Corsica, a turbulent story of a quest for freedom

Rebel land, camped in the middle of the Mediterranean, Corsica, despite its small population, often makes its voice heard on the international scene. The national liberation movements are the legacy of Pasquale Paoli, one of the heroes of the Corsican nation.

The flag of Corsica is made up of the head of a Moor on a white background. When the Italian geographer Mainaldi Galerati mapped the land of Philip II, King of Spain, in the 16th century, this symbol was used for the first time and adopted by the Republic of Corsica in 1762. The white recalls the colour of the Virgin Mary, under the protection of independent Corsica, which was implemented in 1735. The current flag represents these two elements.

The origin of the population of the island remains uncertain, however, the most convincing theory is probably the arrival of fishermen from what is now Tuscany. This first settlement on the island dates from 9000 BC. Throughout its history the Corsican people have forged a strong spirit. The will to live free and at peace is constant, but the scourge of the history of neighbouring powers has always managed to break the peace, for instance the period of independence in the 18th century when the Corsicans defeated the Genoese.

Nostalgic for the good times, the Corsican nationalist movement began in the 1960s as a regionalist movement and radicalised thereafter. The National Liberation Front of Corsica (FLNC) (1976) marks the division between the separatists and the autonomists.

These conflicts led to the creation of a special status for Corsica in 1991. The teaching of Corsican is now promoted, but the notion of “Corsican people”, which would be indicated by this, was rejected by the French Constitutional Council, refusing to acknowledge that there may be other people on “her” territory.

Today, the political situation in Corsica is still tense. Thus, linguistic and separatist claims are still valid.

Identity card

Name Corsica | Corsican
Corse | French
Population 334,938 inhab. (2017)
Area 8,680 km²
Languages Corsu | Corsican (without official status)
Français (official)
Number of native speakers 122 000 | Corsican (2012)
State of guardianship France
Official status Local authority in France
Capital Corti | Corsican
Historic religion Roman Catholic
Flag A Testa Mora / Bandera Corsa | Corsican
(The Head of the Moor / Flag of Corsica)
Anthem Diu vi salvi regina | Corsican
(God Bless the Queen) ne)
Motto None


  • 1347 • Sambucucciu d’Alandu establishes the “Terra di u cumunu” whose main idea is equality and the distribution of wealth.
  • 1553–64 • Sampieru Corsu tries to liberate Corsica from the Genoese.
  • 1735 • Corsica is independent. Don Luiggi Giafferi and Ghjacintu Paoli are among the leaders of the nation.
  • 1755 • Corsican constitution drafted by Pasquale Paoli.
  • 1769 • Battle of Ponte Novu, French militarily takes over Corsica.
  • 1943 • Corsica is freed from fascists, a year before France.
  • 1970 • Revival, cultural and political renewal. Political renewal comes from the CRA brothers Simeoni.
  • 1976 • Creation of the FLNC (National Liberation Front of Corsica).

Brief history

In 1755, Pasquale Paoli, one of the principal Corsican leaders against the power of Genoa, was proclaimed general of the nation. It was then that the first European democracy was born. The Corsican constitution made it a point of honour to be exemplary. It established the separation of powers and granted the right to vote to all citizens, including women. The government headquarters were in Corte, now considered the historical capital of Corsica. This period of independence was challenged by France, allied with the Republic of Genoa. A treaty was signed between the two states. The Corsicans, having been alerted to this, were definitively defeated by French troops in 1769, despite some previous victories.


Corsica is a Mediterranean island stretching 183 km in length and 83.5 km wide. It is situated 340 km from Barcelona, 100 km from Nice, 55 km from Livorno and 8 km from Sardinia. Corsica has more than 1,000 km of coastline. It is a mountainous island, whose summit, the Monte Cintu, reaches 2,710 m. From these mountains flow the rivers that irrigate every valley, the two largest being u Golu (84 km long) and u Tavignanu (80 km long). The island has many lakes like u Ninu, u Melu and u Crenu. Coastal cities are among the most populated, Bastia and Calvi in the north, Ajaccio (Aiacciu) and Bonifaccio (Bunifaziu) in the south. Nestled in the heart of the mountains, Corte is the historic capital of Corsica. Corsican landscapes are very diverse and can go from snowy mountains to sandy beaches surrounded by clear sea in less than a two-hour drive. Corsica is traditionally made up of ‘pieves’, which are the parishes of origin. These are often grouped by historical regions, but may vary.



The Corsican language is a Roman language of the Italo-Roman group. The diverse influences, Latin, Germanic, Arabic, Tuscan, have shaped a unique language, particular to the island of Corsica. The Corsican language is called “polynomic” because it contains specific features in areas of the island, which does not detract from its uniqueness. It was never official; even during independence, the language of the people was Corsican but the official language was Tuscan. More than 30,000 students learn Corsican which is very encouraging in regards to the total population of the island. It is estimated that 60% of the population speaks it. The law establishing the status of the territorial collectivity of Corsica (1991) endows the Corsican Assembly with broad powers including education. But these powers remain limited in view of French centralism. Even if Corsican is the first language of the country, it is now seriously threatened due to its vague status and its optional nature in education, not surviving through learning from an early age.

Politics now

Today Corsica enjoys a special status granted after years of struggle. Since 1982 the Corsican Assembly holds executive power and may propose legislation to the French government. In practice, no law or admendment has not been accepted. Tensions between central power and the Corsicans often make headlines. Since the failed 2003 referendum, there has been no dialogue between the nationalists and the French state. Despite calls for national political dialogue the situation seems to be at an impasse. The nationalist movement represents about 35% of voters in Corsica. Recently, the Corsican parties have been restructured. In the last elections (2010), the autonomists (FEMU in Corsica) and separatists (Free Corsica) represented 35.75% of the vote, or 25.89 % and 9.85 % respectively.

Principal Corsican parties

  • Corsica Libera / Free Corsica (Far-left Separatist)
  • Femu a Corsica / Let’s do Corsica (Autonomist)
  • Rinnovu / Renewal (Left-wing Separatist)
  • A Manca / The Left (Far-left Separatist)
  • I Verdi Corsi / The Corsican Greens (Ecologist Autonomist)