The conditions stipulated by the Allies for the armistice on the Austro-Hungarian front contain a clause which, representing in some fashion an anticipation of the rightful Italian aspirations in the Alps and on the Adriatic, forms an element of fundamental importance for the reconstruction of Europe, for the day of peace. This clause (the third in the text of the armistice) establishes:
“Evacuation of all territories invaded by Austria-Hungary since the beginning of the war. Withdrawal within such periods as shall be determined by the Commander-in-Chief of the Allied forces on each front of the Austro-Hungarian armies behind a line fixed as follows: From Pic Umbrail to the north of the Stelvio it will follow the crest of the Rhetian Alps up to the sources of the Adige and the Eisack, passing thence by Mounts Reschen and Brenner and the heights of Oetz and Zoaller. The line thence turns south, crossing Mount Toblach and meeting the present frontier along the Carnic Alps. It follows this frontier up to Mount Tarvis, and after Mount Tarvis the watershed of the Julian Alps by the Col of Predil, Mount Mangart, the Tricorno (Triglav) and the watershed of the Cols di Podherdo, Podlaniscam and Idria. From this point the line turns southeast toward the Schneeberg, excludes the whole basin of the Save and its tributaries. From Schneeberg it goes down toward the coast in such a way as to include Castua, Mattuglia and Volosca in the evacuated territories. It will also follow the administrative limits of the present province of Dalmatia, including the north of Liscara and Trivania, and to the south territory limited by a line from the (Semigrand) Cape Planca to the summits of the watersheds eastward so as to include in the evacuated area all the valleys and water courses flowing toward Sebenico, such as the Cicola, Kerka, Butisnica and their tributaries. It will also include all the islands in the north and west of Dalmatia from Premuda, Selve, Ulbo, Scherda, Maon, Paga and Puntadura, in the north up to Melada, in the south embracing Santandrea, Busi, Lissa, Lesina, Torcola, Curzola, Cazza and Lagosta, as well as the neighboring rocks and islets and passages only excepting the islands of Great and Small Zirona, Bua, Solta and Brazza.”
As is seen, and as has been noted by the press of the whole world, this line of occupation corresponds in all its details to the line defined in the Treaty of London between Italy, France, England and Russia, April 26, 1915, on the eve of Italian intervention. In drawing up this treaty Italy stipulated the fundamental conditions of her national reconstruction and of her liberty, she asked the redemption of her populations within the Austrian Empire and asked her natural boundaries, the line of divide of her rivers, the line of defense of her mountains. She asked, in fact, to be free and safe in her own territory, reconquering to herself the gates of invasion of this territory, which Austria has been able to hold since 1866 and which, with their formidable menace, had represented for fifty years a true and actual oppression of Austrian policy upon Italian policy.
This is the spirit and the function of the Treaty of London. The Allies and the United States, subscribing to the conditions of armistice, which have determined a line of occupation by the Italian troops corresponding exactly to the boundary line determined in the Treaty of London, have implicitly and concretely recognized not only the perfect vitality of the treaty itself but also the absolute and immediate necessities which it meets. The Allies and the United States have given specific proof that they consider the integral fulfilment of these necessities as the basis of the Italian policy and of the relations between the Allies and Italy.
In this sense the third article of the treaty of armistice with Austria has an exceptional political importance. As against an insinuating campaign aimed at the falsification of the true ends and the true spirit of the Italian war, it reaffirms the perfect harmony of these ends and of this spirit with the general ends and with the spirit of the war of the Allies and of the United States, and it marks the first concrete and precise lines of the future disposition of Europe.
Austrian Military Preparation
As we said, Austria obtained in 1866 a military boundary which assured her an absolute preponderance over Italy. She had in her hands all the dominant positions, all the outlets to the sea, all the ports, all the roads; in the Trentino she held directly the military control of Lombardy and of Venetia, with Pola she held the dominion of the Upper Adriatic, with Dalmatia the dominion of the Middle Adriatic, with the mouths of Cattaro the dominion of the Lower Adriatic. From the Stelvio to the mouths of Cattaro she built a line of true suffocation of the Italian nation.
From the Trentino all the valleys lead toward the east as well as toward the west into the heart of the richest and most industrious zones of Italy. Austria kept these valleys, which means practically the possibility of transporting from the Trentino toward the east and toward the west into Lombardy and into Venetia her armies and her war, that aggressive war which she was preparing equally against Italy and against Serbia; in fact, more against Italy, which represented a greater and more immediate danger to the conservation of her monstrous regime of oppression because of the movements of the Italian Irredentist against the empire. These two problems were naturally connected before the Government of Vienna. As she held in the Alps and in the Adriatic an absurd boundary, which violated every right, of the populations, so on this side of the boundary, in the Italian lands remaining within the empire, the Government of Vienna oppressed these populations and their liberty; on the boundary the colossal preparations for the invasion of Italy, in the interior the fiercest persecution to denationalize Italia Irredenta, to destroy its character, to annihilate its civilization.
Conrad and Beck
The year 1866 marks the beginning of this double military and national policy. Before 1866 the Austrians. having the government of Venetia besides that of the Trentino, exercised a direct pressure upon Italian life, and the Italians of the empire represented a political force of notable importance; the Italian danger was not great, and the Imperial Government followed a policy of rigid control but not of destruction. When, however, Venetia was lost, and the ethnic internal force of the Italians therefore weakened, Austria initiated her policy of extermination. The entire action of the Austrian Government in these fifty years has been founded upon these two principles: Armaments on the Italian front, destruction of the Italian character in the regions of the Trentino and of the Adriatic. Marshal Conrad was the tenacious supporter of the punitive war against Italy, a war which should have restored to Austria the direct control of the peninsula; and it was Baron Beck, Prime Minister during the period of the Bosnian crisis, who, presenting to Parliament his bills for the reform of the electoral system in the municipality of Triest, declared that it was necessary to re-enforce the idea of an Austrian State as against the Italians. These were the two instruments of one and the same program and of one and the same action.
The general directives of the Austrian policy led the empire to exert a pressure toward the southern seas; a pressure direct upon the Adriatic, indirect and remote upon the Aegean. At the time of the Bosnian crisis the pressure of the Adriatic had a decided prevalence. Austria, in all the time from the retirement of the Austrian troops from the Sanjak of Novibazar (1908) to the second Balkan War, brought her greatest effort to bear upon Istria and Dalmatia, and toward Albania; that is, upon the Italian lands of the empire and on the borders of Italy.
It is well known that in January, 1909, when Italy bowed under the tragic weight of the earthquake of December 28, which had destroyed entire cities of Calabria and of Sicily, and overturned flourishing agricultural and maritime regions, the Austrian military circles tried to profit by the Italian disaster and start the long-prepared war; it is well known that the same attempt was repeated in 1912, when Italy was engaged in the Tripolitanian War, the first blow to the military power of the Turkish empire and the first assistance to the Balkan nations, to Serbia, to Bulgaria and to Greece, which awaited their war of liberty. The European war begun by Austria as an anti-Serbian war had always been conceived and prepared for as an anti-Italian war.
In the empire the Italians found themselves in absolute minority before every nationality. Their strength was all in the fact that on the other side of the boundaries there existed an Italian state. But precisely because it was such, because it was not an internal force of the monarchy, but an external and therefore negative to the interests of the empire, was it a fundamental necessity for the empire to eliminate it. In order well to understand all the history of the relations between Austria and Italy, in order to understand well the condition of the Italians in Austria, the Italian needs and therefore the Treaty of London and the third clause of the armistice of Nov. 4, we must start from this point: Austria wished to destroy the Italian Irredentist population, to transform the Trentino, Istria and Dalmatia from Italian lands into Germanic or Slavic or Magyar lands; to maintain in these lands thus denationalized a fierce anti-Italian sentiment, in such a way as to constitute between Italy and the empire a national barrier, to serve as a re-enforcement to the military barrier which she had been able to obtain in 1866. The history of this struggle at Trento, at Trieste, at Zara is one of the most heroic pages of the struggle of a small minority against the fierce oppression of a great political organism.
The Italians still held in 1866 the intellectual and social dominion of almost all the lands of the Adriatic, they had their municipalities and their schools, the life of their civilization. Little by little, with a forced penetration, the Austrian Government turned great Germanic, Magyar and Slavic masses into the Italian cities; it put these cities under a regime of direct Government control; it gave to the Germans, to the Magyars and to the Slavs help to conquer ethnically the Italian cities; it deprived in great part the Italians of the right to vote, and divided them into artificial electoral and administrative districts to break their unity and thus weaken their action; it closed their schools and opened German, Magyar and Slavic schools; it forced them to renounce their own language and occasionally had them massacred.
All this was possible, above all, because Austria possessed the roads of invasion to Italy, and with this overwhelming military superiority she could face, nay, provoke, the Italian nation. All this was possible, above all, because the Trentino, wedged as a formidable mass in the plain of the Po, assured to Austria the possibility of replying to an Italian political action in defense of the Italian Irredentists with the march of her armies into the valleys which descend upon Brescia, upon Verona and upon Milan, and with an attack upon the defenseless Italian coast from Pola and Cattaro.
The condition of Italy was tragic; her Irredentist population, suffocated by the empire, was forced to yield under the pressure of the Germanic, Magyar and Slavic emigrations; her boundaries and her sea were under the strategical dominion of Austria; her policy held in this vise.
It may be asked whether one can speak of a complete Italian independence in this condition; it may be asked whether one can call truly free a state which must stand by inactive at the destruction of its children.
In substance, Italy was in such a state; and the day in which she entered the war, facing a military situation absolutely unfavorable, she entered having a true war for liberty to conduct; her independence and her future in mind. It would have been an atrocious joke had the Italian people intervened in the war for world liberty, without obtaining the promise from its Allies that, in the midst of the liberty of all, it should have had its own liberty. This has been its sacred egoism. It is not the egoism which tramples for its own sake and for its own interests upon every right, but the just and sacred desire to obtain for itself what it should obtain for others, but the just and sacred right of drawing from victory what victory should give to every people.
The Treaty of London
Italy entered into war upon the basis of the Treaty of London, not having bargained her intervention, but having put before the Allies this problem of justice — that if the word “liberty,” in the name of which the war was being fought, should have a concrete meaning for every people, it should have a concrete meaning also for the Italian people; that if Europe was to be relieved by a colossal effort of will and of blood from the menace of Germanic dominion, Italy, which gave to this colossal effort all her resources, was to be relieved, more than from the menace, from the actual reality of this dominion, exercised by Germany through Austria. The Treaty of London means this, and this only: The liberty of the Italian nation. In the Treaty of London there is not one city nor one man beyond the boundaries of the strict defense of this liberty; there are Germanic and Slavic national nuclei which will remain within these boundaries, but they are the equivalent of the Italian cities and populations, which Italy has sacrificed to the friendship and to the future of the Slavic peoples. There is also an immediate demonstration of this fact. The Allied and American Generals and Ministers determining at Versailles the conditions of the armistice with Austria, have selected as we have shown, the boundaries defined by the Treaty of London, as the boundaries of military occupation. This, besides implicit recognition of the rights of Italy, means that the Allies have recognized that these are the minimum indispensable boundaries for the military safety of the Italian front! Here we are no longer dealing with purely diplomatic acts; here we are dealing with concrete conditions in the face of the enemy who surrenders his arms. A technical examination of the Treaty of London shows at once that the boundary line determined by it represents the cardinal point upon which coincides the divide and the line of expansion of Italian nationality. The Austrian Empire was on this side of the line. It held in its possession except for a very small tract in the northeast about sixty miles of boundary — the two slopes of the divide; it occupied the Plateau of the Carso, it held entirely the Dinaric Alps, that is, the geographical enclosure of the Alpine system or the ethnical enclosure of the Italian nationality in the Adriatic. The Treaty of London purely and simply carries the boundary of the Kingdom of Italy upon this line, where lies the boundary of the Italian nation, where are the primitive, essential, fundamental conditions for the defense of Italy.
When one discusses the Treaty of London he must discuss not its formal diplomatic value but its national value, its value as the historical completion of Italian unity. If it is desired that Italy be truly a free country and that she have the liberty of her development to her must first of all be given the conditions of safety. At every stage of Italian history there has been the tragic phenomenon that a foreign state, by possessing the roads of invasion of Italy, has had the possibility of dominating the peninsula. For centuries Italy has been divided, torn, trampled upon in the contest of the great European states which were formed in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. What Belgium and Serbia have suffered in the war from the German Armies, Piedmont and Lombardy have suffered thirty times from the Imperial Spanish and French Armies. The Italian Republics have been stifled by the enemy which pushed itself from the Alpine valleys into their plains.
In 1851 Lord Palmerston, on the basis of these historical experiences, in a note of protest against the Germanic confederation which had annexed to its territory the Trentino, stated the principle of the Italian geographical boundary as the necessary boundary for the Italian nation.
To-day the Treaty of London and the third clause of the armistice simply repeat the formula of Lord Palmerston as to the line of expansion and at the same time of defense of the Italian nation. This is absolutely indisputable for the Trentino and for the Upper Adige, where the geographical unity is precisely defined and the Italian nationality is absolutely prevalent (according to the Austrian statistics, 420,000 Italians and 180,000 Germans); indisputable for Triest, for Pola, for Fiume, for Zara, ancient Italian cities in which the forced Germanic and Slavic immigration if it has left its mark in the painful traces of struggle and of martyrdom, has not succeeded in modifying the ethnic character; indisputable in a way for the Adriatic, where the original Italian population has been driven toward the sea, shut up in the cities and slowly suffocated by the advance of this immigration. It is on the Adriatic that the greatest political problems of the Italian peace are assembled and it is in substance the problem of the Adriatic which still represents in public opinion one of the fundamental problems of the future disposition of Europe.
The Adriatic Problem
Geographically and historically the Adriatic is an Italian sea. The line of mountains which incloses the Trentino incloses also Dalmatia, the line of expansion of the Italian nation which follows the Brennero follows equally the Dinaric Alps. Dalmatia is Italy, as is Italy any part of the peninsula; only it is an Italy which has suffered extremely from foreign invasions, and from a policy of forced emigrations and of mixture of the races, which have deformed its character; it is an Italy in which there are to-day Slavic national nuclei so strong as to be able to face and sustain a struggle of a national character against the Italians.
The historical result of this struggle and of the directives of the currents of Slavic expansion to-day is this: that on the Adriatic Sea the Italian people and the Jugo-Slavic people together gravitate; that on the Adriatic Sea to-day there exist two great interests of two peoples.
Until to-day, until the day in which victory has given to the Italian army the Irredentist cities of the eastern shore, the condition of Italy on the Adriatic has been, as on the entire land boundary, one of absolute inferiority.
Italy possessed all the western coast, Austria all the eastern coast. The western coast has only two military ports—Venice and Brindisi—-with a distance between them of 450 miles. With Venice and Brindisi Italy could not, however, defend herself; she had no naval bases and no geographical possibility of building any. Coming to the other shore of the Adriatic, the Austrians were able to attack and bombard the Italian coasts, as they had done many times, and return to their bases before the Italian fleet, moving from Venice or from Brindisi, could come to their defense. The Italians were forced into a colossal work of watchfulness in the Adriatic, day and night, to maintain strong squadrons and to consume time and forces.
Austria, as we have said, completely dominated the Adriatic; the Upper Adriatic with Pola, the Middle Adriatic with Sebenico and with Spalato, the Lower Adriatic with Cattaro. The Italian Navy, in order to go into action against the Austrian fleets, was forced to throw itself into desperately dangerous expeditions; such as those of Com. Pellegrini and of Com. Rizzo, expeditions which, while they covered with glory the Italian sailors, were and have been at the same time a demonstration of the position of absolute geographical and military inferiority in which Italy found herself confronted with the state which possessed the Istrian and Dalmatian shore.
The Treaty of London is founded upon the necessity of destroying this state of injustice for Italy upon the necessity of giving to Italy the freedom of her sea. Not dominion, because the Treaty of London assures to Italy a preponderance only in the Northern Adriatic between Venice and Zara, that is, in the zone where the population is more compactly Italian, while it assigns to Jugo-Slavia the coast from Spalato to Cattaro, that is, the control of the Lower Adriatic, and it leaves the Middle Adriatic in a balance of power and of defense.
As a solution of the military problem, the Treaty of London represents simply the safety of Italy on the Adriatic, the primitive condition of her free life. As a solution of the historical and national problem, it is perhaps more a sacrifice of Italy than a sacrifice of Jugo-Slavia.
All the cities of Dalmatia are Italian, all the life and the civilization of Dalmatia are Italian life and civilization; in Dalmatia there are Italian populations which for a century have defended themselves furiously from Germanic and Slavic pressure, the last soldiers of a great battle unequally fought against the fierce policy of the Imperial Austrian Government which wishes to destroy the Italian name in the Adriatic.
After a century of this struggle the Italians have been left in the minority in the Adriatic, but theirs is the minority of the victims of an oppression who should now be protected and defended. Italy cannot naturally accept that 400,000 of her sons, as many Italians as are to-day living on the Adriatic, be repaid for their marvelous resistance, by abandonment to the Slavs, to those same Slavs who have represented the ethnical instrument with which the Austrian Government has tried to suppress them.
Italy cannot renounce cities entirely Italian, such as Zara; she cannot betray the faith and the martyrdom of those Irredentists; she cannot, especially, tolerate that, coming out from a war for freedom fought with colossal sacrifices she would be still a slave on her own sea.
Italians and Jugo-Slavs
The problem of the Adriatic must be examined with the greatest spirit of justice. On the one side there are indisputable necessities of an emigrated Slavic population; on the other, the indisputable necessities for the defense of the Italian Nation and the rights of an indigenous Italian population which finds itself on its own territory in the face of the Slavs.
The Treaty of London recognizes perfectly this double state of necessity. As it lays down the essential conditions for the defense and the safety of Italy, so it gives the conditions of life, of safety and of defense for the Jugo-Slavic people.
The Treaty of London is the only document supported by the Allies in which there are precise promises in favor of the Jugo-Slavic peoples, and these promises were asked for by Italy before the Allies. Italy, which might have egotistically treated only with regard to her own rights, has wished, in entering the war, to assure also to the Jugo-Slavs their rights for a just balance of power in the Adriatic.
Note 2 attached to Article 5 of the treaty establishes:
“The following districts upon the Adriatic shall be by virtue of the Powers of the Entente included in the territory of Croatia, Servia and Montenegro: to the north of the Adriatic the entire coast, starting from the Gulf of Volosca, by the Italian boundary, as far as the northern frontier of Dalmatia, including the entire coast which to-day belongs to Hungary; the entire coast of Croatia, the port of Fiume and the little ports of Nevi and of Carlopago, and thus the islands of Veglia, Pervicio, Gregorio, Kali and Arbe; to the south of the Adriatic, where Servia and Montenegro are interested, the entire coast from Punta Planka to the river Drin, with the important ports of Spalato, Ragusa, Cattaro, Antivari, Dulcigno and San Giovanni di Medua, as also the islands of Grande and Piccola Zirona, Buja, Solta, Brazza, Ciklian and Calamotta.”This stipulation, as it gives proof of the generous loyalty of the Italian people, so it gives the first measure of what should be and is a just accord of all rights; of the rights of a people, such as the Serbo-Croatians, which has the right to its future, and of the rights of a people, such as the Italians, which cannot renounce itself.