(Written by Liliana Martissa, taken from the association “Coordinamento Adriatico”, 1999)
The cities of the Istrian and Dalmatian coast, which had been inhabited for centuries by a population of Roman origin, who spoke Latin, followed by the local vernacular (Dalmatian, Istriot, Istro-Venetian) and finally Venetian and Italian, are more and more openly being considered historically “Croatian”, while all the artistic manifestations which belong to Latin-Venetian-Italian cultural heritage are being attributed to “Croatian civilization”. This process of Slavicization has accelerated in recent years, perhaps because the Croats were encouraged by the silence and the lack of reaction from the Italian world which has completely abandoned the study and dissemination of the history of Istria and Dalmatia.
Just to give a few examples, let's recall that when the Euphrasian Basilica of Parenzo was proclaimed a world heritage site protected by UNESCO, this same Byzantine-Ravennate style basilica was defined as a “high expression of Croatian art”, when in the period of its construction (6th century) the Croats did not even arrive yet in Parenzo! Let's also remember that for the four hundredth anniversary of his death, the philosopher Francesco Patrizi (Franciscus Patricius) of Cherso, who came from an Italian family of Italian culture, was defined as a “Croat” and renamed “Frane Petric Petrisevic” during an international conference.
A peculiarity of the Southern Slavic peoples unfortunately consists of a type of ethnic nationalism that aims not only at the expulsion (if not annihilation) of the population regarded as being outside its own territory, but also to the destruction of the historical and cultural evidence of its existence. Emblematic, in this sense, in the recent war that bloodied the Balkans, was the burning of the library of Sarajevo, the destruction of the Stari Most bridge, and the destructive rage against churches and mosques, which were considered symbols and testimonies of the enemy's civilization and faith.
As for Istria and Dalmatia, the eradication of memories of the past, conducted by the Slavs, is more subtle: they do not destroy most of the monuments belonging to other peoples civilization, but instead they claim these monuments are “Croatian”.
In the near future there will be two important international events organized by Croatia: the exhibition at the Vatican on “Croats religious faith and culture” that will be inaugurated on October 20, 1999, and the exhibition in Spalato on “Croats and Carolingians”, scheduled for December 2000 as part of the international event whose theme is: “Charlemagne and the birth of Europe” and has as its seat five European cities (the first major exposition has already been prepared in Paderborn, Germany). Regarding the exhibition at the Vatican, we have only journalistic anticipations from which it is possible to conclude that most of the exhibits will be of Dalmatian origin. And as for the exhibition in Spalato, we have the accurate English presentation in which some historical falsifications appear.
Istria is called “Croatian land”, but in fact it can not be defined as such in the Carolingian period (it will only become so in the twentieth century) neither for political affiliation, since it belonged to the Kingdom of Italy under the Holy Roman Empire, nor for ethnic composition, since it was inhabited by a neo-Latin population (descendants of the romanized Histri of Region X of Roman Italy “Venetia et Histria”) that even under Byzantine rule had maintained the laws and customs of its fathers (the Roman municipal system) and for this very reason intolerably opposed the new feudal system introduced by the Franks (as evidenced by the Placitum of Risano in the year 804). Just like Istria, the cities of Zara (which was mentioned several times in the exhibition catalog) and Spalato (seat of the exhibition itself) had nothing to do with the Croats, because they belonged to Byzantine Dalmatia and were inhabited by a people who spoke a neo-Latin Romance language. So then, why is it titled “Croats and Carolingians”? Considering the cultural offensive launched by Croatia in the international arena, we hope that Italian scholars will abandon their attitude of indifference in this regard, and start paying special attention to the above-mentioned events.