Saturday, January 20, 2018

Titoist Crimes: 50 Priests Murdered in the Foibe Massacres

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

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

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

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

Bonifacio: the priest whose body was never found again

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

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

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

The tragedy of Don Angelo Tarticchio

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

Monday, January 15, 2018

Amy Bernardy Defends Italian Claims

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

The Rule of the Doge of Venice

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

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

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

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

The Ignoble Treaty of Osimo

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

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

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

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Dalmatia Viewed by a Dalmatian

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


1.1 Orography

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

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

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

1.2 Ethnology

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

1.3 Prehistory

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

1.4 Rome

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

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

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

1.5 Early Middle Ages

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

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

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

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

1.6 The Barbarians

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

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

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

1.7 The Period Before Modern Times

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

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

1.8 Modern Times

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

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

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

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

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

1.9 One Thousand and One Nights

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

1.10 Ragusa

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

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

1.11 Venice

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

1.12 Campo Formio 1797

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

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

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

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

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

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

1.13 Fascism

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

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

1.14 Epilogue

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, December 21, 2017

The Population of Dalmatia in the 12th Century

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Response to Croatian Statements on Bilingualism in Fiume

Croatian politicians and representatives recently made statements regarding the initiative to restore visible bilingualism in the city of Fiume, a former Italian city which today belongs to Croatia (and has been officially known as Rijeka since 1947), but which still has a small and proud Italian community.

The Alliance of Primorje-Gorski Kotar (PGS)
“The Fiumani [Italians of Fiume] are the soul of this city, whose history and Italian culture is just as important as the Croatian one. Comparing Italians to other minorities makes no sense, because Fiume is their home; they are natives of this city and therefore should not be treated as minorities, even if today they are only a small part of the local population.”
This was the statement of the Alliance of Primorje-Gorski Kotar (PGS) on the question of restoring visual bilingualism in Fiume. It is certainly one of the most favourable and positive statement made by Croatian politicians on the Italian heritage of Fiume in recent memory.

However, for the sake of historical accuracy, it should be admitted that not only is the Italian history and culture of Fiume just as important as the Croatian one, it is in fact more important than the Croatian one. The Italian history and heritage of Fiume spans some 2,000 years, whereas the Croatian one dates only to the end of World War II.

Deputy Mayor Nikola Ivaniš

Nikola Ivaniš, Honorary Chairman of the PGS, as well as Deputy Mayor of Fiume, said:
“We are absolutely in favor of visual bilingualism in the historic centre of Fiume and I believe that substantially the other political parties more or less agree, because it makes sense in a city like ours, which has always been multicultural. Those who deny this fact don't know the history of their own city. The only negative thing is the politicization of the issue. We would have preferred this initiative to come from the Italian Community and not from a political party, because in this way the issue is likely to be exploited and create major misunderstandings.”
Mr. Ivaniš' support for the bilingual initiative is absolutely appreciated. The initiative, if approved by the government, will be a great step forward for both Fiume and its historical heritage, and for the Italian community. However, Mr. Ivaniš' statement still contains some inaccuracies that must be addressed.

Firstly, vocal members of the Italian Community of Fiume have been advocating for the visible restoration of the Italian language, in addition to the recognition of other Italian rights in the city, for many years now.

Secondly, in order to effectuate social and political change, it requires the use and support of politicians and political parties. This is not politicization; it is simply the only or at least the most effective way of changing the status quo. For decades the Italians of Fiume have asked for change, and their cries have until now fallen upon deaf ears. Without the support of political leaders and parties, the current initiative likely would have been ignored like the previous ones.

Finally, while Mr. Ivaniš' support for the initiative is greatly appreciated, it must be pointed out that his statement that Fiume “has always been multicultural” is entirely false and insulting. His statement was certainly politically correct, but as too frequently is the case when using the mask of political correctness, the statement does not correspond to the historical reality.

Fiume, historically, was ethnically, culturally and linguistically an Italian city, not a multicultural one. It is true that every major city has a number of minorities, and Fiume was no different in this regard: since at least the 19th century there existed small communities of Germans, Hungarians and Croats in Fiume. However, up until World War II these groups remained small minorities compared to the Italians, and to pretend that each ethnic group had an equal influence on the city's local culture and history is simply to rewrite and reinterpret history in light of modern multiculturalist ideology.

Brief History of Fiume

Fiume originated as the Roman city of Tarsatica. After the fall of the Roman Empire, the citizens clung to their Roman roots, continuing to adhere to Roman law and institutions, while likewise continuing to speak the Latin language. During the Middle Ages the city became a free commune, following in the same footsteps as Trieste and the other medieval Italian communes.

The official language of Fiume was Italian since the 15th century; the city's municipal statutes were written 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 written in Croatian or any other language. This is an unassailable fact of history.

The ethnic composition of Fiume was overwhelmingly Italian until relatively recent times. Despite a significant influx of immigrants, especially Croats, to Fiume's environs in the 19th century, the census of 1918 showed that Italians still formed 83.3% of the city's population (14,194 Italians compared to 2,094 Croats). It was not until after the end of World War II, with the expulsion of 90% of Fiume's Italian population (54,000 Italians out of 60,000), that the Croats became a truly significant presence in the city. Croatian migrants subsequently colonized Fiume under the direction of Josip Broz Tito's Communist regime, leaving the Italians as a small minority in their own city.

To suggest that the smaller minority groups – especially those living in the suburban districts outside of the city proper and therefore outside of the city's cultural life – had an equal impact on Fiume's culture and history, or even a significant enough influence so as to merit the label of being a “multicultural city”, is to grossly distort Fiume's history, and does a great disservice to Fiume's historical character and heritage, which up until the end of the war was indisputably Italian.

More than this, to say that Fiume “has always been multicultural” is to do an enormous disservice to those many thousands of Fiuman Italians who lost their homes and lives in the ethnic cleansing by the Yugoslav Communists, and minimizes the true impact that this ethnic cleansing had on the city of Fiume, on its population, on its demographics and on its cultural heritage since the end the war.

The Independent Marinko Koljanin

Marinko Koljanin, an Independent, said:
“For me visible bilingualism in Fiume would be the most natural thing in the world. It's a matter of historical identity. In Italy, the Italian language has always been spoken, both as an official language and by the whole people, and for many years the districts, streets and squares of our city had Italian names. In my opinion, signs bearing the historical [Italian] names of these places would be interesting also for the Croats, because it would make them interested in the history of the city they live in.”
This is one of the most honest and clear statements made by a Croatian politician on the subject.

The Absurdity of Hrvoje Burić

Slightly different, however, is the opinion of Hrvoje Burić, also an Independent candidate, who does not believe that bilingualism should be exclusive to the Italian national minority. Burić said:
“Fiume must be open to multiculturalism, because this is the road that leads to Europe, but if it were decided to introduce additional signs for street names, it would be appropriate to do it in German and Hungarian as well as in Italian.”
Mr. Burić makes a very false comparison by equating the Germans and Hungarians to the Italians. These three groups are not equal when it concerns the history and heritage of Fiume, and therefore do not merit equal representation. Having signs in German and Hungarian alongside Italian would be just as historically inaccurate as having signs only in Croatian without Italian.

When Fiume was under Habsburg and Hungarian administration, the official language of the city was Italian. On all maps and administrative documents, the Hungarians officially used the Italian name of Fiume when referring to this city. Moreover, Germans and Hungarians never formed anything more than a small minority in Fiume, whereas Italians formed the absolute majority. The Italians founded the city, populated the city and for many centuries Fiume's population was almost exclusively Italian.

All signs and toponyms, therefore, were always Italian, even during the Habsburg and Hungarian periods; never German and never Hungarian. Neither the German nor the Hungarian language ever held a significant place – nor had any official status at all – in the history of Fiume. Therefore Mr. Burić's suggestion that German and Hungarian be given a place next to Italian is both historically unjustified and culturally absurd.

The Multicultural Vision of Juraj Bukša

Juraj Bukša, member of the Croatian People's Party – Liberal Democrats (HNS) and former mayoral candidate of Fiume, also endorsed bilingualism but for very different reasons:
“Fiume is the European Capital of Culture in 2020 and its slogan will be 'Port of Diversity'. In this context, restoring the historical names of the squares and streets in the city centre will be a great tourist opportunity and an added value for the multiculturality of our city. But we must be careful to equally represent all the historical periods. And we must exercise patience if a street has ten different names, which would be an additional curiosity for both citizens and tourists alike.”
Mr. Bukša supports the bilingual initiative, but only insofar as it serves his multicultural political agenda and brings added attention, accolades and tourism to the city of Fiume.

It is clear from his statements that Mr. Bukša has no intention of accommodating the heartfelt wishes of the autochthonous Italian community, nor any yearning to correct a grave historical and present-day injustice. Rather, he merely wants Fiume to flow with new visitors and become a shining example of multiculturalism in order to impress the other political leaders of Europe.

His personal motivations aside, the end result – if the initiative is approved by the government – will be the same: the visible restoration of the Italian language in Fiume for the first time since 1953.

Thursday, November 9, 2017

The Italian Language Returning to Fiume?

The former Italian city of Fiume — today called Rijeka

The Lista per Fiume, a regional political party in Croatia, has proposed a bill to reintroduce visual bilingualism in the city of Fiume.

Fiume, which has been officially known as Rijeka since 1947, was formerly an Italian city where the majority of the population spoke Italian. Today however the city is almost entirely Croatian. If the bill to introduce bilingualism passes and is implemented, it would mean the visible return of the Italian language to Fiume for the first time since the end of World War II.

The city of Fiume belonged to Italy during the interwar period. In 1918 Fiume and its environs counted 28,911 Italians (62.5%) and 9,092 Croats (19.6%); in the city alone there were 14,194 Italians (83.3%) and 2,094 Croats (12.3%). In an exercise of self-determination, Fiume proclaimed itself united to Italy in 1918. This act was formalized in 1924 following a short-lived provisional government led by Italian warrior-poet Gabriele D'Annunzio.

In 1945 the city of Fiume was occupied by the Yugoslav Communist Partisans, who unleashed a reign of terror against the Italian population: at least 700 Italian civilians from Fiume were murdered by the Yugoslavs in the Foibe Massacres. Between 1945 and 1954 approximately 90% of Fiume's population was lost when 54,000 Italians (out of a total of 60,000 in Fiume) were forced into exile in an event known as the Julian-Dalmatian Exodus or Istrian Exodus.

Following the mass expulsion of Italians, Croatian migrants arrived to repopulate the city. The few Italians who remained became a persecuted minority. Fiume was formally annexed to Yugoslavia in 1947 and every trace of Italianity was erased under the brutal dictatorship of Josip Broz Tito. By 1953 all Italian schools were closed, all Italian street signs were destroyed, the Italian names of all the squares were changed, Fiume itself was renamed Rijeka and the city was thoroughly Croatized.

Fiume was annexed to Croatia in 1991 following the breakup of Yugoslavia. The Italians of Fiume today represent only about 5% of the population, forming a registered community of some 7,000 people who identify as ethnic Italians, although only 2,445 people declared Italian nationality in the 2011 census. For years the Italian community of Fiume – currently led by Orietta Marot – has struggled to gain political representation and have its rights recognized.

On November 4, 2017 a round table discussion was held in Fiume dedicated to the subject of bilingualism. It was attended by both Italian and Croatian representatives, and also by a representative of the Serb minority. The participants agreed on the need to repair the wrongs and correct the injustices done against the Italian population of Fiume, who comprised the core social fabric of the city for two millenia.

Ivan Jakovcic, a Croatian politician and former President of the Istrian Democratic Assembly, who was in attendance, suggested that bilingualism should be introduced “for the names of streets, squares and other sites within the historical city of Fiume”. The round table participants emphasized that this should not be enacted merely as a political act, but as an act of culture and civilization.

If the initiative is officially approved by the government in Fiume, it would be the first step towards finally recognizing Fiume's Italian history, culture, heritage and spirit, thereby beginning the road to restoration after more than half a century of erasion, silence and neglect. It would also be a symbolic act of justice to those unfortunate Italian men and women who lost their homes and lives after World War II merely for the crime of being Italian.