Friday, October 20, 2017

Croatia is Manipulating the History of Dalmatia, Istria and the Quarnero

(Adapted and modified from the article ‘Now Your History Belongs to Us’ written by Edwin “Dino” Veggian, published on September 5, 2009.)

Croatia is erasing, distorting and misappropriating the past history of Dalmatia, Istria and the Quarnero region—and nobody says anything.

While visiting the Dalmatian coast in the Adriatic Sea, Western journalists usually admire her ancient towns. They notice almost everywhere that the regional architecture is “heavily influenced” by a Venetian or Italianate “accent” or “flavor”. It is immediately noticeable and undeniable. In the past, certain Western writers were almost convinced (and disgusted) that Croatians “imitated” Venetian and Italian Renaissance architecture in building the Dalmatian towns.

It never occurred to these observers that the reason the architecture seems so “heavily Italianate” is because the Dalmatian coast was closely linked to the Italian peninsula for several centuries – politically, culturally, linguistically, ethnically – and was home to a flourishing autochthonous Italian population (about 80,000 in the 1800’s). It never occurred to these observers that the Dalmatian towns which feel so “Italianate”, were inhabited by Italians and made by Italian builders.

Today, Croatian and international tourist guides are presenting the rich artistic patrimony of the Dalmatian coastal towns as “essentially Croatian” or “a reflection of Croatia’s history”. Years ago, a famous chef posing in front of a 16th century Dalmatian building for a documentary, even claimed that its architecture was “quintessentially Croatian”. They almost never mention the indigenous Italians who lived there since Roman times and who built those architectural jewels before disappearing in modern times. Where did they go? Almost all of them became refugees. They were the victims of the first documented ethnic cleansing in the Balkans.

The history of Dalmatia is compromised by strategic interests and political correctness. The current ignorance about the Eastern Adriatic coast is appalling and widespread. It is, in short, the consequence of a “damnatio memoriae” of political nature. On one side, today in the West nobody knows the real history of the region. On the other side, a phalanx of nationalistic Croatian historians, political leaders, journalists and tourist operators, profiting from this vacuum, are erasing, falsifying and misappropriating the real history on an international level by using books, newspapers, tourist propaganda and Internet sites.

The ethnic cleansing of the autochtonous Italian population of today’s Croatian coastline started in the second half of the 1800’s. Then, towns like Zadar, Split, Sibenik, Trogir and Dubrovnik had Italian names – Zara, Spalato, Sebenico, Traù, Ragusa – and the Italian community was in a dominant position in those cities. Everybody spoke Italian and Venetian dialect, the “lingua franca” of the time.

Aided by the Austrian government (at the time the whole Eastern Adriatic coastline was part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire), Croats launched a political campaign against Italian Dalmatia with the goal of annexing the territory to Croatia. Since the middle of the 19th century this goal formed an integral part of the political-national aspirations of the Croats struggling to form their own state. It continued to be their goal during the turbulent formation of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia, when Croats arbitrarily accepted Serbian domination and at the same time continued their assault – violently, almost a civil war – against all the Dalmatian towns inhabited by ethnic Italians.

Following an exodus of ethnic Italians toward the end of the 1800’s, in 1905 a Dalmatian Italian Association was founded in Rome to help the refugees. Later, after World War I, there was a second exodus when tens of thousands of Dalmatian Italians abandoned their towns and villages in the 1920’s and 1930’s and settled in Italy. During World War II there was a third and final exodus: the victorious Yugoslav Communist movement embraced the Croatian irredentist cause towards Dalmatia and included it in their war strategy and political platform. The consequence was the violent expulsion of 350,000 autochtonous Italian-speaking inhabitants from the entire Eastern Adriatic coastline – from southern Dalmatia to the Istrian peninsula – and the consequential elimination of a very rich two-millennia-old civilization.

Ethnic cleansing had happened in many other parts of Europe in both ancient and modern times, so the demographic and cultural extirpation of the Italian presence in Dalmatia, Istria and the Quarnero was not really a new phenomena. But this slow, brutal (and in 1945 also military) operation had an unexpected development, something very peculiar: After erasing almost the whole Italian-speaking population in Dalmatia proper, without succeeding completely in the Quarnero and Istria, Croatia adapted a new form of genocide: that of stealing the “enemy’s” history in order to obliterate its memory and aggrandize their own country. Completely ignored in the West, this chicanery is a new “Balkan style” Pandora’s box.

Sack and Disinform

Croatia, a country of about 4 million inhabitants, has “nationalized” the history of the Adriatic coastline, a territory that had never been part of the Slavic world, neither historically, politically nor culturally. In order to totally “Croatianize“ the coastal territories, Croatia is manipulating their history and striving to “prove” to the world that Dalmatia, Istria and the Quarnero have “always” been Croatian. There is no current political contingency to justify this operation: Italian irredentism is essentially dead and relegated to the dustbin of history, since the government of Italy abandoned the irredentist cause nearly seventy years ago, and no other country – except Slovenia – has any pressing territorial ambitions toward Croatia.

Never methodically investigated, nobody knows how and when these historical misappropriations started, but they seem to have began in the 19th century. In 1858-60 Ivan Kukuljevic Sakcinski, who belonged to the Croatian nobility, published his “Slovnik umjetnikah jugoslavenskih”, an encyclopedic dictionary of Yugoslav artists. At the time, Croatia was under Hungarian domination and Yugoslavia was still a dream. In this book of Slavic artists you can find the Italian painter Vittore Carpaccio (born in Venice, c. 1465), merely because Carpaccio created religious paintings commissioned by the churches in the Istrian peninsula and Dalmatia. Sakcinski, a hot-headed nationalist, claimed without a shred of evidence that the artist’s last name – in his uneducated opinion – derived from a Croatian root: Krpaci, Skrpaci or Krpatici.

Take as another example the history of the Republic of Ragusa, officially known as Dubrovnik only since 1919. Ragusa was an independent republic governed since the Middle Ages by a Latin/Italian oligarchy. When it was abolished in 1808 by the Napoleonic army, the small but influential and immensely rich maritime republic left a gigantic archive in which all government documents were written first in Latin, then in “vulgar” Italian and finally in modern Italian. In the daily business of the government and in diplomacy (Ragusa had over 80 consulates in every major European and Middle Eastern city), the official language of the small republic was Italian. Furthermore, at one point the Slavic language – spoken by an ever increasing number of immigrants and refugees – was even officially banned by the Ragusan government.

The Republic of Ragusa is remembered as the “Fifth Maritime Republic of Italy” after Venice, Genoa, Pisa and Amalfi. For centuries, the well-to-do Ragusan families sent their children to study at Italian universities. Located just across the Adriatic sea, Ragusans had daily contacts with Italy. The celebrated libraries of Ragusa were full of Italian editions of every kind, but there were no books printed in the Serbo-Croatian language.

Today in most Croatian history books the real history of Ragusa disappears almost completely. Croatian historians maintain that Ragusa is an “important page in the history of Croatia”, even though Ragusa had only commercial liaisons with a Croatian territory that had not been a State for nine centuries. They obsessively repeat that the maritime republic was Croatian “almost since the beginning of its history” and that her merchant fleet was completely Croatian, even though Ragusa was founded by Romans of Latins origin who were fleeing from Slavic invaders – the same invaders whose modern descendants claim Ragusa as their own.

Every family of the city’s aristocracy – Basilio, Cerva, Ghetaldi, Gondola, Gozze, Luccari, Menze, etc. (all visibly Italian names) – is arbitrarily given a “Croatian equivalent” of their name, Croatian names which these families never used and which were invented in recent times by Croatian nationalists. All Ragusan State institutions are also receiving new Croatian appellations, and all monasteries in the town are presented as “Croatian”, even though the clergy was Italian.

All these same misappropriations can be found on Wikipedia “the free encyclopedia”, where the editors – all Croats – are demonstrating how grotesque their pretensions are when, at a certain point, they report the list of Ragusan senators who attended the last session of their Grand Council, the one in which it was announced that the glorious republic was dissolved (August 29, 1814): out of a little over forty incontestably Italian names of the senators, only one is of Croatian origin: Marino Domenico, count of Zlatarich. Despite this, all the original names are falsely translated into Croatian.

In 2006, with his book “Dubrovnik: A History”, published in England and sold in every English-speaking country, the British author Robin Harris did an unwarranted favor to the extremely voracious Croatian nationalistic historiography. Using only Croatian sources and materials, he wrote an essentially extremely nationalistic Croatian book in the English language. Explaining to his readers the mystery of toponyms, institutions and personal Italian names translated into Croatian, he wrote: “I have used the Slavic form throughout, simply because that is the one most commonly found in historiography” (obviously Croatian historiography; evidently he discounted the vast amount of original Ragusan sources). “No other significance” – he pointed out – “is implied”. And with this elegant explanation, the deontological ethics of the historian took a vacation.

A “Patriotic Mission”

Some Croatian historians and researchers are a legion of agitprops engaged in the “patriotic mission” of promoting the grandeur of their homeland. Their patriotism obeys a single categorical imperative: the country comes first, at any cost, even lying. They “Croatianize” everybody and everything. Literally hundreds of historical Dalmatian figures, artists, scientists and academics are today called “Croatian”. In the 19th century, Italian Dalmatia had 32 newspapers and periodicals, a rich history, an incredible artistic, academic and literary life, and glorious maritime traditions. Today it is all mentioned as “Croatian”.

In 1998, writing for “The Atlantic” magazine, Robert D. Kaplan (author of the influential “Balkan Ghosts”) seemed to be the first American essayist to reveal the truth about the suppression of the Italian past of Ragusa by Croatia (and by extension of Dalmatia): “A nasty, tribal principality” – he wrote – “which was attempting to transform, in the old Republic, its character subtly from that of a sensuous, cosmopolitan mélange into a sterile, nationalistic uniformity”. Of the original Italian-speaking population of Ragusa, only about 40 individuals survived the ethnic cleansing.

Unnoticed by academic authorities in the West, an implacable (first Pan-Slavist, then Pan-Croatian) “nationalization” of non-Croatian history continued for decades in a dramatic crescendo. In the last half century it reached epidemic proportions: Andrea Antico, born in Montona (today Motovun) in Istria, a composer and music publisher of the 1500’s (he is studied in every music school around the world), was renamed “Andrija Staric” or “Starcevic”; the Renaissance painter Lorenzo De Boninis, born in Ragusa (today Dubrovnik), is presented in Croatian history books and tourist guides as “Lovro Dobricevic”; Nicola Fiorentino, an Italian-born 16th century architect active for decades in Dalmatia, became the fake Croat “Nikola Firentinac”.

Gian Francesco Biondi, an Italian-language writer born in 1572 on the Dalmatian island of Lesina (today Hvar) is introduced to Western cybernauts as the preposterous “Ivan Franc Biundovic”, even though he was a diplomat in service of the Venetian Republic and even though he is considered the first modern Italian novelist. The “super-patriotic” Croatian historians completely ignore the Italian aspects of his biography, reducing his work to “an excellent history of the British civil wars while living in England”, naturally to be added to Croatian merits.

The case of Francesco Patrizi, a 16th century philosopher and scientist who was a teacher at Sapienza University in Rome, is almost incredible. He has been renamed “Franjo Petric” or “Petricevic”, and is now called “Croatian”, merely because he was born on the island of Cherso (today Cres) in the Quarnero Gulf, which today is in Croatia. Croatian academic and political circles are so proud of “Franjo Petric” that they hold an academic symposium dedicated to this magnificent Italian intellectual almost every year in Zagreb, the capital of the country, and on “Cres”.

Many years ago they published one of his books printed in Italy in 1500’s. They took the original, ornate volume, translated it into the modern Croatian language and published it, presenting the book as an anastatic edition of the original, in order to “demonstrate” the high level of “their” national civilization in the 1500’s (in a time when Zagreb was still a small village and the Croats were altogether still an agricultural-pastoral population with very little urban culture or intellectual activity). But they made a humorous mistake: they used Croatian diacritic signs (“accents” on certain consonants), which were invented only in the middle of the 1800’s.

Another example is that of Pier Paolo Vergerio, a Catholic bishop and a historical figure in the turbulent times of the Protestant Reformation. He lived in Capodistria, a small town on the Istrian peninsula. In a Croatian history book, written by a Croatian academic and published in the United States, the bishop is presented as “Petar Pavao Vergerije”, without pointing out that he was Italian, that the town of Capodistria never had anything to do with Croatia, that it never had any noticeable Slavic minority among her population, and that today it is part of Slovenia – not Croatia!

There is a Ragusan writer who involuntarily underwent a revisionist name-change quite a few times between 1909 and the present day: “Benko” or “Beno Kotruljevic”, “Kotruljic”, “Kotrulic” or “Kotrulj”. Croatian historiographers do not care much in this regard. To them it is only important that he was “one of the first Croatian writers on scientific subjects”. They repeat a hundred times in their essays on this historical figure that he was “Croatian”. But that gentleman’s real name was Benedetto Cotrugli (or De Cotruglis). This is the way he signed his correspondence and also his famous book, “Della mercatura et del mercante perfetto”, one of the first manuals on merchandising and book-keeping, published in Venice in 1573.

Cotrugli’s book is known in every university and any college with an Economics Department. Cotrugli went to school and lived for all his adult life in Italy, serving as a diplomat for the Kingdom of Naples and as director of the Mint in L’Aquila. He never wrote anything in the Croatian language. Furthermore, his book was published in Croatia only in 1963, five centuries after it was written in Italian. But now he is considered “Croatian”.

This kind of uncontrolled appetite is also directed toward classical antiquity. An honest Croatian archaeologist, Josip Vlahovic, studied a bas-relief in the Spalato Baptistery which depicts a medieval king on a throne with a crown on his head and holding a cross. At his side there is a figure, perhaps a court official, and in front of him there is another figure prostrated on the floor. Examining the clothing, hairstyle and other details, Vlahovic concluded, without bias, that the bas-relief was most probably created by a band of Longobards who settled in the Dalmatian interior in the 6th century before moving out of the territory and disappearing at an uncertain date. According to Daria Garbin, an archaeologist living in Spalato (Split), who wrote extensively about that barbarian band, the medieval king in question could be the Longobard King Alaric.

However, the elegant and rich book “Croatia in the Early Middle Ages: A Cultural Survey”, published by the Croatian Academy of Sciences and Arts, printed in London in 1999, and distributed in all English-speaking countries, is embellished by a magnificent, full-page picture of the same bas-relief. Beside the picture, there is the following explanation: “Marble carving of a Croatian king (maybe Zvonimir)”. Here the Longobards are not mentioned! The book deceives its readers by pretending that the bas-relief depicts a Croatian king, thereby implying it was made by “Croatian artists”.

One of the most common tricks in this propagandistic historical revisionism is to find a couple of insignificant Croatian figures and squeeze between them the Slavicized name of a local Italian figure in order to “prove” that a Dalmatian town was inhabited by “some” Italians, but that it was “predominantly Croatian”. Take for example Trogir, known for a millennium as the Italian Dalmatian town of Traù, incredibly rich in arts and architecture, and since 1997 protected by UNESCO.

On a certain Croatian website you will notice that a humanist and writer from Trogir, a certain “Koriolan Cipiko” active in the 1500’s, is sandwiched between two Croatian historical figures that had nothing to do with him nor Trogir. Here the intention is to completely “neutralize” that gentleman, whose real name was Coriolano Cippico, a member of an illustrious centuries-old Dalmatian family of Roman origin, a family of bishops, writers, philosophers, army and naval leaders. A later descendant of this family, Antonio Cippico (1877-1935), was an Italian senator who supported the unification of his native Dalmatia with Italy. But today he and his ancestors are called “Croats”!

Another Croatian website says that “during this period Italian citizens, until 1918 the ruling class and almost half part of the population, were forced to leave for Italy”. Forced by whom? The authors of the website cautiously don’t say it, because it would implicate the Croats. On another Croatian website we find that in the same period Trogir had 16,000 inhabitants, which means that at least 8,000 were Italians. Today the Italians living in Trogir are only a handful.

There are literally hundreds of episodes and cases like these in numerous Croatian history books and tourist guides published in English and distributed in the West, and now also on the Internet. Outright falsehoods, half truths, tendentious presentations, patriotic rhetoric and grotesque nationalistic grandiosity are very common in them. This part of the Croatian academic world knows no limits in its appetite for national glory, veneration of patriotic heritage and stealing of other people’s cultural icons to show off as if it were their own.

Nowadays in Croatia (and also through the Internet in the United States) they maintain that Marco Polo was born on the Croatian island of Korcula, historically known as Curzola; up until the 1920’s the main town of the island was populated by an Italian majority. And furthermore, they claim that he was a Croat and not a Venetian, without any document or evidence to prove their revisionist claims.

They also appropriate Giovanni da Verrazzano, the Tuscan explorer who is considered the first European to discover the bay of New York in 1524, decades before Henry Hudson. For this achievement his name was given to the spectacular modern bridge that connects Brooklyn with Staten Island. But now Verrazzano is proclaimed a “Croat”. Why? Because while exploring the Eastern Atlantic coast going North, he gave some Dalmatian names to certain territories and islands he discovered during his voyage. Thus Verrazzano becomes “Ivan Vranjanin” or “Vrancic” among Croatian propagandists.

The same fate is reserved for Austrian composer Franz Joseph Haydn (1732-1809). He has been proclaimed a “Croat” merely because he was born in an Austrian region – Burgenland – which, besides being home to a German majority, is also inhabited by a few thousand Croatian immigrants and refugees who had settled there between the 16th and 18th centuries. This far-fetched theory has no mainstream academic support, but remains a staple of Croatian pseudo-historiography.

Many Croatian nationalist historiographers are busy creating for their country the fake desolating image of a highly civilized and spiritual nation by usurping the heritage of a civilization (Latin and Italian civilization) which they themselves despised and eradicated in the first historically documented – but still widely ignored – Balkan ethnic cleansing.

Today no one notices or condemns this threatening phenomena. These charlatans with master's degrees are doing a tremendous disservice first of all to the reputation of their own country. They are also very dangerous. In a region with a tremendously violent past and with so many unsolved problems still today, this kind of cultural piracy is very ominous and should be stopped.