Saturday, February 10, 2018

The Day of Remembrance: The Foibe Massacres and the Julian-Dalmatian Exodus

Map of some of the main locations of the Foibe Massacres.
There are more than 40 known locations where masses
of bodies were dumped, many of them while still alive.

Since 2004, following the passing of a special law, Italy annually celebrates February 10 as the Day of Remembrance, dedicated to the memory of all the victims of one of the most tragic and serious forms of persecution experienced by our nation in the last century, namely the tragedy of the Foibe Massacres and the Exodus of the Istrians, Fiumans and Dalmatians from their ancestral lands.

It was a tragedy that primarily took place at the end of of the Second World War, when the winds of peace were blowing over Europe. In fact, the most tragic phase of the Foibe took place in Trieste, while the rest of Italy was celebrating the end of the war.


The 40 Days of Titoist Terror in Trieste and Julian Venetia

On May 1, 1945, Tito's troops reached Trieste, while the New Zealanders (British Army) arrived in Julian capital the following day.

Trieste was the only European city to be supposedly "liberated" by two different armies. Yet this did not prevent many Italians from being arrested by Tito's soldiers and by the Yugoslav secret police, nor did it prevent many Italians from being tragically sent to concentration camps in Slovenia, and murdered in Basovizza and Opicina, just outside Trieste.

And Fascists were not the only ones who were killed in the Foibe Massacres. Among them there were also a number of anti-Fascists (who had been fighting against the Germans and Fascists until just a few days earlier) and even Italian Communists who were opposed to Yugoslav imperialist designs. Indeed in some cases, such as in Pola, Yugoslavs even heavily targeted the Italian working classes of the shipyards.

Tito's primary goal was not really to eliminate Fascism, but to eliminate the Italians of Trieste and Julian Venetia in order to more easily Slavicize the territory and annex it to the new Yugoslavia.

In the end, after forty days of occupation (May 1 - June 12, 1945), the victims of the terrible violence that struck this part of Julian Venetia totaled about 5,000 to 7,500. And this figure only counts those killed in the city of Trieste and the surrounding areas; this number does not include the rest of Julian Venetia, nor Istria (where most of the deaths took place), nor Dalmatia. Not to mention the deportations to Yugoslav concentration camps. In this forty day period about 8,000 people were deported from Trieste alone, and only some of them returned home.

After President Truman ordered Tito to evacuate Julian Venetia and Trieste, many Triestines and Julians were saved from the nightmare of being thrown dead or alive into a foiba, or of being deported to the concentration camps run by the new Yugoslav regime.


The Julian-Dalmatian Exodus

But the drama in these border lands did not end there because immediately afterwards there was a massive Exodus from these lands when the Paris Peace Treaties of February 10, 1947 delivered these lands to the Yugoslavs.

About 350,000 Julians and Dalmatians were forced to become refugees in a time span that ranged from 1943 (the Exodus of Zara) to 1956.

In Italy they were greeted with suspicion and prejudice. Many Italians at that time did not know whether to consider them Fascists or not. The leftist press claimed they were all quasi-Fascists and nationalists. The Christian Democrat, Communist and Socialist government forgot them and left them in dirty and decaying refugee camps.

In fact, they were a great community who paid dearly (with the loss of their property and their very identity) for a war that was wanted by western plutocrats and by Yugoslav bolsheviks for their imperialist objectives.

The most dramatic moment of the exodus was the one that happened in Pola in the winter of 1946-47, when an entire population (28,000 out of 32,000 inhabitants) left within a few months, forever leaving behind them that Istrian city which was made Slavic by the peace treaty.

Less dramatic but no less fatal was the exodus from Fiume. In the period from 1946-1954, about 54.000 out of 60,000 Italian Fiumans left Fiume. The capital city of the Quarnaro was almost completely emptied of its historical population. They all became refugees in search of peace, protection and sanctuary.


The "Great Silence"

For a long time in Italy it was not politically opportune to speak about the Foibe Massacres: the Communist Party under the leadership of Togliatti was closely allied to Tito and even offered Trieste to the Yugoslavs, while the Christian Democrats led by De Gasperi tried to limit the exodus from the eastern territories and later abandoned the Julian communities and scattered them throughout Italy.

After the split between Tito and Stalin in 1948, Yugoslavia became a so-called "friend of the West", and no one wanted to bring attention to the responsibility of Tito's government for the Foibe Massacres and expulsion of Italians from Istria and Dalmatia. At the same time, Yugoslavia quietly dropped their attempts to extradite officials of the Italian Army who were falsely accused of committing war crimes during the war in the Balkans.

Therefore, until the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, speaking of the tragedy of our eastern border was a taboo subject. The cynicism of international politics, the anti-fascist hysteria and the power games between political groups in Italy all sought to erase the past. Only in Trieste was the controversial historical memory kept alive.

There was a time when it seemed like this subject would be forever relegated to obscurity. But in the last 15-20 years the subject of the Foibe Massacres and the Exodus has finally been brought to light, after so many decades of being suppressed by the old political class.

Monday, January 29, 2018

A Visit to Fiume

(Written by Joseph Galtier, taken from the magazine “The Living Age”, Vol. 301, May 24, 1919.)

... Trieste is still in the full joy of its reunion with Italy. The Italian tricolor floats from all the public monuments; the streets are filled with soldiers and officers. Public conveyance is rare. Military autos and camions, on the other hand, roll noisily along the sonorous pavements of the town. Trieste is paved like the squares of Venice, with great, clean blocks of stone. ...yet in spite of this engaging aspect, Trieste does not quite win one's heart. One feels one's self far away and in a foreign land. I do not mean to say that Trieste has the air of not being Italian, it is, on the contrary, very much so, both in sentiment and language. Only Italian is spoken on the public ways; the names of streets, and signboards are also in Italian. ...

The whole Italian population of Fiume was badly and tyrannically treated during the war; the instruments of the Austrians being imprisonment and deportation. All the able-bodied men up to fifty years of age were either mobilized upon the front or packed off to repugnant duties in the rear. The Italians of Trieste fought in Russia and in Rumania. The population which once numbered 250,000 inhabitants, of which four fifths were Italians, fell during the war to 120,000. Altogether, 20,000 Italians went to the mother country.

... Fiume is attached to its mountain and lies on the beach at the head of a gulf which forms a very commodious port. The town lies partly on the flank of the mountain and partly on the shore of the sea. To the east, a breach, a kind of deep gulf, separates it from Sussak, a Croat town. A simple metal bridge marks the two towns closely juxtaposed. The river and the breach are the natural limits of the town.

The city of Fiume has an Italian population, which, after a census made in 1918, represents three fourths of the entire population. It counts 28,911 Italians against 10,927 Croats, Slovenes, and Serbs, and 6,000 Hungarians and Germans. A census made by the Hungarian government in 1910, gave 24,212 Italians, 15,687 Jugo-Slavs, and 6,493 Magyars. It is to be seen, therefore, how much the Italian element is in the majority at Fiume.

... In order to understand the question of Fiume, it seems to me necessary to show how this town, or better, this commune, has been jealous of its independence for centuries, has been opposed to all Austrian, Hungarian, or Croat domination and attached to its Italianism. Always struggling against the Slav influence, the Italian element has kept to its Italian sentiments in a state of extreme tension. Events which preceded and followed the armistice gave to this element, if one may so speak, a more than ever Italian character. The independence of the city and its Italian character are thus the two essential factors of the question.

There exists, further behind in the past, a patent of Ferdinand I, who in 1530 recognized the statutes of the commune of Fiume. This magnificent lord-captain, chosen by the Emperor to govern Fiume, made at the moment of his entry to the town a solemn oath, swearing to preserve and amplify the statutes, laws, rights, and privileges of the commune. Moreover, Fiume rendered homage to the new Emperor, homage reserved to Trieste and Fiume, which distinguished them from the other towns of Austria. This explains why Charles VI, in order to assure the throne to Maria-Theresa, expressly invited the free commune to recognize and accept the new disposition of the Pragmatic Sanction.

In 1776, Maria Theresa breaking the tradition of history united Fiume to Croatia. The town resisted and revolted so well that after three years, Maria-Theresa was forced to abrogate the decree of 1776. Closer to our times, in 1848, the Croats occupied the city by force. The struggle, constant and bitter, lasted nineteen years, until 1867, an epoch in which both Croatia and Hungary recognized the privileged situation of Fiume. The Italians of Fiume accepted so little the Croat domination that the governor of Fiume, in 1861, declared that because of the ‘constant struggle of party,’ the town and district of Fiume was to be considered in a state of siege. One sees that it is not since yesterday that this free and proud commune has been a scene of turbulence. Let us take note also that the Croats, before 1867, invited the citizens of Fiume to send deputies to the Diet of Agram to ask for the union of Fiume with Croatia; these deputies, however, brought only a protestation against all projects of union.

Let us now consider the recent facts. ... On the 29th [of 1918], there arrived at Fiume, with the title of ‘Supreme Count’ a kind of prefect accompanied by 500 armed men, Croats from the Austrian army. This prefect sent the mayor an order in Croat. This was contrary to all precedents; the orders from Budapest having always been in Italian; in the courts, Italian was spoken and the Hungarian governor, on taking office, came to the hall of the Municipal Council to take the oath in Italian and to swear respect to the privileges of Fiume. As soon as this violation of customary usage was known, the town covered itself with the Italian colors. There was a kind of general uprising. An enormous mob gathered in the public squares and in the street, acclaiming seven names as members of the National Council, this number was later augmented by fourteen, which brought the number of men composing the Directive Council to twenty-one. The syndic (the podesta) gave in his resignation but was reelected by popular acclamation.

This National Council had no force at its disposition, no police, no civil guard. I have been told that during the night a Croat machine gun, hoping to frighten the population, fired ceaselessly into the air. ... On the other hand, we must reckon the state of mind of the town of Fiume, of Italian Fiume, of independent Fiume, jealous of its rights and mistress of its future. A delicate situation!

The Italians of Fiume are more Italian than the Italians. In this city, questions of nationality have all the bitterness of implacable party struggles. There are rivalries and hatreds embittered to an extreme degree and this the other Allies were not quite able to understand. Let me also add that the taking over of Fiume as a base for our eastern armies, or perhaps, those of the Danube, has not made either the population of the town or the Italian army look upon us with a friendly eye, but the town is calm as far as I can see. ...

To conclude, I do not think it doubtful that the city of Fiume is Italian by a large majority. Even at the time of the Pragmatic Sanction, the delegation from Fiume which signed the document had Italian names; twenty-eight names, indisputably Italian. Recently, an American arriving at Fiume had the idea of going to the cemetery to read the names on the tombs. This performance gave the municipality the idea of a referendum at the cemetery. The dead were to vote. The result was decisive, more than eighty per cent of the inscriptions are in Italian. The figures have shown no partiality, and the arithmetic is not political.

I do not think that the Jugo-Slavs contest the Italian majority of Fiume. They bring forward other reasons supporting their claim to this port. They declare that the town is by majority Italian, while Sussak, on the other hand, includes a majority of Croats. If Sussak is to be sacrificed to the Italians, why should not Fiume be turned over to the Jugo-Slavs? The argument is not allowable.

... The Peace Conference must decide this difficult problem; but, I repeat, the question of Fiume is already decided for anyone who visits the town; Fiume is Italian.

Saturday, January 20, 2018

Titoist Crimes: 50 Priests Murdered in the Foibe Massacres

(Written by Antonio Pannullo, taken from the newspaper “Secolo d'Italia”, February 10, 2015)

It was only with the law of 2004 (which established the Day of Remembrance in memory of the victims of the Foibe Massacres and Julian-Dalmatian Exodus, on the initiative of the Triestine deputy Roberto Menia) that the majority of Italians became aware of what happened in our northeastern territories in the 1940's. Twenty thousand Italians were murdered, thrown into sinkholes, over 350,000 people were forced to abandon Istria and Dalmatia, driven by the fury of the Communist Partisans of Tito. It was a full-blown genocide according to all criteria: first the indiscriminate extermination of the population living in a determined territory, so as to force the survivors to abandon it; then the occupation of that territory and the confiscation – or rather the theft – of lands and homes from the legitimate owners.

These wounds, along with the mass murders, were never healed. Among those people who were killed and thrown into the foibe (that is, deep pits or sinkholes in the Carso), often while still alive, there were also priests. And this too has been learned only recently, because for decades a heavy curtain of silence covered up these events, with the complicity of the weak Christian Democratic government which did not want to displease Yugoslavia, but above all did not want to damage their alliance with the Socialists, which had just been accomplished.

It seems that the priests who were murdered in this way were no less than fifty, some of whom are still unknown to us and some of their bodies have never been found. Don Francesco Bonifacio, who was tortured and murdered by the Titoists, was beatified on October 4, 2008 in the Church of San Giusto in Trieste by Benedict XVI, 62 years after the fact.

Bonifacio: the priest whose body was never found again

Francesco Bonifacio was born in 1912 in Pirano, today part of Slovenia. He was nicnamed el santin (the saint) because of his goodness. In 1946 he was chaplain at Villa Gardossi, a large agricultural town in the Istrian hinterland, and it was there that he was surprised by four men of the “People's Guard” (the name which the fierce Titoist murderers hid behind), who mocked him, then savagely beat him, stoned him, stripped him and finally stabbed him before throwing him into the foiba of Martines. He was never seen again. His brother, who immediately looked for him after learning what had happened, was incarcerated on charges of inventing stories.

Many years had to pass before the story was revealed to the public. Witnesses came forward and revealed the atrocities which took place in those last hours. But the curtain of silence had already come down, and no one talked about Don Bonifacio for many years. In 1957 the Bishop of Trieste, [Antonio] Santin, began the cause for beatification, but his cause was ignored for 40 years, proving that there was indeed a veil of silence attempting to forever conceal the Foibe Massacres. Only recently did Benedict XVI have the courage to declare that Bonifacio was killed in hatred of the Faith.

In September 2013, the name of Miro Bulesic was added to Bonifacio. He was assassinated by Red Partisans in August 1947 in northern Istria. Bulesic was beatified in the Pola Arena in a moving ceremony, during which it was learned that 434 priests were killed in the dioceses of Croatia in the 1940's, in addition to another 24 deaths due to torture and abuse in prison. On August 24, 1947, during a confirmation ceremony in the church of Lanisce, Communists broke into the place of worship, destroyed everything, set fire to the church itself and brutally beat Don Miro, throwing him against the wall and finally slaughtering him with a knife. The man responsible for the crime was later acquitted.

The tragedy of Don Angelo Tarticchio

But the slaughter of religious had begun much earlier: in September 1943 the Yugoslav Partisans kidnapped Don Angelo Tarticchio, parish priest of Villa di Rovino, in the middle of the night and threw him into the prisons of Montecuccoli Castle in Pisino, Istria. After a few days he was brought to the town of Lindaro together with 43 other people. They were tied together with barbed wire, killed by gunfire and thrown into a bauxite quarry.

Monday, January 15, 2018

Amy Bernardy Defends Italian Claims

(Written by Amy A. Bernardy, taken from “The New Republic“, Volume 11, 1917.)

Sir: I trust that only accidental misinformation caused the misstatements regarding the conditions of Italia Irredenta and the position of Italy in the Allied war in your leading editorial of June 23rd.

To begin with, Italy has not been swayed by imperialistic or economic conditions when she entered the war, with a full knowledge and consciousness of the issues thereby entailed, and the hardships of it. Wholesale and irresponsible imperialism doesn’t "dominate" Italy, and her King is such not only by the grace of God, but “by the will of the nation.”

The writer who calls attention to the fact that Trieste has been under Hapsburg rule since 1382 betrays a rather incomplete historical training: the act of 1382, by which the “respublica Tergestina" submits to the high protectorate of Austrian Archduke, is practically a commercial transaction, an arrangement for peace in the interests of trade. But it must not be forgotten that when, in 1523, this free Latin Commune is requested to use officially the German language, it answers thus: “Cum Latini simus, linguam ignoramus teutonicam,” and repeats further on: “quia civitas tergestina est in finibus et in limitibus Italiae, omnes cives habent proprium sermonem et idioma italicum.” [“We are Latins, we do not know the German language,” and “The city of Trieste is located within the borders of Italy. All citizens have the same origin; our language is Italian.”]

In 1719 Trieste was “porto franco,” the same as Genoa, Venice and Leghorn [Livorno]; and the interchange of mariners and tradesmen never was that of a great Austrian seaport, but that of a great Italian city. . . . The contention that, because Trieste now belongs to Austria it must not be taken from her, and her Italian population must consequently be submitted to whatever outrage and oppression it may please Austria to heap upon her—and it does please Austria to heap it ruthlessly—is rather hazardous, to say the least. Ownership as a result of violence and an occasion for outrage is at least open to discussion; and the fact that the American colonies were in British possession did not prevent the Liberty Bell from sounding when the time for the great crisis came.

. . . But the attribution of economic motives or claims to Italy in the question of Trieste, Istria and Dalmatia is a side issue, if at all; Italy’s motive for the war lies not in that; Italy fights for her hearths and homes under foreign stress and oppression; for her racial and ancestral seats, which no strange violence can ever wrench from her national heart and soul; for the monuments and records of her religion, her history and her civilization. The pride of Trieste, Fiume, Zara and their sister-cities, in their Latin race and character is not “a memory of the Roman Empire,” but the poignant truth and the vital issue of centuries, upheld in a long struggle, which has come just now to its ultimate, inevitable crisis.

. . . Austria has taken those thoroughly Venetian and Italian regions, has filled them with a state immigration of alien inland Slavs, has systematically persecuted and suppressed the Italian natives in them, and now would hold them forth as a righteous Slavic heritage; infer, in fact, that Italy claims that which is not hers. Now, it ought to be made very clear that Italy does emphatically not claim Croatia, or anybody else's land or sea, that she does not begrudge outlets on the Adriatic to reasonable neighbors, that she does not want to oust any Slav from his home where the Slav has not ousted Italians from theirs; and the proof of it is that it was the navy of Italy, and of Italy alone, who transported to safe havens across the Adriatic the valiant remains of that Serbian army which, duly refreshed and reorganized, will ultimately make possible the restoration of a greater Serbia and the eventual bringing together of the Southern Slavs.

But Croatia’s natural geographical and political metropolis is Agram, or Zagreb that one may wish to call it, certainly not Fiume or Pola, whose very names bear witness to their Italian character.

As for Dalmatia, the character of the land has always been dominantly and significantly Italian. The “purely Slavic” lands lie back of the Dinaric Alps, nor does Italy concern herself with these; but with the Austrian state policy of denaturalization and denationalization of the Adriatic seacoast. Against this, what your writer is pleased to call the “prosperous Italian minority” has been protesting for years with word and pen, votes and lives. And the assumption that “it is not likely to cause much trouble now” is adding insult to injury. Neither does, to the best of human knowledge, the dying gasp of the murdered man “cause much trouble” in the circle of the murderer's friends, or to the cynic the heaving sigh of a soul in despair. But crimes that have been committed call for redress in a world of men.

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Istria and Dalmatia: A Long and Intricate History, But Always Italian

(Written by Antonio Pannullo, taken from the newspaper “Secolo d'Italia”, February 10, 2015.)

The history of Istria and Dalmatia is a history that belongs to Rome and Venice. It was Julius Caesar who, after Trieste (Tergeste), founded the colonies of Pola (Pietas Julia) and Parenzo (Julia Parentium); it was Augustus who brought the boundaries of Istria to the Quarnaro and created Regio X Venetia et Histria, the Tenth Region of Italy, which extended from the Oglio River to the Arsa River and from the Alps to the Po Valley.

Trieste was connected to Pola through the Via Flavia, which also reached Fiume (Tarsatica). An inscription from the Augustan age found near Fiume says: Haec est Italia Diis sacra (“This is Italy, a land sacred to the gods”). Rome left splendid testimonies in the Hill of San Giusto, in the Amphitheater of Trieste, in the Arena of Pola, in the Arch of Fiume, in the Forum of Zara and in Diocletian's Palace in Spalato.

In the 6th century AD the barbarian hordes invaded the Roman region of Venetia et Histria. The Istrians took refuge on the islands of the coast. Thus arose the towns of Isola, Capodistria, Pirano and Rovigno, which were connected to the coast by bridges and isthmuses.

The Rule of the Doge of Venice

The first Slavic presence in Istria is traced back to the famous Placitum of Risano of 804, in which the representatives of the Istrian towns asked Charlemagne's messengers to free them from the piracy of the Pagan Slavs, “sin autem melius est mori quam vivere” (“otherwise it is better to die than to live”). Venetian expansion began in the 800's, first against the Germanic feudal lords and the patriarchate of Aquileia; then Venice established itself throughout the entire Adriatic coast: in 1150 the Doge assumed the title Totius Istriae inclitus dominator (Renowned Lord of All Istria). From that time forward the winged Lion of St. Mark, the symbol of the Republic of Venice, would be found everywhere, from the island of Veglia where it appeared for the first time in 1250, to all the Istrian and Dalmatian cities.

Between 1400 and 1600 the plague struck Istria and Dalmatia several times. Venice repopulated the region by importing thousands of Slavs, Bosnians and Morlachs, who became valiant soldiers. Not by coincidence, the city of Venice named its most important dock on the San Marco basin the “Riva degli Schiavoni”. The events of Istria are numerous and complex, but essentially from that time until the end of the eighteenth century the history of Istria was identified with that of Venice. This is why the region was later called Venezia Giulia by the glottologist Graziadio Ascoli. Venetian rule ended in 1797 with the Treaty of Campoformido. The region passed into the hands of Austria who ruled until 1918, except for the brief French period when it belonged to the Napoleonic Kingdom of Italy.

Italy's victory in the Great War – which was participated in by thousands of Istrian and Dalmatian volunteers, including Sauro, Filzi and Rismondo – brought not only Trento and Trieste into the Kingdom of Italy, but also all of Venezia Giulia and therefore Istria with Pola, the city of Zara in Dalmatia, the islands of Cherso and Lussino, Lagosta and Pelagosa. Fiume was annexed in 1924, after having been the scene of D'Annunzio's Enterprise on September 12, 1919.

The Italic dream of Venezia Giulia lasted a little over twenty years. The diktat of February 10, 1947, imposed by the victorious powers at the end of the Second World War, tore Istria, Fiume, Zara and the Dalmatian islands away from Italy, delivering them to Tito's Yugoslavia.

The Ignoble Treaty of Osimo

The city of Trieste (Zone A of the Free Territory of Trieste, envisaged by the peace treaty) remained under Anglo-American administration until October 26, 1954, when it finally returned to being free and Italian. Zone B (the northwestern part of Istria up to the Quieto River) remained under the temporary administration of Yugoslavia until the ignoble Treaty of Osimo (signed on November 10, 1975), by which Italy renounced its right to those territories without any compensation.

With the breakup of Yugoslavia and the birth of two new sovereign states (1992), Istria was divided into two: the northern part up to the Dragogna river became part of Slovenia, while the southern part of Istria, the Quarnaro and Dalmatia became part of Croatia. Neither of the two States decided to return to the Italian exiles even a single brick of property confiscated by the former Yugoslav Communist regime.

The martyrdom of the Foibe Massacres of Trieste and Istria, with their tragic burden of thousands dead, together with the exodus of 350,000 Istrians, Fiumans and Dalmatians, is now a living memory in the collective conscience of the Italians thanks to a law which instituted the Day of Remembrance, celebrated each year on February 10.

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Dalmatia Viewed by a Dalmatian

(Written by Giuliano De Zorzi, edited by the Centro di Studi Atesini, Bolzano, 1994)


1.1 Orography

We observe a chain of mountains which begins at the Cadi­bona Pass, arches around the Po Valley like a crown, and continues along the sea down to the Bay of Cat­taro, where Montenegro begins. This whole arc of mountains is known as the Alps.

The Alps that descend along the sea towards Montenegro are called the Dinaric Alps. The thin narrow strip of land between the Dinaric Alps and the Adriatic Sea is Dalmatia. The large peninsula is Istria.

Between Istria and Dalmatia is the city of Fiume with its gulf, the Quarnaro, also known as the Quarnero or Car­naro. The name is spelled different ways, I am not sure which of these three is more legitimate. Dante used 'Carnaro', as did D'Annunzio, who also used 'Quarnaro', though less frequently.

1.2 Ethnology

At this point I do not think I would be saying anything that the most famous archaeologists, ethnologists and sociologists have not already observed, by making this statement of elemental simplicity: the sea unites, the watershed divides. In other words, nations which border opposite sides of the same arm of the sea, have frequent contact with each other to the point of developing a single type of culture, while people separated by a watershed develop in completely autonomous ways. Cultural exchanges through a watershed, although artificially promoted today, were once entirely negligible.

1.3 Prehistory

Both Paleolithic and Neolithic artifacts are widely documented in the Dalmatian territories. However, since prehistoric artifacts are confined behind glass in Dalmatian museums and still have not been studied (to my knowledge) in an organic way, I would not pretend to give any opinion on the subject other than this: that the Venetianness of the littoral is very ancient. When D'Annunzio says, “the whole Adriatic is the fatherland of the Venetians”, he enunciates a historical reality rooted in many millennia. People always talk about the Illyrians, but the fact is that the oldest – albeit rare – inscriptions found on the opposite shore of the Adriatic are Venetic, an Italic language and sister of the Latin language of Rome.

1.4 Rome

We all know, or I imagine that everyone knows, the Pola Arena, very similar to the Verona Arena. Both were built in the first century AD, although Verona is a bit older and can fit 22,000, while Pola fits 23,000. We all also know that the Romans did not build these arenas in the middle of a desert. The arenas, like the stadiums of today, were part of a regular urban fabric. This means that Pola was not merely a station for changing horses, but was a true and proper Roman city.

Other important Roman ruins which I imagine everyone knows, are those of Spalato, a city built within the Diocletian Palace, whose name evolved from the Latin 'Palatium' (Aspalathon > Spalatum > Spalato, today Split). During the barbarian invasions, the people of the countryside took refuge in Diocletian's Palace like a fortress, and slowly built dwelling houses inside of it. Today the old town of Spalato, including the Cathedral, is located within the perimeter of the walls of the old Imperial Palace.

I wanted to mention the two extremes of Pola and Spalato so as to remind the reader that the building activities of ancient Rome stretched across the coast. One could easily point out that at that time the whole Mediterranean was full of Roman buildings and the fact that these are also found in Dalmatia does not surprise anyone. Very true, however, the evidence proves that at the time of ancient Rome there was a single cultural identity between the two shores of the Adriatic, whereas on the other side of the watershed of the Dinaric Alps there was nothing similar.

1.5 Early Middle Ages

The Early Middle Ages, the age of the barbarian invasions, deserves an extra word because I believe it is little known. I speak only for myself, of course, when I say that this was not taught to us in schools; it was entirely skipped over.

It is important to note that the cities of the interior, which neither Constantinople nor Rome were able to defend, were swept away like twigs in the wind.

The cities on the coast, however, found within themselves the strength needed to defend themselves. Nona, Zara, Traù, Spalato, Budua and Ragusa remained untouched. Perhaps when the barbarians found these cities too difficult to conquer, they left them alone and moved on to other areas.

In any case, the fact remains that once the storm passed, the people of the Dalmatian countryside who had taken refuge on the islands off the coast – islands which were unreachable for the barbarian hordes – these people returned to their land, where they preserved their cities, their traditions, their language, their faith and even the old Latin name of Dalmatia. Pope John IV was from Zara and therefore was Dalmatian. He spent considerable sums to rescue his Dalmatian countrymen, or Romans as he called them, from enslavement by the barbarians. So not only did Dalmatia go through a period of healing from its wounds, but they were indeed aware of their own strength and proud of their ability. The Dalmatians came out on top in this ordeal.

1.6 The Barbarians

It would be appropriate to give a brief note clarifying who the “Barbarians” were. In our land they were called Avars. They were a belligerent and ruthless people who did not work, and when they finished despoiling people they would move on to another area, leaving scorched earth behind them.

As they passed through the Kiev area, to the north of the Black Sea, the Avars encountered a very large and peaceful population: the Slavs. Inevitably, the Avars enslaved the Slavs and forced them to march on the front lines, providing what today would be called “cannon fodder”. Those slaves who were forced to fight were called 'bumpkins' (bifolchi); while the others, aggregated to the herd of slaves, were called 'slaves' (bislacchi). That is how the Slavs came to the Balkans, to the land that one day would become Yugoslavia: as bumpkins and as slaves.

Perhaps the two most striking features of the modern Slav are to be found precisely in its troubled origins. Indeed, at times we find them extremely peaceful, even apathetic and fatalistic. In such moments the old character seems to resurface, hearkening back to the days when they lived peacefully in their native lands. But then, there are times when they explode in acts of immeasurable savage ferocity. It is natural to imagine that this is a resurgence reminiscent of the times when they cruelly suffered as slaves.

1.7 The Period Before Modern Times

Returning to Dalmatia, we observe that, once the barbarian invasions ended, our cities quickly entered the troubled medieval history of our continent. Disputed over first between the Carolingian Empire and the Byzantine Empire, then between Venice and Hungary, they also were forced to contend with Slavic piracy and Turkish incursions.

These ancient and tenacious people, forced to defend their freedom every day with guns blazing, eventually passed into modern times.

1.8 Modern Times

Confraternities of arts and crafts arose in Dalmatia in the modern period. The confraternities were born around 1300, and by 1422 rose to negotiate on equal terms with the nobility. Therefore, there was no bloodshed between a bestial people and an unworthy nobility, as took place in other countries. On the contrary, we had a free and proud people with an enlightened nobility who served the common good.

Thus came the spread of Humanism. Dalmatian schools welcomed the best teachers from all over Italy, and soon these schools began to produce humanists, historians, writers and poets. Just two examples of the connection between Italy and Dalmatia:

– Epigraphy, formerly known as scholarly curiosity, became a science at the beginning of the fifteenth century in the triangle of An­cona - Zara - Traù.

– The grandiose Palazzo Ducale of Urbino, headquarters of the Montefeltro family, which has been called “the first Renaissance princely residence”, was built by Luciano Laurana, an architect from Zara in Dalmatia.

At this point the singular cultural identity between the two shores of the Adriatic – (Dalmatia and Italy) – is so obvious that no one can deny it. Beyond the watershed of the Dinaric Alps there truly existed “another world”.

1.9 One Thousand and One Nights

Here is a small curious anecdote. The famous collection of short stories that was published in the Islamic world under the title 'One Thousand and One Nights', interestingly mentions some Italian cities – not for any propagandistic reasons, but merely in passing. There are six Italian cities named in 'One Thousand and One Nights': Rome, of course, which was well-known to the Muslims as the capital of the 'infidels'; then the maritime republics of Genoa, Pisa and Venice, which were in continuous contact with the East and well-known; the other two cities are Zara and Ra­gusa! Zara and Ragusa were cited as being Italian cities by this unexpected source.

1.10 Ragusa

Due to the large historical footprint left by Ragusa since 634, it deserves a special mention. It was called the “free and sovereign republic of Ragusa” until 1814.

For twelve hundred years Ragusa spoke Italian. In her best days she had up to seven hundred ships in the sea! Seven hundred! In 1416 slavery was abolished. What would they think about our English friends, who pretend to teach democracy to the world? Unless I am mistaken, the English did not abolish slavery until 1807, four centuries later.

1.11 Venice

Discussing the Venetianness of Dalmatia is like breaking through an open door. Just look at how many lions of St. Mark are in Dalmatia and how many Venetian bell towers line its shores. That in itself would be sufficient, but I wish to mention also a particular historical anecdote for flavor. In 1797 in Venice, during the last meeting of the Grand Council, the opinions of the council members were sharply divided: there were those who wanted to resist Napoleon to the bitter end, and then there were those who wanted to avoid unnecessary bloodshed. Doge Ludovico Manin hesitated. It is said that the senior prosecutor pointed to the doge's hat, which was a symbol of his power, and shouted: “Take your ducal cap and go to Zara!” In other words, in the case of an extreme and desperate defense, the Most Serene Republic would continue to exist in Dalmatia.

1.12 Campo Formio 1797

With the Treaty of Campo Formio, Venice passed to Austria. Dalamtia obviously followed the same fate as Venice, as it was considered almost as an extension of Venice. In 1866 Venice was liberated and returned to Italy, but Dalmatia remained under Austro-Hungarian rule.

The patriotic enthusiasm of the Risorgimento which inflamed the hearts of the Italians had led to the liberation of Lombardy-Venetia; but for Dalmatia we would have to wait until the end of World War I and the fall of the Habsburg Empire.

On the day when Zara hoisted the Tricolor on top of the bell tower of the Cathedral, the honorable duty was given to a boy of the Gymnastics Society in Zara. This boy, after raising the flag, placed his hands at his sides and stood at attention... on top of the bell tower.

And the boy did not fall, because he was supported by the hearts of all his fellow citizens who were present.

Although I could not be present because I was not born yet, I feel I am getting choked up as I write this.

I see drug addicts, I see the dead on Saturday evenings, and when you think about that boy on top of the bell tower... they are nothing compared to him.

1.13 Fascism

Naturally, immediately after the birth of Fascism, it found fertile ground in Dalmatia. Looking back now, it is easy to be condemnatory and say: you Dalmatians were all Fascists! I respond: of course we were! What else could we have been? Mussolini spoke of the Flag, the Fatherland and Honor, and that was sufficient. We did not think we were doing anything wrong.

Only after the war was lost, people like Sandro Pertini (a Socialist politician) began to inform us that we were all evil. But before the war we thought we were normal people. In fact, we even thought we were worthy of praise for our unselfish efforts to honor the Italian flag.

1.14 Epilogue

Even though it is an Istrian town, I want to cite Parenzo – located right across the sea from Chioggia – just to give an example of what happened after we lost the war. Parenzo laid down its arms and surrendered with dignity to the victors. But the victors proved themselves unworthy of such an honor. Indeed, hearkening back to the ways of their miserable ancestors, who were bumpkins and slaves, the Slavic victors behaved in such a manner that the inhabitants of Parenzo were forced to leave their city and their belongings. In those days 98% of the population was forced to leave Parenzo.

The total number of refugees exiled from Istria, Fiume and Dalmatia after the war was 350,000. Obviously these were not 350,000 barbarians migrating from the steppes; on the contrary, these were a highly civilized people, the depositories of an ancient history and culture that progressive intellectuals can not even begin to fathom.

In those days, the Prefect of Zara was a Sicilian named Vincenzo Serrentino. This Sicilian strove with all his human ability to give proper burials to our dead. Zara, in fact, suffered 54 bombings. That's right, a major city like Zara suffered 54 bombings and virtually the entire city was destroyed. Zara had no adequate defense because it was not a military target. This means that the 'heroic' Anglo-Saxon aviators comfortably attacked Zara like they were playing a video game, shooting at civilian boats that were trying to flee the city during the air strikes. (Sources: 301 bis Talpo/Brćić, 259; 322 Bam­bara, 151; 601 Carter/Mueler)

Serrentino rescued the wounded, buried the dead and organized the evacuation. He was the last to leave the city, which was engulfed in flames, as bullets whistled past his ears. But the Partisan bands of Tito chased him down and captured him in Italian territory after the end of the war. They tore him away from his home, dragged him across the Yugoslav border and, of course, shot him. He was a Fascist, and that was what they did to Fascists: they shot them.

Vincenzo Serrentino was killed on May 19, 1947, two years after the end of the war.

Thus ends the story of my Zara and my Dalmatia. Thank you.

Thursday, December 21, 2017

The Population of Dalmatia in the 12th Century

The following is a description of Dalmatia from the “Book of Roger” (Tabula Rogeriana), written by the Arab geographer Muhammad al-Idrisi at the court of King Roger II of Sicily in 1154.

In his descriptions Idrisi makes a clear distinction between the Slavs and the Dalmatians – the term ‘Dalmatian’ refers to the autochthonous Latin-speaking population who descend from the original Roman inhabitants.

He tells us which towns and cities were inhabited by Slavs and which were inhabited by Dalmatians. The Dalmatians predominated in almost all the major towns and cities of Dalmatia (Zara, Spalato, Traù, Ragusa), while the Slavs inhabited only one city (Antivari) and couple minor towns.

According to Idrisi, this was the ethnic composition of Dalmatia in the 12th century:
Segna - Populated by Slavs
Castelmuschio (Veglia) - Populated by Dalmatians
Arbe - Populated by Dalmatians
Zatton - Populated by Dalmatians
Zara - Populated by Dalmatians
Zaravecchia - Populated by Dalmatians and Slavs
Traù Vecchia - Populated by Dalmatians
Traù - Populated by Dalmatians
Spalato - Populated by Dalmatians
Stagno - Populated by Slavs
Ragusa - Populated by Dalmatians
Antivari - Populated by Slavs
Cattaro - Populated by Dalmatians
Dulcigno - Populated by Latins (Dalmatians)
His contemporary William of Tyre, in his chronicle Historia, described Dalmatia this way:
“Dalmatia is inhabited by a very fierce people, given over to plunder and murder. ...with the exception of those who live on the coast and who differ from the rest in customs and language. Those on the coast use the Latin language, while the others (in the hinterland) use the Slavonic tongue and have the habits of barbarians.”
Also in the 12th century the chronicler Raymond of Aguilers, in his Historia Francorum, described Dalmatia in the same way. He makes a distinction between the civilized Latins who inhabit the cities and urban centres of the Dalmatian coast and speak a Latin language, and on the other hand the rural Slavs who live in the countryside, whom he describes as “primitive people, barbaric robbers, ignorant of God” (“rudes, latrones, aggrestes hominem qui deum ignorabant”).

These testimonies make clear that the Dalmatian coast in the 12th century was not Slavic, but overwhelmingly Latin and belonged to Latin civilization. The cities of Zara, Spalato, Traù, Ragusa, Cattaro and Arbe, among others, were Latin cities whose population spoke Latin and later Italian. These Latin cities would remain Italian-speaking until the modern period.