|Some notable Dalmatian Italians (from left to right): Bl. Agostino Casotti, Marino Ghetaldi,|
Fausto Veranzio, Flora Zuzzeri, Ruggiero Giuseppe Boscovich & Giovanni Biagio Luppis
(Adapted, updated and expanded from the article ‘Quando con Wikipedia ci si può far male’ written by Alberto Lancia and Enrico Petrucci, taken from the journal “Storia in Rete” n. 60, October 2010.)
Wikipedia has a great influence today. When you search for any historical event or famous historical figure, Wikipedia is always one of the top results in the search engine, and often times is the first result. Despite the warnings of academics and journalists, Wikipedia is now unavoidable. The online encyclopedia has gained international fame and popularity, and the English Wikipedia in particular is read by people from all over the world. But the reason why Wikipedia is so unreliable and so strongly criticized by academics is because it can be edited by anyone, and it is very easy for editors to misuse Wikipedia and transform the encyclopedia into a soap box and tool of propaganda.
The fact that Wikipedia can be easily misused and exploited for political purposes is understood very well by political propagandists. Thus the online encyclopedia has become a powerful vehicle used by ultra-nationalists from the Balkans to sway readers into believing their own particular versions of history and current events. The most notorious examples are the ongoing edit wars between Albanian and Serbian users, between Serbian and Croatian users, and between Albanian and Greek users. Regretfully overshadowed is the work of the ultra-nationalist Croats, who are using Wikipedia to falsify and manipulate Italian history. Sadly, Italy’s neighbors to the East are using Wikipedia to carry out a monumental campaign of Croatization of all famous Venetian-Dalmatian celebrities from the once-Italian coast of Dalmatia. This is taking place primarily on the English Wikipedia, and therefore has the potential to reach a very large audience and influence the international community.
The differences between mainstream Western historiography and Balkan historiography are very stark. In Italian historiography, for example, if a famous person was of foreign origin, then he is stated to be such. The truth is made clear so as not to deceive anyone or give false impressions. Thus every Italian knows that Ugo Foscolo was half-Italian and half-Greek, that Guglielmo Oberdan was half-Italian and half-German, and that Archimedes probably had Greek origins. These historical facts are well-known by Italians and are not hidden or suppressed by Italian scholars. In the Balkans, however, famous figures are constantly subjected to extreme nationalist propaganda, historical revisionism, intentional alterations and distortions. Never missing an opportunity to snatch up a new celebrity and add him to their mantle of glories, many authors from the Balkan states – prone to academic dishonesty and exaggeration – attempt to claim famous historical figures as part of their own particular nationality, even in cases when it’s improbable, and even when it borders on the ridiculous. It has become an epidemic in the Balkans and is emblematic of the typical divisiveness and discord that characterizes the Balkan nations today.
Thus motivated by extreme politics, excessive pride, and fanatical desperation to enhance national prestige, the Croats claim Nikola Tesla was a Croat, while Serbs claim he was a Serb; Albanians claim Scanderbeg was Albanian, while Serbs claim he was a Serb and Greeks claim he was Greek; Albanians claim Alexander the Great was Albanian, while Greeks claim he was Greek and Macedonian Slavs claim he was Macedonian; Romanians and Hungarians both claim several historical figures, while Albanians proclaim every ancient Illyrian to be Albanian. And perhaps most absurd of all: Croats now claim that Marco Polo was a “Croat”, and that all famous Latin and Venetian historical figures of Dalmatia were “Croatian”. They are aggressively attempting to rewrite history and erase all traces of Latin culture and Italian heritage from this region, and they are using Wikipedia as an effective propaganda tool to carry out this revisionist campaign.
A brief introduction is necessary for those who do not understand the mechanisms of Wikipedia. One of the essential premises of the online encyclopedia is that you can freely enter any information, but it must contain sources or references. You can add information without using a source, but more often than not other Wikipedians will notice and will insert a “citation needed” tag (which causes the dubious sentence to be highlighted, alerting the readers and other Wikipedians that the statement lacks credibility), or, if the information seems suspicious, editors may choose to intervene by deleting any information lacking in reliable references (because, according to the guidelines of Wikipedia, it is better to have no information than to have unreferenced information).
That being said, Croatian editors are attempting to usurp all historical Dalmatian figures of Italian culture and Latin civilization, and are proclaiming them as being of Croatian nationality and are listing them among Croatia’s national glories on the English Wikipedia. This campaign of thievery is progressing slowly when it comes to the most famous celebrities, such as Marco Polo, due to the fact that it is impossible to find any reliable sources that support the nonsense of a “Croatian” origin for the most famous Italian figures. Additionally, Marco Polo is popular enough that his Wikipedia article is more carefully protected by neutral English contributors who generally do not tolerate fringe theories and who will usually revert edits made by Croatian revisionists.
However, the campaign of Croatization is progressing very rapidly in the case of less famous Italians, since it is much easier for them to Croatize those unfortunate Dalmatians who have been forgotten by most people and are rarely mentioned in English sources. Many such forgotten Dalmatians are already listed on the English Wikipedia as “Croats” due to the negligence and ignorance of the English-speaking community, and due to a skillful campaign of defamation and elimination of Italian editors at the instigation of Croatian editors. The elimination of Italian editors from the English Wikipedia was made possible due to the fact that many Italian users who defended the Italianity of Istrians and Dalmatians and defended the authentic history of these regions were accused by the Croats of being dangerous “revanchists”, “nationalists”, and even worse: “Fascists”.
The most active and influential Croatian ultra-nationalist editor is Direktor, a neo-Communist / ultra-nationalist editor from Croatia who dominates virtually all English Wikipedia articles pertaining to Istria and Dalmatia. He has spent years altering articles on the English Wikipedia, engaging in edit wars and instigating the banning of several Italian editors by accusing them all of being “Fascists” and “sockpuppets”, while simultaneously spreading Croatian ultra-nationalist rhetoric and advocating the Croatization of historical Italian nomenclature (names, surnames and place names) on English Wikipedia articles. He is also an apologist of Yugoslav Communist dictator Josip Broz Tito and has battled with other editors to maintain a pro-Titoist bias on Wikipedia. Other notable ultra-nationalist Croatian editors include BrunoMed, Crovata, GregorB, Jesuislafete, Joy, Kubura, Mir Harven, Philosopher12, Silverije, Zenanarh and Zmaj. Together these and other Croatian editors have formed a tightly controlled monopoly over all English Wikipedia articles pertaining to Istria and Dalmatia for the past several years.
A specific example of Croatization and the flaws of the Wikipedia system can be seen in the case of the two Laurana’s. The architect Luciano Laurana (author of the Palazzo Ducale in Urbino and the painting La Città Ideale) and the sculptor Francesco Laurana (author of numerous sculptures in Italy and France) were brothers, born in Aurana, Dalmatia in the 15th century, and their biographies on Wikipedia are under the tight grip of Croatian ultra-nationalists. Giving a quick look at the two entries for Francesco and Luciano you will be surprised to discover that the former is considered “Croatian and Italian” while the latter is only called “Croatian”. How is this possible? How can two people born in the same city with the same name have different nationalities? How can Wikipedia have two Laurana’s: one classified as “Croatian” and another classified as “both Croatian and Italian”?
The Wikipedia entry for Francesco Laurana contains several English sources that mention his origin (including the Encyclopedia Britannica and the Oxford Dictionary of Art), and all of them state unequivocally that he is Italian. Yet despite these unbiased English sources, due to the campaign of the Croatian ultra-nationalist editors, the most the editors were willing to concede is to have Francesco classified as “both a Croatian and an Italian sculptor”.
But what about Luciano? The portal of Southeast Europe Online (a website developed by the Applied Research and Communications Fund in order to create a network of Balkan NGOs) created a webpage (which has since been deleted) in which the architect of the Palazzo Ducale in Urbino is in no uncertain terms called a “Croat”, thereby stealing the identity of the great Italian artist and usurping Dalmatian Italian heritage. What reliable academic sources did Southeast Europe Online reference in their article? None. In fact the only reference was to a now-defunct tourist website created by a Croatian-American blogger with no academic background or credentials.
In addition to this there is an article from the Croatian magazine “Matica Hrvatska”, in which the revisionist author – without a shred of evidence – supports the sudden change in nationality of the Italian artist. The same author admits that the architect’s original name was Luciano Laurana and confesses that “Lucijan Vranjanin” is a Croatized name invented in 1886 by the Croatian nationalist politician Ivan Sakcinski, but still asserts without evidence that Luciano was a “Croat”.
These unreliable sources were the only two references previously cited on Luciano Laurana’s Wikipedia article to sustain the claim of a “Croatian” origin. An apparent paradox, in light of Wikipedia’s rules on reliable sources. But these rules are meaningless when you consider the type of editors who dominate these articles on Wikipedia. Croatian editors dominate all the Dalmatian articles, while most of the Italian editors have been systematically eliminated. As a result, Italians have lost a sacred piece of their history to the falsified histories written on Wikipedia by militant ex-Yugoslav zealots from the other side of the Adriatic.
The historical revisionism and ultra-nationalism of Croatian editors on the English Wikipedia has been recognized even by non-Italians and outside observers going back nearly a decade (as early as January 2007). An anonymous observer from the United States made the following comment on the talk page for the Republic of Ragusa article:
“Croatian nationalism is getting the better of the article. Today Ragusa is a Croatian city known as Dubrovnik, however, this article pertains to the historical republic of Ragusa. Ragusa was an Italian Republic, not a croatian one. Today the city is Dubrovnic, a croatian city. Lets not confuse the two. The ancient republic of ragusa was never known as the republic of Dubrovnic, and the language of the native citizens was an Italian dialect related to venetian.” – Unsigned comment by 22.214.171.124, 8 January 2007Several hundred examples of Croatization of Italian historical figures and symbols of Italian heritage on the English Wikipedia website can be cited. Here are just a few notable examples:
- Ruggiero Giuseppe Boscovich, born to an Italian mother and Serbian father, is classified as a “Croatian” scientist. In several other articles his name is Croatized to “Ruđer Josip Bošković” by Croatian editors.
- Giovanni Biagio Luppis, born to an ancient Italian noble family, is classified as a “Croatian” inventor and is defined as having “mixed Italian-Croatian ancestry”, despite both parents being of Italian background.
- Fausto Veranzio, born to an Italian noble family, is classified as a “Croatian” inventor and scientist. The article is currently locked to prevent further edits.
- Marino Ghetaldi, born to an Italian noble family, is classified as a “Croatian” scientist and mathematician, and his name is Croatized to “Marin Getaldić”. The Italian names of his wife and daughters are also Croatized in the Wikipedia article.
- Giorgio Orsini da Sebenico, born to an Italian family, is classified as a “Croatian” architect and sculptor. Until recently his name was Croatized as “Juraj Dalmatinac” on the English Wikipedia. After several years of debates on his Wikipedia talk page, his original Italian name was finally given primacy in the article. The article is currently locked.
- Francesco Patrizi, an Italian philosopher and historian, is defined as being “of Croatian descent” in the introduction of his Wikipedia entry, despite there being no reliable source to support such a claim.
- Flora Zuzzeri, born to an Italian merchant family, is classified as a “Croatian” poet and her name is Croatized as “Cvijeta Zuzorić”.
- Blessed Agostino Casotti, born to a Venetian patrician family, is classified as a “Croatian” humanist and his name is Croatized as “Augustin Kažotić”.
- Until recently Thomas the Archdeacon, born to a noble Italian family, was defined as “one of the greatest figures in Croatian historiography” in the introduction of his biography on Wikipedia, despite being a Latin historian, despite expressing anti-Slavic sentiment in his writings, and despite having never written a single line in the Croatian language.
- The Italian names of all the Ragusan patrician families have been Croatized. The noble houses of Bona, Cerva, Ghetaldi, Gondola, Gozze and others have all been Croatized to “Bunić”, “Crijević”, “Getaldić”, “Gundulić”, “Gučetić”, and are all classified as “Croatian” nobility. These Croatianized names are all recent fabrications by 19th and 20th century Croatian-Yugoslav authors, and were never historically used by the Ragusan families.
- The article “List of Ragusans” contains nearly 300 Ragusans whose original Latin and Italian names have all been Croatized.
- The article “List of Croatian artists” contains several Italian artists (and even a couple German artists) whose original Latin and Italian names have all been Croatized.
- Throughout dozens of articles the Republic of Ragusa is called the “Republic of Dubrovnik”; any reference to the city or republic of Ragusa is often changed to “Dubrovnik” by Croatian editors.
Until recently, several Roman saints of Dalmatia (such as St. Venantius and St. Domnius) were classified as “Croatian”, despite being born centuries before the existence of Croatia and centuries before the Slavs invaded Dalmatia. St. Domnius was born in Antioch (Roman province of Syria), but was still classified as a “Croatian” saint until recently. These absurd classifications have since been deleted from Wikipedia.
The Croatian-language version of Wikipedia bluntly states that Marco Polo was “a Slav of Croat origin” and categorizes him as a “Croatian explorer”, even though the whole rest of the world knows that he was Venetian and rejects the absurd Croatian national revisionist thesis. For many years Croatian ultra-nationalist editors have also tried to vandalize the English Wikipedia article for Marco Polo, but so far their eager efforts to claim Marco Polo as a “Croat” have failed.
Croatian ultra-nationalist editors have succeeded, however, in eliminating the Italian nationality of almost all famous Dalmatians prior to the 19th century. Even on the English Wikipedia article for Dalmatian Italians (closely monitored and controlled by Croatian editors) it is currently forbidden to add any Dalmatians to the list of notable Dalmatian Italians if they died before 1800. Meanwhile, any ancient Roman born in what is today Croatia may still be categorized as “Croatian”. In this warped Wikipedia universe dominated by Croatian ultra-nationalist editors, the Croats somehow existed in Dalmatia as far back as the ancient Roman period (centuries before Croats inhabited the region), but according to the same editors the Italians did not exist in Dalmatia until the 19th century.
This clearly demonstrates the intention of the Croats to erase the history and memory of Italian civilization in Dalmatia by stealing all famous figures of Italian culture and labeling them as “Croatian”. This disgraceful campaign of Croatization and revisionism constitutes a true genocide of Italian culture, heritage, history and memory.
Even if it were true – for the sake of argument – that some or even all of the prominent Dalmatians were distantly Croatian by ancestry (which absolutely is not the case), they certainly were not Croatian by culture, identity or birth, but were Italian: they were born in Italian territory, with Italian and Latin names, reared in Italian culture and tradition, educated and employed in Italy, mastered their crafts under Italian tutelage and learning, spoke the Italian and Latin languages, and were an intricate component of the Italian world, not of Slavdom. They belonged to Italian civilization, and can in no sense be called “Croatian”.
This shameful re-writing of history is very reminiscent of Stalinist and Titoist strategies. Both the Soviets and the Yugoslavs utilized historical revisionism and falsification of history to justify their political maneuvers and atrocities in the 20th century. The ex-Yugoslavs and ultra-nationalists from the Balkans seem to have inherited these same dangerous traditions of manipulating history.
Croatian ultra-nationalism has dragged Italy – a land world renown for its history, culture, universities, scholarship and civilization – into the petty cultural conflicts of the Balkans states. Italians are now faced with the spectacle of having to defend their millennial civilization and historical figures of the Adriatic from the onslaught of a fanatical revisionism brought forth by an ex-Communist country newly-born in 1991 which is still involved in an a revisionist “pamphlet war” with all its neighbours.