Monday, October 28, 2019

The Forced Slavicization of Clergy and Liturgy in Julian Venetia and Dalmatia by the Habsburgs (1866-1914)

The 6th century Basilica Eufrasiana in Parenzo, Istria

The forced Slavicization of Julian Venetia and Dalmatia, designed and carried out by the Habsburg Empire, notoriously developed in a variety of forms and ways, including judicial and police activities, deportations, mass immigration of Slavs from the interior, political propaganda, educational measures, etc. One of the instruments used by the Imperial Royal authorities to Slavicize these regions was the Slovenian and Croatian nationalist clergy, through whom they sought to achieve a massive Slavicization of the local Catholic Church in all its aspects, in contrast to the national and religious identity of the Italian Catholics who lived there.

I. Austro-Slavism

So-called “Austro-Slavism” was a widespread political current among Slovenes and Croats that was intended to achieve their national and nationalistic goals within the Habsburg regime and with its collaboration. Austro-Slavism was also popular among other Slavic peoples of the Empire, such as the Czechs. But what we will focus on is its presence among the South Slavs. The purpose of this movement was to promote Slovene and Croatian “tribalism”, ultimately leading to the establishment of a third “kingdom”, alongside Austria and Hungary, which, in order to satisfy their aspirations, was to include Slovenes and Croats.

Many Slovene politicians advocated the creation of a new administrative unit, located within the Habsburg Empire, which was to include not only Carniola, southern Styria and southern Carinthia, but even lands in which Italians were the majority, such as the so-called Littoral (Julian Venetia), and therefore Trieste, Istria and the County of Gorizia and Gradisca, as well as Dalmatia. They even claimed Italian territories beyond the Isonzo, claiming that it was part of the Natisone Valley. The boundaries of this new administrative unit would have largely followed the idea fabricated in the middle of the nineteenth century by Peter Kozler, a Slovenian geographer of German origin who was favorable to the Habsburg Empire. In 1848 Kozler created the first map of “Slovenia”, in which he included many territories that did not even have a Slovene majority.

The hypothetical “third kingdom” would also have to include Croatia, Slavonia and Bosnia-Herzegovina. The fate of the Italians and Serbs in this new national construction would have been, according to the intentions of many Slovene and Croat nationalists, one of forced assimilation, and therefore Slovenization and Croatization. Thus they would have to find a modus vivendi with the central power and the Austrian ethnic group, and denationalize the Italian and Serb minorities within the new administrative structure.

These nationalists hoped to achieve their national reform projects by forging an alliance with certain sectors of the Imperial establishment, particularly the army. In fact, the Chief of Staff Conrad von Hötzendorf, a well-known Italophobe (he proposed attacking Italy twice: once after the Messina earthquake in 1908, and again during the Italo-Turkish War in 1911-12), sympathized with the position of the Austro-Slavists. This was also the case with the heir to the throne Franz Ferdinand who, not coincidentally, was on good terms with von Hötzendorf.

Austro-Slavism had the sympathy and support of significant sectors of the Austrian ruling class and was supported by the leading figures of Slavic nationalism, who were, symptomatically, all clergymen: J.J. Strossmayer, bishop of Dakovo; J. Dobrila, bishop of Parenzo and Pola; Janez Evangelist Krek, priest, professor of theology at the seminary of Ljubljana, leader and prominent ideologue of the Slovenska Ljudska Stranka (“Slovenian People's Party”), who supported the union of Slovenes, Croats and Serbs “under the scepter of the Habsburgs” and hoped to find allies within military circles in order to implement his national reform plans; Anton Mahnic, bishop of Veglia. [1]

In fact, the Slovenian and Croatian clergy represented the political leadership of the nationalist movement of these two peoples, because these two peoples had a very weak cultural awareness and lacked an aristocratic, bourgeois or intellectual ruling class which could represent them aside from the clergy. The alliance between the Habsburg Imperial power and Slovenian and Croatian nationalism served an anti-Italian purpose: the Habsburgs saw in Austro-Slavism a way to eliminate Italian influence and found their political representatives in the Slavic clergy.

The Concordat of 1855 between Vienna and Rome had granted to the Catholic Church a number of public functions which had been suppressed during the reign of Joseph II. The Church was assigned the registry office, the power of repression of crimes provided for by canon law, jurisdiction in matrimonial matters, authority over censorship and influence on the entire education sector. In exchange, however, the Church had to agree to reduce its own members to conditions of partial submission to the political power, because the clergy were considered de facto civil servants of the state, and the Emperor could exert extensive influence over ecclesiastical administration, particularly over the appointment of bishops. This made it possible to Slavicize the population at the hands of Slavic nationalist clergy.


II. The Slavicization of the Clergy

The Viennese government made sure to appoint only Slavic bishops in Julian Venetia, a region which was predominantly Italian, and brought in Slavic priests from the Balkans who encouraged immigration in hopes that the Slavs would eventually outnumber the native Italians.

Despite the fact that Italians were the majority of the population in Julian Venetia, even according to the Austrian censuses, and even though some areas were entirely Italian, all the bishops were chosen from among the Slavs by the express will of the government, with the sole exception of the bishop of Parenzo, but he only received the position because he submitted to the will of Vienna. The two leaders of Slavic nationalism in Julian Venetia were not laymen, but bishops: Bishop Dobrila, who was appointed bishop of Trieste (a city with an overwhelming Italian majority) and Bishop Vitovic in Veglia (an island which also had an overwhelming Italian majority). The Slavicization of the episcopal offices was followed by the Slavicization of the priests.

Attilio Tamaro wrote in ‘The Conditions of the Italians Under Austrian Rule in Julian Venetia and Dalmatia’ (Rome, G. Bertero, 1915):
“The priests are cooperating in this distorted system of ethnic and historical destruction of Julian Venetia and Dalmatia. The bishops of the provinces, except Parenzo, have blind devotion to the Austrian government, and all are Slavs, by the express will of Vienna. As such, through the episcopal seminaries and through their relations with the provincial interiors, they increased with great intensity the production of Slavic priests and, taking advantage of the small number of Italian priests that the provinces could produce, filled all the parishes with Slavs, even the Italian parishes.”
The cathedral chapter of Trieste was Slavicized too, because each time a seat was left vacant a Slav was appointed, usually one who was not even a native of Trieste. It so happens that in 1891, out of the 14 canons that constituted the chapter of the cathedral of St. Justus, just one, a simple honorary canon, was Italian, while the other thirteen were all Slavs, including eight who came from Carniola: this despite the fact that the city of Trieste had an overwhelming Italian majority, as shown by the same Austrian censuses. At the same date, there were 92 priests in the Diocese of Trieste originating from Carniola, 16 from Bohemia, 14 from Carsia, 6 from Styria, 5 from Dalmatia, 5 from Croatia, 2 from Moravia, 1 from Poland. In 1900 in the Diocese of Trieste-Capodistria there were 100 Italian priests and 189 Slavs. Most of these Slav priests were not even natives, but were brought in from the interior regions of Slovenia and Croatia in order to religiously Slavicize the region. In 1892 in the Diocese of Parenzo-Pola (which had a net Italian majority) there were 81 priests, among which 56 were Slavs, all from other regions, some even from very far away, since 11 of them were from Bohemia.

The situation was so serious that it even aroused protest in the municipalities. On December 29, 1886 the City Council of Trieste, after explaining in detail the situation regarding the local clergy, declared:
“The City Council recognizes in these actions a clear attempt to propagate Slavism, which is incompatible with the office of the Episcopal Curia, harmful to our schools, likewise to religion and to the public government, unfair to young Italians who wish to devote themselves to to the priestly profession, dangerous to the peace and well-being of the city, and a most serious offense to the national character of the country, to the feeling of its people and to its centuries-old civilization. The City Council very strongly protests against these actions, and in the meantime reserves the right, within the limited means of its powers, to instruct the most illustrious Signor Mayor to give a summary of this resolution to the Imperial Royal Government.”
The Istrian cities of Capodistria, Pirano, Isola, Muggia, Buie, Cittanova and Portole also joined in the protest of the Council of Trieste.


III. Instigating Hostility Against the Italians

The Imperial authorities also took care to stir up Slavic nationalism in order to propagate italophobia. An example of this is the work of the Imperial Royal Commissioner in Istria, Ritter von Födransperg. In September 1848 he sent to several Istrian parish priests an article of political propaganda in favour of Slavicizing Istria. Paradoxically, it was written in Italian: indeed, Italian was the language of culture in Julian Venetia and Dalmatia for centuries, next to Latin, so that even the Slavs themselves habitually used it (suffice to say that the newspaper of the Croatian nationalists in Dalmatia was written in Italian and was called “Il Nazionale”!).

The letter from the Commissioner stated:
“Very Reverend Signors,
I thought it well to send you an attached Italian translation of a fundamental article written on the Slavic nationality of Istria, a refutation of the many unfounded, insipid and other passionate articles, with which certain Italians attempt to suppress the Slavic nationality for the benefit of the Italian people.
I don't believe I would be troubling you if I asked you to disseminate this translation and to explain it in Slavic to the parishioners, in order that they may be instructed in their right to nationality so that they may assert themselves against the Italic people who, as guests on Istrian soil, arrogates to itself rights which the Slavs do not have. Hopefully in the near future Slavic Istria will justly obtain the true benefits of its nationality under the glorious banner of our most beloved constitutional Emperor, and be fraternally united to the other German and Slavic provinces, so there will be a loyal and strong support for His ancestral throne.
After taking a copy of said translation, gently push it forward with solicitude, and circulate it in the manner indicated below.
Pinguente, September 24, 1848
Födransperg, Imperial Royal Commissioner.”

This letter, an unambiguous form of propaganda in favor of pan-slavist nationalism, was written and signed by a senior imperial official and transmitted to a series of parish priests in Istria.
“To the very Reverend Signor Parish Priest of Sovignacco.
Received on the 19th and passed along on September 21, 1848 (Zimmermann, Parish Priest of Sovignacco).
Received and passed along on September 24, 1848 (Novak, Parish Priest of Verch).
Received on the 4th and passed along on October 5, 1848 (Podobnik, Parish Priest of Terviso).
Received on the 7th and forwarded on October 8, 1848 (Kodermann, Parish Priest of Valmovrasa).
Received on October 13, 1848 (Sacher, Parish Priest of Socerga).”

Many Slavic priests preached hatred and hostility towards the Italians, or otherwise discriminated against them in various ways, and political campaigns were waged against them. Slovene nationalism in Julian Venetia was built with the decisive support of the Slavic clergy. This was already happening in the crucial period of 1867/1870, during the phase that Slovene nationalists call “the Tabor era”. The tabors were large Slovenian rallies, in which the people were indoctrinated by nationalist orators, who often times were priests.

These rallies promoted many nationalistic and extremist demands: the establishment of a Habsburg Land of Slovenia, which however was to include the entire Julian March, including areas which had a vast Italian majority, such as Gorizia, Trieste, Venetian Istria and eastern Friuli; the Slovenian orators, including the priests, urged Slovenian women not to “defile” themselves by contracting marriages with Italians, thus clearly demonstrating a racist ideology; they went so far as to ask the Empire to arm the Slovenes against the Italians, as happened in a meeting in Collio Goriziano.

The idea of exterminating Italians from the region therefore was part of the Slovenian nationalist movement since the beginning and was expressed with great clarity, accompanied by racist theories based on the “myth of blood” and a belief in the existence of biological diversity between the two nations.

The Tabor Movement first developed in Julian Venetia in October 1868 and had the decisive support of the Slovenian clergy, the only ruling class of the Slovenes at the time, since they were the only Slovenes who had any kind of minimal intellectual education. The Empire in every way favored the presence of Slavic clergy in Julian Venetia, to serve as anti-Italian agents, to the point of habitually appointing Slavic bishops in cities and lands inhabited by an Italian majority. Even if there were differences in degree (greater caution was taken in Gorizia, but they were very aggressive in Trieste and Capodistria), it can be said that the Slovene clergy were the protagonists of the Tabor Movement's italophobia, both due to nationalism and due to loyalty to the Empire: in other words, the hostility towards Italians sprang both from aggressive nationalism and from compliance with imperial directives.

An example of what happened in the Slovenian tabors is offered by the first Istrian Tabor, organized on August 8, 1870 in Covedo (Capodistria): among the participants there were 24 religious. One of them, Lavrič, began by frantically telling the women not to marry Italians, but only to marry Slovenes. Another Slovenian priest, Raunik, delivered a rant in which he claimed, quite falsely, that the earliest inhabitants of Istria were Slavs, when in reality the Slavs only arrived there in the seventh century AD. Relying on such a totally erroneous historical claim, Raunik demanded that the Slavs should possess Istria. Then two other Slovenian priests took the floor, both parish priests. While various orators spoke, other Slavic priests in the crowd were trying to inflame the minds of the crowd by launching battle cries such as “Živijo, hocemo, nocemo”. Among the Slovene nationalists present was also Fr. Urban Golmajer, the priest who had destroyed all the Roman tombstones found in the local town of Rozzo during excavations (hostility towards ancient Rome was, naturally, part of the italophobia of Slovene and Croat nationalism), which aroused the indignation of the great German historian Theodor Mommsen: Golmajer was later a candidate for the local Diet on behalf of Slovene nationalists. The initiative of the tabor was an idea of Fr. Raunik and all expenses were covered by the Slavic clergy.

In Dalmatia the work of the Croatian clergy was, if possible, even worse. Its members went so far as openly inciting violence against Italians and taking part in physical assaults. For example, in Zara during the religious festival of Holy Easter Thursday, a Croatian nationalist, incited by anti-Italian speeches made by the Croatian friars and priests, fired multiple gunshots into a crowd of Italian faithful, causing numerous injuries. He was arrested by the Imperial police, but instead of being tried and convicted for this criminal aggression, he was immediately released. It is important to recall a similar case at the beginning of 1909: a group of peaceful Italian citizens from Zara were traveling on boat to Bibigne in order to go on a hike, but they could not even disembark because they were attacked by a crowd of Slavic peasants, incited by their priest, who attempted to stone them to death.


IV. The Slavicization of Italian Surnames

Parish priests from Istria and Dalmatia, who were mostly of Slavic ethnicity as a result of Austrian Imperial Royal policy, from 1866 onwards began a falsification of state records which would last for decades. Because in the Habsburg Empire, which is wrongly considered an example of good administration, the tasks of the registry office were still delegated to the parish priests (an old practice that had long since disappeared in other European countries), the Slavic priests were able to falsify baptism and wedding records, using Slavicized versions of the original Latin and Italian names and surnames.

Attilio Tamaro wrote about it in ‘The Conditions of the Italians Under Austrian Rule in Julian Venetia and Dalmatia’ (Rome, G. Bertero, 1915):
“The parish priests in Austria controlled the registry of state records. The Slavs, ignoring the protests of the inhabitants, were under the strong protection of the Government, with whom they were organically linked in this work: they Slavicized the surnames in birth records, marriage records and deaths records. The goal was to create statistical data and official documents that would seemingly substantiate the non-existence or gradual extinction of Italianity in the region, in order to effect Government policy.”
The work of forced Slavicization of Italian names and surnames by Slavic clergy, with the connivance of the Austrian authorities, is meticulously documented in a study by Alois Lasciac entitled Erinnerungen aus meiner Beamtencarrière in Österreich in den Jahren 1881-1918 (Trieste 1939). Doctor Alois Lasciac, of Austrian origin, was Vice President of the Imperial Royal Lieutenancy of Trieste and President of the Administrative Commission of the Margraviate (March) of Istria: therefore he was a high-ranking Austrian official in the Habsburg administration.

During his activity on the island of Lussinpiccolo he was able to testify that the local clergy, all of whom were Croats despite the population being majority Italian, falsified the names and surnames of the inhabitants. He devotes an entire chapter of his work precisely to that topic: Verstümmelung der Familiennamen in den Pfarrmatriken (Deformation of Surnames in the Records). Lasciac noted that the ancient use of Latin and Venetian forms to designate the names and surnames of the locals had been deliberately subverted by Croatian priests in the registry of births, marriages and deaths, Slavicizing the onomastics of the Italians in Lussinpiccolo. Lasciac, who was Imperial Royal Commissioner, required them to restore the original spellings, to which the Croatian nationalists responded by having recourse to the central government in Vienna. Lasciac concludes his narration of this story by saying that the intervention of the parliament in Vienna granted tolerance to this arbitrary alteration of names and surnames: the parish archives and state registries of the Empire were to be transformed into the Slavic form, in contrast to their centuries-old existence in Italian form.

There were numerous public denunciations against the actions of the Slavic clergy, who were carrying out their work with the open support of the Habsburg authorities. In 1877 Francesco Sbisà, an Istrian deputy of the Parliament in Vienna, presented a query denouncing the Slavicization of Italian names and surnames. In 1897 the Istrian linguist Matteo Bartoli mentioned that 20,000 names were changed, especially on the islands of Cherso, Lussino and Veglia, which were almost entirely inhabited by Italians. In 1905, during a meeting of the Istrian Diet, the Istrian deputy and attorney Pietro Ghersa, using extensive documentation derived from extensive research, denounced the government's conniving work of Slavicizing approximately 20,000 Italian names in the Istrian Province. It should be noted that the research of Bartoli and Ghersa took place independently of each other: the former dealt primarily with the islands of the Quarnaro, while the latter instead dealt with the Istrian peninsula. Moreover, these findings took place in two different periods. The figure of 20,000 Slavicized Italian surnames, reported by both men, must therefore be referring to two different areas and therefore represents only a fraction of the total amount of names that were Slavicized in the regions of Istria and the Quarnaro.

It should be noted that the data indicated above, regarding Italian surnames forcibly Slavicized in Istria, are largely incomplete for this region itself, since many others in Istria were modified without being restored to their original form. Additionally, these practices also occurred in other parts of Julian Venetia, in Dalmatia, and in the Trentino and South Tyrol (where they engaged in Germanization).


V. The Glagolitic Liturgy

The most visible work felt by a large part of the Italian population during this operation of Slavicization was the forced introduction of the Slavic liturgical rite in dioceses with an Italian majority.

A brief historical outline is necessary here. At the time of the evangelization of the Slavs, only three languages were approved by the Church of Rome for the liturgy: Hebrew (which was never used), Greek (used only in Catholic areas of Greek language) and Latin (practically universal).

In the Slavic areas of Dalmatia and Croatia the Latin Catholic missionaries not only had to compete with Byzantine missionaries, but also with the Slavic rite after the Croats converted to Catholicism and adhered to the Church of Rome. [2]

The Council of Spalato (925) reinforced the process of latinization of the area, trying to limit the use of Slavic in the liturgy as much as possible, because it seemed to be increasingly connected to the Byzantine tradition. There thus began to delineate a boundary, marked primarily by the circulation of liturgical books in the Latin alphabet and in the Cyrillic alphabet, which progressively marginalized the Glagolitic alphabet, which was designed as an alphabet for all Slavs.

The Patriarchate of Aquileia and all the dioceses of Julian Venetian have always belonged to the Latin rite. The so-called “Slavic rite” (an incorrect term: remember that a Slavic rite has never existed in the Catholic world, it is only found in Orthodoxy: ritus in the liturgical sense and language of use do not necessarily coincide, and are nevertheless distinct concepts) in Catholic areas saw secondary diversities in the various “officia” and “sacramenta”. These were, and are, local variations of the same liturgy, which used Latin as the official liturgical language, and remained in force until the Novus Ordo Missae of Paul VI. [3]

This of course did not prevent, in some areas, the use of rituals in a language other than Latin with a special dispensation, or rather tacit acceptance. The Slavic population of the Balkans was of very low culture, barely literate, so that even the clergy (the lower clergy, rural priests) sometimes did not know Latin: it was, to be blunt, a phenomenon induced by the ignorance of the clergy (I apologize, but that is the truth), which was tolerated by the episcopal authorities, who followed the Latin rite. In the case of the Croatian area this phenomenon is called glagolism, however it only existed in a very small part of the territories of Julian Venetia.

To assess the attitude of the Church of Rome towards this, it is sufficient to recall what happened in the nineteenth century, when Croatian nationalists demanded the reintroduction of glagolism (which had virtually disappeared) in the area of Julian Venetia. This was opposed, albeit for different reasons, by the Roman Curia, by the scholars of ecclesiastical history, and by the people themselves. The Papal Curia of Leo XIII and Pius X called upon the supporters of Glagolitic to return to the Latin rite; the popes mistrusted them and opposed their desire to “reintroduce” such rites into a land where it had never been practiced.

Historians—and it is enough to recall the priest Giovanni Pesante, the Istrian historian Bernardo Benussi, the illustrious scholar Francesco Salata and the Quarnerine professor Melchiade Budinich—demonstrated the scarcity of the Glagolitic phenomenon and its exceptionality, which in fact was merely tolerated alongside—and subordinated to—the use of Latin. In any case, the Glagolitic alphabet, at least before the twentieth century, was limited only to a few areas with a Croatian population, and only in certain periods. Suffice to say that the oldest “Old Slavic” document in Istria, the “Razvod Istarski”, was compiled by two Glagolitic priests in the sixteenth century, while the arrival of Slavic peoples beyond Mount Nevoso occured between the sixth and eighth century AD.

All other writings of similar nature are of modest value, annotations (and little else) on the margins of missals, some inscriptions and graffiti in a few churches in the countryside, besides a few illegitimate wills and parish registers, only for very brief periods and in isolated villages of an extremely bounded range. To give an idea of how scarce the presence of the Glagolitic liturgy was, suffice to say that in 1650 the then very vast Diocese of Trieste saw in its entire diocese just two tiny parishes that practiced it, only in a small area around Pinguente (the two small villages of Draguch and Sovignaco). [4]

Despite the opposition of the Italian population of Julian Venetia and the distrust of the Vatican itself, the Roman liturgy in the Slavic language (instead of Latin) ended up being introduced under the converging pressure of the Habsburgs and the Slavic clergy. The Empire was interested in defending the Catholic liturgy in the Slavic language as a means of Slavicization even on the religious level. And thanks to its close and traditional friendship with the Vatican, exacerbated by the “Roman Question”, they were able to exert pressure on the pontiffs into allowing the reintroduction of a liturgical form that had been extinct since the beginning of the eighteenth century and which had existed only in a very few places.

The diffusion of the Slavic liturgy, which was accompanied also by sermons, songs, etc. in the Slovenian and Croatian languages, was used by these nationalists and enemies of Italy to forcibly Slavicize the Italian population. The Glagolitic cult was not only reintroduced, but was also imposed in areas where it had never been used and where the inhabitants were overwhelmingly majority Italian. The situation was particularly regrettable in Istria, a land in which this experiment was widely extended and where Italians were often both patriotic and Catholic.

The discontent was naturally very strong among the population, who often preferred to stay home rather than attend religious services in the Glagolitic rite. Many examples can be given. In 1888 a Slovenian priest from Carniola forcibly introduced the Slavonic rite into a church in Pola, where it had never been celebrated before, arousing the indignation of the Italians and even a good number of Slavs among the faithful. When the Latin rite was restored, Slavic nationalist newspapers unleashed a rampage against the bishop of Parenzo.

The island of Neresine was the scene of repeated attempts at religious Slavicization, in contrast to Catholic orthodoxy, in contrast to the existing customs, and contrary to the expressed will of the inhabitants. A Croatian friar named Smolje demanded to celebrate mass in Glagolitic in the parish church of Neresine on September 22, 1895, resulting in all the parishioners abandoning the ceremony and forming a serious insurrection. This same priest demanded to impart baptism in Croatian, so he could Slavicize the names, and refused to do so in Latin even when directly requested by the child's father. The Superior of the Franciscan convent of Neresine, Luciano Lettich, demanded to impose the Croatian language at the burial ceremony of the spouses Antonio and Nicolina Sigovich, causing several of the relatives and other faithful to voluntary abandon the ceremony. Another episode of the many we could cite, happened on the second Sunday of April in 1906, a Croatian friar insisted on celebrating the Glagolitic rite in the church of San Francesco in Cherso, an island of purely Italian history and culture. The faithful, in the face of this celebration, which seemed to them like nationalistic propaganda, left the religious building en masse, leaving only the Croatian friar.

After these and other similar events, the inhabitants of Neresine — and other areas threatened with forced Slavicization (Ossero, Cherso, Lussinpiccolo) — appealed unsuccessfully to the bishop of Veglia, Anton Mahnich. After their appeals were rejected by the Slavic prelate, they decided to appeal directly to Rome. The severity of these reported events caused Pius X to intervene, removing Mahnic from his office as bishop. Even after this, the Vatican had to again directly intervene to denounce and condemn both the liturgical abuse of the use of the Glagolitic rite, as well as the support the Slavic priests were giving to Slovenian and Croatian nationalism, as happened for example on June 17, 1905, when the Cardinal Secretary of State, by order of Pope Pius X, sent a stern letter to the Minister General of the Franciscan Friars Minor with strict orders to energetically intervene and put an end to the behavior of Croatian Franciscans in Dalmatia who were seeking to introduce Croatian into the liturgy.

The Catholic Church itself did not at all welcome the pretenses of the Slovenian and Croatian nationalists and their attempts to restore the Glagolitic rite, both for strict liturgical reasons, and because often times such a request came from pan-slavists with an overt sympathy for Eastern Orthodoxy. The Slavic nationalist movements in Slovenia and Croatia were able to count on funding coming from very distant regions all over the Habsburg Empire and even from Russia itself, and also from supposedly Catholic clergymen who cared more about their nationality than about the faith they professed. An example, certainly extreme but still significant, was a small local schism, which involved the village of Ricmanje (San Giuseppe della Chiusa) in the Diocese of Trieste and Capodistria. The local priest, Monsignor Požar, asked permission to introduce the Glagolitic missal. His request having been rejected, the situation ended up turning into a real schism, with the defection of Ricmanje to Eastern Orthodoxy.

In conclusion and in summary, glagolism resurfaced after 1848 and was even admitted into Italian dioceses where the liturgical innovation was imposed by Slavic nationalists who held ecclesiastical offices, which deeply hurt both the national and religious feelings of Italian Catholics, who were forced to embrace foreign rites of dubious conformity with Catholicism.


VI. Habsburg Caesaropapism: Oppression of the Church and Hostility Towards Italy

The ecclesiastical policy of the Habsburg Empire was well summarized by Ugo Mioni, a priest, historian and journalist born in Trieste in 1870:
“The Habsburgs are always equal. Caesaropapism is inherent to them; instead of occupying themselves with the vital interests of their states, they always have to bother the Church. They appear as Catholics externally, but try to insert themselves into the Church's affairs; they pose as guardians, but want to keep the Church chained and yoked to the wagon of the State. It doesn't matter if the chains are made of gold; they are still chains, and always weigh much more than those of iron. It is better to have an open persecution than to have caesaropapism and a state protection which seeks to exercise power over the Church.” [5]
This same judgment had already been articulated by, among others, Geremia Bonomelli, Bishop of Cremona, who had this to say about the Habsburg's ecclesiastical policy: “They were guards who imposed gold chains; gold chains, it is true, but they were chains nonetheless.”

In essence, the Habsburg Empire claimed to be the “protector” of the Church. In this way, however, they were able to subordinate certain ecclesiastical institutions to the will and impositions of their political power. Emperor Joseph II, who went so far as to dictate how many candles were to be lit in churches, and who gave his name to the heretical caesaropapistic religious policy known as Josephism, is the most well-known representative of the habitual policy of Habsburg Vienna. During the Risorgimento, the Habsburg authorities did not hesitate at all to persecute and murder Italian clergy because they were patriots. According to the same imperial officials, the clergy of Lombardy-Venetia had patriotic ideas. For example, Baron von Aichelberg wrote:
“Day by day, almost hour by hour, the revolution was gaining ground in all provinces... The priests behaved worse than the others, demonstrating with incredible insolence that they were at the head of the revolutionary movement: they are most responsible for the incitement and influence on the lower classes, especially the peasantry. … The rich are like beggars, the bishop just as well is like the most horrible monkey, all carry the Italian cockade.” [6]
For this reason, many priests were murdered and imprisoned during the repression of Radetzky. The most famous case (not the only one!) was that of Don Enrico Tazzoli, who was tortured by the imperial police, ritually deconsecrated (on special order of Pius IX, in response to pressure from the Habsburg imperial government, which was done by scraping away the skin on his fingers), hanged in Belfiore and finally buried in unconsecrated ground. During the First World War, the Empire did not hesitate to deport many priests from Trentino to concentration camps (lager), while Monsignor Celestino Endrici, the Archbishop of Trento, was imprisoned in the fortress of Heiligenkreuz.

In addition to these acts of persecution, Habsburg ecclesiastical policy was usually hostile to Italians since 1848. The Emperor saw to it that in the episcopal sees in Julian Venetia, a region with an Italian majority, Slavic bishops were appointed, all of them ardent nationalists who invited a large number of Slovenian and Croatian priests from the hinterland in order to Slavicize the local churches. These bishops imposed radical changes in the local liturgy, adopting “Glagolitic”, which involved the use of Church Slavonic, and sometimes even advocating such decisively pro-Orthodox ideas such as schism from Rome: this, however, did nothing to alter Imperial policy. In Trentino-Alto Adige, the supposedly “Catholic” Empire permitted the activity of pan-Germanist associations which had anti-Catholic and Protestant tendencies (such as the Tiroler Volksbund), causing the reaction and the indignation of the Bishop of Trento, Celestine Endrici, and also the Catholic politicians of Trentino, including Alcide De Gasperi, who condemned the appearance of such anti-Italian and anti-Catholic policies (for example, an editorial in the Voce cattolica on February 1, 1906 said: “we must defend ourselves against those who undermine the Italian character of our land”).

In fact, many Slavs and many South Tyroleans believed there was a strong connection between Italianity and Catholicism in light of historical ties (Catholicism is inconceivable without Roman heritage), therefore hostility towards Italy as a nation also took on the aspect of hostility towards the Church of Rome.

The anti-Italian alliance between the Habsburg Imperial power and the Yugoslav nationalists manifested itself most clearly in the forced Slavicization of institutions, rites, and activities of the Catholic Church in Julian Venetia and Dalmatia, resulting in a very serious situation in which Catholic ecclesiastical institutions were manipulated and used by the Habsburg state for its own ends.


References

1. cf. Moritsch A., “Der Austroslawismus. Ein verfrühtes Konzeptzur politischen Neugestaltung Mitteleuropas”, Vienna 1996.

2. M. Lacko, “I Concili di Spalato e la liturgia slava”, in A. Matanić (editor), Vita religiosa, morale e sociale ed i concili di Split (Spalato) dei sec. X-XI. Atti del Symposium internazionale di storia ecclesiastica, Split, 26-30 settembre 1978, Padua 1982, pp. 443-482.

3. Jedin (editor), Storia della Chiesa, volume IV, 1978; M. Uhlirz, Jahrbücher des deutschen reiches unter Otto II und Otto III, Berlin 1954; H. Ludat, Slaven und Deutsche im Mittelalter, Cologne-Vienna 1982; M. Gallina, Potere e società a Bisanzio, Turin 1995, pp. 167-1740.

4. cf. Vittorio Fragiacomo, “La liturgia glagolitica in Istria”, Pagine Istriane, gennaio-giugno 1986, Rivista trimestrale di cultura fondata a Capodistria nel 1903 (Genova, 1986), p. 49-51; J. Martinic, “Glagolitische Gesànge Mitteldalmatiens”, Regensburg 1981.

5. Ugo Mioni, Pio VI: il pellegrino apostolico e il suo tempo, Alba, Pia Societa San Paolo, 1933, p. 60.

6. Sked, Le armate, cit., pp. 116-117.

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.