Monday, May 25, 2020

The Myth of Anti-Slavic Ethnic Cleansing in the Balkans

(Written by Marco Vigna, taken from the magazine “Indygesto”, March 31, 2020)

Julian-Dalmatian Refugees During the Exodus from Pola (1947)

The idea that the Foibe Massacres were a reaction to Italian abuses is a polemical tool used by Foibe deniers. The historical data shows otherwise: the Italians did not carry out any mass repression, but instead suffered two of them...

One of the arguments used by those who try to deny the genocidal nature of the Foibe Massacres, or who try to justify it as an alleged reaction to supposed Italian abuses, is the accusation that Fascists carried out a de-nationalization of Slavs in Julian Venetia.

However, an examination of the quantitative data recorded in the censuses of the Julian population in the periods from 1880-1910 (under Austrian administration) and from 1921-1936 (under Italian administration) attest that no “ethnic cleansing” took place under the Fascists.

It is well known that the Habsburg government pursued a policy of germanizing and slavicizing Julian Venetia, Dalmatia and South Tyrol, in accordance with the directives of Emperor Franz Joseph at the meeting of the Council of Ministers in 1866. This is confirmed by the demographic data of the period from 1866-1918, which on the one hand documents massive expulsions of Italians, and on the other a Slavic immigration favored in every way by the government, all accompanied by a persecutory policy against Italians, which included endemic violence, the forced alteration of a large number of surnames, the closure of Italian schools, etc. Even a great historian like Ernesto Sestan made mention of this imperial policy:
“About 35 thousand Italian citizens were expelled in the decade from 1903 to 1913.” (1)
The support of the imperial authorities for Slavic immigration from the Balkans, together with their simultaneous hostility towards the Italian population, caused a rapid increase in the Slavic-speaking population in Julian Venetia.

For example, the Slovenian population had a demographic expansion of 3.4% in the period 1880-1890, a 2.7% increase in 1890-1900, and as much as 20.8% in 1900-1910.

In some cities, the increase in the number of Slovenes was even more pronounced. In the period between 1900-1910, the Slovenian presence in Gorizia grew by 36.3%, in Trieste by 116.7%, and in Pola by 178.9%. (2)

Obviously, the increased percentage of Slavs meant also a relative decrease of Italians.

The impact of these combined series of measures against the Italians was devastating especially in Dalmatia, resulting in a very rapid decline of the Italian ethnic group. Professor Monzali writes:
“In the first unofficial Austrian statistical studies carried out in the 1860's and 1870's, the number of Italian Dalmatians varied between 40,000 and 50,000; in the official census of 1880, their number dropped to 27,305, and then dropped dramatically in the following decades; 16,000 in 1890, 15,279 in 1900, 18,028 in 1910 (out of a total Dalmatian population of 593,784 people in 1900, and 645,646 in 1910).” (3)
An abrupt de-nationalization operation to the detriment of the Italians during the last fifty years of the Austrian Empire is therefore proven by the sharp changes in the demographic percentages of the various ethnic groups. The Italian population was almost wiped out in Dalmatia and was reduced in Julian Venetia by the collaborative grip of Slavic nationalists and the imperial authorities.

On the other hand, there was no ethnic cleansing operation against the Slavs under the Kingdom of Italy. It is true that population movements occurred in the period of 1918-1921 in Julian Venetia, however they were voluntary migrations and were due to economic reasons.

In the preceding decades, the Austrian government had introduced into the region a number of officials, administrators, soldiers, employees of post offices, telegraphs, railways, etc., of Austrian, Hungarian and Slovenian ethnic background, so as to “Germanize or Slavicize [the region] ... unsparingly and without the slightest compunction”. (4) When the Austrian state surrendered the region to Italy, all these people naturally lost their jobs: no state in the world would have kept foreign officials, soldiers and civil servants – who were not even born in Julian Venetia – both for reasons of loyalty and because admission to certain jobs was subject to specific requirements and educational standards which differ from country to country.

As usually happens when a territory passes from one state to another, these people lost their jobs, so they voluntarily decided to return to their homelands. What happened was the voluntary emigration of some groups of Austrians, Hungarians and Slavs who had lost their state positions due to a simple and ordinary administrative measure, common to all states (the Kingdom of Yugoslavia, for example, enacted the same policy on its soil). It certainly was not an “ethnic cleansing”, also because those who wished to stay were free to remain in Julian Venetia. (5)

Trivially: just as Austria had used its own officials, administrators, civil servants and military personnel in Julian Venetia, so too did Italy. The only real emigration for political reasons – and not economic ones – from Julian Venetia to Yugoslavia was instead that of a few thousand (less than 3,000) Slavic nationalists who, also of their own free will, moved immediately after the war to the newly-formed Kingdom of Yugoslavia, where they became foreign agitators, propagandists and sometimes terrorists in the name of Yugoslav nationalism. Again, here one can not speak of “ethnic cleansing”, because this migratory shift was voluntary and involved only a few thousand people. (6)

Furthermore, it should be noted that even during the Fascist period there was an immigration of Slovenes from Slovenia to Italy: J. L. Gardelles, a French scholar, calculates that at least 20,000 to 25,000 Slovenes immigrated to Julian Venetia and permanently took up residence there during the 1920's and 1930's. (7) Such a phenomenon, accepted by the Fascist regime, is incompatible with the idea of ​​an “ethnic cleansing” project.

Simplifying things as much as possible for the sake of brevity, the Fascists proposed the Italianization of the region, but they never conceived of any expulsion of the Slavs nor of forcing them to assimilate. They limited themselves to adopting measures similar to those adopted by other contemporary states, including liberal or democratic ones, making use of educational institutions and mandating the use of the official language.

The non-existence of any forced upheaval of the ethnic and demographic composition of Julian Venetia on the part of the Fascist authorities emerges from a comparison between the 1921 census (which took place a year before the March on Rome and the beginning of the Fascist regime) and the 1936 census.

The census data of 1921 showed that Slovenes and Croats were equal to 37.3% of the population (8), while their percentage in 1936 grew to 37.9%. To be precise, in 1936 the region had a total population of 1,022,593 inhabitants, of which 402,091 inhabitants were of non-Italian origin (Slavs, Germans and other very small communities, equal to 39.5%). More specifically, there were 252,916 Slovenes (24.7%) and 134,945 Croats (13.2%). (9)

Therefore, the Slavs had increased in number from 1921 to 1936, in both absolute terms (not surprising, given the general population growth) and relative terms, since the total percentage of Slovenian and Croatian inhabitants had grown, albeit to a modest extent.

By contrast, one should note the extent of the brutal ethnic cleansing carried out by the Yugoslavs against the Italian population in Julian Venetia between 1943-1948, which led to the expulsion of about 300,000 Italians, to which one must add many thousands more who were murdered.

In conclusion, the “Fascist ethnic cleansing” against Slavs in Julian Venetia is a myth. Meanwhile, two other ethnic cleansings did take place: one against the Italians in Julian Venetia and Dalmatia under the Habsburg Empire, followed by a second one against Italians perpetrated by Tito's partisans.


1. E. Sestan, Venezia Giulia. Lineamenti di una storia etnica e culturale, Udine 1997, p. 93.

2. Data based on the figures reported in O. Mileta Mattiuz, Popolazioni dell’Istria, Fiume, Zara e Dalmazia (1850-2002). Ipotesi di quantificazione demografica, Trieste 2005; G. Perselli, I censimenti della popolazione dell’Istria, con Fiume e Trieste e di alcune città della Dalmazia tra il 1850 e il 1936, Rovigno 1993.

3. L. Monzali, Italiani di Dalmazia. Dal Risorgimento alla Grande Guerra, Firenze 2011, pp. 170-171.

4. The decision of Franz Joseph to carry out an ethnic cleansing against the Italians in Trentino-Alto Adige, Julian Venetia 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 appears in a section titled “Maßregeln gegen das italienische Element in einigen Kronländern” (“Measures against the Italian element in some territories of the Crown”).

5. The considerations of H. Angermeier in Königtum und Staat im deutschen Reich, München 1954, are very useful in this regard.

6. J. A. Brundage, The Genesis of the Wars: Mussolini and Pavelic, London 1987.

7. J. L. Gardelles, Histria et Dalmatia. Peuplements: essai de synthèse, in «Journal of Modern History», VI (1980), pp. 143-214

8. J. B. Duroselle, Le conflit de Trieste 1943-1954, Bruxelles, 1966.

9. T. Sala, 1939. Un censimento riservato del governo fascista sugli «alloglotti». Proposte per l’assimilazione degli “allogeni” nella Provincia dell’Istria in «Bollettino dell’Istituto Regionale per la storia del movimento di liberazione nel Friuli-Venezia Giulia», a. I, n. 1, 1973, pp. 17-19.

Wednesday, March 11, 2020

So now Marco Polo was “Croatian”: Someone failed their history test!

(Written by Fabio Rocchi, taken from the journal “Difesa adriatica”, anno XIII, n. 11, November 2007.)

Marco Polo Sailing from Venice in 1271
After the ludicrous appropriation of the the statue known as the “Lussin Bronze” (thus named due to its having been found off the coast of the island of Lussino), exhibited for months in Florence as the “Croatian Athlete” and now collecting dust in Zagreb, Croatia is once again up to its usual game of attempting to make Croatian what has never been even remotely Croatian. This time it is Marco Polo’s turn: it seems he has been given full Croatian citizenship, and a Croatian passport for good measure.

The Croatian National Tourist Board recently published 150,000 copies of a brochure and a 15-minute film in which “scientific proof” is given to show that Marco Polo was born on the Dalmatian island of Curzola and thus, his native land must inevitably be Croatia. (The source is an article from the September 5th edition of “La Voce del Popolo”, the Italian-language newspaper based in Fiume.)

This latest, ridiculous, attempt at appropriation of identity is steeped in complete ignorance of historical fact: Marco Polo is universally recognized by hosts of expert scholars as having been born in Venice and besides, even if his family had its origins on Curzola, the island in that period was a territory of Venice, and the local population was of Latin-Venetian culture: there did not exist the remotest sign or mention of Croatia.

This cheap attempt at “Croatianization” demonstrates the will – this time, truly scientific – to rewrite history, tailoring it to fit a nation’s needs and preferences, conferring citizenship on famous people so as to gain favor on tourist brochures. There might be a few tourists who, ignorant of the truth, will fall into the trap, but culture and history are something else entirely: they are written in books, not on tourist brochures.

Monday, February 10, 2020

February 10th — The Day of Remembrance: Foibe Massacres and the Exodus

(Written by Elisabetta de Dominis, descendant of the De Dominis family of Arbe, taken from the newspaper “La Voce di New York”, February 9, 2020.)

We were in Trieste for the presentation of the book “10 Febbraio. Dalle foibe all’esodo”, containing 50 testimonies collected by Roberto Menia.

Monday February 10th is “The Day of Remembrance” and many Italians still do not know what is supposed to be remembered, because they do not know what the Italians who lived in the regions of Istria and Dalmatia (located along the eastern coast of Italy, which today belong to Slovenia and Croatia) suffered from in the ten years after the war. They still do not know what the words ‘Exodus’ and ‘Foiba’ mean.

I must confess that my guts are turned inside out every time I return to my family's island of origin – Arbe in the Quarnero – and I hear Italian tourists, ignorant of history, calling it by its new name Rab. Yes, I think angrily: Rab. But what the hell is Rab? For centuries it was called Arba, ever since the times of the ancient Romans, who founded it. Lussinpiccolo has become Mali Lošinj, which sounds horrible... Ragusa, the sixth Italian maritime republic, is now called Dubrovnik, which sounds eerily similar to Diabolik... And there are many other cacophonous names: it is sufficient to look at the map.

For example Goli Otok, i.e. Isola Calva, the Adriatic gulag where malnourished deportees were forced by the guards to move stones all day while they were beaten by other deportees under the scorching sun until they killed each other. When this land of stones along the coast appears to me, I always think that the stones are the petrified bones of those unfortunate people. Most of the prisoners in that gulag were Italians Communists who had moved from different regions of the Italy in order to live in a communist paradise in accordance with Yugoslavian Stalinist ideology, which Tito later decided had to be eliminated, but not before making them suffer in unspeakable ways (I just referenced above a small part of the brutalities perpetrated against them).

The huge tragedy of the exodus of 350,000 Italians was the result of fear, fueled by the continuous “disappearances” of Italians at the hands of the Yugoslav Communists. The most “successful” method of making them disappear was to throw them alive into foibe in Istria (i.e. natural sinkholes found in the Carso area) or else mutilate them and drown them in the Dalmatian sea with a stone tied around their neck.

Nowadays “cultural” meetings are held in various Italian regions organized by self-styled “historians” of Slovenian origin, usually born in Trieste or Istria, who claim that the Foibe Massacres are a hoax. And this makes me feel like vomiting. I wonder how our country can allow such a humiliation towards its own citizens to take place. There is still a lot of bad faith on the part of certain municipal administrators, who say: “Well, they were Fascists...” More than 11,000 defenseless citizens, women and children were killed, and you're telling me they were all Fascists!?

Our parents, even here in Italy, continued to hold their tongue: it was advisable not to speak up or else you would be accused of being a Fascist. If today we have the opportunity to speak with our heads held high, without fear of making ourselves heard, we owe it to the honorable Roberto Menia who established the Day of Remembrance in 2004”, said Massimiliano Lacota, President of the Union of Istrians last Thursday, in Trieste, at the presentation of the 50 testimonies collected by Menia in his book “10 Febbraio. Dalle foibe all’esodo”. Sitting next to me, Mrs. Gigliola from Cherso (as it was called by the ancient Greeks, which the Croats decided to change to Cres) commented: “When one has great pain, one does not speak”.

Piero Del Bello, director of the Museum of the Istrians, Fiumans and Dalmatians explained that “you are an exile by obligation, a migrant by choice, albeit under terrible circumstances”, adding that “in my house we did not talk about it at all, for that sense of modesty had turned into shame because everything had been lost: family, home, land. How can you remember and construct a memory if you no longer have the fertile ground which makes your story last for generations? Shame turned into fear, which our people have suffered from ever since. You have to write your own story, otherwise it will be forgotten. Roberto, on the other hand, was lucky that his mom shared it with him.”

The Sicilian writer Pietrangelo Buttafuoco commented that he found it vulgar that in the Senate the word ‘drama’ was attached to the Foibe Massacres, when in reality it was “the pinnacle of tragedy.” And he stressed that bad faith is always accompanied by ignorance, since here “the victim has been turned into the accused”. A poetic and touching speech, but I shed tears when Roberto Menia finally spoke, because he expressed my exact feeling:
Over the years, I feel this inner bond growing ever deeper. It pains me to look at the sea from the shore of Trieste and see in the distance those lands which I have never lived in. For us these places no longer exist, except in our souls. Our journey has no meaning unless it leaves something. Why must this Italy, which is a wonderful mosaic, lose these pieces of its history? The grand history of a Country is made up of many smaller histories. And when they touch your heart, they transmit something to you. We have the right and duty to collect all the testimonies and pass them on to our children. Simone Cristicchi, who wrote “Magazzino 18”, came to Trieste to write about the asylum and discovered that it was full of insane Julian-Dalmatian exiles: they gazed upon the horizon without speaking...

See also:
40 Days of Terror: The Yugoslav Occupation of Trieste
April 25: The Feast of San Marco – Not Liberation
National Memorial Day of the Exiles and Foibe
The Day of Remembrance: The Foibe Massacres and the Julian-Dalmatian Exodus
The Meaning of the Foibe Massacres
Pits of Death Give up Their Grisly Secret
Triestine Girls: Reflections on the Istrian Exodus
The Foibe are Still Open in Our Hearts
A Painful Piece of Italian History, Overlooked
Castua Massacre: Exhumations Completed After 73 Years
The Priests Murdered in the Foibe Massacres
Titoist Crimes: 50 Priests Murdered in the Foibe Massacres
The Disappearance and Death of Don Francesco Bonifacio
The Rape and Murder of Norma Cossetto
Overview of Lidia Bastianich's Autobiography
Excerpt From Lidia Bastianich's Autobiography

Wednesday, January 1, 2020

Forbidden Truths: Istria and Dalmatia Were Italian

(Written by Elisabetta de Dominis, descendant of the De Dominis family of Arbe, taken from the newspaper “La Voce di New York”, March 3, 2019.)

Conference in Trieste, February 26, 2019
From left to right: Massimiliano Fedriga, Elisabetta de Dominis, Fausto
Biloslavo, Massimiliano Lacota, Vittorio Feltri & Marcello Veneziani

What you are about to read is the speech I delivered at the conference on “The Role of Journalism in Preserving the Memory of the Julian-Dalmatian Exodus”. The conference was organized by Massimiliano Lacota, President of the Union of Istrians, at the Palazzo della Regione Friuli Venezia Giulia, in Trieste. In attendance were Massimiliano Fedriga, President of Friuli-Venezia Giulia; Vittorio Feltri, editor of “Libero”; Marcello Veneziani, journalist and political scientist; and Fausto Biloslavo, correspondent for “Il Giornale”.

In the beginning we had hope: we hoped to return to our lands. Then we dreamed about it: because returning was no longer possible. But the dream of living helps one to survive. Now we no longer dream. We have come to terms with reality – a reality which is not the historical reality, however. Too many people still do not know what happened to the Italians of the Adriatic Coast.

Then there are those who did know – those who participated in the killing, in the stealing, in inflicting suffering upon us. These are the friends, relatives or comrades of the modern-day Foibe-deniers of the Communist Party. These deniers deny the crimes proven by witnesses and deny the discovery of human remains, although many of the prisoners were made to disappear. By denying it, they defend and confirm the heinous actions of Tito's partisans. If today we deny a crime, then we admit that tomorrow it can be perpetrated again.

Not wanting to acknowledge what happened over 70 years ago, they do not allow history to teach us how to deal with the present, in the first place the symptoms of totalitarianism. It is always born from jealousies and social hatred, from disparity in wealth.

Nobody wants to accept that culture can make a difference, because culture is wealth. It can teach you to understand, to reason, to warn and even to honestly obtain a social position – without having skeletons in the closet or stolen paintings in the living room.

History must be told and repeated, because, as the Latins said: repetita iuvant.

Those who officially represent Italy internationally still do not have the courage to express themselves on the gravity of the historical events that occurred after the war on the Eastern Coast of Italy; they do not have the courage to respond to Pahor and Plenkovic, presidents of the nearby republics of Slovenia and of Croatia.

They almost seem to fear them: hic sunt leones, as the Romans said.

No, beyond the border there are no longer any lions; the only lion that was there was the lion of San Marco. Then came the jackals, eventually.

First, the presidents of Slovenia and Croatia should not have the audacity to complain about what is said in our country regarding the Foibe Massacres, because Italy is a sovereign state.

Second, Italy is a state of significantly greater European and international weight.

Third, it is time to reveal and dispel the taboos that haunt Slovenia and Croatia. And I wish to speak about this.

Taboo No. 1: Istria and Dalmatia were Italian lands and belonged to Italy.

We Triestines, many of whom are of Istrian or Dalmatian origin, know this. But how many Italians really know that these were regions of Italy and that our parents and grandparents fled their own homeland – not from Yugoslavia, which did not even exist yet as a federal socialist republic?

Still to this day they do not teach this in schools.

On Sunday February 10th, on the Day of Remembrance at the Foiba of Basovizza, Antonio Tajani saluted us by saying “Long live Italian Istria and Italian Dalmatia!”, in order to remind us what our nationality was and what the nationality of our lands were at that time.

Still today too few people are aware that those who remained behind [in Yugoslavia] had to deny their Italian heritage and declare themselves Slavic, and were forbidden to speak Italian.

I will not defend Tajani, because in the following days he proved incapable of even defending himself. Perhaps he does not know history. He could have confidently responded to the complaints of the Slovenian president Borut Pahor by simply saying: “I paid homage to what used to be the Eastern Coast of Italy and its heroic inhabitants.”

The day after the Day of Remembrance, I woke up in the middle of the night with this phrase: “Everyone is a hero unto himself and the Fatherland is where it begins.”

Taboo No. 2: The Slavs did not have their own written culture.

The only cultural identity along the Eastern Adriatic Coast was Italian cultural identity. The Slavs, who for centuries lived 100 km from the coast, were transferred en masse to the coastal towns by the Austro-Hungarian imperial government in order to turn the Italians into a minority. But the imperial government had to keep schools and all legal documents – everything from contracts to land registrations – in Italian, because the Slavs did not have their own written culture or national identity, as they had not had any kingdom for 800 years, having always been divided into different ethnicities and tribes. Indeed, the so-called Karadjordjevic “princes” were Serbian chieftains who were placed at the head of a kingdom created by the British at the end of the First World War, a kingdom which the Slovenes and Croats had joined only with reluctance, as later events show.

Taboo No. 3: False honor.

How can honor be built upon a crime, a robbery, a massacre? Tajani, with his “Long live...” speech, has put a dent in the public credibility of the neighboring republics, which they care about so viscerally.

By taking offense – as if these historical facts were made-up by Italy – presidents Pahor and Plenkovic demonstrated that at the bottom of their bowels lies their guilty conscience, which they are ashamed of and which they wish to conceal from the younger generations in their countries, who feel the need to know history and discover their non-existent roots.

Their children are kept in the dark about the 400 years of Venetian and then Italian history: in schools they begin with the Early Middle Ages and then pass to the Austro-Hungarian Empire. And many kids do not know that they live in houses stained with the blood of its former Italian owners.

Taboo No. 4: Croatia and Slovenia do not have a history of their own.

After stealing our lives, our country, our affections, our land, our houses, our belongings, our tombs, Croatia and Slovenia are now also stealing our history from us, while our leaders remain silent.

Having never had national sovereignty, they need famous men in order to forge a history for themselves. And since they do not have any, they resort to translating the names of our ancestors into Slavic.

According to them, Marco Polo was “Croatian” and was born in Curzola. Too bad that at that time Curzola was an island of La Serenissima.

My ancestor, Giovanni de Dominis, commander of the Dalmatian fleet in the battle of Lepanto, aboard the galley San Giovanni, has now become “Ivan”. Fortunately, they did not translate the surname since it is Latin.

My ancestor Marcantonio de Dominis, an optical scientist, archbishop of Spalato and later dean of Windsor, has become “Marcantun”.

Taboo No. 5: Croatia and Slovenia have no roots.

Read the book “Les Slaves” by Francis Conte and you will understand: the Slavs inhabited the swampy and infertile areas of southern Russia, then pushed into the Balkans in the fifth century. They have always raided and killed in order to take possession of fertile land. And so it was, all the way up to the latest war in the 1990's. In order to effortlessly enrich themselves they have always liquidated and exterminated those who owned the land, whether by throwing them into a foiba or tossing them into the sea. The ancient Greeks called them sklavos, to emphasize that they had no dignity as a people: they served the highest bidder.

When you have no roots, you have no dignity. You are undignified.

Unlike them, we Istrians and Dalmatians have roots. These roots are in our hearts, which gave us the ability to make a dignified choice and to live in peace, because we know who we are and where we come from.

For centuries, we felt that we were citizens of the world, as Venice had taught us. Under the Austro-Hungarian Empire we discovered Europeans before Europe itself did. But we always felt Italian, even when we found ourselves annexed to Central Europe, which was not exactly a place that we felt a part of. Because it is the Adriatic that was and has been our destiny.

I woke up very early one morning from a dream that I do not well recall, but I do remember this phrase: “Crushed between two eras, two wars, two civilizations, two cultures”.

Our Middle Adriatic Destiny?

Not lands in the middle of ours, like those of Central Europe, but lands in the middle of the sea, the Middle Adriatic land. The sea between the land, between the islands.

Are we more sea or more land?

We are like the sea: we have no land. We are the sea. And the land was only a landing place for us. Coveted yes, but not definitive. Only the sea is forever.

We on the east coast of Italy are neither meat nor fish. We eat meat and fish, but we prefer ham and scampi, salty and sweet at the same time. So we are: salty, pungent, biting and lovable, moderate, sentimental. This is why we are different: torn, uprooted, half and half. In the middle?

We are no longer there, but nor do we feel like we are from here, in this part of Italy, even if we were born here. Our roots remain in our hearts, in ours bowels, in our blood. In the memories of our fathers and mothers. Memories of joy and suffering.

Even if you [Croats and Slovenes] took everything, even our graves, you did not take our roots. We will continue to grow there, in our occupied lands. Where the spirit of our ancestors is, where our homes are, where our history can torment your consciences. Nor do you know how to dive into the sea and resurface on other shores. You are not sons of this sea.

Tuesday, December 31, 2019

In Memory of Nicolò Luxardo (1927-2019)

Nicolò Luxardo III (1927-2019)
The Luxardo name is synonymous with a success story and with an enlightened company which is always attentive to its employees, but it is also inextricably linked to the painful and unforgettable page of the destruction of Zara, the Julian-Dalmatian exodus and the tenacious memory of the exiled communities. The whole of Veneto must be grateful to Nicolò – an Istrian of Ligurian descent – for having the strength to be reborn, which he demonstrated by making our land the homeland of Maraschino.”
– Luca Zaia, President of Veneto

It is sad to report that Nicolò Luxardo III, a member of the illustrious Luxardo family, passed away in his home in Padua earlier this month on December 3, 2019. He was an Italian Dalmatian exile and entrepreneur who helped rebuild the Luxardo company after the tragedies the World War II.

Nicolò was born in Trieste in 1927. His family, known throughout the world for its maraschino liqueur produced in the Dalmatian city of Zara, was then enjoying a business resurgence in the Kingdom of Italy. In 1943, however, the city of Zara was destroyed by Allied bombings and reduced to a pile of rubble. Tito's Yugoslav Partisans then descended upon Zara in 1944 and began a series of massacres which nearly wiped out the entire Luxardo family. His father Pietro, his uncle Nicolò II and his aunt Bianca were all murdered by the Yugoslavs. His uncle Giorgio (1897-1963) was the sole survivor of his generation.

Despite the millennial Italian character of the city and its population, the city of Zara was annexed to Yugoslavia after the war. Like thousands of other Italians of the Eastern Adriatic, the Luxardos were forced to abandon their native land and their factory, which was seized by the Yugoslav Communists, and had to rebuild their company in post-war Italy.

After conducting research and experiments aimed at finding an ideal location to grow the maraschino cherry, the company was reborn in 1947 in Torreglia, a small town in the province of Padua at the foot of the Euganean Hills. Here, Nicolò and his uncle Giorgio rebuilt the company which had been founded in Zara by Girolamo Luxardo in 1821. When he re-founded the company with his uncle, Nicolò was just twenty years old.

Nicolò Luxardo was a great man, entrepreneur, innovator and precursor of the times who witnessed so much history – some of it frightening – with the will to be reborn, enlightened pragmatism, and extraordinary moral strength, which are his greatest legacies. ... The personality and example of Nicolò Luxardo will be a guide for our entrepreneurs, especially the youngest ones whom he dedicated particular care to, who will respect the ideals in which he believed and invested: work, family, culture, history, attachment to the territory, attention to the product and attention to quality, which made Luxardo and his Maraschino an admirable example, known and appreciated all over the world.”
– Massimo Finco, Deputy President of Assindustria Venetocentro

In the following decades the Luxardo company had to fight numerous lawsuits against Croatian imitators in Yugoslavia who were attempting to market Maraschino liqueur using the Luxardo trademark. The Luxardo's successfully won all the court cases against them. Upon Giorgio's death in 1963, Nicolò assumed presidency of the company and resigned only in 2000, at the age of 73.

In addition to being a successful entrepreneur, Nicolò Luxardo was a great lover of beauty: he oversaw the restorations of many Venetian villas, collected books on the Julian-Dalmatian Exodus and on the history of the Republic of Genoa, the original birthplace of his ancestors.

In Padua he founded the Giovani imprenditori di Confindustria (a group of young entrepreneurs), oversaw the publication of the Dalmatian Italian magazine “Rivista dalmatica di storia patria” and wrote two books: the first dedicated to his family and the company, entitled “I Luxardo del maraschino”, and the second dedicated to the story of his father, uncle and aunt who were killed during the war, entitled “Oltre gli scogli di Zara”.

With Nicolò Luxardo's death Italy loses one of its last surviving representatives of Italianity in the Eastern Adriatic, as well as a great industrialist.

He leaves behind his wife Anna Maria Angelini, a poetess with whom he had two children, Guido and Piero, who run the Luxardo company with their cousins; the latter has also been the chairman of the Campiello Prize Management Committee since 2011.

Wife Anna Maria, sons Piero with Cristina, Guido with Elena,
sister Alessandra, grandchildren Alvise, Martina, Gaia, Nicolò,
Chiara, Laura and Francesco, with deep sorrow announce
the loss of Nicolò Luxardo Franchi, 92 years old.

Saturday, December 28, 2019

A City Hostile to the Austrians: Irredentism in Trieste

(Written by Marco Vigna, taken from the newspaper “Il primato nazionale”, December 8, 2019.)

The massive presence of irredentism – that is to say, Italian patriotism – in Trieste can be traced back to the mid-nineteenth century. Trieste is a very symbolic city, notable for its size, its geographical location and its history.

In 1848 a governor of this city, General Ferencz Gyulai (later Field Marshal, Viceroy of Lombardy-Venetia and commander of the Austrian army in the war of 1859) had published an article in L'Osservatore Triestino – which at that time functioned as a government press organ – in which he contrasted the Slavic subjects, whom he considered loyal to the empire, with the Italians, whom he accused of being collectively hostile to imperial authority. In truth, the governor does not appear to have been wrong.

Trieste: The Hostile City

Within a few months following the publication of this article, there were three attempts at insurrection in Trieste, all three nipped in the bud by the imposing military and police apparatus: the riot of August 20, 1848, which resulted in deaths, injuries and arrests; another attempted insurrection on October 10-11; and then riots which lasted from October 23 to October 29, 1848.

On March 17, 1849 Trieste was placed under a state of siege: an entire regiment – the Fürstenwärther – was concentrated in Opicina. The castle of Trieste was put in a state of alert in anticipation of a siege, and a national guard was trained, most of whose recruits were foreigners. The concentration of large military forces in Trieste occurred when Hungary, Lombardy and Venetia were in full revolt, while Carlo Alberto's army was in pursuit of Radetzky's forces. Despite this dramatic situation for the empire, it was decided to place several thousand troops in the city of Trieste, demonstrating its importance and recognizing the danger of its potential insurrection.

On the other hand, Gyulai was one of the most renowned imperial generals and in 1850 he managed to prevent the insurrection of Trieste by becoming Minister of War, then military commander of Lombardy-Venetia, and finally viceroy. His career depended largely on the merits acquired in 1848.

Even the central government seemed convinced of the antipathy of Trieste towards the empire, so much so that on October 28, 1848 it had communicated to the imperial authorities in Trieste that, in order to effectively oppose the Triestine Society (Società dei Triestini), which was "absolutely Italian and anti-German", it was necessary to develop and enhance the German society, which already existed, as well as a Slavic society, which was then in the process of being formed. In accordance with this, already on December 1 of that year Gyulai gave the order to encourage Slavic immigration.

These judgments and evaluations were passed on to the governors and to the central government, which had at its disposal a widespread network of police and informants. The police chiefs knew the mood of the population very well, took note of what they said and did, and reported it regularly to their superiors.

For example, in 1848 the chief of police of Trieste, Altgraf von Salm, communicated to Vienna that the most widely-read newspapers in the city were the following seven: Il Costituzionale, La Guardia nazionale, La Frusta, La Gazzetta di Trieste, Il Giornale di Trieste, Il Telegrafo della sera, Il Diavoletto. Of these, Salm wrote, only one (Il Diavoletto) was in favor of the empire and it was also the least read.

In the following years, the Kaiser's visits to Trieste revealed the citizens' coldness towards him. Franz Herre, the well-known biographer of Franz Joseph, provided a detailed description of the isolation and hostility with which the emperor and empress found themselves surrounded in Italy, wherever they went: Milan, Brescia, Venice...

Two visits by the kaiser to Trieste, in 1851 and 1856, were both politically negative, since in both circumstances the city proved cold and contemptuous towards the imperial couple. During the visit of 1851 the carriage, upon its departure, was accompanied not by a procession of jubilant subjects, but rather by small groups of children, some of whom booed. During the visit of 1856 the police had been alerted months in advance about the upcoming visit of the sovereign, because it was feared that there would be public demonstrations hostile to the monarch. A police report warned the Interior Ministry that a "festive reception to His Majesty was doubtful".

After his departure, the chief of police of Trieste, Franz von Hell, made it known that Franz Joseph was unhappy with the reception he had received. A booklet published shortly after by Baron Pascottini, a senior government official, reports the conditions of the time. He described a Trieste in which irredentists were everywhere, brazen though hidden, and that they had been able to influence the populace "to apathy, to silence, to non-intervention in public shows", when the emperor had come.

The awareness that Trieste was, for the most part, opposed to imperial rule remained rooted in the minds of the imperial authorities and was regularly reaffirmed until 1914. In 1859 the city again came under siege, despite its distance from the front, therefore purely for reasons of internal public order. In 1862 Franz Joseph, speaking with Marshal Thun, expressed his disdain for the political conditions of Trieste, while the Minister of War called it a "rebel's nest" (Rebellennest). In 1866, Trieste was placed under siege yet again.

A few years later, on August 5, 1869, General Karl Moering, Lieutenant of the "Littoral" (that is, Venezia Giulia) sent a report to Minister Giskra. He wrote that political and social life in Trieste was entirely dominated by a bloc which brought together almost all Italians and that it was against the Austrian government.

The Exhibition for the 500th anniversary of the so-called Austrian dedication of 1382, held in 1882, was a disaster for Austria's image. It is superfluous to recall that it was on that occasion that Guglielmo Oberdan planned to kill Franz Joseph and ended up sentenced to death. The sentence was met with the disapproval of the international community, which opposed the use of capital punishment for an act which was not committed, but only planned, which legally is a very different thing. But the Exhibition itself was unsuccessful. The solemn inauguration, in the presence of an archduke and various government authorities, was practically deserted, because the Triestines boycotted it.

The Irredentist Spirit

Still a few years before the world war, Habsburg officials and soldiers wrote in their official reports that Trieste's citizenry was predominantly irredentist, so they ordered measures consistent with their firm belief. For example, the brutal repression of the 1902 Lloyd strike, which saw three different cases of the military opening fire upon crowds of demonstrators (leaving at least 14 dead and an unknown number wounded) was due to the belief that the demonstrators were mostly irredentists. The government of Vienna had explicitly given orders "to make an example" out of them. The city was once again under siege and remained so from February to April. Military units were even brought in from places such as Klagenfurt and Ljubljana and three battleships from Pola. Vienna sent the executioner Josef Lang, the same who later hanged Cesare Battisti. It was on that occasion that Conrad von Hötzendorf, then military governor and later chief of the imperial staff, was convinced that irredentism was socially and culturally invincible, and that force needed be used in order to crush it.

The Austrian governor of those years, Leopold von Goess, formally and in writing advised against granting an Italian-speaking university in Trieste because the Volksitaliener (a term used by the imperial administration to designate those who were of Italian ethnicity, although legally subjects of the empire: Volksitalianer means "ethnic Italians") were unfavorable to Austrian rule. That is more or less what was also said by the Statthalter who replaced him, Konrad zu Hohenlohe-Schillingsfürst, who contrasted the loyalty of the Slovenes to the empire (who, in his opinion, should be helped) with the hostility of the Italians.

The lieutenant of Trieste, Baron Alfred Fries-Skene, appointed in February 1915, sent a secret report to the government in 1916 in which he reported both on the situation of the city and of the region during the war and in the pre-war period. The Die politische Verwaltung des Küstenlander in eineinhalb Kriegsjahern described a Trieste which even before 1915 was already pervaded by a strong irredentist spirit, with the municipal administration and all its apparatus, the schools and the largest city newspaper (Il Piccolo) all opposed to imperial authority.

The idea that the population of Trieste was made up mostly of irredentists is found not only in the books and memoirs of Italian nationalists, but also in the documents and official decisions of the imperial administration. The short list of sources mentioned above is far from complete.

See also:
Trieste, the Most Italian City
Making Trieste Slavic: An Overview
Making Trieste Slavic: Ethnic Cleansing and the Attempted Slavicization of Trieste

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 “trialism”, 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 and did not make any settlement until the turn of the ninth 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 occurred 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 Habsburgs' 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.


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.