Tuesday, April 3, 2018

The Placitum of Risano

The Placitum of Risano (Italian: Placito del Risano; Latin: Placitum Risanum) is a document issued by an Istrian assembly held at Risano, near Capodistria, in the year 804. It is the most important historical document from Istria in the Early Middle Ages.

Among other things, the placitum is noteworthy for its complaints against Slavic immigrants in Istria. The document is preserved in the National Archives in Venice, Italy.

Historical Background

In the Early Middle Ages, following the collapse of the Roman Empire, Istria successively belonged to the Kingdom of Italy (476-538), Exarchate of Italy (584-751) and Kingdom of Italy (751-952).

Since 774 the Kingdom of Italy had come under the rule of the Carolingian dynasty, who ousted the Longobards from power. During this transfer of power, Istria briefly returned to Byzantine rule. But by 788-789 Istria was fully reintegrated into the Kingdom of Italy under the new Carolingian rulers.

In 799 the King of Italy established the March of Istria, a frontier land within the Kingdom of Italy, designed to protect Italy from invaders – more specifically to keep the Avars, Slavs and Magyars out of Italy. In the following year, Charlemagne was crowned Emperor and the Kingdom of Italy (with Istria) became a constituent kingdom of the Carolingian Empire.

The population of Istria was Latin-speaking and Italian in origin. They clung stubbornly to their Roman laws and heritage. The Slavs had made their first incursions into Istria between 599 and 600. Throughout the first half of the 7th century the Slavs and the Avars made numerous raids into Istria, plundering and destroying many cities, but they never made any permanent settlement in the region.

At the turn of the 9th century Slavs were settled in Istria for the first time; they were brought in as servants to work the land as vassals by John, the Carolingian Duke of Istria. This was fiercely opposed by the native Roman inhabitants. The duke was accused by the Istrians of bringing foreigners into their land, of misusing taxes, and of committing a number of other violations against the rights and privileges they had enjoyed since Roman and Byzantine times.

The Placitum of Risano

In 804 an assembly was convened at Risano, a small town near Capodistria. Here the people of Istria issued a series of complaints addressed to Charlemagne. The acts of the assembly were recorded in a document known as the Placitum of Risano. The document was drawn up by Peter, a deacon of the church of Aquileia, at the behest of Patriarch Fortunatus of Grado.

The assembly was attended by Duke John, by three imperial emissaries, and by 172 juridical witnesses who were selected as local representatives of the Istrian cities and castles. These representatives came from Trieste, Parenzo, Pola, Rovigno, Pedena, Pinguente, Montona, Cittanova, Albona, and several other Istrian towns.

The Istrians swore upon the Gospels and the relics of saints that they would tell the truth, and then proceeded to express their grievances. Among other things, the Istrians complained that Duke John had violated the customs of the country by inviting Slavic immigrants to settle in their land. They further complained that these Slavs usurped their property and threatened to kill the Istrians:
“Moreover he [Duke John] introduced Slavs on our lands: they plough our lands and our clearings, they make hay from our meadows, they use our pasture, and they pay a due to John from these our lands. Now we no longer have cows or horses. And if we say anything, they say that they will kill us.”
The Istrians conclude by saying it would be better to die than to live and be forced to endure such a state of affairs with the Slavs and Duke John:
“For three years we have given the tithes that we owe to the holy church to the pagan Slavs, when John installed them upon the lands of the churches and our people, to his sin and to our perdition. We do all these duties which we have mentioned under violent constraint, which our ancestors never did. And so we are all entering into poverty. And our kinsmen and neighbours in Venice and Dalmatia, and even the Greeks under whose power we formerly were, deride us. If the lord Emperor Charles can rescue us, we can escape; otherwise, it is better for us to die than to live.”
In response to these protests, Charlemagne's emissaries admitted that the duke had abused the Istrian population; they agreed to restore the old Roman customs and to stop Slavic immigration in Istria. Duke John apologized and offered to expel the Slavs back to their own land:
“About the Slavs you have mentioned: let us go to the places where they reside, and let us see where they can stay without damage to you. If afterwards they cause damage to the fields, the woods or the clearances, or any other thing, we shall expel them. Or, if it pleases you better, let us move them to deserted places where they can be of use like other people.”
As a compromise, the Slavs who were introduced by John were settled in some uncultivated districts in the Istrian countryside, where they could work the land as servants, with the permission of the neighbouring Istrian locals. This was the first permanent settlement of Slavs in Istria.

This settlement did not last long, however, as there is no further documentary evidence of any Slavic presence in Istria again until the 12th century.

Full text:
Placitum of Risano (English)
Placitum of Risano (Italian)
Placitum of Risano (Latin)

Friday, February 23, 2018

The Italian Aims in the Adriatic: Dalmatia, Fiume and the Other Unredeemed Lands of the Eastern Frontier of Italy

(Written by Alberto da Giussano, taken from the magazine “Il Carroccio”, Volume 6, July 1917)

Italy, after defeating Austria-Hungary must claim all the lands embraced between the Adriatic and the Julian and Dinaric Alps i.e., eastern Friuli, Istria with Trieste and Fiume, and all Dalmatia; whilst leaving to the Croatians and to the Serbians commercial ports of their own on the Adriatic.

All the "unredeemed" lands of the Adriatic coast have century-old Italian traditions dating back to their earliest Latin inhabitants. Even at Fiume, where until recent years, the Latin tradition seemed least certain, recent excavations have shown that the original seed, which later on had such a vigorous fruition, was sown by Rome.

Geographically not only eastern Friuli and Istria as far as the old classic frontier of Arsa, but also Fiume and Dalmatia are Italian, for they are situated on this side of the watershed which divides the affluents of the Danube from those rivers which flow into the Adriatic.

Culture, geography and history are the factors which detract from the purely numerical importance of statistic in those parts where they seem unfavorable to the Italians. But even statistics support Italian claims in a large portion of these unredeemed lands despite the systematic bad faith of the Government which compiled them.

Friuli, Trieste and Istria

The fact that these lands belong geographically to the Appenine Peninsula is not seriously disputed even by German geographers. The fact has been universally admitted for thousands of years.

The Julian Alps clearly divide eastern Friuli and the territory of Gorizia from the Carniola. The division is distinct even as regards the character of the landscape which, on this side of the Alps, is thoroughly Italian.

Starting from Monte Nero the Julian Alps "follow, above Idria, the administrative boundary line between the coast and the province of Carniola, through the pass of Planina-Circhina. From Idria they run, mainly in a south-easterly direction, along the heights which command the road from Idria to Planina, near the river Uncia, dividing Italy from the Slav lands at the central pass of Longatico (Unterloitsch) and including, to the west, the forests of Tarnova and Piro. From Longatico skirting the western heights, they follow the Trieste-Laibach railway line as far as Postumia (which they leave to the west) following the administrative boundary line along the ridge of the Albi mountains, whence they descend, embracing Fiume and some square miles of Croatia, and join the sea at about the level of Buccari, opposite the head-land of San Marco, which is part of the Italian territory". (1)

The official Austrian statistic for 1910 return 90,119 Italian speaking inhabitants in eastern Friuli. (2) The Slovacs, according to these same statistic, number 154,564. A calculation which may be considered reliable because it is based on electoral returns, gives, on the other hand, the following figures:
Italians subject to Austria 112,000
Italians subject to Italy 8,000
Slavs 130,000
Germans 3,500
According to these figures the number of Italians is almost equal to that of the Slavs. But the Italians almost all belong to the urban population, they are the more highly educated and have therefore a distinctly higher national value. So notable is this superiority that even if they only numbered 90,000, as the Austrian statistics try to make out, the national character of these lands would not be changed, for it is and continues to be Italian.

The very name of Eastern or Austrian Friuli used in the official acts of the Vienna government, is proof that Goritian Friuli is an integral part of that Friuli already united to the mother-country.

At Trieste in 1910 the Austrian statistics show that out of 229,000 inhabitants, 118,959 are Italian, 56,916 Slovacs, and 11,856 Germans. To convince us that these, like all the other figures of the Austrian census are falsified, we need only look up the official returns of the 1900 census which gave 116,825 Italians, and 24,679 Slovacs. Nor is this all: the K. K. Central Kommission fur statistik (of Vienna) in 1913 declared that the returns of the Austrian census at Trieste exaggerated the number of the Slav inhabitants.

The truth is that in 1910 the Italians of Trieste, inclusive of those who could claim Italian citizenship (almost all of whom were natives of Trieste) numbered 182,113, and the Slovacs who mostly dwell in the hilly section of the town, numbered 37,063, of whom over 45 per cent are immigrants of recent date.

In Istria the Austrian statistics place the number of Italians at 147,417, Slovacs 55,134, Croatians 168,184. It is evident that these figures also need correcting. In Istria as in eastern Friuli the number of Italians is nearly equal to that of the Slavs; but here again the former account for the educated section of the population and form one national unit, whereas the Slavs are partly Croats and partly Slovacs, that is to say they belong to peoples speaking different languages. Moreover, almost all the Slavs speak Italian and many of them speak dialects so full of Italian words that more than one glottologist has been in doubt whether to classify them among Italian or Slav dialects.

Considered as a whole, Friuli (Provinces of Gorizia and Gradisca), Trieste, and Istria, which are divided by no natural barrier and which should, therefore, be considered as forming one region, that of Julian Venetia, were inhabited in 1910 by over half a million Italians as against not more than 350,000 Croats and Slovacs. Nor does this take into account Fiume, which likewise forms part of Istria and, therefore, of Julian Venetia, and where the Italians form 65 per cent.


Fiume, situated at the eastern base of the Istrian peninsula, belongs geographically to Istria to which it belonged politically until 1776.

The eastern frontier of Istria, which some place at the Arsa, the original frontier of the tenth Augustean Region, is really formed by the watershed of the Julian Alps which descend to the sea at the Canale della Montagna, opposite the headland of St. Mark, near the island of Veglia.

The boundary line formed by the Arsa had a purely administrative value in the time of Augustus; had it been the military frontier the Romans would not have built further east, for the defence of Italy, the two great Valli of the Julian Alps. The majestic ruins of one of these works can still be seen, following for some distance the course of the Fiumara, a stream which forms the political boundary line between Fiume and Croatia.

But, as stated above, the real geographical frontier lies further to the southeast, on the crest of the Julian Alps, and includes, besides Fiume, the sea towns of Buccari and Portoré.

Until February 1914, the origin of Fiume was unknown. An arch between two houses in the old part of the town, traditionally known as the "Roman arch", and the junction on its present location of many Roman roads, as shown by the Itinerari and the geography of Claudius Ptolomy, afforded grounds for supposing it to be of Latin origin.

The majority now incline to identify Fiume with Tarsatica, rebuilt after its destruction, clear traces of which were found in the Roman foundations on which the mediaeval city was built.

The ancient Roman Oppidum, for such Tarsatica had been, reappears in the middle ages under the name of San Vito al Fiume, known later on as Fiume, a name which the Slavs translated by the word Ricka, a Croatian word for watercourse. San Vito is still the patron saint of the town to whom the principal church is dedicated.

All known documents relating to the city of Fiume bear witness to its uninterruptedly Italian character, which victoriously survived the Slav invasion in the 7th century which, for a time, seemed to have submerged every thing.

In 1776 Maria Theresa made over Fiume to Hungary and — as result of the protests of the inhabitants — a royal decree of April 23rd, 1779, proclaimed it to be a separate body annexed to the crown of the kingdom of Hungary.

In 1848 it was taken from Hungary by the Croatians of the Bano Jelacic, who held on to it for nineteen years without succeeding, spite of tenacious endeavours, in undermining its Italian character, and in 1867, on the dualistic settlements between Austria and Hungary, it was restored to this latter.

At present Fiume is governed on the basis of a "provisional arrangement".

In 1863 the so-called "deputations of the kingdom of Hungary, Croatia and Fiume" met at Budapest and decided that "the free city of Fiume and its territory" should remain, in accordance with the charter of 1779, a separate body provisionally annexed to Hungary, corpus separatum adnexum sacrae Regni coronae.

In the first years after 1868 the autonomy and the Italian character of Fiume were respected. But for nearly twenty years the Italians of Fiume, harassed on all sides, struggling against the Croatians and the Magyars who have done every thing in their power to denationalise them, have been engaged in a desperate but so far victorious fight in defence of their threatened Italian nationality.

The Italian character of Fiume is irrefutably proven, even by the government census returns.

These figures show that in 1910 there were 24,000 Italians in Fiume (exclusive of some 6000 Italian citizens most of them natives of Fiume), 12,000 Slavs (Croats, Serbs, and some Slovacs) and 6400 Magyars.

The fact is that before the war at least 35,000 of the 54,000 inhabitants of Fiume were Italians, that is to say 65% as compared to 28% of Slavs and 6% of Magyars.

Economically speaking Fiume is of the greatest importance to any nation which wishes to command the Adriatic. Only some 50 kms. from Trieste as the crow flies, and connected up with the railway system of St. Pietro along which run the express trains from Fiume to Vienna and from Trieste to Vienna, this Adriatic town could easily gain command of all the commerce of the Trieste hinterland. It is therefore necessary that the country which is to possess Trieste, i.e. Italy, should also hold Fiume. From this point of view Fiume may be considered the economic fulcrum of the Adriatic.

Strategically Fiume is of great importance, not so much for the command of the seas — for the country which holds the Quarnero Islands holds the keys to the Adriatic — but because without Fiume Italy would be deprived of the natural barrier of the Julian Alps, the only valid obstacle to future possible invasions, and the geographic unity of Julian Venetia would be disrupted.

Nationally speaking Fiume may be considered, as Rome formerly considered Tarsatica, as an advanced sentinel of our race. Fiume is a Latin fortress which has withstood for centuries the attacks of diverse peoples; it is a centre radiating Italian culture on the borders of Italy; it is the eastern vertex of the "fated triangle" (Trieste, Pola, Fiume); it is one of the three hinges of Italianism in Istria. Should Fiume be abandoned to Croatia or to Hungary the national character of Istria would be endangered in the whole of its eastern section.

Fiume has always asserted its complete independence from all connection with Croatia. Until the end of the xvm century the Croats themselves recognized that Fiume did not belong to Croatia. In 1779 the Chancellery at Vienna recognized indirectly that Fiume belonged to Italy. In 1882 that same Chancellery denied that Fiume was Croatian. Until the outbreak of the European war the inhabitants of Fiume themselves continued admist struggles and sacrifices of all kinds to repeat this negation.

The Coast From Fiume to Dalmatia

The watershed between the Danube and the Adriatic divides the Croatian coast between Fiume and Dalmatia from the hinterland. But so inconsiderable is the distance which separates this drainage area from the coast that it could only be held with difficulty by a state which had not possession of the hinterland.

The coast line between Fiume and Dalmatia extends for a length of some 130 kms. and boasts some good harbours which would be more than sufficient for the needs of an independent Croatia.

The Croatians — if they have possession of their own coast — have not even a pretext for claiming Fiume in the name of their economic needs, just as Hungary, cut off from the sea by at least 300 kms. of Croatian territory, cannot justly lay claim to that city. It should be noted that Croatia's share in the traffic of the port of Fiume only amounts to 4 per cent of the annual movement and that to reach the port of Fiume the Croatian railway has to make a detour which it could avoid were it to run to its own sea coast.


Dalmatia is an Adriatic territory and as such belongs to the orohydrographic system of Italy.

Throughout the innumerable islands of its archipelago it displays the same geological and morphological features as Istria. It is clearly divided from the Balkan peninsula by a high chain of mountains almost everywhere rising above 1500 metres.

The studies made by Prof. Danielli of Florence on the flora and fauna of Dalmatia show that the Dinaric Alps divide two very different regions, one of which, Dalmatia, preserves all the characteristics of the Italian lands.

Dalmatia, cut off from the Balkans by the mountains, is joined to Italy by the sea, and some particulars, studied with great interest by geologists, lead to the supposition that the Adriatic, before it became a sea, was a continuation of the Paduan plain. Even now the Adriatic seems less like a sea than a great lake within the territory which is bounded to the east by the Julian and the Dinaric Alps and to the west by the Appenines.

There is only one gate open in this mountain barrier, that of the Narenta. But this does not mean that the Narenta is necessarily a frontier. South of this river, Hertzegovina stretches in two points to the sea, at the bay of Neum-Klek, north of Ragusa, and at Suttorino at the Bocche di Cattaro. The country which shall possess Hertzegovina will therefore have two natural outlets in the southern Adriatic.

Dalmatia was Roman from the 2nd century B.C. until the fall of the Western Empire. Four Roman Emperors were Dalmatian, amongst whom Diocletian, founder of Spalato.

On the fall of Rome it was in Dalmatia that the Western Empire still survived for some decades.

The Dalmatian cities, prosperous Latin communities, governed themselves freely even after the fall of Rome, obeying their own laws and statutes which were purely Italo-Roman in character, untainted by German barbaric feudalism. At first they were under the protection of the Roman Empire of the East, and subsequently they became independent republics, following the example of the free Italian communes. In 1409 they passed definitely under Venetian rule, which retained suzerainty over them until 1797, though they always retained their municipal autonomy. Like Rome, Venice conquered Dalmatia, determined thereto by the absolute necessity of commanding the Adriatic, a command essential to the life of Italy.

In [1815] Dalmatia came under Austrian rule as having formed part of the Kingdom of Italy of Napoleon I.

Austria respected the Italian character of Dalmatia until 1866; but after the loss of Lombardy and Venetia a policy was adopted which aimed at fostering the Croatian element in this region. Little by little, by means of unheard of violence and fraud, the municipalities of the Dalmatian cities, which had been Italian for centuries, passed into the hands of the Slavs. Courageous Zara alone managed to hold out, and preserved intact its Italian patrimony and Italian municipality.

Dalmatia, like Fiume, has been Catholic ever since the days of the Apostles. The members of the Orthodox Church in Dalmatia are about 90,000 almost all descendents of fugitives who settled at Cattaro or on the Bosnian frontier, driven there by the Ottoman armies.

Dalmatian civilization is solely and exclusively Latin and Italian. The eastern Balcanic civilization begins on the further side of the Dinaric watershed, which forms the natural frontier between the Balkans and Dalmatia.

The contribution which Dalmatia has in all times given to the Italian motherland in sciences, letters, civil and military arts, is indeed notable.

All the Dalmatian cities, even the small towns of the archipelago, are real gems of Latin and Italian art. One of the most beautiful is Ragusa, situated in a picturesque and highly fertile district. The palace of Diocletian at Spalato, and the two cathedrals of Traù and Sebenico, the cathedral of Zara, and the palace of the Rectors at Ragusa, are undoubtedly real masterpieces in the national art treasury of Italy.

The economic life of Dalmatia is almost entirely in the hands of the Italian bourgeoisie, and consequently is part of the national wealth of Italy.

Landed property in the north and the centre as far as the Narenta, is two thirds Italian, and in the islands is entirely so. The Slavs are peasants, either renters or metayers. And even south of the Narenta there are large Italian estates.

As stated above the Italians of Dalmatia are autoctonous, the descendents of Roman settlers and of Illyrian (not Slavonic) natives Latinised by the Roman conquest. In the 4th century of our era all Dalmatia was Latin. The Czech professor, Jirecek, in his Denkschriften of the Vienna Academy (Number 48-49 a, 1901), the German Mayer Lubke, and the Istrian Matteo Bartoli in the proceedings of the Academy, spite of the wishes and requests of the Austrian government, have shown the uninterrupted continuity in the evolution of the Latin language and nationality in Dalmatia from the times of the Romans to our day. In the middle-ages Dalmatia had a neo-Latin dialect of its own, designated by these writers as "neo-Dalmatic", later on absorbed and transformed by the Venetian dialect which spread all along the eastern coast of the Adriatic.

It is well to remember that Milovanovic, Serbian minister of foreign affairs, in October 1909, when interviewed at Belgrade by Dr. Alexander Dudan, correspondent of the Tribuna, in the presence of the Serbian poet Ducic, now secretary to the Serbian legation at Athens, made the following declaration: "The Croatians of Dalmatia in their anti-Italian agitation are the mere agents and tools of the Austrian police, to make mischief between Italy and the Slav world, more especially between Italy and Serbia."

The "Jugoslav" claims to Dalmatia are as recent as they are unfounded. "Jugoslavism" is the latest Austrian find, which aims at drawing the Serbians within its orbit; absorbing them in a triplicist movement (Austria-Hungary-Jugoslavia). There is no such thing as a Jugoslav nation, and there is no history, nor language, nor literature which bears that name. The newly-coined word (jug — south; Jugoslavi — southern Slavs) is a mere longitudinal indication. The people neither knows nor understands it. It includes Bulgarians, Serbians, Croatians, Montenegrans, and Slovacs, that is to say five histories, three languages (Bulgarian, Serbo-Croatian, Slovac), two religions (Orthodox for the Bulgarians, Serbians, and Montenegrans; Catholic for the others), five separate national consciences. Dalmatia cannot be included in any way in this artificial conception of a Jugoslav nation.

The few Croatian and Slovac agitators who, under the pretext of Jugoslavism tour the capitals of the allied countries, carrying on a propaganda directed more especially against Italian aspirations on the Adriatic, be said to represent either the Croatians or the Slovacs of Austria-Hungary, and still less can they be said to represent the friends or the allies of the Entente. This is so because, in the first place, until the European war broke out these very agitators were the instruments of Austrian policy directed against Italy and against Serbia. In the second place, because the very Croatian and Slovac political parties to which they belonged until the outbreak of the war, and their political colleagues (presidents of provinces, and of provincial parliaments, deputies and podestàs) still continue, after years of war, to be the agents and servants of the Austrian and Hungarian governments; they still continue to support Vienna and Budapest, and consequently Berlin in the war against Italy and all the Allies.

The Austrian census, drawn up by Austro-Croatian agents, only returns 20 thousands Italians out of a population of 620 thousand inhabitants. But there are at least 60 thousand Italians in Dalmatia exclusive of those who are Italian subjects. This figure is obtained from the electoral returns for 1911 in which the Italian candidates obtained 10 per cent of the total poll and by other competent statisticians. The Italian speaking inhabitants amount to 200,000, and it may be said that the only Dalmatians who do not understand Italian are the illiterates who can neither read nor write. (3)

Dalmatia is essential to the safety of Italy on the Adriatic. And, be it noted, we say Dalmatia and not only the islands, which it would be impossible to defend economically and strategically if they were divided from the mainland. Such a division would be a national injustice to the Dalmatians, and a source of constant unrest.

If Dalmatia were to remain separated from Italy, the Italian nationalist movement, which has always existed, would continue to subsist, and would become all the more vigorous, passionate and turbulent as the growing importance of Italy would render its ideal ever more vivid, intense, and fascinating.

It must be remembered that from a military standpoint the coast is the key to power on the Adriatic. Pola is of importance only for the protection of Trieste and Fiume, and its value is defensive.

The ports which are valuable for an offensive against the Italian coast are the two formidable harbors of Sebenico and Cattaro. The islands are only the outlying works of those ports.

The purpose of Italy is not to defend herself against a danger which threatens her in the Eastern Adriatic but to do away once and for all with that danger. Her purpose is to secure for herself absolute freedom in her own sea.

Like Rome and Venice, Italy needs Dalmatia to ensure her peace and safety.


(1) Scipio Slataper — "I confini necessari all'Italia", Turin, 1915.

(2) In speaking of figures and numerical comparisons of populations we should remember to note the great importance of the fact that we can only refer to statistics compiled before the war. We are therefore discussing a situation which has since been profoundly modified, and which owing to these modifications, cannot be used as the basis for Italian claims. The Slav population immigrated, largely at the instigation of the Vienese government, into Italian lands and very probably it will follow this same government in its retreat. Thus the Carso to-day is deserted. How many Slovacs will wish to return to this corner of Italy become once more politically Italian? At Gorizia there were some thousands of Slavs (Slovacs, Croats, Serbs, Poles, Ruthenians, and Bohemians) whom Austria had forcibly placed in the government bureaus. Will any of these return? It is thus evident that under these conditions figures are poor arguments devoid of meaning.

(3) Those who raise conscientious objections with regard to the Slav-speaking populations who would be embodied in greater Italy, would do well to remember the 2 million German speaking inhabitants of Alsace-Lorraine who will return to France, the 3 to 4 million Germans who will form part of the future kingdom of Bohemia, the Germans of Poland, the Bulgarians in Serbian Macedonia, the Turks and Greeks in Constantinople and Asia Minor, to mention only the transformations of the near future.

Saturday, February 10, 2018

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

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

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

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

The 40 Days of Titoist Terror in Trieste and Julian Venetia

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Julian-Dalmatian Exodus

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

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

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

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

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

Less dramatic but no less fatal was the exodus from Fiume. In the period from 1946-1954, about 54,000 out of 60,000 Italian Fiumans left Fiume. The capital city of the Quarnaro was almost completely emptied of its historical population. They all became refugees in search of peace, protection and sanctuary.

The "Great Silence"

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

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

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

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

Monday, January 29, 2018

A Visit to Fiume

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, January 20, 2018

Titoist Crimes: 50 Priests Murdered in the Foibe Massacres

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

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

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

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

Bonifacio: the priest whose body was never found again

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

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

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

The tragedy of Don Angelo Tarticchio

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

Monday, January 15, 2018

Amy Bernardy Defends Italian Claims

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

The Rule of the Doge of Venice

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

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

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

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

The Ignoble Treaty of Osimo

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

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

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