Friday, May 25, 2018

Italia Irredenta

(Written by Politicus, taken from the journal “The Fortnightly”, Volume 97, 1915.)

Italy is an extremely densely populated land, and the natural resources of the country are totally insufficient for maintaining a large population. Per square mile there are no fewer than 318.8 people in Italy, as compared with 310.4 in Germany, 189.5 in France, and 100.5 in Spain. As the Peninsula possesses practically no coal and no iron, the foundation of prosperous manufacturing industries is extremely difficult, for cheap coal and iron form the basis of successful manufacturing industries. At the same time, the prevalence of bare and rocky mountains throughout the Peninsula, an irregular rainfall, frequent droughts, the scarcity of subsoil water, the lack of forests, and the absence of large rivers and streams, make the highest development of agriculture impossible. In these circumstances, it is only natural that Italy cannot nourish her rapidly growing population, that she has a very considerable emigration, and that important Italian colonies are to be found, not only in trans-oceanic countries, but in all her neighbour States. The French territories bordering upon Italy with Nice, the Swiss Canton Ticino, the southern part of the Austrian Tyrol, Istria with Trieste, Corsica and Malta, are very largely peopled with Italians.

The Italians are a proud, ambitious, and exceedingly patriotic nation. Their population of 36,000,000 is insufficiently large compared with that of the other Great Powers. The strength of a nation largely depends upon its population. Hence many Italians desire to join to their country the territories near by, upon which Italy has some claim on the ground of history, and especially on that of nationality. However, whilst scarcely a single Italian will be found ready to advocate wresting by force Corsica and Nice from France, the Canton Ticino from Switzerland, or Malta from England, the vast majority of the people passionately desire to take by force the districts peopled by Italians which are retained by Austrians. The reason for this discriminating attitude is obvious. The Italians living under the French, Swiss, and British flags are prosperous, happy, and free. Those living under the Austrian flag are, and always have been, persecuted, oppressed, and ill-treated. Italy has a historic and well-founded grievance against Austria, and Austria has, with incredible short-sightedness, done her utmost to keep that grievance alive. Thus she has created that movement which is usually called "Italia Irredenta," the unredeemed Italy—a movement which strives to bring about the reunion of Italy with all the outlying Italian territories, but which in reality is aimed exclusively against Austria-Hungary.

Since the fall of the Roman Empire, Italy was divided against itself and had ceased to be a State. The country became split up, and many States occupied the Peninsula. Through their divisions and internecine wars, Italy declined and became a prey to other nations, and with Italy's power, Italy's prosperity and civilisation almost disappeared. Slowly the consciousness of a common language and of a common nationality arose. Many Italians began to recognise that unity gives strength; that Italy could find salvation only if it should once more become an organised single nation. The war of the French Revolution and Napoleon's conquest of the Peninsula greatly strengthened the spirit of nationalism and a longing for national unity among the Italians. The overthrow of the great Corsican seemed to promise to the Italians the dawn of a new era. But they had reckoned without Prince Metternich. That great Austrian diplomat intended to make all Italy an Austrian dependency and an Austrian possession. He refused to acknowledge the existence of an Italian nation, stating at the Congress of Vienna that "Italie ne représente qu'une union d'États indépendants, réunis seulement sous la même expression geéographique."

According to him, Italy was merely a geographical expression. He treated with contempt the essential unity of the nation and the loud claims for freedom and self-government raised by the leading Italian people. Owing to his action, Italy was cut up at Vienna for the benefit of Austria. The Austrian Emperor was given the kingdom of Lombardo-Venezia. An Austrian Archduke became Governor of Milan. Austrian princes were made Grand Dukes of Tuscany and Dukes of Modena and of Parma. Austria ruled indirectly also the non-Austrian portions of Italy. The Bourbon King of Naples and Sicily had to bind himself that he would not introduce any institutions irreconcilable with those prevailing in Lombardo-Venezia. Metternich even endeavoured to form a confederation of Italian States dominated by Austria, but he met with a refusal from the King of Sardinia, who was supported by the Emperor of Russia.

At the Congress of Vienna, Austria split up Italy into a number of artificial States, brought the whole country under her domination, and prepared everything for ruling Italy by dividing it against itself, and by over-awing the people. The political reforms which had been introduced into Italy during the revolutionary and the Napoleonic era were abolished. ... All Italian professors who were suspected of liberal views were dismissed. The Press was muzzled. The right of free speech was taken away from the people. All Italians suspected of liberal views or patriotic leanings were spied upon, imprisoned, or hounded out of the country. All Italy began to swarm with police agents, spies, and informers. A most rigorous passport system was introduced, under which suspected Italians were forbidden to travel in their own country, and to leave their homes, even for a few days. The Austrian prisons were filled with Italian patriots. The leading Italians, poets, authors, and scientists were treated as conspirators and common criminals. The poet, Silvio Pellico, was sent for life to the prison of Spielberg. The Lombardo-Venezian kingdom was strongly fortified and filled with Austrian soldiers, and Austrian troops acted as police and executioners in the non-Austrian States of Italy as well. They suppressed the revolution which had broken out in the kingdom of Naples and in the States of the Church.

Owing to this rule of terrorism and persecution, the people were forced to defend themselves by forming secret revolutionary societies. Oppression created despair, and despair violence. Great men like Mazzini preached the employment of anarchistic methods against Austria. Popular risings of the outraged people were ferociously suppressed by the Austrian military. After repeated unsuccessful revolts, the Italians recovered their freedom and their unity in the wars of 1859 and 1866. Austria had to withdraw from the Peninsula, but she retained some valuable districts in the north and in the north-east of Italy, the Southern Tyrol, the Trentino, as the Italians call it, and Trieste and the surrounding districts. The fathers and grandfathers of the present generation have lived and suffered under the Austrian yoke, and they have fought against that country. It is, therefore, not unnatural that there exists throughout Italy a ferocious inherited hatred against the land of the Hapsburgs, especially as Austria has done all in her power to keep that hatred alive by perpetuating in the Italian districts still under her control the wrongs which she had inflicted upon Italy herself until she was driven out of the country. In 1914 a valuable study, L'ltalia D'Oltre Confine—Le Provincie Italiane d'Austria, by Virginio Gayda, was published by Fratelli Bocca, Turin, and much of the information given in the following pages has been taken from that large and reliable book.

During a century Austria has followed the identical policy towards the Italians under her sway. Seeing in them a nation of dangerous conspirators, she has thought it necessary to rule them not by the civil power, but by the military. In the old Lombardo-Venezian kingdom Field-Marshal Radetzki was more powerful than the local governors and the Emperor at Vienna. Even now the military lays down and supervises the policy which is followed by the Austrian Government in the Trentino and in the districts of Trieste. Both districts are treated like a conquered land, both are overawed by numerous fortresses, and by large bodies of troops drawn from the non-Italian portion of Austria's population. In both districts Austria strives to denationalise the Italians by swamping them with men of another nationality, who enjoy the unswerving support of the Government. Austria endeavours to destroy the Italian elements in the Trentino by setting against them the Germans. They are to be converted into Germans. In the district of Trieste, on the other hand, Austria is exploiting the desire of the neighbouring Slavs to acquire that town. Hence she imports into Trieste and the surrounding districts large numbers of Slavs, and endeavours to convert the Italians living in them into Slavs.

The town of Trieste is essentially an Italian town. Some years ago, when visiting it, I arrived in the Porto Vecchio. The boat landed at the Molo San Carlo, and I was driven by the Via del Corso through the Piazza Carlo Goldoni, past the Teatro Goldoni, through the Via del Torrente and the Via Stadion, past the Giardino Publico and the Piazza d'Armi, through the Via Miramar to the Castle of Miramar. In Trieste all the street names are Italian, and so are practically all the inscriptions. The people one sees about look like Italians, and speak Italian. The Burgomaster of the town is called Podestà. One forgets that one is on Austrian soil. Close to Trieste and along the shore are numerous Italian towns and villages, such as Servola, Muggia, Nabresina, Monfalcone, but further inland the towns and villages bear Slavonic names, such as Herpelje, Basovizza, Smarje, etc. The Venetians founded colonies along the Adriatic. The coast towns of Istria and Dalmatia bear Italian names and are largely Italian, but the hinterland is Slavonic.

Among the many nationalities which are found in the Dual Monarchy the Italians are numerically the weakest. Nevertheless, these suffer from a form of persecution at the hands of the Government which is spared to the other nationalities, for nowhere in Austria-Hungary does the Government try to destroy a nationality by swamping it by the importation of large numbers of men belonging to another nationality. This movement was begun between the years 1845 and 1848, when the spirit of nationalism in Italy became aroused. During those years the Government brought 20,000 non-Italians into the town of Trieste. Afterwards that policy was discontinued, but it was taken up with redoubled energy after the year 1866, when Austria lost Venezia to Italy.

During the last few decades the Government has exploited the differences existing between Slavs and Italians regarding the control and ownership of Trieste, and has imported nearly exclusively Slavonic people into that town. Between 1900 and 1910 the Slavonic population of Trieste increased by no less than 130 per cent., whereas the population of the Slavonic province of Carniola increased by only 3.3 per cent. Whenever a need for workers arises, the Government imports Slavonic men. In building the Tauern Railway the Government imported at one stroke into Trieste 700 Slavonic workers and their families. It imported 2,500 Slavonic workers for the construction of the new port of Sant'Andrea. The Austrian Lloyd, which stands under Government control, introduced 1,300 Slavonic workers into its building yards, and the Stabilimento Technico Triestino was forced to dismiss all its Italian employees, and these were replaced chiefly by Slavs. The result of this policy is apparent from the census figures. Trieste is a flourishing town; it is the Austrian Hamburg, and its population is rapidly increasing. However, although the Italian part of the population is growing quickly, the Slavonic part is growing far more quickly, and the result is that the Italian element is losing ground. Between 1900 and 1910 the proportion of Italians declined from 77.4 per cent. to 74.4 per cent. During the same period the Slavs increased from 16.3 to 19.4 per cent. of the population.

The Government endeavours not only to replace the Italian workers of Trieste by Slavonic ones, but it is replacing the army of Italian officials by Slavs. Trieste swarms with officials of every kind. Formerly, the majority of these were Italians, but these have been replaced not by Germans, but by Slavs. In 1910 of 828 employees at the State railway station only 70 were Italians and 728 were Slavs. Of 358 postmen 95 were Italians and 245 Slavs. Of 500 Custom House officers only 146 were Italians, and of 661 policemen fewer than 100 were Italians. In 1910 there were in Trieste 4,600 State officials; of these 3,700, or four-fifths, were Slavs. In the small Italian towns in the neighbourhood no Italian officials have been left. The elimination of all Italian officials is demanded by the military largely because they fear espionage by Italian postmen, etc. The Law Courts also have become denationalised, and only a few Italians are left in higher positions, because they are difficult to replace. When new men are appointed to positions in the Government service non-Italians are always given the preference. A Slav who knows only Slavonic is appointed, and an Italian who knows Italian, Slavonic, and German is not considered.

Formerly the Law Courts were purely Italian. According to the fundamental laws of Austria-Hungary, the Law Court proceedings should be conducted in the language of the majority. That provision, which is rigorously enforced elsewhere in Austria, is disregarded in the Italian portions of the Monarchy. The Law Courts in Trieste are gradually being made Slavonic. The Slavs began twenty years ago to introduce their language into the Courts. Slavonic lawyers settled in Trieste, and some of the judges accepted documents written in Slavonic. Later on some of them began to allow Slavonic to be used in oral proceedings, the judges acting as interpreters, and before long Slavonic began to be used for giving judgment. When, in 1903, the City protested against Slavonic being used in Court, the then Secretary of State, Mr. Koerber, refused to interfere. The Italian judges are dying out, and Slavonic ones are appointed in their stead. Before long the Italians will have completely disappeared from the Law Courts of Trieste.

Among the most powerful nationalising agencies are the school and the Church. The Austrian Government endeavours to denationalise the Italians by means of the school and the Church, and its policy is powerfully supported by the well-organised Slavs, who strive to conquer Trieste for themselves. More than three-quarters of the inhabitants of Trieste are Italians. Yet there is not a single Italian State school of the ordinary type. The Government supports only a nautical school and a commercial high school, which were founded one in 1754 and the other in 1817. In Trieste and on the sea-coast near by dwell 383,000 Italians. They possess only two intermediate schools maintained by the Government, one at Pola and one at Capodistria.

On the other hand, Cracow, with only 100,000 inhabitants, has five Polish intermediate schools and two technical schools supported by the Government. The Government obviously follows the policy of supporting the Poles and suppressing the Italians. All nationalities dwelling in the Italian districts are encouraged except the Italians. In Trieste and the Italian districts near by there dwell fewer than 20,000 Germans, who are scattered among the Italians. Entirely for these the Austrian Government maintains six intermediate schools at Trieste, Pola, and Gorizia, and most of the German schools stand relatively empty. In 1911-12 the eight classes of the German intermediate school at Gorizia were frequented by only forty-six German scholars. Owing to the lack of educational facilities Italians are forced to send their children to German and Slavonic schools, unless they succeed in establishing schools of their own with their own means.

Recognising the danger of losing their nationality by the insidious educational policy followed by the Austrian Government, a powerful movement for counteracting that policy arose among the Italians living in Austria. The town of Trieste is most active in its effort of defending the Italian nationality by means of Italian schools. In 1911 Trieste maintained 21 Italian elementary schools with 16,570 children and 14 country schools. The town of Trieste spends 1,350,000 crowns a year on its Italian schools, and some of the buildings are monuments of Italian nationalism, being constructed regardless of expense. The town maintains besides eight kindergarten schools at a yearly expenditure of 100,000 crowns. In addition to these, Italian intermediate and technical schools have been founded by the town, and considerable amounts are spent every year in subsidising schools, in buying books and boots for the school-children, and in assisting the parents of very poor children. Trieste spends per year no less than 3,262,000 crowns on education, to which more than one-sixth of its total expenditure is devoted.

Although the people of Trieste are allowed to establish schools of their own and to appoint their teachers, the supreme control is retained by the Government, which directs what subjects may, or may not, be taught. Among the subjects which are forbidden may be found the history of Trieste. The children must not know that Trieste was at one time an Italian town. The attempts of the Government to destroy the Italian spirit among the people are often most ludicrous. By an Ordinance of June 21st, 1913, the Governor, Prince Hohenlohe, prohibited the municipality to name two institutions maintained by it after Dante and after Petrarca. Following the policy of pin-pricks, and fearing treason everywhere, sport meetings arranged by the Italians of Trieste are frequently forbidden, under the plea that they would constitute "a nationalist demonstration." Almost anything may be forbidden as "a nationalist demonstration."

In December 1911 a citizen of Monfalcone was ordered to take down a winged lion on his house, because it resembled that of the Republic of Venice, and therefore involved a political demonstration. Italian music is frequently suppressed as a political demonstration. A child at Trieste, eleven years old, playing at home on the piano, started the Garibaldi hymn. A policeman appeared, ordered her to stop playing, and her father was imprisoned for a fortnight for the treasonable action of his daughter. Freedom of speech and freedom of the Press are, of course, non-existent. On February 13th, 1910, the police destroyed in the Servola furnaces twenty tons of printed paper, the result of numerous confiscations of Italian newspapers and reviews. The Italian charitable and sociable organisations are liable to be dissolved without any cause by order of the Authority. The wearing of the Italian colours, or the use of the Italian flag, is, of course, strictly forbidden, although Italy is Austria's ally.

The Government has not only imported a large army of Slavonic workers into Trieste and has endeavoured to suppress the Italian schools, but it has also striven to denationalise the Church. Of 290 priests in Trieste 190 are Slavs, and Slavism is undermining the Italian Church in exactly the same way it is undermining all other Italian institutions. Encouraged by the Government, the feud between the Slavs and Italians has become so bitter that an Italian can no longer be certain to obtain the blessings of his Church if the priest is a Slav. At Spalato a Croatian priest refused to give burial to an Italian. In Topolovaz, in Istria, the parish priest refused to bury an Italian child. In Sterna the Slavonic priest refused the last sacrament to a man because he was an Italian.

All the world over Latin is the language of the Roman Catholic Church, but in the Slavonic parts of Austria Latin is being replaced by Slavonic. At Lindaro a Croatian priest refused to baptize an Italian child because the father wished the function to be conducted in Latin. The Croatian bishop Mahnic ordered the priests in the island of Quarnero to give religious instruction in the Italian schools in the Croatian language, although the children understand only Italian. Apparently, the Slavonic priests are in many cases the agents of an aggressive nationalism. Their race patriotism seems to be stronger than their faith, and they rebel against Rome. How determined is their opposition to the use of Latin may be seen from the fact that on October 28th, 1913, an Italian schoolmaster at Sogignacco, in Istria, was proceeded against in the Law Courts for having disturbed the Roman Catholic divine service because he had sung the Litany in Latin in a procession. Some Slavonic priests are so determined to conquer the country for Slavism that they have endeavoured to force the Slavonic language into purely Italian centres. The Slavonic priests have begun to say in Slavonic masses, sermons, and prayers, and even in Italian Trieste Slavonic has begun to be used in the churches. Naturally, many Italians have left their church in disgust.

The Slavs have founded powerful societies, which provide the Government with Slavonic workers from the Slavonic hinterland, which establish co-operation among them, and which strengthen their cohesion in every possible way. The Narodni Dom gives to every married Slavonic worker who settles in Trieste the complete furniture of a room and of a kitchen. That is, of course, a great inducement for poor people who cannot make a living in Austria to get married and settle in Trieste instead of emigrating.

In self-defence against the attacks of the Government and the Slavonic organisations, the Italians have created organisations of their own. Among these the Lega Nazionale is the best known and the most powerful. It was created in 1890. In 1901, after ten years' existence, the League possessed 131 local groups in Austria, with 24,000 members. It maintained 21 schools and institutions of its own and subsidised eight others. At the end of 1911, after twenty years of existence, the membership had increased to 42,041, and it maintained 74 schools of its own, subsidised 136 others, arid maintained besides 153 libraries and other institutions. It has a yearly income of more than 600,000 crowns and a capital of more than 1,000,000 crowns. In view of the fact that there are only 800,000 Italians in Austria, who, by voluntary contributions, have collected these sums, these results are certainly most remarkable, and are a monument to the patriotism of the Italian people.

Elsewhere in the Italian provinces of Austria the Italians are persecuted as they are in Trieste. Not far from Trieste lies Pola, the Austrian Portsmouth. Of the 4,000 workers employed at the Pola Arsenal, 3,000 who were Italians have been dismissed. In a single year practically all the Italians employed at the Law Courts were replaced. Pola, like Trieste, is pre-eminently an Italian town. But in Pola also the Slavs are increasing far more rapidly than the Italians. In ten years the number of Slavs and Germans at Pola has doubled, while that of the Italians has increased only by one-fourth. In Pola, as in Trieste, the Government endeavours to denationalise the Italians by starving the Italian schools and promoting the teaching of Slavonic. As Pola is an important naval base, the methods employed for terrorising the Italians and for depriving them of their work are far more ruthless than at Trieste.

The sea towns along the Austrian Adriatic, such as Capodistria, Isola, Pirano, Salvore, Umago, San Lorenzo, Cittanova, Parenzo, Orsera, Rovigno, Fasan, are absolutely Italian. But the interior of the peninsula of Istria is Slavonic, except for Italian islands which are found here and there. The Italian farmers in Istria are experiencing hard times, and are gradually deserting the country for the town. Their place is taken by Slavs, whose requirements are smaller than are those of the Italians, and the acquisition of Italian farms is facilitated by the Slavonic cooperative societies, which, desirous of driving out the Italians, consider the acquisition of Italian land as a patriotic deed.

Until recently Italians carried on the Austrian Merchant Marine, but Austria endeavours to drive the Italians from the sea. Lately Austria has established navigation schools, where only the Croatian language is taught. Austria evidently endeavours to make it impossible for Italians to exist and to make a living on the Adriatic coast.

The Italian Tyrol, the Trentino, occupies a most important strategical position. A glance at the map shows that the protecting wall of the Alps is penetrated by the Austrian Trentino. The Austrian frontier ends in the middle of the Lago di Garda. Hence, an Austrian army can penetrate without difficulty into the Italian plain. The Trentino is an Austrian sally-port, which constantly threatens Italy's integrity and peace. Austria has maintained that important position in order to be able to strike a mortal blow at Italy at any moment.

In view of its strategical importance, it is only natural that the military is supreme in the Trentino, especially as the country is practically purely Italian. In Southern Tyrol dwell 373,000 Italians and only 12,000 Germans, and the majority of the latter are soldiers or Government officials. The capital, Trento, or Trent, is purely Italian, and so are the smaller towns. The Trentino is protected against Italy by numerous and extremely powerful fortifications, which command all the approaches from Italy, and the peace garrison consists of thirty-six battalions of infantry, three battalions of engineers, five battalions of fortress artillery, twelve batteries of mountain and field artillery, etc. Regardless of expense, the Government constructs every year military roads. Considering the Trentino a district of the greatest military importance, the Austrian Government, guided by its soldiers, endeavours to overawe the Italian element of the country.

As the Italian Tyrol slopes towards Italy, Italy is its natural market. However, the Austrian Government impedes traffic between Italy and the Trentino in every possible way, and discourages trade and industry. The carriage roads and telephones end at the Italian frontier. The great water powers of the Trentino remain unutilised because the Austrian Government does not allow electric power derived from them to be sold in the Italian plain. Italian financiers are prevented by Austria developing the Trentino, which Austria refuses to develop. The Trentino, like Trieste, lives under a régime of petty persecution. In Trieste, the history of Trieste must not be taught. In the school-books employed in the Trentino history ends with the year 1815. To the school-child history ends at the time when the awakening of nationalism in Italy began. In the Trentino, as in the other Italian provinces of Austria, Italian Associations are prohibited.

Arrests for suspected espionage are frequent in the Trentino and in Pola, and throughout the Italian districts the Italians are spied upon and denounced to the police. People who are suspected of nationalist leanings are expelled. People who are suspected of espionage are often kept in prison during months without trial. In the Trentino the Government endeavours, more ruthlessly than elsewhere, to stifle industry and liberty among the Italians. Unable to make a living, many Italians emigrate from the Trentino. While the Austrian Government encourages the Slavs in Trieste and the districts surrounding it, it encourages the pan-Germanic agitation in the Trentino, and that agitation is all the more successful as it disposes of very considerable funds obtained partly from Austria and partly from Germany.

There are about 800,000 Italians in Austria, and these occupy two extremely valuable positions. The Trentino is a point of the greatest strategical value, the possession of which is of vital importance to Italy. Its possession would secure that country against a sudden invasion from Austria. Trieste is extremely important as a commercial harbour, and Pola is a most excellent war harbour. The Italian shore of the Adriatic is flat and practically harbourless. The Austrian shore of that sea is studded with a large number of excellent natural harbours. The eastern shore of the Adriatic dominates the western, and Valona, lying at the narrow opening of that sea, is at the same time its Gibraltar and its Portsmouth. While Italy is obviously entitled to the possession of the Trentino, both for geographical and national reasons... While, owing to the number of Italians living in the towns, Italy has the strongest claims to Trieste and Pola, the Slavs lay claim to these towns, because they require outlets to the sea. ...the Italians have the stronger claim to Trieste on the ground of nationality...