Saturday, November 10, 2018

Dalmatia: Alessandro Dudan Responds to Arthur Evans

(Written by Alessandro Dudan, taken from “The Saturday Review”, Volume 123, 1917.)

To the Editor of the Saturday Review.

Sir, — As practically all the Italians from Dalmatia who have been able to escape from that unfortunate country, after having suffered as few other nationalities have ever suffered through the Austro-Croatian work of denationalisation, are now serving in the Italian Army, not a single one of those “Italianissimi” has been given the opportunity, I am afraid, to answer the most extraordinary attacks which Sir Arthur Evans and his few friends have been pleased repeatedly to make against them. May I be, therefore, allowed as a Dalmatian Irredento of Spalato, who for ten months has already done his duty in the Army, to raise my voice in protest?

I shall do so without abuse.

I feel entitled, however, to inform him that the “noisy and ignorant” little clique of extremists who are claiming Italy's right to Dalmatia are the best part of the Italian nation, from the Supreme Command and the Government to the extreme Radical and Socialist reformist parties, to which latter Signor Bissolati belongs. Anybody stating the contrary deceives naively himself and his readers.

I do not want to repeat the many and too much already quoted national, historical, and strategic arguments which have been advanced to prove the rightfulness of these claims.

To answer some of Sir Arthur's and his friends' favourite statements it is sufficient to compare the flourishing Dalmatian civilisation before 1797 (Campoformio) with the semi-barberous conditions obtaining to-day in those regions of the Adriatic coast which are under Austro-Croatian or Austro-Slovene rule. I would refer Sir Arthur Evans to Mr. T. J. Jackson's “Dalmatia, Histria, and Montenegro” (Oxford, 1884), which is certain to appeal to Sir Arthur's archaeological instincts. In the meanwhile I will quote some passages of this work, which may serve to illuminate him on the real and impartial facts of the case:
“In the maritime cities of the mainland and on most of the islands the traveller may well imagine himself in Italy, for the language, architecture, manners, and dress of the citizens are the same as on the other side of the Adriatic.” (Vol. I., page 200)
“Zara, Spalato, Traù, and Ragusa were Latin cities when as yet Venice was not existent, and they remained Latin cities throughout the Middle Ages with very little help from her influence until the fifteenth century. The Italian spoken in Dalmatia before that time was not the Venetian dialect; in some parts it had a distinct form of its own; in others it resembled the form into which Latin had passed in the South of Italy or Umbria, and it was only after 1420 that it began to assimilate itself to the Italian of Lombardy and Venetia. At Ragusa it never became Venetian at all, and to this day it resembles rather the Tuscan dialect than any other, while the patois of the common people is a curious medley of Italian and Illyric, with traces of rustic Latin, Vlak or Rouman.” (Vol. I., page 183)
This uninterrupted Latin and Italian character of the country, which existed long before any Slav immigration, was already proved in 1673 by the greatest Dalmatian historian, Giovanni Lucio, whose works ought to be well known to any self-constituted authority on the subject. In the preface to Lucio's “Historia di Dalmatia, et in particolare delle città di Traù, Spalato et Sebenico(Venezia : Curti, 1674), it is stated:
“Having now to write the memoirs of Traù, my birthplace, I have wished to use the modern or vulgar tongue, which may be called Dalmatian no less than Italian.”
If Sir Arthur would like to know how Austria “Croatised” the Dalmatian municipalities, which had until then (1797) been Latin and Italian, let him turn to Vol. II., page 83, of Jackson's work:
“The late podesta of Spalato (an Italian) was, however, ejected with the whole municipality from office (1882) by the Austrian Government to make way for a new corporation of strictly Croatian sympathisers, which after an interregnum of two years was elected under the guns of a man-of-war stationed in the harbour, and which one may therefore assume was forced upon an unwilling people. Spalato has hitherto been no less strongly attached to the Latin or autonomous party than Zara herself, but nothing is now being left undone to give it the character of a Slovene town and to put an end to the Latin tradition of twelve centuries, during which the Croat has borne no rule within its walls.”
If Sir Arthur, notwithstanding these clear evidences of ancient and modern history of Dalmatia, prefers his fantastic political interpretation of historical facts, we cannot help being amused. Ne sutor ultra crepidam! He would be well advised, however, to remember that Austro-Croatian statistics, apart from the proved falsifications, do not represent the scientific principle of nationality, because they are merely based on the principle of the “language in use“. It is thus, therefore, that a very large number of Italians have been registered as Croats by the Croatian municipalities. In the elections under universal suffrage which took place in 1911 it was proved that the Italian national political party amounts to at least 10 per cent. of the population. It is equally well known, however, that at least a third of the 600,000 Dalmatians are acquainted with and speak Italian. To these must be added at least 150,000 Morlacchi, who, while speaking Slav, are Latin by race (Moro-Valachians: see Porphyregenitus's and Lucio's works).

Sir Arthur Evans and his Jingo-Slavs like to quote certain isolated passages (always the same) of Mazzini and of Tommaseo without regard to the context or to the general trend of the writings of these two patriots, who would certainly to-day be the first to protest against such an unfair and false use of their words.

If one reads the correspondence between Mazzini and Kossuth, published in the “Oesterreichische Rundschau” of Vienna, 1883 (see pages 695-714), it will appear that Mazzini dreamed of a Balkan Confederation headed by the Magyars, and directed against Russia and Russian influence in the Balkans. Who would think to-day, after the Magyars' behaviour and that of the Croats, to reward them by giving them Italian cities and Italian provinces?

To say that Tommaseo, who after 1848 dedicated all his political writings (over twenty volumes between books and pamphlets) to fighting the Austro-Croatians in his native Dalmatia, and who to do this started learning Croatian when he was thirty-nine, wished the Slavization of his country, is to insult and to libel his memory. Tommaseo was the official leader of the Italian autonomistic party in Dalmatia, but to protect it from Austrian persecution he could not call them “Irredentisti”, which would have been tantamount to declaring the Italians traitors to the Austrian State. He was therefore obliged to say that then they did not wish for the impossible—i.e., the separation of Dalmatia from Austria, but that they were contented with a state of autonomy which, however, was never granted them.

Sir Arthur's misinterpretation of Tommaseo's lines, “Alla Dalmazia”, must be noted. In order to get the right sense of these lines, referring to the future of Italo-Serbian relations in Dalmatia, let him refer to Senatore Isidoro Del Lungo, Arciconsolo of the Accademia della Crusca, the highest philological authority in Italy, who has already dealt with the question.

One last point I should like to correct in Sir Arthur's statements. Among the authorities which he calls to his aid in order to convince his readers of the preposterous character of Italian aspirations is Camillo Cavour. On page 14-15 of Vol. VIII. of “Storia Documentata della Diplomazia Europea in Italia(Turin, 1872), written by Nicomede Bianchi, the following document is quoted:
“In November 1858 Vincenzo Salvagnoli was charged by Cavour to go to Compiègne, and after a long conversation with the Emperor Napoleon he consigned to him an important Note, in which is was stated that: ‘Northern Italy will include the whole of Piedmont, Savoy and the county of Nice excepted, Lombardy, Venetia, the Italian Friuli and the coasts of Dalmatia.’ . . .”
I don't suppose that even Sir Arthur will be pleased to place Cavour among the “noisy and ignorant” little clique which is fighting most bravely with the Allies for that great Italian statesman's never-forgotten ideal of a united Italy.

I beg to remain,
Your obedient servant,
Alessandro Dudan, Dr. Jur.,
Special Correspondent of the “Messaggero”, Rome.