor with the Communities but with the Regions. In 1968, the conflict between the communities bursted out. The French speakers were driven out of the Catholic University of Leuven amid shouts of "Walen buiten!" ("Walloons out!").[9] This led to State reform in Belgium, which resulted in the creation of the Walloon Region and the French Community, which have considerable autonomy.