National Geographic : 2003 Apr
Corsican politics was dominated by clans. While they generally avoid violence against civilians and tourists, the clandestins some times murder an official, as they did in 1998, when assailants gunned down the island's pre fect (the highest-ranking French official in Corsica) as he walked to an opera perfor mance. The triggerman has never been caught. For all its uproar, Corsica's independence movement is a quixotic undertaking; its aboveground political arm, called Corsica Nazione, won only 17 percent of the most recent vote for the Assembl6e de Corse, or Corsican legislature. Yet the Corsican urge for independence has significance beyond the shores of France's smallest political region, with only 261,000 residents. Corsican politics resonate so loudly because for two decades a decentralization movement has bubbled throughout France, and its leading edge some would say its bleeding edge-is what happens on this island. Since the French Revolution of 1789, a centrally governed France has hewed to the notion of a single national identity: Every Breton, Basque, Alsatian, Savoyard, and Corsi can is a Frenchman, and that's that. Claiming the right to use a separate language or have special rules and increased local control con tradicts France's traditional definition of itself as "une et indivisible." Thus every inch of territory, every aspect of administrative life, is ruled from Paris-right down to the police, Tradition endures in Calenzana in Corsica's interior,where shep herd Jean Christophe Savelli, at center,helps haul off a billy goat to keep itfrom romancing a pregnantfemale. Un til recently, sheep and goat herdersformed the heartof Corsica'secon omy, and life ambled by in the slow lane. It still does in Aregno (below), population570.