The anniversary of the execution of former late Catalan president Lluis Companys in 1940 is still marked by some Catalans who back independence

If and when Catalonia does break from Spain, it won't be the region's first experiment with independence.

Spain has threatened to suspend Catalonia's autonomy if its leader follows through a declaration of independence that is suspended pending talks with Madrid.

If and when Catalonia -- a 7.5-million-strong economic powerhouse with its own language and distinct culture -- does break from Spain, it won't be the region's first experiment with independence.

More than 80 years ago, the president of Catalonia's autonomous government Lluis Companys declared an ill-fated "Catalan state within the framework of a Spanish federal republic" -- which at the time did not exist.

But just 10 hours later and after dozens of deaths he surrendered to authorities.

When he made his proclamation on October 6, 1934, left-wing parties had launched a "revolutionary general strike" to protest the entry into the regional government of three ministers belonging to a coalition of right-wing parties.

A Catalan state

"Catalans!" Companys cried out from the balcony of the Generalitat, the headquarters of the Catalan regional government in Barcelona.

"In this solemn hour, in the name of the people and of the parliament, the government I preside over assumes all powers in Catalonia, and proclaims a Catalan state," he added.

"And to establish and reinforce ties with the leaders of the general protest against fascism, it invites them to establish in Catalonia the provisional government of the Republic."

Companys apparently did not consult with the leaders of the general strike.

The response from Spain's central government was swift. The military commander of Catalonia, General Domingo Batet, refused to put himself under the orders of the Catalan government.

After consulting the head of Spain's central government, Batet declared a state of war.

Army crackdown

The army cracked down after an infantryman was shot by a pro-independence militiaman. The clashes during the night left between 46 and 80 people dead, according to historians.

Companys announced his surrender to Batet at 6:00 am on October 7, just 10 hours after he proclaimed a Catalan state.

He was arrested along with the other members of his government and several lawmakers.

A law passed on December 14 indefinitely suspended Catalonia's autonomy.

Companys fled to France after Spain's 1936-39 Civil War.

He was arrested in 1940 by German forces and turned over to the dictatorship of Spanish General Francisco Franco.

Companys was executed by firing squad on October 15, becoming a hero for Catalan separatists.