Francisco Franco Bahamonde was a Spanish general and the dictator of Spain from 1939 until his death in 1975. Coming from a military background, he became the youngest general in Europe in the 1920s.
A strong conservative, he was shocked when the monarchy was removed and replaced with a republic in 1931. With the 1936 elections, the conservatives fell and the leftist Popular Front came to power. Looking to overthrow the republic, Franco and other generals staged a partially successful coup, which started the Spanish Civil War. With the death of the other generals, Franco quickly became his faction's only leader.
Franco's Nationalist faction received military support from local fascist, monarchist and right-wing groups, and also from Hitler's Nazi Germany and Mussolini's Fascist Italy, while the Republican faction was supported by local communists, anarchists, and nationalists (Basques, Galicians), and it also received help from Stalin's USSR and International Brigades. Leaving half a million dead, the war was eventually won by Franco in 1939. He established an autocratic dictatorship, Francoist Spain, which he defined as a totalitarian state, installing himself as head of state (Caudillo de España, a term seen as the equivalent of the fascist terms duce in Italy and Führer in German) and government, with one legal political party: a merger of the monarchist party and the fascist party which had helped him, FET y de las JONS.
Franco established a repression which was characterized by concentration camps, forced labor and executions, mostly against political and ideological enemies, being estimated to have caused from about 200,000 to 400,000 deaths, depending on how death in the more than 190 concentration camps is considered. Franco's Spain maintained an official policy of neutrality during World War II, with the exception of the Blue Division. By the 1950s, the nature of his regime changed from an extreme form of dictatorship to a semi-pluralist authoritarian system. During the Cold War, Franco appeared as one of the World’s foremost anticommunist figures and his regime was assisted by the United States and was asked to join the United Nations and became under NATO's protection. By the 1960s, Spain saw progressive economical development and timid democratic improvements.
After a 36-year rule, Franco died in 1975. He restored the monarchy before his death, which made King Juan Carlos I his successor. Juan Carlos led the transition to democracy, which effectively created Spain's current political system.