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Welsh outlook

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Vol. 10, No. 9 Sept. 1923

The league of young Bretons

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The League of Young Bretons.
By Yan Bricler.
THE League of Young Bretons (Unvaniez
Yaouankiz Vreiz) is the most modern expres-
sion of the renascence of Brittany. Since it
is the logical result of the revival movement
which began about 1800 it is necessary, in order
thoroughly to understand the part it plays, to
know something of the history of Brittany.
A recent article by M. Mocaer gave, in these
pages, an outline of the history of the Bretons
since they were separated from the Welsh, and
that sketch is enough to explain the Breton
movement of to-day. It shows in chronological
order how our national rebirth has come about.
First of all there was the desire to study, the
making of Breton grammars and dictionaries,
the collection of folklore. Then came the spirit-
ual movement: a few people, feeling that all
that goes to make Brittany is beautiful, wished
to preserve her charm, and felt that it was to
her interest that this should be done. They
united therefore to preserve the language, the
traditions, and the interests generally of
Brittany. They held meetings and much was
written on the subject, including some beautiful
poetry.
After the war (1914-18) a new society was
formed, its object being to unite the youth of
Brittany. In the trenches young Bretons felt
very. strongly that they were different from the
French. When they got home they knew
things about Brittany which no one had ever
taught them. Others, younger still, fired also
by pride in their land, joined them. They
studied and they published month by month, in
their organ "Breiz Atao" (Brittany for Ever), the
result of their reflections.
As a result of their study the young Bretons
have realised that the ideas of their predecessors
were too vague and incoherent; they have dis-
covered what are the rights of their country and
what is her situation to-day, and finally they have
laid down a line of action likely to end in the
revival of Brittany, and from that has developed
the programme which their society has adopted.
In order to understand on what this programme
is based, it is essential to study the actual situ-
ation of Brittany. Since the beginning of the
sixteenth century Brittany had lost her independ-
ence. Since the end of the eighteenth century
she had lost all liberty, and she submitted to the
laws of the French Republic and also to the
decadent influence of the French people.
The French Government shows its attitude
towards Brittany in several ways :­
(I). It desires Brittany, as a separate entity,
to disappear. To achieve this, it uses every
means in its power: the schools, the army, the
navy are its most powerful instruments. The
State School is not the only means of education
in France, but the private schools imitate it in
their curriculum in order that they may have the
same success in civil service examinations. This,
then, is the fate awaiting the child who goes to
school to learn to read in neighbourhoods where
Breton is the usual language. The teacher tells
him, in French, to read from a book which is
written in French. Since the child cannot under-
stand, his education is begun by gestures, as
though he was deaf. He reads words which
have no sense for him and sentences which call
up nothing in his mind. In short, he is made to
do that insensate thing, to learn to read in a
tongue which he does not know. Luckily some
teachers make use of, Breton-when the inspector
is not there On the other hand there are
schools where the equivalent of the "Welsh
Note" is still used.
The results of this method of education are
deplorable; the Breton people know neither
Breton nor French. They cannot improve their
minds by any reading; they cannot increase their
vocabulary; they are placed in a position of in-
feriority in comparison with other nations.
In the barracks, and in the navy of the Republic,
Bretons are made fun of, and sometimes repri-
manded, for speaking Breton. Those whom the
schools have not already made ashamed of their
mother-tongue, often lose there what was left of
their national pride.
In order the more easily to assimilate Brittany
to France, the Government conceals from her her
history. It is almost impossible to find in the
school books a word on the history of Brittany,
and the little there is consists usually of false-
hoods and unwarranted interpretations of facts.
(II). The French Government shows by its
anti-Breton attitude, that it is aware of the exist-
ence of Brittany. which existence, however, it
does not admit officially. It treats Brittany as
though it were inhabited by Frenchmen, as the
following examples show
Administration. In France the State interferes
in the affairs of private individuals far more fre-
quently than does the British Government. As
the Breton language is not recognised, endless
annoyances result for Bretons who do not speak
French, or speak it only indifferently. Moreover,
officials are ceaselessly changed from one depart-
ment to another; those of Breton origin are rarely
placed in their own country and Bretons have to
deal with strangers who know nothing of their
land Finally, the country was divided into
departments, in 1789, by men who knew nothing
at all of the natural divisions of Brittany, from
whence comes real annoyance for the population
Justice. First of all, the French civil code
has grave faults which are keenly felt in Brittany.
Then, by reason of the non-recognition of Breton,
the situation of litigants is very painful, cases are
prolonged, etc. How can the evidence of a wit-
ness be clear and precise in a tongue which he
knows only slightly ? When the witness does not
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