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Electron-beam lithography and wet etching techniques are used to laterally pattern ZnSe/(Zn,Cd,Mn)Se single quantum wells into magnetically active quantum wires with widths ranging from 20 to 80 nm. Photoluminescence spectroscopy as a function of wire width reveals a competition between elastic strain relaxation and quantum confinement. Magnetophotoluminescence measurements at low temperatures indicate a strong exciton spin polarization due to the sp–d exchange-enhanced spin splitting, ranging from 20% to 60% at 4 T. © 2000 American Institute of Physics.