In modern France, Savoy is part of the Rhône-Alpes region. Following its annexation to France in 1860, the territory of Savoy was divided administratively into two separate départements, Savoie and Haute-Savoie. The modern separatist / regionalist movements are discussed in the "Annexation and Opposition" section in this article.
The region was once part of the Roman Empire. The name Savoy stems from the Late Latin Sapaudia, referring to a fir forest. It is first recorded in Ammianus Marcellinus (354), to describe the southern part of Maxima Sequanorum According to the Gallic Chronicle of 452, it was separated from the rest of Burgundian territories in 443, after the Burgundian defeat by Aetius.
Later it became part of the Kingdom of the Franks. The first embodiment of Savoy in the modern sense was created out of a fragment of Middle Francia, the central of the three kingdoms into which the Frankish Empire was divided by the Treaty of Verdun (843). Savoy was part of Lotharingia, then part of the Kingdom of Burgundy (also known as the Kingdom of Arles. The County of Savoy was detached from the Kingdom of Arles by emperor Charles IV in 1361. In 1388, the County of Nice was acquired, and in 1401 the County of Genevois (the area of Geneva except for the city proper). On February 19, 1416, Sigismund, Holy Roman Emperor, made the County of Savoy an independent duchy, with Amédée VIII as the first duke. In 1563 Emmanuel Philibert moved capital from Chambéry to Turin, which was less vulnerable to French interference. In 1714, as a consequence of the War of the Spanish Succession, Savoy was technically subsumed into the Kingdom of Sicily, then (after that island was traded to Austria for Sardinia) the Kingdom of Sardinia from 1720.
Savoy was annexed by France on March 24, 1860 according to the provisions of the Treaty of Turin. The treaty was followed on April 22/23 by a plebiscite in which voters were offered the option of approving the treaty and joining France or rejecting the treaty under certain conditions; the disallowed options of either joining Switzerland (with which the region had close ties), remaining with Italy, or regaining its independence, were the source of some opposition. With a 99.8% vote in favour of joining France, there were allegations of vote-rigging.
Some opposition to French rule was manifest when, in 1919, France officially (but contrary to the annexation treaty) ended the military neutrality of the parts of the country of Savoy that had originally been agreed at the Congress of Vienna, and also eliminated the free trade zone - both treaty articles having been broken unofficially in World War I. France was condemned in 1932 by the international court for the non compliance with the measures of the treaty of Turin, on the countries of Savoy and Nice.
For reasons such as these, there is currently a peaceful separatist movement in the départements, as well as a faction in favour of greater regional powers.
The Mouvement Région Savoie (Savoy Regional Movement) was founded in December 1971 as a 'movement' (rather than a traditional political party) in favour of regional autonomy. In the 1996 local elections the Savoie Regional Movement received 19,434 votes.
In the March 1998 regional elections, 1 seat (out of 23) was won by Patrice Abeille, leader of the Ligue Savoisienne (Savoie League, founded 1994), which had set up a 'provisional Savoie government' two years earlier. This group base its actions on the decline of the treaty of annexation. The League gathered a total of 17,865 votes across the two départements. In the same elections a further 4,849 voted in favour of the Savoie Movement.
As a result of the regional debate sparked by the political advances, the non-party organisation, La Région Savoie, j’y crois ! (I believe in the Savoy Region!), was founded in 1998. The organisation campaigns for the replacement of the Savoie and Haute-Savoie départements with a regional government, separate from the Rhône-Alpes region, with greater devolved powers. According to surveys conducted in 2000, between 41% and 55% of the population are in favour of the proposal. 19% to 23% were in favour of separation from France.
In 2004, Waiting for freedom in Savoy was founded to promote the peaceful separatist cause to young people.
Towards the end of 2005, Hervé Gaymard called for Savoie to be given special status similar to a French region, under his proposed 'Conseil des Pays de Savoie'.