Thursday, September 12, 2019

The Revisionist Statements Made by Croatian President Grabar-Kitarović

(Full article: Diplomatic Crisis Between Italy and Croatia: New Provocations, Revisionism and Hypocrisy)
Tweet by Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović, President of Croatia
In addition to the diplomatic note issued by the Croatian Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs in protest against the erection of a statue in Trieste dedicated to Italian poet Gabriele D'Annunzio, on September 12th, 2019 the President of Croatia Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović posted the following highly provocative message on Twitter:
“Rijeka [Fiume] was and remains a proud part of the Croatian Fatherland, and the erection of a monument in Trieste extolling irredentism and occupation is unacceptable.”
(“Rijeka je bila i ostaje ponosni dio hrvatske Domovine, a podizanje spomenika u Trstu kojim se veliča iredentizam i okupacija su neprihvatljivi.”)
In the first place, the statue is not a monument to irredentism, nor to any imagined occupation. As was already pointed out by the communal assessor Giorgio Rossi, the statue depicts that of a reflective if not melancholic D'Annunzio—not that of a heroic soldier or man of action. The statue has nothing to do with ideology nor with territorial aspirations; it is a harmless monument to one of Italy's most celebrated poets of the last two centuries.

In the second place, Fiume was never “a proud part of the Croatian Fatherland”. This is nothing more than shameful historical revisionism which seeks to justify the Yugoslav occupation and annexation following World War II, and the tearing away of this ancient Italian city from Italy. In her attempt to indite and accuse Italy, with all of her faux outrage, the Croatian president hypocritically sustains Croatia's own imperialist territorial ambitions and incites provocations against Italy.

It would be good for President Grabar-Kitarović if she would first consult historical records and census data before making any pronouncements. In 1918 Fiume and its environs counted 28,911 Italians (62.5%) and 9,092 Croats (19.6%); in the city itself there were 14,194 Italians (83.3%) and only 2,094 Croats (12.3%).

Fiume traces its origins back to the Romans, who founded the original city with the name Tarsatica. Throughout the Middle Ages, the citizens clung to their Roman roots, continuing to adhere to Roman law and institutions, and continuing to speak the Latin language. The city later became a free commune, following in the same footsteps as Trieste and the other medieval Italian communes.

Since the 15th century the official language of Fiume was Italian; the city's municipal statutes were drawn up in Latin and Italian; and in order to partake in the social, commercial and cultural life of the city, one had to speak Italian. All the archives and historical documents of Fiume are written in Latin and Italian; not a single document was ever written in Croatian or any other language.

When in 1776 Maria Theresa of Austria attempted to incorporate Fiume into the Kingdom of Hungary, through Croatia, she was met with protests by the inhabitants of Fiume, so that only three years later, in 1779, Fiume was proclaimed a corpus separatum or separate body of the Crown of St. Stephen, entirely separate from Croatia. In 1848 Croatian soldiers under Josip Jelacic invaded Fiume; the ensuing 19-year military occupation was strongly opposed by the native inhabitants.

Jelacic himself promised to respect the Italian tongue of Fiume. However, when an attempt was made to introduce Croatian into schools, the city of Fiume protested, sending an address to Emperor Franz Joseph on January 31st, 1861:
“...it would be superfluous to demonstrate what is universally known, that is, that the Italian language has always been spoken since Fiume existed, which is the country's own language, being the language of school, court, commerce, every public and private discourse, and one of the principal elements to which can be attributed the degree of her culture and progress, both commercial and industrial.”
(“...sarebbe superfluo dimostrare ciò che é universalmente noto, esser cioè l'idioma italiano da secoli in Fiume la lingua della scuola, del foro, del commercio, di ogni pubblico e privato convegno; insomma essere la lingua del paese, ed uno dei principali veicoli a cui attribuire devesi il grado di sua cultura e del suo progresso commerciale e industriale.”)
In 1867, following the Austro-Hungarian Compromise, the city's autonomy was restored and the Croats evacuated. In 1918, with the collapse of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, Fiume voted in favor of union with Italy, and afterwards welcomed D'Annunzio's entry into the city with celebrations.

Residents of Fiume cheering D'Annunzio
and his Legionaries, September 1919
These are unassailable facts of history. A three-year incorporation into the Kingdom of Hungary and an unpopular 19-year military occupation of an Italian city: that was the grand sum of Croatia's connection to Fiume prior to its annexation to Communist Yugoslavia after World War II.

To suggest that Fiume was “a proud part of the Croatian Fatherland”, not only in light of its ancient history but especially in light of all that occurred there just a few decades ago – massacres, thefts, ethnic cleansing – is one of the most dishonest, appalling, insulting and provocative statements issued by a head of state in recent memory.

This sort of historical revisionism and blatant disregard for historical facts on the part of Croatian leaders is nothing new, however. One only needs to recall the incident of 2011, when former Croatian president Stjepan Mesić went to China to inaugurate a museum dedicated to the “Croatian explorer” Marco Polo, sparking protest and outrage in Italy. Just a few months later, Croatia then went to war against the United Kingdom after Croatian tourist bosses and local authorities laid claim to King Arthur, proclaiming him too a “Croat”.

Nonetheless, the statement made today by the current President of Croatia is one of the most shocking and offensive to come out of the modern Croatian state. Above all it is an insult to the Fiumani, that is the Italians of Fiume, who are the historical soul of the city, spanning some two millennia; theirs was the language of the city, theirs was the culture, theirs were the institutions, the traditions, the toponyms, the squares, the streets, the stones, the very foundations; indeed, Fiume was and rightfully remains their city.

To read more about the recent controversies, see the full article: Diplomatic Crisis Between Italy and Croatia: New Provocations, Revisionism and Hypocrisy

See also:

The Italian Language Returning to Fiume?
Response to Croatian Statements on Bilingualism in Fiume
Castua Massacre: Exhumations Completed After 73 Years
Quotes on the Italianity of Fiume
Statement of Alexander Oldrini on Fiume
Statement of Ernest Papich on Fiume
Statement of Fiorello La Guardia on Fiume
Statement of Lawrence Yates Sherman on Fiume
Statement of Leopold Vaccaro on Fiume
Statement of S. A. Cotillo on Fiume
Statements of Gino Speranza on Istria, Fiume and Dalmatia
Statements of Lawrence Yates Sherman on the Treaty of London

Diplomatic Crisis Between Italy and Croatia: New Provocations, Revisionism and Hypocrisy

Gabriele D'Annunzio
(Written on September 12, 2019; updated on September 13, 2019.)

As we speak, a new diplomatic crisis is unfolding between Italy and Croatia.

The issue revolves around the inauguration of a new statue in Trieste dedicated to Gabriele D'Annunzio, an Italian poet and soldier of the First World War. In addition to issuing a diplomatic protest condemning the statue, provocative statements of a historical revisionist nature were also posted by the Croatian president Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović on Twitter.

Historical Context

Without going back to the world wars or to the conflicts of the 19th century, which have been – and perhaps always will be – enormous strains on Italian-Croatian relations, not only between the States but between the peoples themselves, the more immediate causes of this current crisis can be traced back to March 24th 2016, when it was announced that Fiume-Rijeka had been chosen to be the European Capital of Culture in 2020 by the European Union.

Following this announcement, in 2017 the Lista per Fiume, a regional political party in Croatia, proposed a bill to reintroduce bilingual Croatian-Italian signs in the city of Fiume. On November 4, 2017 a round table discussion dedicated to the subject was held in Fiume, attended by both Italian and Croatian representatives.

Certain Croatian politicians seized the opportunity to depict Fiume as a “multicultural city” with “a diverse history”, which, to say the least, was a gross historical inaccuracy, not to mention insulting to the local Italian community, which once formed a majority in this city until the period between 1945 and 1954, when 90% of Fiume's population was lost as a result of the forced exile of 54,000 Italians, after the city had been occupied and then annexed by the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia.

The tendency of Croatian politicians to depict Fiume as a multicultural city was seen by some as an attempt to downplay the city's Italian past. Various discussions, debates and polemics then followed among the politicians in Croatia, among members and representatives of Fiume's Italian community, as well as among social media and mass media outlets.

During that same month the silence was finally broken concerning the massacre of Italians at Castua by the Yugoslav Secret Police in May 1945 – part of the Foibe Massacres. In July 2018, after 73 years, the excavation of the foiba of Castua was finally completed, unearthing the remains of seven victims from the 3 meter deep pit. The remains were subsequently delivered to the Italian Consulate in Fiume, before being sent to Italy in October 2018, where a ceremony was held in Udine.

Meanwhile, in September 2018, the proposal in favor of restoring visual bilingualism had been finally approved. For the Italians, long-awaited vindication and reconciliation seemed to be in the air.

Then, in February 2019, Antonio Tajani, President of the European Parliament, became the target of an international smear campaign when, in his ceremonial speech at Basovizza, near Trieste, in commemoration of the victims of the Foibe Massacres and the Julian-Dalmatian Exodus, he said:
Long live Trieste, long live Italian Istria, long live Italian Dalmatia, long live the Italian exiles, long live the heirs of the Italian exiles!
(“Viva Trieste, viva l'Istria italiana, viva la Dalmazia italiana, viva gli esuli italiani, viva gli eredi degli esuli italiani!”)
The Croatian and Slovenian press, together with several politicians, including the prime ministers, organized a media campaign – which was immediately picked up by the international press – depicting Tajani as a “Fascist”, misrepresenting his words as “declarations of territorial aspirations”, accusing him of “falsifying history” and demanding his resignation from the European Parliament.

The politicians of the two Balkan countries then proceeded to justify the violence and crimes committed by the Yugoslavs at the end of World War II, blaming it on Fascism and referring to the genocide of Italians merely as a “reaction” to Italian crimes – a false Communist narrative which has been frequently reiterated so as to justify the ethnic cleansing of Italians from their own homeland.

Current Crisis: The Statue of D'Annunzio

Entirely unrelated to those events – but which has now become part of the same matrix of polemics – is the statue of Gabriele D'Annunzio, unveiled today in Trieste.

Gabriele D'Annunzio was an Italian poet, journalist, playwright and soldier. Already famous and widely popular as a poet, he became even more popular for his exploits during World War I, particularly his Flight Over Vienna and the Buccari Mockery. Immediately after the war he gained greater notoriety on the international stage when he marched on Fiume.

In 1918 the city of Fiume had voted and declared itself for union with Italy, which however was firmly opposed by Great Britain and France. In 1919 D'Annunzio led a group of Italian legionaries into Fiume to oppose the Franco-British occupation and to prevent the city from potentially falling into the hands of the nascent Kingdom of Yugoslavia. There he established the Italian Regency of Carnaro, a small Italian city-state which survived until late 1920. In 1924 Fiume was formally united with Italy.

Statue dedicated to Gabriele D'Annunzio
Inaugurated Sept. 12th, 2019 in Trieste
D'Annunzio was considered a fairly non-controversial figure in Italy and was near universally revered – indeed there are schools and streets named after him all throughout Italy – until earlier this year, when it was decided to dedicate a statue to him in Trieste; then, over night, D'Annunzio suddenly became a villain according to the polemics of the political Left, who denounced D'Annunzio as a “Fascist” and opposed the erection of the statue.

Croatia too has now decided to join the fray. On September 12th, 2019 the Croatian Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs issued a diplomatic protest condemning the statue, inexplicably referring to D'Annunzio's defense of Fiume as an “occupation” and even going so far as to imply that the monument is “Fascist”. The diplomatic note delivered to the Italian embassy in Zagreb reads:
“The Republic of Croatia strongly condemns the unveiling of the monument in Trieste, on the exact date of the 100th anniversary of the occupation of Fiume. Although it is a decision of local and not state authorities, it not only undermines the excellent neighborly and friendly relations between the two countries, but, moreover, it pays tribute to an ideology which is completely at odds with European values.”
(“La Repubblica di Croazia condanna fermamente la scoperta del monumento a Trieste proprio nel centenario dell’occupazione di Fiume. Nonostante si tratti di una decisione delle autorità locali e non di quelli statali, essa va a minare gli ottimi rapporti di vicinato e d’amicizia tra i due Paesi e, inoltre, rende omaggio a un’ideologia completamente in contrasto con i valori europei.”)
Evidently, the leaders in Zagreb think that Fiume was a Croatian city. They speak of an “occupation”, as if it were a Croatian city whose sovereignty had been violated and trampled upon by foreign invaders, whereas, in reality, Fiume was predominantly inhabited by an Italian population, which, in the face of a crumbling Austro-Hungarian Empire (formally dissolved on Oct. 31, 1918), had exercised its right to self-determination by voting in favor of union with Italy. The only occupiers at that time were the French, British and American troops who attempted to impede the wishes of the Italian city.

It should also be noted that under D'Annunzio's Regency there were no persecutions, no criminal acts to speak of; the Croatian minority was not harmed. On the other hand, do we really need to remind Croatia once again of what occurred under the Yugoslavs during and after their invasion of 1945? If ever there was a true and proper occupation in the history of Fiume, it was the Yugoslav occupation at the end of World War II, which saw massacres, persecutions, forced annexation and the near total ethnic cleansing of an entire city.

Furthermore, the note falsely characterizes the statue as a “tribute to Fascism”, which is not only false but preposterous and borders on the delirious. Gabriele D'Annunzio had achieved worldwide fame and respect as a poet and man of culture long before Fascism existed. At any rate, D'Annunzio's later political opinions do not negate his previous literary and intellectual merits, just as it does not negate the merits and contributions of other great men, such as Guglielmo Marconi, Enrico Fermi and Nobel Prize-winner Luigi Pirandello – all of whom held pro-Fascist sentiments.

The statue itself depicts a reflective Gabriele D'Annunzio, contently sitting on a bench and reading a book. More importantly, despite his sympathies for the movement, D'Annunzio in fact was never a member of the Fascist Party. Meanwhile, those responsible for the statue's inauguration are very far from being Fascists: Roberto Dipiazza, the mayor of Trieste, is centre-right and is politically closer to the centre-left than to the Far Right. In short, there is nothing Fascist nor ideological about the monument.

Moreover, if we are to speak about tributes to ideology, then what are we to say of the numerous statues in Croatia dedicated to Josip Broz Tito, who was responsible for massacres, genocides and other heinous crimes against German and Italian civilians, not to mention Slavic clergy? Why do we not speak of the dozens of streets and squares dedicated to him throughout Croatia? In August 2017 Google data showed that there were no less than 276 squares, streets and waterfronts named after the Communist dictator in the former Yugoslav states, 35 of which are located in Croatia.

The same Yugoslav Communist dictator who was responsible for the massacre of at least 652 Italians in Fiume, today has monuments, streets and squares named in his honor throughout Croatia. And yet the same Croatian government which permits this, has the audacity to protest against the dedication of statue to a soldier-poet whose only “crime” was entering that same Italian city which, in accordance with the principle of self-determination, had proclaimed itself united to Italy.

The Croatian government's supreme hypocrisy and total obliviousness of itself is revealed and put on display once again. This is a nation which still has yet to face the horrific crimes of its recent past – which, among other things, includes ethnic cleansing, genocide, mass theft of private property and lands, destruction of monuments and eradication of Italian symbols, in addition to a grotesque rewriting of history and usurpation of cultural heritage – previously met with decades of denial or silence, but today met with justification and refusal to offer compensation.

This small, former Communist country – which only became a country 28 years ago – has the arrogance to protest and accuse Italy of provocations, solely for dedicating a statue to its national poet. When and if the Republic of Croatia finally decides to eliminate all the monuments to its former Communist dictator, changes the names of all the streets and squares dedicated to him, and at last compensates the ignored victims of Istria, Dalmatia and the Quarnaro, perhaps then Croatia will earn the right to protest. Until then, they have no right to lecture others.

Revisionist Statements of the Croatian President


In addition to the diplomatic note, on September 12th, 2019 the President of Croatia Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović posted the following highly provocative message on Twitter:
“Rijeka [Fiume] was and remains a proud part of the Croatian Fatherland, and the erection of a monument in Trieste extolling irredentism and occupation is unacceptable.”
(“Rijeka je bila i ostaje ponosni dio hrvatske Domovine, a podizanje spomenika u Trstu kojim se veliča iredentizam i okupacija su neprihvatljivi.”)
In the first place, the statue is not a monument to irredentism, nor to any imagined occupation. As was already pointed out by the communal assessor Giorgio Rossi, the statue depicts that of a reflective if not melancholic D'Annunzio—not that of a heroic soldier or man of action. The statue has nothing to do with ideology nor with territorial aspirations; it is a harmless monument to one of Italy's most celebrated poets of the last two centuries.

In the second place, Fiume was never “a proud part of the Croatian Fatherland”. This is nothing more than shameful historical revisionism which seeks to justify the Yugoslav occupation and annexation following World War II, and the tearing away of this ancient Italian city from Italy. In her attempt to indite and accuse Italy, with all of her faux outrage, the Croatian president hypocritically sustains Croatia's own imperialist territorial ambitions and incites provocations against Italy.

It would be good for President Grabar-Kitarović if she would first consult historical records and census data before making any pronouncements. In 1918 Fiume and its environs counted 28,911 Italians (62.5%) and 9,092 Croats (19.6%); in the city itself there were 14,194 Italians (83.3%) and only 2,094 Croats (12.3%).

Fiume traces its origins back to the Romans, who founded the original city with the name Tarsatica. Throughout the Middle Ages, the citizens clung to their Roman roots, continuing to adhere to Roman law and institutions, and continuing to speak the Latin language. The city later became a free commune, following in the same footsteps as Trieste and the other medieval Italian communes.

Since the 15th century the official language of Fiume was Italian; the city's municipal statutes were drawn up in Latin and Italian; and in order to partake in the social, commercial and cultural life of the city, one had to speak Italian. All the archives and historical documents of Fiume are written in Latin and Italian; not a single document was ever written in Croatian or any other language.

When in 1776 Maria Theresa of Austria attempted to incorporate Fiume into the Kingdom of Hungary, through Croatia, she was met with protests by the inhabitants of Fiume, so that only three years later, in 1779, Fiume was proclaimed a corpus separatum or separate body of the Crown of St. Stephen, entirely separate from Croatia. In 1848 Croatian soldiers under Josip Jelacic invaded Fiume; the ensuing 19-year military occupation was strongly opposed by the native inhabitants.

Jelacic himself promised to respect the Italian tongue of Fiume. However, when an attempt was made to introduce Croatian into schools, the city of Fiume protested, sending an address to Emperor Franz Joseph on January 31st, 1861:
“...it would be superfluous to demonstrate what is universally known, that is, that the Italian language has always been spoken since Fiume existed, which is the country's own language, being the language of school, court, commerce, every public and private discourse, and one of the principal elements to which can be attributed the degree of her culture and progress, both commercial and industrial.”
(“...sarebbe superfluo dimostrare ciò che é universalmente noto, esser cioè l'idioma italiano da secoli in Fiume la lingua della scuola, del foro, del commercio, di ogni pubblico e privato convegno; insomma essere la lingua del paese, ed uno dei principali veicoli a cui attribuire devesi il grado di sua cultura e del suo progresso commerciale e industriale.”)
In 1867, following the Austro-Hungarian Compromise, the city's autonomy was restored and the Croats evacuated. In 1918, with the collapse of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, Fiume voted in favor of union with Italy, and afterwards welcomed D'Annunzio's entry into the city with celebrations.

Residents of Fiume cheering D'Annunzio
and his Legionaries, September 1919
These are unassailable facts of history. A three-year incorporation into the Kingdom of Hungary and an unpopular 19-year military occupation of an Italian city: that was the grand sum of Croatia's connection to Fiume prior to its annexation to Communist Yugoslavia after World War II.

To suggest that Fiume was “a proud part of the Croatian Fatherland”, not only in light of its ancient history but especially in light of all that occurred there just a few decades ago – massacres, thefts, ethnic cleansing – is one of the most dishonest, appalling, insulting and provocative statements issued by a head of state in recent memory.

This sort of historical revisionism and blatant disregard for historical facts on the part of Croatian leaders is nothing new, however. One only needs to recall the incident of 2011, when former Croatian president Stjepan Mesić went to China to inaugurate a museum dedicated to the “Croatian explorer” Marco Polo, sparking protest and outrage in Italy. Just a few months later, Croatia then went to war against the United Kingdom after Croatian tourist bosses and local authorities laid claim to King Arthur, proclaiming him too a “Croat”.

Nonetheless, the statement made today by the current President of Croatia is one of the most shocking and offensive to come out of the modern Croatian state. Above all it is an insult to the Fiumani, that is the Italians of Fiume, who are the historical soul of the city, spanning some two millennia; theirs was the language of the city, theirs was the culture, theirs were the institutions, the traditions, the toponyms, the squares, the streets, the stones, the very foundations; indeed, Fiume was and rightfully remains their city.

Other Controversies

Governor's Palace, Fiume
September 12th, 2019
While all this was taking place, on the early morning of September 12th, 2019, in the city of Fiume-Rijeka, a group of unknown individuals hung a large flag of the old Kingdom of Italy over a gate outside the former Governor's Palace (today a museum). Croatian police immediately removed the flag. Four Italians were arrested and are being criminally charged with “disturbing the peace”, simply for posting a flag.

According to Cristiano Puglisi of “Il Giornale”, responsibility was assumed by a mysterious patriotic group called “Gli Idraulici”. Several Croatian media outlets falsely labeled the group a “Neo-Fascist” front, despite the group having no ties to Fascist ideology.

The same media outlets exaggerated the episode to absurd heights, depicting the raising of the old royal Italian banner as a great “scandal” and “Fascist provocation”, and stoking fear in the minds of its Croatian readers to such an extent that they began to entertain delirious conspiracy theories in the comments sections anticipating an Italian invasion and declaration of war against Croatia.

In reality, the act was done by a small group of patriots with no connection to the current Italian government nor to Fascism. “Il Talebano”, an Italian identitarian group close to “Gli Idraulici”, stated on its website:
“Today, on the 100th anniversary of the Fiume Enterprise [impresa di Fiume], we wanted to show that now just as then some Italians do not surrender. We wanted to show that there are still Italians who are not willing to accept being represented by a puppet government that does not defend national interests. By a government that instead of defending its borders and its citizens opens its doors to invaders. By a government of men and women who do not know beauty, courage, daring, dignity. Today a group of Italians raised the tricolor outside the Governor's Palace of Fiume.”
(“Oggi, nel centenario dell’impresa di Fiume, abbiamo voluto dimostrare che ora come allora alcuni Italiani non si arrendono. Abbiamo voluto dimostrare che esistono ancora italiani che non sono disposti ad accettare di essere rappresentati da un governo fantoccio che non difende gli interessi nazionali. Da un governo che anziché difendere i propri confini e i propri cittadini spalanca le porte agli invasori. Da un governo di uomini e donne che non conoscono bellezza, coraggio, audacia, dignità. Oggi un gruppo di Italiani ha issato il tricolore sulla facciata del Palazzo del Governatorato di Fiume.”)
In an unrelated controversy earlier this year, in June 2019, three Italian youths filmed themselves draping an Italian flag over Tersatto Castle (Castello di Tersatto), just outside the city of Fiume. They later clarified on their Facebook page:
“It was not a hostile act towards the Croats, but a curious, romantic, adventurous and fascinating enterprise. ... As an Italian I feel for Italian Fiume, it is as if a part of the family has been torn from us. We will no longer bow our heads before historical injustices!”
(“Non un atto ostile nei confronti dei croati, ma un impresa curiosa, romantica, avventurosa e affascinante. ... Da italiano sento Fiume italiana è come se una parte della famiglia ci fosse stata strappata. Non abbasseremo più la testa davanti alle ingiustizie storiche!”)
Italian flag over Tersatto Castle near Fiume, June 2019
The action was harshly condemned by the Croatian mayor Vojko Obersnel, who called it a “cowardly act” and declared: “Fiume is a Croatian city and will remain so forever.” The mayor is also less than enthusiastic about the recent decision to restore bilingual signs in the city, but was willing to compromise for the sake of improving Croatia's image before the international community.

With his long history of opposition to the Italians, it comes as no surprise that the same mayor Obersnel issued a statement today denouncing the statue of D'Annunzio in Trieste, accusing the poet of “imposing Italian power in Fiume” and of committing “a Holocaust of monstrosities”. Earlier today he also participated in the inauguration of a new museum in Fiume dedicated to highlighting the supposed “crimes” of D'Annunzio.

The lifelong socialist mayor – who last year spent 5.4 € million in public funds to refurbish the former yacht of Communist dictator Josip Broz Tito – has quite a fanciful imagination and inclination towards delusion, to say the least. Gabriele D'Annunzio has never been accused – let alone found guilty – of any crime during his regency.

To put it in blunt, non-diplomatic terms: these new accusations against D'Annunzio are outrageous lies and fabricated falsehoods unsupported by any scholars outside of recent Croatian polemical circles, who are desperate to rewrite the city's history and deflect attention away from the atrocities committed by their own people in these territories just a few short decades ago.

Obersnel himself, formerly president of the Croatian Socialist Youth (Savez socijalističke omladine Hrvatske) and a member of the League of Communists of Yugoslavia for nearly 20 years, was born in Fiume in 1957. It would be interesting to discover whether his parents were natives of the city, or whether they were one of the thousands of post-war colonists transplanted by Tito to replace the expelled Italian population. If the latter is the case, then this – together with his strong Communist background – would certainly go a long way in explaining his profound contempt for Italy and his obstinate denial of Fiume's Italian past.

Finally, late on September 12th, 2019 it was reported that three Italian aircraft belonging to the private company FlyStory, which were partaking in a commemorative flight to Fiume with the prior consent and approval of the Croatian Civil Aviation Agency, were suddenly intercepted: two of the aircraft were blocked upon landing and are still being detained in Fiume; the third aircraft, while still in flight, was ordered to return to Italy by the authorities in Zagreb and its pilot was threatened with being shot down by military fighters if he refused. This so far is the most serious escalation and hostile threat against Italy on the part of Croatia.

The President of FlyStory stated:
“We found ourselves facing an absurd situation. It was supposed to be a day of celebration, but the Croats reacted badly. ... Rijeka [Fiume] was selected as the European Capital of Culture for 2020, but with this sort of mentality it is truly difficult to understand why.”
(“Ci siamo trovati davanti ad una situazione assurda. Doveva essere una giornata di festa, i croati invece hanno reagito male. ... Rijeka si è candidata come capitale europea della cultura per il 2020, ma con questa mentalità la vedo veramente dura.”)
The sudden increase in controversies surrounding Fiume-Rijeka can be traced back to the EU's decision to declare it the European Capital of Culture 2020, and to dissatisfaction with the dishonest and provocative statements which several Croatian politicians have expressed since then towards the city's Italian heritage and history, specifically the tendency to downplay its significance in favor of a multicultural revisionist interpretation of the city's history.

The senseless press campaign against Antonio Tajani earlier this year undoubtedly also contributed to stoking the flames of hostility between the two countries.

Now, with the latest diplomatic protest and the military threat against Italian civilian aircraft, it remains to be seen how the Italian government will respond.

See also:

The Italian Language Returning to Fiume?
Response to Croatian Statements on Bilingualism in Fiume
Castua Massacre: Exhumations Completed After 73 Years
Quotes on the Italianity of Fiume
Statement of Alexander Oldrini on Fiume
Statement of Ernest Papich on Fiume
Statement of Fiorello La Guardia on Fiume
Statement of Lawrence Yates Sherman on Fiume
Statement of Leopold Vaccaro on Fiume
Statement of S. A. Cotillo on Fiume
Statements of Gino Speranza on Istria, Fiume and Dalmatia
Statements of Lawrence Yates Sherman on the Treaty of London

Wednesday, September 4, 2019

Why Italy Must Have Her Boundary on the Oriental Border of the Julian Alps (1918)

Italy's War For Her Natural Confines

It has, for centuries, been the wish of the Italian population to reach its natural confine; one war follows another always with the same net, precise and irrevocable aim; Italy wants to reach the Alps; Italy wants to have, in her possession, the doors of her home!

The coming peace conference will certainly sanction ostracism of any military institution having offensive aims but it cannot but sanction all that shall, instead, be understood to assure the defence of the single states.

No matter how purely defensive the aim of a military organism of a nation can be, it is to be considered that one must combat in order to defend himself.

An army, to combat, must first collect itself. The massing of an army is carried out under the protection of the covering troops which are normally dislocated to the menaced frontier.

The massing is usually effected as near as possible to the menaced frontier, compatibly with the exigences for its security. It is, therefore, generally executed behind a natural obstacle, which guarantees the regular procedure of operations, even in the case of a break through the covering troops.

The more rapid is the massing, better it answers its purpose. Such rapidity finds its first factor in the conformity of the nation. It can assist the military organizer with enrichment of the networks of roads (ordinary and railroad) of communication and with opportune dislocation of troops and storehouses, even from peace time, but the power of organization, if it can in some instances remedy, it cannot certainly abolish inconveniences due to the disadvantageous natural conformation of the region. If we examine the massing problem relative to Italy, we observe:

1) Italy belted by the sea, on three sides, cannot be attacked by earthly means, except across the thick alpine mass. The massing of her army for defensive action, should therefore be executed on the prealpine plain.

2) Considering Italy's lengthly peninsular form (over 1300 Km, from Reggio Calabria to Udine) the massing demands time in order that the bulk of army, which must needs journey from the southern and insular regions, arrive propitiously, and answer efficaciously to its aim.

This fact is endangered by the Appennine relief, which by contributing a large natural barrier, limits the communications between southwestern and northeastern Italy. Furthermore such an obstacle prevents a rich railroad organization apt to compensate (with number) the length of the courses, therefore causing scarse reach of trains (due to the slopy and irregular ground to overcome).

Finally the inconvenient is rendered still more vital as two of the great railroads run along the coastal regions (Adriatic and Tyrennian) and are thereby easily exposed to nautical offense, which can determine their interruption, and what is worse, render their output precarious.

3) The massing, which will be necessarily slow, will effect itself on the prealpine plain, under the protection of the covering troops methodically spread on the Alpine chain.

It is, therefore necessary that the Alps lend themselves to easily arrest the first endeavours of enemy invasion, by engaging them for that period of time necessary for the collection of the army, and thus mass against the enemy.

Now, whilst the Alps form a gigantic barrier to the west, and to the north of the prealpine plain, they have maintained themselves in a much more accessible way to the east.

Thus, while, owing to the natural obstacle constituted by the Western and Northern Alps, the troops that are in immediate relation sufficing for the construction of the first defences, we could not, however, have with sufficient rapidity, those forces required to ensure the defence of the oriental frontier.

And, in fact, the line Mt. Tricorno Golfo Quarnero measures well, in direct line, 120 Km. of which but 80 are (Idria Quarnero pass) of easy practicability.

On such a line a first defence would therefore require, at least 10 divisions, which would impose the stay of many army corps in the reach of this chosen line of defence, so as to arrive there sooner than the enemy.

A glance at the railroad and ordinary networks of roads in the zone, immediately indicates the impossibility of summoning, in time, troops to the stipulated line if they have not, at least, already reached the Isonzo.

On the other hand, if we consider the opportunity and feasibility of a similar dense concentration of troops (various army corps) at our oriental confine, we instantly observe that it is not practicable, for we could not, normally, mobilize such forces in this region, even in peace time.

Being, therefore, unable to place confidence and reliance on a real strong natural obstacle, and, furthermore, being unable to have, immediately, the disposed troops on the locality, it will therefore be necessary to dispose of a more profound zone, in which it will be possible to multiply the obstacles, thereby gaining that time necessary for the massing of the forces.

Owing to the natural conformity of the ground, it is understood that the massing of the army for the oriental defence cannot be done but on the west of the Isonzo.

Such a massing certainly requires a score of days. It is therefore necessary that the covering troops assure this period by means of their work.

For this aim the boundary should fall to the Sava.

An enemy would then be obliged to renounce to his concentration at the Laibach or Krainberg basins, and in the meanwhile the Italian Army would have all the time necessary to guarantee the safety of the Julian Alps.

But not being able to pretend this for reasons which appear obvious, it is, at least, essential to control that which takes place in the above mentioned basins, and it is, therefore, necessary to possess the border of the Julian Alps, which we can consider defined from : Passo d'Idria (Idria Pass) Varco di Nauporto (between Longatico and Nauporto) the mountainous line Ljubljanski – Kameni – Vini Vehr-Mt. Pomario (Javornik) Bickagora-Mt. Nevoso.

On such a line, which shall have to be employed as a line of observation, can be actuated a primary defence, enough to consent to the arrival of the covering troops on the real line of resistance constituted by the stronghold formed by the oriental slopes of the Selva di Ternova, by Mt. Re (Mt. Nanos) Mt. Nevoso, or, should it fall, by Mt. della Vena, Mt. Maggiore.

But we could not consider this line of resistance as line of confine, inasmuch as it is the only barrier (in a military sense) really efficacious for the support of a good systemization.

At any rate were this single barrier the confine, it would be prominently exposed to small attacks and would fail to give the nation that security, that it must militarily claim.

An enemy forestalling us on this line of resistance would in sole march reach Triest, completely isolating Istria from the rest of Italy, and what is worse, in a march he would also be at Gorizia, thus breaking all the Isonzo defences with a sole stroke, and immediately opening an outlet to the plains.

Recapitulating: if we wish to consent to the Italian Army massing behind the Isonzo to affront an attempted enemy irruption from the oriental door, it is indispensable to have the confine at the line: Passo d'Idria (Idria Pass) Varco di Nauporto – Ljublianski – Vini Vehr – Mt. Pomario (Javornik) Mt. Bickagora – Mt. Nevoso – Mt. Risnjak – Mt. Tuhuvic; for any other arreared line would permit:
a) the immediate isolation of Istria;
b) the immediate fall of Triest;
c) the easy and rapid fall of all our Isonzo defences;
d) it would consequently compel the Italian Army to mass itself behind the Friuli under the weak protection of the covering troops, and be, in fact, open to invasion.
This is, therefore, the minimum confine, for which Italy must contend with all her forces. Neither could it be objected that with this, Italy would place in an inferior condition the confining state. If we should, furthermore, consider that while Italy, for reasons already exposed, has a forcedly slow massing, the conformity of the confining regions and the predisposed networks of railroads consent to the near state, a much superior rapidity for the execution of such an operation.

Aside from the assertion that Italy has never had the velleity of expansion over the Alps, on grounds not ethnically hers, or on such of great economic value, the fact still remains that the nation that will confine with us, shall always have in her complete possession, numerous and magnificent lines of defence.

Thus, even if one of our offensive thrusts in the Laibach Basin succeeded in conquering this, (after having smashed the strong line formed by the Klecica ranges – Visoki – Pasirovan – Krim B) it would result enclosed in the great Alpine « pincers » constituted by Mt. Karavanka to the north, by the Sannthaler Alpen, by the mountainous groups of Cerna, of Velka at north-east, and by the Kumberg Dolgobrdo, Kutschel, Makovec knots to the south-east.

Analogously, an Italian thrust more to the south, aimed at Reifnitz Agram would hit against an infinite series of heights which extend themselves in chains parallel to one another to the south of Laibach with a north western - south eastern course, stopping an imponent mountainous obstacle which can be considered militarily insuperable, if animated by the presence of a few troops.

Therefore if Italy should lose the mountainous obstacle of the Julian Alps she has the enemy in her home, moreover, in her plains; vice versa even in the case of her army forcing the Julian Alps she would find herself against a strong high wall of enclosure belonging to the enemy, which in order to arrest the advance has but to close his few narrow doors which constitute the entrances.

On the other hand it would suffice to observe an « isometric » map in order to note that the profundity of the mountainous obstacle, respectively to the east and west of the confine minimum to Italy's needs, is all to the advantage of the confining state, inasmuch as at a medium profoundness of 35 km. for Italy, it corresponds, to a medium of about 100 Km. for the eastern confining region.

Therefore the indicated confine is for Italy, militarily indispensable and is besides a modest request, an equitable division. Following the watershed, it also represents the real limit with regard to the current life materials. On the whole it is a true right of Italy, for with it, she will have realized her national aspirations to the east.

After four wars for independence, Italy, with such a successful realization of her aspirations, can sheathe her honest sword and stimulate the endeavours of her 40 million intelligent inhabitants, good arid labourous in the work of peace, to which their long standing civilization and renewed vitality conduct them.

Thursday, June 6, 2019

The Habsburg Genocide in Dalmatia


(Written by Marco De Turris, taken from the blog “L'Italia e' la mia Patria”, September 13, 2010)

The so-called Austrian Empire (Austria-Hungary after 1866) was responsible for a great deal of persecution, abuse and violence against the Italian nation. We know how this decisively contributed to perpetuating the long state of division of Italy, the colonial possession of its vast territories under foreign rule, the condition of economic exploitation, cultural repression, political oppression and ethnic discrimination of its Italian subjects. However, what is less known is how the Empire planned and accomplished after 1866 a true genocide (in the sense of forced denationalization) to the detriment of the Italian residents in their possessions. An objective and truthful assessment of the Habsburg Empire, founded on the principle of the hegemony of the ethnic Austrian element, can be introduced by recalling the minutes of the decision expressed in the Imperial Council of Ministers on November 12, 1866, held under the presidency of Emperor Franz Joseph. The minutes of the meeting reads as follows:
“His Majesty has expressed the precise order that we decisively oppose the influence of the Italian element still present in some Crown lands, and to aim unsparingly and without the slightest compunction at the Germanization or Slavicization – depending on the circumstances – of the areas in question, through a suitable entrustment of posts to political magistrates and teachers, as well as through the influence of the press in South Tyrol, Dalmatia, and the Adriatic Coast.”
[See Luciano Monzali, "Italiani di Dalmazia", Florence 2004, p. 69; Angelo Filipuzzi (edited by), “La campagna del 1866 nei documenti militari austriaci: operazioni terrestri”, Padua 1966, pp. 396.]
The Imperial decision of Franz Joseph to carry out an ethnic cleansing against the Italians in Trentino-Alto Adige, Venezia Giulia, and Dalmatia, can be found in Die Protokolle des Österreichischen Ministerrates 1848-1867. VI Abteilung: Das Ministerium Belcredi. Band 2: 8. April 1866-6. Februar 1867, Österreichischer Bundesverlag für Unterricht, Wissenschaft und Kunst (Wien 1973); the quote appears in Section VI, vol. 2, meeting of November 12, 1866, p. 297. The quotation in German appears in a section titled "Measures against the Italian element in some territories of the Crown", or rather "Maßregeln gegen das italienische Element in einigen Kronländern":
“Se. Majestät sprach den bestimmten Befehl aus, daß auf die entschiedenste Art dem Einflusse des in einigen Kronländern noch vorhandenen italienischen Elementes entgegengetreten und durch geeignete Besetzung der Stellen von politischen, Gerichtsbeamten, Lehrern sowie durch den Einfluß der Presse in Südtirol, Dalmatien und dem Küstenlande auf die Germanisierung oder Slawisierung der betreffenden Landesteile je nach Umständen mit aller Energie und ohne alle Rücksicht hingearbeitet werde. Se. Majestät legt es allen Zentralstellen als strenge Pflicht auf, in diesem Sinne planmäßig vorzugehen.”
This was followed by a call to all the central offices, giving them the strict duty of carrying out the order according to the will of the emperor. This government decision, made at the highest level by Emperor Franz Joseph and his council, to proceed with the Germanization and Slavicization of the regions with Italian population, Trentino, Venezia Giulia and Dalmatia, "unsparingly and without the slightest compunction", attests unequivocally to the discriminatory and oppressive nature of the Habsburg Empire against the Italian minority: remember however that this is only one example among many of the anti-Italian policy of Austria. This act of the government, directly ordered by the emperor himself, expresses a clear intention to perpetrate an anti-Italian genocide (not in the sense of physical extermination, but in the sense of eradicating national and cultural identity, that would lead precisely to the "death of a people"), which was then actually realized in Dalmatia (Austrian censuses report the reduction of the Italian ethnic group from nearly 20% to just over 2%) and undertaken in Venezia Giulia and Trentino: only the war and the Italian victory prevented the same from happening in these last two regions that happened in Dalmatia, where the Italian presence was eliminated.

This project, consciously elaborated by the highest authorities of the Habsburg Empire and by the manifest will of Franz Joseph himself, was then carried out against the Italians in a plurality of ways. The rear measures against the Italians were carried out from 1866 until 1918 and were different according to the place, the time, and the authorities (civil or military, central or local) that promoted it. However, they all followed the pattern laid down by a substantial hostility of the Austrian ruling class against the Italians:
  1. Mass expulsions (in the first years of the 20th century alone more than 35,000 Italians were expelled from Venezia Giulia);
  2. Deportation to concentration camps (over 100,000 Italians deported during World War I);
  3. Use of Slavic nationalist squads to exercise massive amounts of violence against Italians (with countless acts of violence, bombings, assaults, murders, etc. These actions were often substantially tolerated by the authorities or were not effectively suppressed);
  4. Police repression;
  5. Immigration of Slavs and Germans into Italian territories favored by the imperial authorities, to promote the gradual "submersion" of the native Italians;
  6. Educational and cultural Germanization and Slavicization (Italian school closed, elimination of Italian place names and proper names, prohibition of Italian culture in all its forms: the question of education in Dalmatia in particular was very serious);
  7. Deprivation or restriction of political rights (elections in Dalmatia saw very heavy vote rigging in favour of Slavic nationalists; communes ruled by Italians were dissolved by the Austrian authorities, etc.);
  8. Restriction of civil rights (dissolution of political associations, cultural associations, trade unions, people were arrested or convicted for trivial reasons, etc).
There is a wealth of material about all this, both in contemporary sources and in historiography.

Monday, April 22, 2019

Pope St. Caius - April 22

Pope St. Caius


April 22 is the feast of St. Caius, pope.

Pope Caius or Gaius (San Caio) was the 28th Bishop of Rome and Pope of the Catholic Church.

According to tradition he was born in Salona, capital of Dalmatia, to a noble Roman family. Tradition makes him an uncle of the Roman martyr St. Susanna, a brother of St. Gabinius, and a cousin of Emperor Diocletian. This latter fact may explain why many Christians were employed at the imperial court and why the Diocletianic Persecution did not begin until a few years after the Pontiff's death.

According to the Liberian Catalogue he reigned as pope for twelve years, four months and seven days, from December 17, 283 to April 22, 296 AD. He is said to have baptized the men and women who had been converted to Christianity by St. Tiburtius. Previously he was thought to have been a martyr, but now is thought to have died of other causes. Nothing else is known of his life.

He was buried in the Catacomb of Callixtus.

The ancient tomb of Caius, with the original epitaph, was discovered in the 19th century by Italian archaeologist Giovanni Battista de Rossi. In 1880 his relics were transferred to the private chapel of the Barberini family.

He appears in the Roman Martyrology alongside Pope St. Soterius. Historically his cult was particularly strong in Dalmatia and Venice.

Thursday, April 11, 2019

St. Domnius - April 11

Painting of St. Domnius in the Franciscan Church of the Paludi in Spalato
Painted by Italian artist Girolamo da Santacroce (left)
& the Cathedral of San Doimo in Spalato (right)

April 11 is the feast of St. Domnius, bishop and martyr.

St. Domnius (San Doimo or Domnione di Salona) was a Roman bishop who from about 284-304 AD was the second Bishop of Salona.

St. Domnius was born in the Roman colony of Antioch, capital of the Province of Syria-Coele. According to tradition his father Theodosius was a wealthy Roman and his mother Migdonia was of Greek origin. Domnius later moved to Salona, which at that time was a large Roman city and the capital of the Province of Dalmatia. He worked there as a missionary and in c. 284 AD he became bishop of that city, succeeding St. Venantius. In 303 or 304 AD, during the height of the Diocletianic Persecution, he was beheaded, suffering martyrdom together with seven other Christians.

He was buried outside the city walls by Roman soldiers. After the legalization of Christianity by the Edict of Milan in 313 AD, a chapel was erected on his grave. It later became a church and in the 5th century was converted into a large basilica.

The Destruction of Salona and Foundation of Spalato

The Avars and Slavs began to invade the Province of Dalmatia in the 7th century, and in 639 AD they sacked and completely destroyed the city of Salona. The surviving Roman inhabitants fled to the nearby coast, where they barricaded themselves behind the walls of Diocletian's Palace. Within these walls a new city was established: the city of Spalato.

The Romans had brought with them the relics of St. Domnius. He became the patron saint of the new city and his relics were preserved inside a new church which they dedicated to him: the Cathedral of San Doimo – providentially built inside the Mausoleum of the very emperor who had caused the saint's death.

In 641 AD Pope John IV requested that St. Domnius' relics be transferred to the Lateran Basilica in Rome, in order to protect them from the Slavic invaders. A portion of the relics were later returned to Spalato, while the rest remained in the Lateran. Today both Spalato and Rome each possess some of the saint's relics.

In Spalato the feast is celebrated on May 7, instead of the usual April 11; the date was moved forward in the diocese of Spalato due to the feast often coinciding with Palm Sunday.

Thursday, March 28, 2019

The First Dalmatian Exodus, 1870-1880

Postcard featuring Dante Alighieri and the coats of arms of the unredeemed
Italian lands under the Habsburgs: Gorizia, Trento, Dalmatia, Trieste & Istria

(Printed in Zara, Editrice Libreria Internazionale, 1902
)

(Written by Mario Bortoluzzi, taken from the magazine “Il Borghese”, May 2014)

Objectors say: “The exodus of the Istrians, Fiumans and Dalmatians is a consequence of the events of the Second World War, the violence committed by the Slavs was merely in retaliation to the violence committed by Fascists during the Italian occupation of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia.”

This is a claim that has been made every year around the time of the Day of Remembrance for the last decade, repeated like a mantra by the media of our country, which is controlled by a well-defined school of thought. In essence, they claim that the anti-Italian violence by Tito's Slavs was perhaps a bit much, but was caused by the violence and oppression of the occupying Italian army.

These claims demonstrate their ignorance – their ignorance of the history of Istria and Dalmatia.

These lands were never divorced from Italian history, as we shall see, but rightfully belong to our national history, no less so than all the other current regions of Italy.

What Tito did was only the final act of a process that began in 1860, and quite frankly the Communist ideology professed by Tito was not the triggering factor; if anything it was the ideological glue that held the Slavic peoples (Slovenes, Serbs, Croats) together in their anti-Italian operation.

The history of those lands, which were Roman and then Venetian for nearly a thousand years, is part of the history of our Fatherland and should be studied in schools in all grades.

But today it is forgotten history, indeed its history is unacknowledged and hidden. That is why, for example, nothing is ever said about what took place in Istria and Dalmatia between the time of the Risorgimento and the First World War.

That is why they fail to teach and explain that the methods used by the Italian government from 1918 to 1945 (the famous compulsory use of the Italian language in schools, the supposed “italianization” of surnames and violence during the war), although considered wrong by people today, were not considered wrong according to the mentality of the time; during that time these policies were regarded as the only feasible way to repair the injustices suffered by Italians in previous decades. Remember, nothing ever happens for no reason.

In order to discuss the origin of the conflict between the nationalities in these areas it is first necessary to give a basic account of Dalmatian history, from the beginning.

Ancient Dalmatia, called “Illyria”, entered history beginning in 156 BC with the first of eight wars that were waged against Rome. Dalmatia became a senatorial province in 27 BC and later an imperial province. It was fully integrated with the Roman world and was the birthplace of Roman Emperors like Probus, Claudius, Carus and Diocletian.

The entire Dalmatian coast and islands were Latinized by the Romans who founded cities and favored a fusion with the native Illyrian element.

In 475 A.D. Emperor Julius Nepos took refuge in Dalmatia, while Romulus Augustulus was raised to the purple in Ravenna. In 476 A.D. the latter was deposed by Odoacer and the Western Roman Empire ceased to exist. But Julius Nepos survived in Dalmatia with the Emperor's insignia and remained a representative of Roman world until 480, the year of his death.

In the seventh century A.D., the barbarian invasions began. In particular, the Avars invaded the Balkans with their slaves, the Slavic tribes, and later invaded the Adriatic coast. The Latin people then retreated to the fortified towns of Dalmatia. As the Slavs advanced towards Zara and Spalato, municipalities arose in the Roman cities of Dalmatia with characteristics similar to those existing in the Italian peninsula. The Slavs eventually reached the sea along the Velebit channel and occupied the the mouths of the Narenta river where they devoted themselves to piracy. The Dalmatian cities sought help from the rising Venetian power; seeing as its trade was threatened, Venice decided to intervene.

On Ascension Day in the year 1000, after refusing to pay the pretium pacis to the Croats, i.e. a tax to avoid attacks on Venetian convoys, the Doge Pietro Orseolo II set sail for Dalmatia with his ships and his warriors, obtained an oath of submission from all the Latin cities, and defeated the Croatian pirates everywhere, reaching down to Spalato and Curzola. This was an historical act of immense importance. Venice would forever consider it a perpetual and inalienable acquisition and one of the fundamental cornerstones of its statal right. From then on until 1797, with some losses and re-conquests, the submission of the Latin cities was uninterrupted, and since the fifteenth century all of Dalmatia became an integral part of the Venetian “Stato da Mar”.

Cities such as Zara, Spalato, Traù, Sebenico, Cattaro, Ragusa (the modern Dubrovnik, which was the 5th Italian maritime republic after becoming independent from Venice), islands such as Curzola, Lissa, Lesina, Brazza, Meleda and a hundred other towns of Dalmatia still carry the signs of Venetian culture and political presence today in their urban layout, artistic and military monuments, palaces and streets.

The Slavs were never able to impose their language on the Dalmatians, whose language was a vernacular derivative of Latin known as Dalmatico.

In the fourteenth century the Dalmatian language was gradually replaced by Venetian, which became the official language of the region and the language of culture.

Until the fall of the Republic on May 12, 1797, Dalmatia flourished in institutions, in the arts, in culture and in commercial activities under the Venetian banner.

Even the Slavic-Croatian element, invited by the Venetians to repopulate the countryside affected by the plague, peacefully coexisted for centuries with the Latin element, sharing uses and customs; even the language spoken by the Slavs on the coast from Fiume to Spalato, known as “chakavian”, a special variety of language distinct from Croatian, is rich in Venetian words that are unknown to the Croats of Zagreb. These new “Dalmatian Slavs” (peasants, sailors, fishermen), who were in contact with the Latin element, are anthropologically “Mediterranean”. The most loyal Slavs, the Oltremarini, were the last troops to leave Venice after the fall of the Republic. The Morlochs of Latin blood, pastores Romanorum, for centuries fought under the banner of San Marco and the Stratioti (mercenaries) which provided light cavalry to Venice were used against the Turks.

All felt united and protected under the wings of the Venetian Lion.

Just as the Roman Empire survived in Dalmatia even after 476 A.D., so the Venetian Signoria continued on in Dalmatia for some time after the fall of the Republic.

In Zara the flag of San Marco was lowered on July 1, brought to the Cathedral, kissed and bathed in tears by the people.

The last and most poignant farewell was given on August 23 by the inhabitants of the town of Perasto, bearer of the battle flag of the Venetian fleet, in the Bay of Cattaro.

The Commander of the fortress, after placing the fallen Venetian banner under the altar, pronounced a noble speech of which we will quote the most famous line:
“For three hundred and seventy-seven years our bodies, our blood and our lives have always been for You, O San Marco; and most faithful we have always thought ourselves, You with us, we with You; and always with You on the sea we have been illustrious and full of valor. No one with You has seen us flee, no one with You has seen us defeated or fearful...”
With the Treaty of Campo Formio, Dalmatia was sold by Napoleon to Austria, but a few years later, in 1806, Dalmatia returned to the Kingdom of Italy, together with Istria. Later, after a few decades marked by bitter disputes, the region returned to Austria again.

And so we come to 1815, the year in which we can date the beginning of the Risorgimento, also in Dalmatia. The Austrian police immediately realized that the Italian citizens supported the ideas of independence and reunification with Italy. They discovered Carbonari lodges, and later, in 1830, found supporters of Mazzini's Young Italy movement.

It was in 1847 that Nicolò Tommaseo of Sebenico entered the history of Dalmatia. Adhering to the opinions of Mazzini, he advocated the destruction of the Habsburg Empire and the resurrection of nationalities.

Therefore Hungarians, Italians, Romanians, Serbs, Croats, Bulgarians, Albanians, “must rise up and form a living nation of young associated nations.”

The Dalmatians pursued camaraderie with the Slavs and therefore multiplied the initiatives of scientists, scholars, jurists.

But, when the uprisings broke out in 1848, the Croats remained indifferent because they were pursuing the consolidation of the Habsburg dynasty through a Croatian movement that they hoped would become a pillar of the Empire's strength.

The Croats thus became the military arm of Austrian absolutism and they aspired, as part of the Empire, to annex Dalmatia to Croatia.

Now, Dalmatia in 1848 was nationally the same as how Venice left it.

Up to that point Dalmatia had been preserved by Austria: it was totally Italian in culture, in administration, in its ecclesiastical hierarchy, in wealth, in commerce, in navigation, in artisanry. Austria never changed the names of the cities, islands, mountains or rivers. These names remained Italian under Austria for 120 years because they had existed for tens of centuries.

But the Italian element, in the eyes of the imperialists, represented an element whose loyalty to the Empire was questionable. The sea was the only thing that separated the Dalmatians from their Italian Motherland and Austria was well aware of this.

In early March of 1848 Milan, Venice, Zara, Sebenico and Spalato revolted together. The swift Austrian suppression nipped in the bud any possibility of success. The Dalmatian cities were surrounded by Austro-Croatian troops and the Croatian peasants of the countryside were armed and incited against the Dalmatians. They were also incited by the Croatian clergy, who depicted the Italians as godless Freemasons.

On the political plane the Croats of Zagreb began to require a pledge of their loyalty to the Empire and openly demanded the annexation of Dalmatia to Croatia.

In 1860, after years of Croatian attempts and strenuous opposition by the Dalmatians (it is sufficient to recall Spalato's response to a letter sent by Zagreb proposing annexation: “Dalmatia is Italian: only one citizen of Spalato, out of 12,000, was able to translate your honorable words [from Croatian]”), the Croats, supported by the Empire, proclaimed the forced annexation of Dalmatia to Croatia.

The elections of a Diet of Dalmatia to be sent to Zagreb were held and the ballot boxes gave 29 Italian representatives and 12 Croats. But the majority of the Diet refused to go to Zagreb. The Croatian delegates departed for Zagreb to join the Croatian delegation which soon left for Vienna.

To counter the Croats, the Diet of Dalmatia, all in unison and guided by the ailing Archbishop of Zara Giuseppe Godeassi, left for Vienna and was received on May 8 by Emperor Franz Joseph, who realized the adamant will of the Dalmatians to remain autonomous from Zagreb. No one spoke of annexation to Croatia any longer. But this victory was not attained without sacrifice: Archbishop Godeassi returned to his homeland in agony and died on September 5.

Unfortunately, the slow and inexorable operation of croatizing Dalmatia continued.

On June 15, 1866 an imperial ordinance limited the use of the Italian language in offices and forced officials to learn Croatian.

On June 14, 1867 another decree ordered the Slavicization of the grammar school in Zara; in the same year there were the first anti-Italian street riots provoked by masses of Slavic peasants; citizens were forbidden access to the countryside; the Italian landowners had their vines chopped, trees cut down, crops stolen; the Croatian friars in Signo refused to administer the sacraments to the Italian population.

In Sebenico on July 31, 1869 a Croatian mob attacked and killed 14 sailors of the Royal Italian ship Monzambano which was anchored in the port of the Dalmatian city.

On February 15, 1870 the Croats attempted to set fire to the Verdi Theatre of Zara, a temple of Italian art.

All of these incidents led to the first exodus of the Dalmatian population towards Zara, Istria and the Italian Motherland. Croatian Slavic irredentism, which aimed at annexing Dalmatia to Croatia, thus was able in such a short time to destroy centuries of peaceful coexistence guaranteed by the good governance of the Republic of San Marco.

And in Italy? The young Kingdom of Savoy made it known to Austria that “as far as a solution to the problems of the East, Italy intends to participate with its own ideas and in defense of its own interests.”

This position of Italy rekindled the hopes of the Italians of Dalmatia, despite the difficulties due to the daily harassment they suffered, so much so that the Italian Chamber of Deputies burst into uncontrollable applause during the communication of the greeting and thanksgiving from the city of Zara.

Trento, Trieste, Istria, Gorizia and Zara were the names of the places that needed to be liberated and were on the lips of every Italian irredentist.

But forty-eight long years passed before part of Dalmatia was finally reunited with the Italian Motherland.

Meanwhile the Austrians inexorably continued the forced Croatization of Dalmatia. It began with threats and abuses to change the balance of power within the provincial Diet: more power was given to Croatian politicians and less to Italians, which brought about a reversal of the anti-annexation results of 1860; now there was a new 24 to 16 majority in favor of the Croatian annexationists. By means of electoral fraud, violence, corruption and intimidation, one by one the Italian cities of Dalmatia fell. The offices, schools, churches and all public institutions were then Croatized, always with the consent of the Austrians.

This situation dragged on through thick and thin until the eve of the First World War, but with a constant progressive loss by the Italian Dalmatians, as if it were a battle in retreat, slow and tenacious but forced to surrender the land inch by inch.

In the provincial Diet – where until 1865 the discussions were held only in Italian – from 1866 onward Croatian was gradually imposed alongside the Italian language until 1883, when the use of the Croatian language was made exclusive and Italian was forcibly excluded.

This early slow and steady ethnic cleansing paved the way for Italy's re-Italianization policy in the years following World War I, when a few parts of Dalmatia passed to the Italian State after the fall of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Cherso, Lussino, Zara and the islands of Lagosta and Pelagosa were restored to Italy. But the majority of Dalmatian territory, including the islands, came under the rule of the newly-formed Kingdom of Yugoslavia on the basis of the Treaty of Rapallo (November 12, 1920).

General Caviglia spoke during the discussion in the Senate regarding the Treaty of Rapallo. His words were prophetic:
“Certainly the Treaty of Rapallo will be judged by history, but we can determine right now that this treaty has consumed a historical event of great importance and laid the seeds of endless troubles in a soil too fertile. After twelve centuries of slow advance and four centuries of struggle with the Italian race, the Slavic race was able to obtain from Italy, in an official document – the first in history – the recognition of its undisputed dominion on the east side of the Adriatic. This historical fact is consumated by the Treaty of Rapallo. Using the lesson of history, allow me to make some predictions. All of modern history indicates a strong movement of expansion of the Slavic race in all directions. As serfs, slaves, mercenaries, feudatories, they will expand westward, penetrate the boundaries of various neighboring nationalities and will replace the populations.
They do not carry a civilization of their own, but absorb the civilization of the peoples they replace, changing the names of the lands. But the expelled nationality preserves its identity; and thus the Italian will be forced to migrate to Italy, the German forced to migrate to Germany and Austria, the Greek to Greece, the Hungarian to Hungary. Voltaire, in his history of Charles XII of Sweden, found to his regret the disappearance of Greek-Byzantine civilization in the lands to the south-east of Poland due to the advance of the Slavs and the substitution of Greek names of rivers and cities with new Slavic names; with greater sorrow Italy will see the disappearance of Italian names from the eastern shore of the Adriatic and their replacement with Slavic names. Our people will gradually be driven from the eastern shore of the Adriatic; our merchant ships and our fishing boats will gradually encounter more and more obstacles forbidding us to exercise our millennial rights; we will end up having to flee from the eastern coast, and the Italian flag, which represents the banner of Rome and Venice with their most noble traditions, will be forced to abandon the coast of Dalmatia.”
The Slavicization of Dalmatia and the gradual expulsion of the Italian element thus become a fait accompli.

All this was before the advent of the Fascist regime, before the attempted re-Italianization of these lands by the Italians (1918-1941), and before the Italo-German military occupation of World War II. The poisonous seeds of ethnic hatred had certainly been planted, as can be seen, not by the Italians, but by the Slavs, and the plants unfortunately grew between 1943 and 1945 with the tragedy of the Foibe Massacres and the final exodus of the Italians in the years after.

The nationalisms that caused the collapse of the Central Powers were unable to reconstruct that centuries-old peaceful coexistence among the people of Dalmatia which the Republic of Venice had managed to wisely guarantee from the fourteenth century until its fall. A peaceful coexistence which still remains as a witness and example for all generations.

See also:
The Agony of Italian Dalmatia Under Franz Joseph
Brief History of Dalmatia in the 19th Century
The Population of Dalmatia in the 12th Century
Quotes on the Italianity of Dalmatia
Quotes on the Italianity of Fiume
Quotes on the Italianity of Istria
Quotes on the Italianity of the Quarnaro
Quotes on the Italianity of Ragusa