Sunday, December 21, 2014

Statement of Alexander Oldrini on Fiume

Here we have the statements of Prof. Alexander Oldrini, who spoke before the United States senate on September 5, 1919, on why the city of Fiume belongs to Italy:
Geographical reasons. — The city of Fiume is situated at the eastern base of the peninsula of Istraia, a part of continental Italy. It is located within the Julian Alps, between Mount Nevoso and the Velebit Massif, forming the pass of Fiume, which, if not under immediate Italian control, is an easy gate of invasion. Two barbarian invasions, in fact, of grand style have forced in 410 and 943 A.D. their destructive Hun masses into the very heart of Italy. Hence Fiume, according to her location, is within the orographic Alpine boundaries of the Italian Peninsula, covering in her suzerainty 10,000 square miles.

In speaking of the geographic location of the city of Fiume it is, perhaps, useful to state at once the existence of the city of Sussak, a suburb on the left shore of the stream Fiumara, a confluent of the River Eneo, because her Slav majority has been used by an Austrian imperial statistician—and but yesterday before you by the Slavs of the south—with a view to swell the number of Slavs in Fiume's statistics.

I shall speak of population and statistics later on, but it is useful to state at once that Sussak only about 30 years ago was a small village, where the Italian language was prevalent, that has been since 1866 colonized by Slav elements under the activities of Vienna, as was the ancient Italian cities of Dalmatia herself, in order to denationalize them all.

Historical reasons. — Three hundred years before Christ the first Romans occupied the section which is now that of Fiume, at the head of the Adriatic, and fortified it with strategic walls, the ruins of which are still excellent, indicating that since those days the strategic importance of what was afterwards the Oppidum of Tarsatica.

It is due to the municipal or communal organisms of Roma body politic that Latin civilization did not disappear under Hun, Slav, and Mongol invasions into Italy when the military dam of the empire, the Rhine and the Danube, gave way under their masses and might.

Fiume emerges in the thirteenth century, after the destruction, when invasions in Italy were diminishing in the form of a free Italian municipality or commune, to remain such to our own days. Inflexibly, immutably, although passing in the course of centuries under different influences and rules; the Franks, the princely patriarch-bishops, archbishops of feudalism, until in 1471 she fell under the hegemony of the House of Hapsburg.

In 1530 Fiume, that had status of her own, received additional ones, that is, two councils presided over by two judges (Duumviri) and a caesarian captain. Thus, chosen from the leading citizens of Fiume and put under oath to respect the municipal statutes of the city, by the Duumviri or judges, the sundics or mayors, and the people assembled.

In 1776 Empress Maria Theresa, upon the insistent request of the Fiumeans, made Fiume territory over to Hungary, but as a separate political body ("corpus separatum aduersem regni coronse").

It is under these very summary historical premises that Fiume reached the middle of the last century, when, in the revolutionary movements that shook the Hapsburg Empire, 1848-49, she was attacked by the Ban of Croatia and kept under the most ferocious Croatian yoke for 18 years.

In 1869, however, by rescript of the then dual monarchy of Austria-Hungary the city and territory of Fiume was restored, always as a municipal independent, separate political body within the Empire, and attached as such to the Crown of Hungary, although about 300 miles distant from the Adriatic. The Government of Budapest, planning to use Fiume as a naval expedient base, as Austria reserved Trieste for herself and Germany, with a view to their well-known policy of "dranch nach osten" in the Balkan Peninsula, pointing to Constantinople and the Persian Gulf.

Never in history, except at one time for two or three years, have the Hapsburgs permitted Croatia to annex Fiume, although Croatia begins on the eastern side of the stream dividing her from the city of Sussak. And it is quite worthy of notice that in the 10 years during which the city has been under the Croatian yoke, as I said, that she unalterably refused to occupy the two seats afforded her in the Croatian Parliament, or Sabor. There never was love lost, indeed, between Fiumeans and Croatians, the Latin civilizing element, and the Slav faithful under serfdom to the autocracy of the Hapsburgs.

From 1869 to 1918 Hungary, representing through its governor the Imperial Austrian autocracy, did all that hard rule and tyranny could do to denationalize Fiume. to destroy her municipal secular organism. Without result, however, owing to the inextinguishable spirit of Italianity of the Fiumeans manifesting itself in many ways, at all possible occasions, such as those most eloquent of furnishing volunteers in all the wars waged by Italy for independence since 1818, as well as in this last war of their final redemption. No group of Latin descent, even within the Italian Peninsula, offered in history such an inflexible racial spirit, such historical continuity of an Italian municipal organism as did Fiume.

No wonder thus if the deputy of Fiume on the 13th of October, 1918, declared the independence of the city before the Magyar Parliament as other imperial crownlands and organized since October 18 a national council, when the Hungarian civil and military authorities and garrison fled from the city with the imperial governor at the advance of the Italian victorious armies on the Piave. ...

Philological reasons. — The language of the people being its most living expression in the daily affirmation of its national racial spirit and aspirations, the Italian idiom has been at all times that the city of Fiume, the official language used between the municipal council and the Hapsburg monarchy as well as in all municipal documents in the archives of the city, which are uninterruptedly Italian. Even the inscriptions on the graves of the cemeteries of Fiume are 100 per cent Italian. The Emperors of Austria on ascending the throne received the homage of the city in Italian and separately from any other part of the crownlands. A privilege granted only to Fiume and the Hungarian city of Peccs. Moreover, the Hungarian Government itself since 1869 corresponded with Fiume in Italian only. The Italian language is being used exclusively by the Chamber of Commerce of Fiume, the courts, schools, the press, the navigation companies, the governor passports, and all other documents inherent to port transactions, and the citizens, the 87 per cent of Fiume city. Foreigners are wont to learn Italian, as are English all foreign born in the United States. All deputies of Fiume to the Hungarian Parliament since 1869 have been Italians and the municipal representatives of the city also, except at one sitting by a Hungarian, Count Ludovic Bathian. If, therefore, under the 14 points of President Woodrow Wilson any one people of the former dual monarchy is entitled to self-determination that one are the Fiumeans.

Ethnological reasons. — After the fall of the Roman Empire of Occident and notwithstanding the great Slav invasion of the seventh century, among others, which threatened to submerge every vestige of Latin ethnology and Roman political organism, the Latin group of Fiume survived owing to the indomitable racial spirit of the population, persisting on one side secular Slav infiltration and the constant pressure of the Hapsburg Empire. And on the threshold of the world war even the manipulated last imperial statistics acknowledge 65 per cent Italian population as against 22 per cent Slavonic and 13 per cent Hungarian, including employees, garrisons, and even transients. The last census, taken by the National Council of Fiume after the war, resulted in 28,911 Italians, 9,092 Croats, 1,674 Slovenes, 161 Serbs, 4,431 Hungarians, 1,616 Germans, and 379 mixed nationalities.

Economic reasons. — Import and export statistic figures prove that the port of Fiume was not needed either by Croatia or other Slavs. that it was not the result of the economic interest of Croatia or any other Slav group, but of the whole interland, especially of Hungary proper. All the commerce affluing to Jugo-Slavia from the Mediterranean has found its way to Jugo-Slavia through central lines of affluence that are all under the parallel of Fiume, the 45 1/3°. And even if as the tentative Kingdom of the Serbo-Croat-Slovenes should be granted by the peace conference then the ports of trade affluence are all connected by good railroad communications with Sebenico, Spalato, Metovic, Ragusa, and Cattaro, ports of great capacity. And while Hungary would have the greatest interest in the port of Fiume she does not aspire to it under any form, preferring, notoriously, to see it in the hands of the Italians.

The total imports and exports of Fiume, closing 1915 Austrian statistics, is divided as follows:

Seven per cent for Croatia, 13 per cent for Croatia. Dalmatia. Bosnia, Herzegovina together, the 87 per cent of these four Provinces import and export passing through the Dalmatian ports already quoted.

Political reasons. — The political importance of Fiume as to a strategic Roman apex in defense of Italy is today, as in Roman rimes, paramount between democratic Italy and peoples entitled to freedom but grown under the iron rule of military autocracy for several centuries and brought abruptly and without their assistance by Italian valor to independence in direct contact with democracy, the evolutive democracy of Washington and Lincoln, of Garibaldi and Mazzini. It being common history that all the representatives of Croatians and Slovenes, the Reichstag of Vienna, and the Parliament of Budapest, or in the Diet of Zagabria, loudly, unequivocally, and up to the last day of the empire for which the Slavs fought to the last ditch of their masters, the River Piave, against their own redemptors, have sided for the House of Hapsburg. And when freed by the Italian victory, excited by those same representatives, at once they were guided by them to seize the Austrian fleet with a view to continue to dominate their liberators in the Adriatic, from the high Dalmatian coast against the indefensible eastern coast of the peninsula between Venice and Brindisi. When President Wilson and the American delegation went first to Europe, the Hun, Austrian, and Slav propaganda, supplied by franks, pounds, and dollars for years was intense in the United States, and that of Italy was nil. Their conception of the problem of the Adriatic between Italians and Slavs, with due respect to their knowledge in geography, ethnography, and history of Europe, eventually overshadowed any other appreciation. Not only of Fiume's self-determination and Dalmatia's Italian origin, but the natural and national rights of Italy, the faithful democratic ally, the historical democratic nation who single-handed, at a still, dark hour for the alliance, destroyed after a century of martyrdom and valor one of the two central militaristic powers of Europe in open battle 51 Italian divisions, 2 English, 1 French, Czecho-Slovak, and the 352d American Regiment against 73 divisions. Or at that date 38,000,000 Italians pitched against 53,000,000 Germans, Hungarians, Slavs, and Turks. And no revolution, no insurrection, happened during the war and before in the Austria-Hungarian Empire for freedom. And except from Bohemian-Moravia, no Slav soldiers or citizens deserted to the alliance on the western and Italian fronts.

Now, as to the relations between Italians and Jugo-Slavs, about 50,000,000 and 12,000,000, respectively, these are not dependent from propaganda or monopolistic influences in the Adriatic interland, not on theories but on conditions. The interdependence of States is most desirable and possible between the compact democratic nation of Italy and the still inorganic master inhabiting said interland, interdependence being a true and permanent basis for a league of nations, as was asserted by an Italian historian a century ago, Melchiorre Gioja; provided, however, said he, Italy is in the possession of all of her mountain boundaries.

Honorable Senators. I declare I have not great faith in the future decisions concerning the Adriatic by the peace conference sitting at Paris, and I shall close the defense of Fiume and Dalmatia, pinning my faith on the political wisdom, spirit of justice, and authority of the Senate of the United States of America to redress a denial of justice, that of Fiume, only second to Shantung.
—Prof. Alexander Oldrini, Hearing Before the Committee on Foreign Relations, United States Senate, Sixty-Sixth Congress, September 5, 1919