Tuesday, December 31, 2019

In Memory of Nicolò Luxardo (1927-2019)

Nicolò Luxardo III (1927-2019)
The Luxardo name is synonymous with a success story and with an enlightened company which is always attentive to its employees, but it is also inextricably linked to the painful and unforgettable page of the destruction of Zara, the Julian-Dalmatian exodus and the tenacious memory of the exiled communities. The whole of Veneto must be grateful to Nicolò – an Istrian of Ligurian descent – for having the strength to be reborn, which he demonstrated by making our land the homeland of Maraschino.”
– Luca Zaia, President of Veneto

It is sad to report that Nicolò Luxardo III, a member of the illustrious Luxardo family, passed away in his home in Padua earlier this month on December 3, 2019. He was an Italian Dalmatian exile and entrepreneur who helped rebuild the Luxardo company after the tragedies the World War II.

Nicolò was born in Trieste in 1927. His family, known throughout the world for its maraschino liqueur produced in the Dalmatian city of Zara, was then enjoying a business resurgence in the Kingdom of Italy. In 1943, however, the city of Zara was destroyed by Allied bombings and reduced to a pile of rubble. Tito's Yugoslav Partisans then descended upon Zara in 1944 and began a series of massacres which nearly wiped out the entire Luxardo family. His father Pietro, his uncle Nicolò II and his aunt Bianca were all murdered by the Yugoslavs. His uncle Giorgio (1897-1963) was the sole survivor of his generation.

Despite the millennial Italian character of the city and its population, the city of Zara was annexed to Yugoslavia after the war. Like thousands of other Italians of the Eastern Adriatic, the Luxardos were forced to abandon their native land and their factory, which was seized by the Yugoslav Communists, and had to rebuild their company in post-war Italy.

After conducting research and experiments aimed at finding an ideal location to grow the maraschino cherry, the company was reborn in 1947 in Torreglia, a small town in the province of Padua at the foot of the Euganean Hills. Here, Nicolò and his uncle Giorgio rebuilt the company which had been founded in Zara by Girolamo Luxardo in 1821. When he re-founded the company with his uncle, Nicolò was just twenty years old.

Nicolò Luxardo was a great man, entrepreneur, innovator and precursor of the times who witnessed so much history – some of it frightening – with the will to be reborn, enlightened pragmatism, and extraordinary moral strength, which are his greatest legacies. ... The personality and example of Nicolò Luxardo will be a guide for our entrepreneurs, especially the youngest ones whom he dedicated particular care to, who will respect the ideals in which he believed and invested: work, family, culture, history, attachment to the territory, attention to the product and attention to quality, which made Luxardo and his Maraschino an admirable example, known and appreciated all over the world.”
– Massimo Finco, Deputy President of Assindustria Venetocentro

In the following decades the Luxardo company had to fight numerous lawsuits against Croatian imitators in Yugoslavia who were attempting to market Maraschino liqueur using the Luxardo trademark. The Luxardo's successfully won all the court cases against them. Upon Giorgio's death in 1963, Nicolò assumed presidency of the company and resigned only in 2000, at the age of 73.

In addition to being a successful entrepreneur, Nicolò Luxardo was a great lover of beauty: he oversaw the restorations of many Venetian villas, collected books on the Julian-Dalmatian Exodus and on the history of the Republic of Genoa, the original birthplace of his ancestors.

In Padua he founded the Giovani imprenditori di Confindustria (a group of young entrepreneurs), oversaw the publication of the Dalmatian Italian magazine “Rivista dalmatica di storia patria” and wrote two books: the first dedicated to his family and the company, entitled “I Luxardo del maraschino”, and the second dedicated to the story of his father, uncle and aunt who were killed during the war, entitled “Oltre gli scogli di Zara”.

With Nicolò Luxardo's death Italy loses one of its last surviving representatives of Italianity in the Eastern Adriatic, as well as a great industrialist.

He leaves behind his wife Anna Maria Angelini, a poetess with whom he had two children, Guido and Piero, who run the Luxardo company with their cousins; the latter has also been the chairman of the Campiello Prize Management Committee since 2011.

Wife Anna Maria, sons Piero with Cristina, Guido with Elena,
sister Alessandra, grandchildren Alvise, Martina, Gaia, Nicolò,
Chiara, Laura and Francesco, with deep sorrow announce
the loss of Nicolò Luxardo Franchi, 92 years old.

Saturday, December 28, 2019

A City Hostile to the Austrians: Irredentism in Trieste

(Written by Marco Vigna, taken from the newspaper “Il primato nazionale”, December 8, 2019.)


The massive presence of irredentism – that is to say, Italian patriotism – in Trieste can be traced back to the mid-nineteenth century. Trieste is a very symbolic city, notable for its size, its geographical location and its history.

In 1848 a governor of this city, General Ferencz Gyulai (later Field Marshal, Viceroy of Lombardy-Venetia and commander of the Austrian army in the war of 1859) had published an article in L'Osservatore Triestino – which at that time functioned as a government press organ – in which he contrasted the Slavic subjects, whom he considered loyal to the empire, with the Italians, whom he accused of being collectively hostile to imperial authority. In truth, the governor does not appear to have been wrong.

Trieste: The Hostile City

Within a few months following the publication of this article, there were three attempts at insurrection in Trieste, all three nipped in the bud by the imposing military and police apparatus: the riot of August 20, 1848, which resulted in deaths, injuries and arrests; another attempted insurrection on October 10-11; and then riots which lasted from October 23 to October 29, 1848.

On March 17, 1849 Trieste was placed under a state of siege: an entire regiment – the Fürstenwärther – was concentrated in Opicina. The castle of Trieste was put in a state of alert in anticipation of a siege, and a national guard was trained, most of whose recruits were foreigners. The concentration of large military forces in Trieste occurred when Hungary, Lombardy and Venetia were in full revolt, while Carlo Alberto's army was in pursuit of Radetzky's forces. Despite this dramatic situation for the empire, it was decided to place several thousand troops in the city of Trieste, demonstrating its importance and recognizing the danger of its potential insurrection.

On the other hand, Gyulai was one of the most renowned imperial generals and in 1850 he managed to prevent the insurrection of Trieste by becoming Minister of War, then military commander of Lombardy-Venetia, and finally viceroy. His career depended largely on the merits acquired in 1848.

Even the central government seemed convinced of the antipathy of Trieste towards the empire, so much so that on October 28, 1848 it had communicated to the imperial authorities in Trieste that, in order to effectively oppose the Triestine Society (Società dei Triestini), which was "absolutely Italian and anti-German", it was necessary to develop and enhance the German society, which already existed, as well as a Slavic society, which was then in the process of being formed. In accordance with this, already on December 1 of that year Gyulai gave the order to encourage Slavic immigration.

These judgments and evaluations were passed on to the governors and to the central government, which had at its disposal a widespread network of police and informants. The police chiefs knew the mood of the population very well, took note of what they said and did, and reported it regularly to their superiors.

For example, in 1848 the chief of police of Trieste, Altgraf von Salm, communicated to Vienna that the most widely-read newspapers in the city were the following seven: Il Costituzionale, La Guardia nazionale, La Frusta, La Gazzetta di Trieste, Il Giornale di Trieste, Il Telegrafo della sera, Il Diavoletto. Of these, Salm wrote, only one (Il Diavoletto) was in favor of the empire and it was also the least read.

In the following years, the Kaiser's visits to Trieste revealed the citizens' coldness towards him. Franz Herre, the well-known biographer of Franz Joseph, provided a detailed description of the isolation and hostility with which the emperor and empress found themselves surrounded in Italy, wherever they went: Milan, Brescia, Venice...

Two visits by the kaiser to Trieste, in 1851 and 1856, were both politically negative, since in both circumstances the city proved cold and contemptuous towards the imperial couple. During the visit of 1851 the carriage, upon its departure, was accompanied not by a procession of jubilant subjects, but rather by small groups of children, some of whom booed. During the visit of 1856 the police had been alerted months in advance about the upcoming visit of the sovereign, because it was feared that there would be public demonstrations hostile to the monarch. A police report warned the Interior Ministry that a "festive reception to His Majesty was doubtful".

After his departure, the chief of police of Trieste, Franz von Hell, made it known that Franz Joseph was unhappy with the reception he had received. A booklet published shortly after by Baron Pascottini, a senior government official, reports the conditions of the time. He described a Trieste in which irredentists were everywhere, brazen though hidden, and that they had been able to influence the populace "to apathy, to silence, to non-intervention in public shows", when the emperor had come.

The awareness that Trieste was, for the most part, opposed to imperial rule remained rooted in the minds of the imperial authorities and was regularly reaffirmed until 1914. In 1859 the city again came under siege, despite its distance from the front, therefore purely for reasons of internal public order. In 1862 Franz Joseph, speaking with Marshal Thun, expressed his disdain for the political conditions of Trieste, while the Minister of War called it a "rebel's nest" (Rebellennest). In 1866, Trieste was placed under siege yet again.

A few years later, on August 5, 1869, General Karl Moering, Lieutenant of the "Littoral" (that is, Venezia Giulia) sent a report to Minister Giskra. He wrote that political and social life in Trieste was entirely dominated by a bloc which brought together almost all Italians and that it was against the Austrian government.

The Exhibition for the 500th anniversary of the so-called Austrian dedication of 1382, held in 1882, was a disaster for Austria's image. It is superfluous to recall that it was on that occasion that Guglielmo Oberdan planned to kill Franz Joseph and ended up sentenced to death. The sentence was met with the disapproval of the international community, which opposed the use of capital punishment for an act which was not committed, but only planned, which legally is a very different thing. But the Exhibition itself was unsuccessful. The solemn inauguration, in the presence of an archduke and various government authorities, was practically deserted, because the Triestines boycotted it.

The Irredentist Spirit

Still a few years before the world war, Habsburg officials and soldiers wrote in their official reports that Trieste's citizenry was predominantly irredentist, so they ordered measures consistent with their firm belief. For example, the brutal repression of the 1902 Lloyd strike, which saw three different cases of the military opening fire upon crowds of demonstrators (leaving at least 14 dead and an unknown number wounded) was due to the belief that the demonstrators were mostly irredentists. The government of Vienna had explicitly given orders "to make an example" out of them. The city was once again under siege and remained so from February to April. Military units were even brought in from places such as Klagenfurt and Ljubljana and three battleships from Pola. Vienna sent the executioner Josef Lang, the same who later hanged Cesare Battisti. It was on that occasion that Conrad von Hötzendorf, then military governor and later chief of the imperial staff, was convinced that irredentism was socially and culturally invincible, and that force needed be used in order to crush it.

The Austrian governor of those years, Leopold von Goess, formally and in writing advised against granting an Italian-speaking university in Trieste because the Volksitaliener (a term used by the imperial administration to designate those who were of Italian ethnicity, although legally subjects of the empire: Volksitalianer means "ethnic Italians") were unfavorable to Austrian rule. That is more or less what was also said by the Statthalter who replaced him, Konrad zu Hohenlohe-Schillingsfürst, who contrasted the loyalty of the Slovenes to the empire (who, in his opinion, should be helped) with the hostility of the Italians.

The lieutenant of Trieste, Baron Alfred Fries-Skene, appointed in February 1915, sent a secret report to the government in 1916 in which he reported both on the situation of the city and of the region during the war and in the pre-war period. The Die politische Verwaltung des Küstenlander in eineinhalb Kriegsjahern described a Trieste which even before 1915 was already pervaded by a strong irredentist spirit, with the municipal administration and all its apparatus, the schools and the largest city newspaper (Il Piccolo) all opposed to imperial authority.

The idea that the population of Trieste was made up mostly of irredentists is found not only in the books and memoirs of Italian nationalists, but also in the documents and official decisions of the imperial administration. The short list of sources mentioned above is far from complete.

See also:
Trieste, the Most Italian City
Making Trieste Slavic: An Overview
Making Trieste Slavic: Ethnic Cleansing and the Attempted Slavicization of Trieste

Monday, October 28, 2019

The Forced Slavicization of Clergy and Liturgy in Julian Venetia and Dalmatia by the Habsburgs (1866-1914)

The 6th century Basilica Eufrasiana in Parenzo, Istria

The forced Slavicization of Julian Venetia and Dalmatia, designed and carried out by the Habsburg Empire, notoriously developed in a variety of forms and ways, including judicial and police activities, deportations, mass immigration of Slavs from the interior, political propaganda, educational measures, etc. One of the instruments used by the Imperial Royal authorities to Slavicize these regions was the Slovenian and Croatian nationalist clergy, through whom they sought to achieve a massive Slavicization of the local Catholic Church in all its aspects, in contrast to the national and religious identity of the Italian Catholics who lived there.

I. Austro-Slavism

So-called “Austro-Slavism” was a widespread political current among Slovenes and Croats that was intended to achieve their national and nationalistic goals within the Habsburg regime and with its collaboration. Austro-Slavism was also popular among other Slavic peoples of the Empire, such as the Czechs. But what we will focus on is its presence among the South Slavs. The purpose of this movement was to promote Slovene and Croatian “trialism”, ultimately leading to the establishment of a third “kingdom”, alongside Austria and Hungary, which, in order to satisfy their aspirations, was to include Slovenes and Croats.

Many Slovene politicians advocated the creation of a new administrative unit, located within the Habsburg Empire, which was to include not only Carniola, southern Styria and southern Carinthia, but even lands in which Italians were the majority, such as the so-called Littoral (Julian Venetia), and therefore Trieste, Istria and the County of Gorizia and Gradisca, as well as Dalmatia. They even claimed Italian territories beyond the Isonzo, claiming that it was part of the Natisone Valley. The boundaries of this new administrative unit would have largely followed the idea fabricated in the middle of the nineteenth century by Peter Kozler, a Slovenian geographer of German origin who was favorable to the Habsburg Empire. In 1848 Kozler created the first map of “Slovenia”, in which he included many territories that did not even have a Slovene majority.

The hypothetical “third kingdom” would also have to include Croatia, Slavonia and Bosnia-Herzegovina. The fate of the Italians and Serbs in this new national construction would have been, according to the intentions of many Slovene and Croat nationalists, one of forced assimilation, and therefore Slovenization and Croatization. Thus they would have to find a modus vivendi with the central power and the Austrian ethnic group, and denationalize the Italian and Serb minorities within the new administrative structure.

These nationalists hoped to achieve their national reform projects by forging an alliance with certain sectors of the Imperial establishment, particularly the army. In fact, the Chief of Staff Conrad von Hötzendorf, a well-known Italophobe (he proposed attacking Italy twice: once after the Messina earthquake in 1908, and again during the Italo-Turkish War in 1911-12), sympathized with the position of the Austro-Slavists. This was also the case with the heir to the throne Franz Ferdinand who, not coincidentally, was on good terms with von Hötzendorf.

Austro-Slavism had the sympathy and support of significant sectors of the Austrian ruling class and was supported by the leading figures of Slavic nationalism, who were, symptomatically, all clergymen: J.J. Strossmayer, bishop of Dakovo; J. Dobrila, bishop of Parenzo and Pola; Janez Evangelist Krek, priest, professor of theology at the seminary of Ljubljana, leader and prominent ideologue of the Slovenska Ljudska Stranka (“Slovenian People's Party”), who supported the union of Slovenes, Croats and Serbs “under the scepter of the Habsburgs” and hoped to find allies within military circles in order to implement his national reform plans; Anton Mahnic, bishop of Veglia. [1]

In fact, the Slovenian and Croatian clergy represented the political leadership of the nationalist movement of these two peoples, because these two peoples had a very weak cultural awareness and lacked an aristocratic, bourgeois or intellectual ruling class which could represent them aside from the clergy. The alliance between the Habsburg Imperial power and Slovenian and Croatian nationalism served an anti-Italian purpose: the Habsburgs saw in Austro-Slavism a way to eliminate Italian influence and found their political representatives in the Slavic clergy.

The Concordat of 1855 between Vienna and Rome had granted to the Catholic Church a number of public functions which had been suppressed during the reign of Joseph II. The Church was assigned the registry office, the power of repression of crimes provided for by canon law, jurisdiction in matrimonial matters, authority over censorship and influence on the entire education sector. In exchange, however, the Church had to agree to reduce its own members to conditions of partial submission to the political power, because the clergy were considered de facto civil servants of the state, and the Emperor could exert extensive influence over ecclesiastical administration, particularly over the appointment of bishops. This made it possible to Slavicize the population at the hands of Slavic nationalist clergy.


II. The Slavicization of the Clergy

The Viennese government made sure to appoint only Slavic bishops in Julian Venetia, a region which was predominantly Italian, and brought in Slavic priests from the Balkans who encouraged immigration in hopes that the Slavs would eventually outnumber the native Italians.

Despite the fact that Italians were the majority of the population in Julian Venetia, even according to the Austrian censuses, and even though some areas were entirely Italian, all the bishops were chosen from among the Slavs by the express will of the government, with the sole exception of the bishop of Parenzo, but he only received the position because he submitted to the will of Vienna. The two leaders of Slavic nationalism in Julian Venetia were not laymen, but bishops: Bishop Dobrila, who was appointed bishop of Trieste (a city with an overwhelming Italian majority) and Bishop Vitovic in Veglia (an island which also had an overwhelming Italian majority). The Slavicization of the episcopal offices was followed by the Slavicization of the priests.

Attilio Tamaro wrote in ‘The Conditions of the Italians Under Austrian Rule in Julian Venetia and Dalmatia’ (Rome, G. Bertero, 1915):
“The priests are cooperating in this distorted system of ethnic and historical destruction of Julian Venetia and Dalmatia. The bishops of the provinces, except Parenzo, have blind devotion to the Austrian government, and all are Slavs, by the express will of Vienna. As such, through the episcopal seminaries and through their relations with the provincial interiors, they increased with great intensity the production of Slavic priests and, taking advantage of the small number of Italian priests that the provinces could produce, filled all the parishes with Slavs, even the Italian parishes.”
The cathedral chapter of Trieste was Slavicized too, because each time a seat was left vacant a Slav was appointed, usually one who was not even a native of Trieste. It so happens that in 1891, out of the 14 canons that constituted the chapter of the cathedral of St. Justus, just one, a simple honorary canon, was Italian, while the other thirteen were all Slavs, including eight who came from Carniola: this despite the fact that the city of Trieste had an overwhelming Italian majority, as shown by the same Austrian censuses. At the same date, there were 92 priests in the Diocese of Trieste originating from Carniola, 16 from Bohemia, 14 from Carsia, 6 from Styria, 5 from Dalmatia, 5 from Croatia, 2 from Moravia, 1 from Poland. In 1900 in the Diocese of Trieste-Capodistria there were 100 Italian priests and 189 Slavs. Most of these Slav priests were not even natives, but were brought in from the interior regions of Slovenia and Croatia in order to religiously Slavicize the region. In 1892 in the Diocese of Parenzo-Pola (which had a net Italian majority) there were 81 priests, among which 56 were Slavs, all from other regions, some even from very far away, since 11 of them were from Bohemia.

The situation was so serious that it even aroused protest in the municipalities. On December 29, 1886 the City Council of Trieste, after explaining in detail the situation regarding the local clergy, declared:
“The City Council recognizes in these actions a clear attempt to propagate Slavism, which is incompatible with the office of the Episcopal Curia, harmful to our schools, likewise to religion and to the public government, unfair to young Italians who wish to devote themselves to to the priestly profession, dangerous to the peace and well-being of the city, and a most serious offense to the national character of the country, to the feeling of its people and to its centuries-old civilization. The City Council very strongly protests against these actions, and in the meantime reserves the right, within the limited means of its powers, to instruct the most illustrious Signor Mayor to give a summary of this resolution to the Imperial Royal Government.”
The Istrian cities of Capodistria, Pirano, Isola, Muggia, Buie, Cittanova and Portole also joined in the protest of the Council of Trieste.


III. Instigating Hostility Against the Italians

The Imperial authorities also took care to stir up Slavic nationalism in order to propagate italophobia. An example of this is the work of the Imperial Royal Commissioner in Istria, Ritter von Födransperg. In September 1848 he sent to several Istrian parish priests an article of political propaganda in favour of Slavicizing Istria. Paradoxically, it was written in Italian: indeed, Italian was the language of culture in Julian Venetia and Dalmatia for centuries, next to Latin, so that even the Slavs themselves habitually used it (suffice to say that the newspaper of the Croatian nationalists in Dalmatia was written in Italian and was called “Il Nazionale”!).

The letter from the Commissioner stated:
“Very Reverend Signors,
I thought it well to send you an attached Italian translation of a fundamental article written on the Slavic nationality of Istria, a refutation of the many unfounded, insipid and other passionate articles, with which certain Italians attempt to suppress the Slavic nationality for the benefit of the Italian people.
I don't believe I would be troubling you if I asked you to disseminate this translation and to explain it in Slavic to the parishioners, in order that they may be instructed in their right to nationality so that they may assert themselves against the Italic people who, as guests on Istrian soil, arrogates to itself rights which the Slavs do not have. Hopefully in the near future Slavic Istria will justly obtain the true benefits of its nationality under the glorious banner of our most beloved constitutional Emperor, and be fraternally united to the other German and Slavic provinces, so there will be a loyal and strong support for His ancestral throne.
After taking a copy of said translation, gently push it forward with solicitude, and circulate it in the manner indicated below.
Pinguente, September 24, 1848
Födransperg, Imperial Royal Commissioner.”

This letter, an unambiguous form of propaganda in favor of pan-slavist nationalism, was written and signed by a senior imperial official and transmitted to a series of parish priests in Istria.
“To the very Reverend Signor Parish Priest of Sovignacco.
Received on the 19th and passed along on September 21, 1848 (Zimmermann, Parish Priest of Sovignacco).
Received and passed along on September 24, 1848 (Novak, Parish Priest of Verch).
Received on the 4th and passed along on October 5, 1848 (Podobnik, Parish Priest of Terviso).
Received on the 7th and forwarded on October 8, 1848 (Kodermann, Parish Priest of Valmovrasa).
Received on October 13, 1848 (Sacher, Parish Priest of Socerga).”

Many Slavic priests preached hatred and hostility towards the Italians, or otherwise discriminated against them in various ways, and political campaigns were waged against them. Slovene nationalism in Julian Venetia was built with the decisive support of the Slavic clergy. This was already happening in the crucial period of 1867/1870, during the phase that Slovene nationalists call “the Tabor era”. The tabors were large Slovenian rallies, in which the people were indoctrinated by nationalist orators, who often times were priests.

These rallies promoted many nationalistic and extremist demands: the establishment of a Habsburg Land of Slovenia, which however was to include the entire Julian March, including areas which had a vast Italian majority, such as Gorizia, Trieste, Venetian Istria and eastern Friuli; the Slovenian orators, including the priests, urged Slovenian women not to “defile” themselves by contracting marriages with Italians, thus clearly demonstrating a racist ideology; they went so far as to ask the Empire to arm the Slovenes against the Italians, as happened in a meeting in Collio Goriziano.

The idea of exterminating Italians from the region therefore was part of the Slovenian nationalist movement since the beginning and was expressed with great clarity, accompanied by racist theories based on the “myth of blood” and a belief in the existence of biological diversity between the two nations.

The Tabor Movement first developed in Julian Venetia in October 1868 and had the decisive support of the Slovenian clergy, the only ruling class of the Slovenes at the time, since they were the only Slovenes who had any kind of minimal intellectual education. The Empire in every way favored the presence of Slavic clergy in Julian Venetia, to serve as anti-Italian agents, to the point of habitually appointing Slavic bishops in cities and lands inhabited by an Italian majority. Even if there were differences in degree (greater caution was taken in Gorizia, but they were very aggressive in Trieste and Capodistria), it can be said that the Slovene clergy were the protagonists of the Tabor Movement's italophobia, both due to nationalism and due to loyalty to the Empire: in other words, the hostility towards Italians sprang both from aggressive nationalism and from compliance with imperial directives.

An example of what happened in the Slovenian tabors is offered by the first Istrian Tabor, organized on August 8, 1870 in Covedo (Capodistria): among the participants there were 24 religious. One of them, Lavrič, began by frantically telling the women not to marry Italians, but only to marry Slovenes. Another Slovenian priest, Raunik, delivered a rant in which he claimed, quite falsely, that the earliest inhabitants of Istria were Slavs, when in reality the Slavs only arrived there in the seventh century AD and did not make any settlement until the turn of the ninth century AD. Relying on such a totally erroneous historical claim, Raunik demanded that the Slavs should possess Istria. Then two other Slovenian priests took the floor, both parish priests. While various orators spoke, other Slavic priests in the crowd were trying to inflame the minds of the crowd by launching battle cries such as “Živijo, hocemo, nocemo”. Among the Slovene nationalists present was also Fr. Urban Golmajer, the priest who had destroyed all the Roman tombstones found in the local town of Rozzo during excavations (hostility towards ancient Rome was, naturally, part of the italophobia of Slovene and Croat nationalism), which aroused the indignation of the great German historian Theodor Mommsen: Golmajer was later a candidate for the local Diet on behalf of Slovene nationalists. The initiative of the tabor was an idea of Fr. Raunik and all expenses were covered by the Slavic clergy.

In Dalmatia the work of the Croatian clergy was, if possible, even worse. Its members went so far as openly inciting violence against Italians and taking part in physical assaults. For example, in Zara during the religious festival of Holy Easter Thursday, a Croatian nationalist, incited by anti-Italian speeches made by the Croatian friars and priests, fired multiple gunshots into a crowd of Italian faithful, causing numerous injuries. He was arrested by the Imperial police, but instead of being tried and convicted for this criminal aggression, he was immediately released. It is important to recall a similar case at the beginning of 1909: a group of peaceful Italian citizens from Zara were traveling on boat to Bibigne in order to go on a hike, but they could not even disembark because they were attacked by a crowd of Slavic peasants, incited by their priest, who attempted to stone them to death.


IV. The Slavicization of Italian Surnames

Parish priests from Istria and Dalmatia, who were mostly of Slavic ethnicity as a result of Austrian Imperial Royal policy, from 1866 onwards began a falsification of state records which would last for decades. Because in the Habsburg Empire, which is wrongly considered an example of good administration, the tasks of the registry office were still delegated to the parish priests (an old practice that had long since disappeared in other European countries), the Slavic priests were able to falsify baptism and wedding records, using Slavicized versions of the original Latin and Italian names and surnames.

Attilio Tamaro wrote about it in ‘The Conditions of the Italians Under Austrian Rule in Julian Venetia and Dalmatia’ (Rome, G. Bertero, 1915):
“The parish priests in Austria controlled the registry of state records. The Slavs, ignoring the protests of the inhabitants, were under the strong protection of the Government, with whom they were organically linked in this work: they Slavicized the surnames in birth records, marriage records and deaths records. The goal was to create statistical data and official documents that would seemingly substantiate the non-existence or gradual extinction of Italianity in the region, in order to effect Government policy.”
The work of forced Slavicization of Italian names and surnames by Slavic clergy, with the connivance of the Austrian authorities, is meticulously documented in a study by Alois Lasciac entitled Erinnerungen aus meiner Beamtencarrière in Österreich in den Jahren 1881-1918 (Trieste 1939). Doctor Alois Lasciac, of Austrian origin, was Vice President of the Imperial Royal Lieutenancy of Trieste and President of the Administrative Commission of the Margraviate (March) of Istria: therefore he was a high-ranking Austrian official in the Habsburg administration.

During his activity on the island of Lussinpiccolo he was able to testify that the local clergy, all of whom were Croats despite the population being majority Italian, falsified the names and surnames of the inhabitants. He devotes an entire chapter of his work precisely to that topic: Verstümmelung der Familiennamen in den Pfarrmatriken (Deformation of Surnames in the Records). Lasciac noted that the ancient use of Latin and Venetian forms to designate the names and surnames of the locals had been deliberately subverted by Croatian priests in the registry of births, marriages and deaths, Slavicizing the onomastics of the Italians in Lussinpiccolo. Lasciac, who was Imperial Royal Commissioner, required them to restore the original spellings, to which the Croatian nationalists responded by having recourse to the central government in Vienna. Lasciac concludes his narration of this story by saying that the intervention of the parliament in Vienna granted tolerance to this arbitrary alteration of names and surnames: the parish archives and state registries of the Empire were to be transformed into the Slavic form, in contrast to their centuries-old existence in Italian form.

There were numerous public denunciations against the actions of the Slavic clergy, who were carrying out their work with the open support of the Habsburg authorities. In 1877 Francesco Sbisà, an Istrian deputy of the Parliament in Vienna, presented a query denouncing the Slavicization of Italian names and surnames. In 1897 the Istrian linguist Matteo Bartoli mentioned that 20,000 names were changed, especially on the islands of Cherso, Lussino and Veglia, which were almost entirely inhabited by Italians. In 1905, during a meeting of the Istrian Diet, the Istrian deputy and attorney Pietro Ghersa, using extensive documentation derived from extensive research, denounced the government's conniving work of Slavicizing approximately 20,000 Italian names in the Istrian Province. It should be noted that the research of Bartoli and Ghersa took place independently of each other: the former dealt primarily with the islands of the Quarnaro, while the latter instead dealt with the Istrian peninsula. Moreover, these findings took place in two different periods. The figure of 20,000 Slavicized Italian surnames, reported by both men, must therefore be referring to two different areas and therefore represents only a fraction of the total amount of names that were Slavicized in the regions of Istria and the Quarnaro.

It should be noted that the data indicated above, regarding Italian surnames forcibly Slavicized in Istria, are largely incomplete for this region itself, since many others in Istria were modified without being restored to their original form. Additionally, these practices also occurred in other parts of Julian Venetia, in Dalmatia, and in the Trentino and South Tyrol (where they engaged in Germanization).


V. The Glagolitic Liturgy

The most visible work felt by a large part of the Italian population during this operation of Slavicization was the forced introduction of the Slavic liturgical rite in dioceses with an Italian majority.

A brief historical outline is necessary here. At the time of the evangelization of the Slavs, only three languages were approved by the Church of Rome for the liturgy: Hebrew (which was never used), Greek (used only in Catholic areas of Greek language) and Latin (practically universal).

In the Slavic areas of Dalmatia and Croatia the Latin Catholic missionaries not only had to compete with Byzantine missionaries, but also with the Slavic rite after the Croats converted to Catholicism and adhered to the Church of Rome. [2]

The Council of Spalato (925) reinforced the process of latinization of the area, trying to limit the use of Slavic in the liturgy as much as possible, because it seemed to be increasingly connected to the Byzantine tradition. There thus began to delineate a boundary, marked primarily by the circulation of liturgical books in the Latin alphabet and in the Cyrillic alphabet, which progressively marginalized the Glagolitic alphabet, which was designed as an alphabet for all Slavs.

The Patriarchate of Aquileia and all the dioceses of Julian Venetian have always belonged to the Latin rite. The so-called “Slavic rite” (an incorrect term: remember that a Slavic rite has never existed in the Catholic world, it is only found in Orthodoxy: ritus in the liturgical sense and language of use do not necessarily coincide, and are nevertheless distinct concepts) in Catholic areas saw secondary diversities in the various “officia” and “sacramenta”. These were, and are, local variations of the same liturgy, which used Latin as the official liturgical language, and remained in force until the Novus Ordo Missae of Paul VI. [3]

This of course did not prevent, in some areas, the use of rituals in a language other than Latin with a special dispensation, or rather tacit acceptance. The Slavic population of the Balkans was of very low culture, barely literate, so that even the clergy (the lower clergy, rural priests) sometimes did not know Latin: it was, to be blunt, a phenomenon induced by the ignorance of the clergy (I apologize, but that is the truth), which was tolerated by the episcopal authorities, who followed the Latin rite. In the case of the Croatian area this phenomenon is called glagolism, however it only existed in a very small part of the territories of Julian Venetia.

To assess the attitude of the Church of Rome towards this, it is sufficient to recall what happened in the nineteenth century, when Croatian nationalists demanded the reintroduction of glagolism (which had virtually disappeared) in the area of Julian Venetia. This was opposed, albeit for different reasons, by the Roman Curia, by the scholars of ecclesiastical history, and by the people themselves. The Papal Curia of Leo XIII and Pius X called upon the supporters of Glagolitic to return to the Latin rite; the popes mistrusted them and opposed their desire to “reintroduce” such rites into a land where it had never been practiced.

Historians—and it is enough to recall the priest Giovanni Pesante, the Istrian historian Bernardo Benussi, the illustrious scholar Francesco Salata and the Quarnerine professor Melchiade Budinich—demonstrated the scarcity of the Glagolitic phenomenon and its exceptionality, which in fact was merely tolerated alongside—and subordinated to—the use of Latin. In any case, the Glagolitic alphabet, at least before the twentieth century, was limited only to a few areas with a Croatian population, and only in certain periods. Suffice to say that the oldest “Old Slavic” document in Istria, the “Razvod Istarski”, was compiled by two Glagolitic priests in the sixteenth century, while the arrival of Slavic peoples beyond Mount Nevoso occurred between the sixth and eighth century AD.

All other writings of similar nature are of modest value, annotations (and little else) on the margins of missals, some inscriptions and graffiti in a few churches in the countryside, besides a few illegitimate wills and parish registers, only for very brief periods and in isolated villages of an extremely bounded range. To give an idea of how scarce the presence of the Glagolitic liturgy was, suffice to say that in 1650 the then very vast Diocese of Trieste saw in its entire diocese just two tiny parishes that practiced it, only in a small area around Pinguente (the two small villages of Draguch and Sovignaco). [4]

Despite the opposition of the Italian population of Julian Venetia and the distrust of the Vatican itself, the Roman liturgy in the Slavic language (instead of Latin) ended up being introduced under the converging pressure of the Habsburgs and the Slavic clergy. The Empire was interested in defending the Catholic liturgy in the Slavic language as a means of Slavicization even on the religious level. And thanks to its close and traditional friendship with the Vatican, exacerbated by the “Roman Question”, they were able to exert pressure on the pontiffs into allowing the reintroduction of a liturgical form that had been extinct since the beginning of the eighteenth century and which had existed only in a very few places.

The diffusion of the Slavic liturgy, which was accompanied also by sermons, songs, etc. in the Slovenian and Croatian languages, was used by these nationalists and enemies of Italy to forcibly Slavicize the Italian population. The Glagolitic cult was not only reintroduced, but was also imposed in areas where it had never been used and where the inhabitants were overwhelmingly majority Italian. The situation was particularly regrettable in Istria, a land in which this experiment was widely extended and where Italians were often both patriotic and Catholic.

The discontent was naturally very strong among the population, who often preferred to stay home rather than attend religious services in the Glagolitic rite. Many examples can be given. In 1888 a Slovenian priest from Carniola forcibly introduced the Slavonic rite into a church in Pola, where it had never been celebrated before, arousing the indignation of the Italians and even a good number of Slavs among the faithful. When the Latin rite was restored, Slavic nationalist newspapers unleashed a rampage against the bishop of Parenzo.

The island of Neresine was the scene of repeated attempts at religious Slavicization, in contrast to Catholic orthodoxy, in contrast to the existing customs, and contrary to the expressed will of the inhabitants. A Croatian friar named Smolje demanded to celebrate mass in Glagolitic in the parish church of Neresine on September 22, 1895, resulting in all the parishioners abandoning the ceremony and forming a serious insurrection. This same priest demanded to impart baptism in Croatian, so he could Slavicize the names, and refused to do so in Latin even when directly requested by the child's father. The Superior of the Franciscan convent of Neresine, Luciano Lettich, demanded to impose the Croatian language at the burial ceremony of the spouses Antonio and Nicolina Sigovich, causing several of the relatives and other faithful to voluntary abandon the ceremony. Another episode of the many we could cite, happened on the second Sunday of April in 1906, a Croatian friar insisted on celebrating the Glagolitic rite in the church of San Francesco in Cherso, an island of purely Italian history and culture. The faithful, in the face of this celebration, which seemed to them like nationalistic propaganda, left the religious building en masse, leaving only the Croatian friar.

After these and other similar events, the inhabitants of Neresine — and other areas threatened with forced Slavicization (Ossero, Cherso, Lussinpiccolo) — appealed unsuccessfully to the bishop of Veglia, Anton Mahnich. After their appeals were rejected by the Slavic prelate, they decided to appeal directly to Rome. The severity of these reported events caused Pius X to intervene, removing Mahnic from his office as bishop. Even after this, the Vatican had to again directly intervene to denounce and condemn both the liturgical abuse of the use of the Glagolitic rite, as well as the support the Slavic priests were giving to Slovenian and Croatian nationalism, as happened for example on June 17, 1905, when the Cardinal Secretary of State, by order of Pope Pius X, sent a stern letter to the Minister General of the Franciscan Friars Minor with strict orders to energetically intervene and put an end to the behavior of Croatian Franciscans in Dalmatia who were seeking to introduce Croatian into the liturgy.

The Catholic Church itself did not at all welcome the pretenses of the Slovenian and Croatian nationalists and their attempts to restore the Glagolitic rite, both for strict liturgical reasons, and because often times such a request came from pan-slavists with an overt sympathy for Eastern Orthodoxy. The Slavic nationalist movements in Slovenia and Croatia were able to count on funding coming from very distant regions all over the Habsburg Empire and even from Russia itself, and also from supposedly Catholic clergymen who cared more about their nationality than about the faith they professed. An example, certainly extreme but still significant, was a small local schism, which involved the village of Ricmanje (San Giuseppe della Chiusa) in the Diocese of Trieste and Capodistria. The local priest, Monsignor Požar, asked permission to introduce the Glagolitic missal. His request having been rejected, the situation ended up turning into a real schism, with the defection of Ricmanje to Eastern Orthodoxy.

In conclusion and in summary, glagolism resurfaced after 1848 and was even admitted into Italian dioceses where the liturgical innovation was imposed by Slavic nationalists who held ecclesiastical offices, which deeply hurt both the national and religious feelings of Italian Catholics, who were forced to embrace foreign rites of dubious conformity with Catholicism.


VI. Habsburg Caesaropapism: Oppression of the Church and Hostility Towards Italy

The ecclesiastical policy of the Habsburg Empire was well summarized by Ugo Mioni, a priest, historian and journalist born in Trieste in 1870:
“The Habsburgs are always equal. Caesaropapism is inherent to them; instead of occupying themselves with the vital interests of their states, they always have to bother the Church. They appear as Catholics externally, but try to insert themselves into the Church's affairs; they pose as guardians, but want to keep the Church chained and yoked to the wagon of the State. It doesn't matter if the chains are made of gold; they are still chains, and always weigh much more than those of iron. It is better to have an open persecution than to have caesaropapism and a state protection which seeks to exercise power over the Church.” [5]
This same judgment had already been articulated by, among others, Geremia Bonomelli, Bishop of Cremona, who had this to say about the Habsburgs' ecclesiastical policy: “They were guards who imposed gold chains; gold chains, it is true, but they were chains nonetheless.”

In essence, the Habsburg Empire claimed to be the “protector” of the Church. In this way, however, they were able to subordinate certain ecclesiastical institutions to the will and impositions of their political power. Emperor Joseph II, who went so far as to dictate how many candles were to be lit in churches, and who gave his name to the heretical caesaropapistic religious policy known as Josephism, is the most well-known representative of the habitual policy of Habsburg Vienna. During the Risorgimento, the Habsburg authorities did not hesitate at all to persecute and murder Italian clergy because they were patriots. According to the same imperial officials, the clergy of Lombardy-Venetia had patriotic ideas. For example, Baron von Aichelberg wrote:
“Day by day, almost hour by hour, the revolution was gaining ground in all provinces... The priests behaved worse than the others, demonstrating with incredible insolence that they were at the head of the revolutionary movement: they are most responsible for the incitement and influence on the lower classes, especially the peasantry. … The rich are like beggars, the bishop just as well is like the most horrible monkey, all carry the Italian cockade.” [6]
For this reason, many priests were murdered and imprisoned during the repression of Radetzky. The most famous case (not the only one!) was that of Don Enrico Tazzoli, who was tortured by the imperial police, ritually deconsecrated (on special order of Pius IX, in response to pressure from the Habsburg imperial government, which was done by scraping away the skin on his fingers), hanged in Belfiore and finally buried in unconsecrated ground. During the First World War, the Empire did not hesitate to deport many priests from Trentino to concentration camps (lager), while Monsignor Celestino Endrici, the Archbishop of Trento, was imprisoned in the fortress of Heiligenkreuz.

In addition to these acts of persecution, Habsburg ecclesiastical policy was usually hostile to Italians since 1848. The Emperor saw to it that in the episcopal sees in Julian Venetia, a region with an Italian majority, Slavic bishops were appointed, all of them ardent nationalists who invited a large number of Slovenian and Croatian priests from the hinterland in order to Slavicize the local churches. These bishops imposed radical changes in the local liturgy, adopting “Glagolitic”, which involved the use of Church Slavonic, and sometimes even advocating such decisively pro-Orthodox ideas such as schism from Rome: this, however, did nothing to alter Imperial policy. In Trentino-Alto Adige, the supposedly “Catholic” Empire permitted the activity of pan-Germanist associations which had anti-Catholic and Protestant tendencies (such as the Tiroler Volksbund), causing the reaction and the indignation of the Bishop of Trento, Celestine Endrici, and also the Catholic politicians of Trentino, including Alcide De Gasperi, who condemned the appearance of such anti-Italian and anti-Catholic policies (for example, an editorial in the Voce cattolica on February 1, 1906 said: “we must defend ourselves against those who undermine the Italian character of our land”).

In fact, many Slavs and many South Tyroleans believed there was a strong connection between Italianity and Catholicism in light of historical ties (Catholicism is inconceivable without Roman heritage), therefore hostility towards Italy as a nation also took on the aspect of hostility towards the Church of Rome.

The anti-Italian alliance between the Habsburg Imperial power and the Yugoslav nationalists manifested itself most clearly in the forced Slavicization of institutions, rites, and activities of the Catholic Church in Julian Venetia and Dalmatia, resulting in a very serious situation in which Catholic ecclesiastical institutions were manipulated and used by the Habsburg state for its own ends.


References

1. cf. Moritsch A., “Der Austroslawismus. Ein verfrühtes Konzeptzur politischen Neugestaltung Mitteleuropas”, Vienna 1996.

2. M. Lacko, “I Concili di Spalato e la liturgia slava”, in A. Matanić (editor), Vita religiosa, morale e sociale ed i concili di Split (Spalato) dei sec. X-XI. Atti del Symposium internazionale di storia ecclesiastica, Split, 26-30 settembre 1978, Padua 1982, pp. 443-482.

3. Jedin (editor), Storia della Chiesa, volume IV, 1978; M. Uhlirz, Jahrbücher des deutschen reiches unter Otto II und Otto III, Berlin 1954; H. Ludat, Slaven und Deutsche im Mittelalter, Cologne-Vienna 1982; M. Gallina, Potere e società a Bisanzio, Turin 1995, pp. 167-1740.

4. cf. Vittorio Fragiacomo, “La liturgia glagolitica in Istria”, Pagine Istriane, gennaio-giugno 1986, Rivista trimestrale di cultura fondata a Capodistria nel 1903 (Genova, 1986), p. 49-51; J. Martinic, “Glagolitische Gesànge Mitteldalmatiens”, Regensburg 1981.

5. Ugo Mioni, Pio VI: il pellegrino apostolico e il suo tempo, Alba, Pia Societa San Paolo, 1933, p. 60.

6. Sked, Le armate, cit., pp. 116-117.

Thursday, September 12, 2019

The Revisionist Statements Made by Croatian President Grabar-Kitarović

(Full article: Diplomatic Crisis Between Italy and Croatia: New Provocations, Revisionism and Hypocrisy)
Tweet by Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović, President of Croatia
In addition to the diplomatic note issued by the Croatian Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs in protest against the erection of a statue in Trieste dedicated to Italian poet Gabriele D'Annunzio, on September 12th, 2019 the President of Croatia Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović posted the following highly provocative message on Twitter:
“Rijeka [Fiume] was and remains a proud part of the Croatian Fatherland, and the erection of a monument in Trieste extolling irredentism and occupation is unacceptable.”
(“Rijeka je bila i ostaje ponosni dio hrvatske Domovine, a podizanje spomenika u Trstu kojim se veliča iredentizam i okupacija su neprihvatljivi.”)
In the first place, the statue is not a monument to irredentism, nor to any imagined occupation. As was already pointed out by the communal assessor Giorgio Rossi, the statue depicts that of a reflective if not melancholic D'Annunzio—not that of a heroic soldier or man of action. The statue has nothing to do with ideology nor with territorial aspirations; it is a harmless monument to one of Italy's most celebrated poets of the last two centuries.

In the second place, Fiume was never “a proud part of the Croatian Fatherland”. This is nothing more than shameful historical revisionism which seeks to justify the Yugoslav occupation and annexation following World War II, and the tearing away of this ancient Italian city from Italy. In her attempt to indite and accuse Italy, with all of her faux outrage, the Croatian president hypocritically sustains Croatia's own imperialist territorial ambitions and incites provocations against Italy.

It would be good for President Grabar-Kitarović if she would first consult historical records and census data before making any pronouncements. In 1918 Fiume and its environs counted 28,911 Italians (62.5%) and 9,092 Croats (19.6%); in the city itself there were 14,194 Italians (83.3%) and only 2,094 Croats (12.3%).

Fiume traces its origins back to the Romans, who founded the original city with the name Tarsatica. Throughout the Middle Ages, the citizens clung to their Roman roots, continuing to adhere to Roman law and institutions, and continuing to speak the Latin language. The city later became a free commune, following in the same footsteps as Trieste and the other medieval Italian communes.

Since the 15th century the official language of Fiume was Italian; the city's municipal statutes were drawn up in Latin and Italian; and in order to partake in the social, commercial and cultural life of the city, one had to speak Italian. All the archives and historical documents of Fiume are written in Latin and Italian; not a single document was ever written in Croatian or any other language.

When in 1776 Maria Theresa of Austria attempted to incorporate Fiume into the Kingdom of Hungary, through Croatia, she was met with protests by the inhabitants of Fiume, so that only three years later, in 1779, Fiume was proclaimed a corpus separatum or separate body of the Crown of St. Stephen, entirely separate from Croatia. In 1848 Croatian soldiers under Josip Jelacic invaded Fiume; the ensuing 19-year military occupation was strongly opposed by the native inhabitants.

Jelacic himself promised to respect the Italian tongue of Fiume. However, when an attempt was made to introduce Croatian into schools, the city of Fiume protested, sending an address to Emperor Franz Joseph on January 31st, 1861:
“...it would be superfluous to demonstrate what is universally known, that is, that the Italian language has always been spoken since Fiume existed, which is the country's own language, being the language of school, court, commerce, every public and private discourse, and one of the principal elements to which can be attributed the degree of her culture and progress, both commercial and industrial.”
(“...sarebbe superfluo dimostrare ciò che é universalmente noto, esser cioè l'idioma italiano da secoli in Fiume la lingua della scuola, del foro, del commercio, di ogni pubblico e privato convegno; insomma essere la lingua del paese, ed uno dei principali veicoli a cui attribuire devesi il grado di sua cultura e del suo progresso commerciale e industriale.”)
In 1867, following the Austro-Hungarian Compromise, the city's autonomy was restored and the Croats evacuated. In 1918, with the collapse of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, Fiume voted in favor of union with Italy, and afterwards welcomed D'Annunzio's entry into the city with celebrations.

Residents of Fiume cheering D'Annunzio
and his Legionaries, September 1919
These are unassailable facts of history. A three-year incorporation into the Kingdom of Hungary and an unpopular 19-year military occupation of an Italian city: that was the grand sum of Croatia's connection to Fiume prior to its annexation to Communist Yugoslavia after World War II.

To suggest that Fiume was “a proud part of the Croatian Fatherland”, not only in light of its ancient history but especially in light of all that occurred there just a few decades ago – massacres, thefts, ethnic cleansing – is one of the most dishonest, appalling, insulting and provocative statements issued by a head of state in recent memory.

This sort of historical revisionism and blatant disregard for historical facts on the part of Croatian leaders is nothing new, however. One only needs to recall the incident of 2011, when former Croatian president Stjepan Mesić went to China to inaugurate a museum dedicated to the “Croatian explorer” Marco Polo, sparking protest and outrage in Italy. Just a few months later, Croatia then went to war against the United Kingdom after Croatian tourist bosses and local authorities laid claim to King Arthur, proclaiming him too a “Croat”.

Nonetheless, the statement made today by the current President of Croatia is one of the most shocking and offensive to come out of the modern Croatian state. Above all it is an insult to the Fiumani, that is the Italians of Fiume, who are the historical soul of the city, spanning some two millennia; theirs was the language of the city, theirs was the culture, theirs were the institutions, the traditions, the toponyms, the squares, the streets, the stones, the very foundations; indeed, Fiume was and rightfully remains their city.

To read more about the recent controversies, see the full article: Diplomatic Crisis Between Italy and Croatia: New Provocations, Revisionism and Hypocrisy

See also:

The Italian Language Returning to Fiume?
Response to Croatian Statements on Bilingualism in Fiume
Castua Massacre: Exhumations Completed After 73 Years
Quotes on the Italianity of Fiume
Statement of Alexander Oldrini on Fiume
Statement of Ernest Papich on Fiume
Statement of Fiorello La Guardia on Fiume
Statement of Lawrence Yates Sherman on Fiume
Statement of Leopold Vaccaro on Fiume
Statement of S. A. Cotillo on Fiume
Statements of Gino Speranza on Istria, Fiume and Dalmatia
Statements of Lawrence Yates Sherman on the Treaty of London

Diplomatic Crisis Between Italy and Croatia: New Provocations, Revisionism and Hypocrisy

Gabriele D'Annunzio
(Written on September 12, 2019; updated on September 13, 2019.)

As we speak, a new diplomatic crisis is unfolding between Italy and Croatia.

The issue revolves around the inauguration of a new statue in Trieste dedicated to Gabriele D'Annunzio, an Italian poet and soldier of the First World War. In addition to issuing a diplomatic protest condemning the statue, provocative statements of a historical revisionist nature were also posted by the Croatian president Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović on Twitter.

Historical Context

Without going back to the world wars or to the conflicts of the 19th century, which have been – and perhaps always will be – enormous strains on Italian-Croatian relations, not only between the States but between the peoples themselves, the more immediate causes of this current crisis can be traced back to March 24th 2016, when it was announced that Fiume-Rijeka had been chosen to be the European Capital of Culture in 2020 by the European Union.

Following this announcement, in 2017 the Lista per Fiume, a regional political party in Croatia, proposed a bill to reintroduce bilingual Croatian-Italian signs in the city of Fiume. On November 4, 2017 a round table discussion dedicated to the subject was held in Fiume, attended by both Italian and Croatian representatives.

Certain Croatian politicians seized the opportunity to depict Fiume as a “multicultural city” with “a diverse history”, which, to say the least, was a gross historical inaccuracy, not to mention insulting to the local Italian community, which once formed a majority in this city until the period between 1945 and 1954, when 90% of Fiume's population was lost as a result of the forced exile of 54,000 Italians, after the city had been occupied and then annexed by the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia.

The tendency of Croatian politicians to depict Fiume as a multicultural city was seen by some as an attempt to downplay the city's Italian past. Various discussions, debates and polemics then followed among the politicians in Croatia, among members and representatives of Fiume's Italian community, as well as among social media and mass media outlets.

During that same month the silence was finally broken concerning the massacre of Italians at Castua by the Yugoslav Secret Police in May 1945 – part of the Foibe Massacres. In July 2018, after 73 years, the excavation of the foiba of Castua was finally completed, unearthing the remains of seven victims from the 3 meter deep pit. The remains were subsequently delivered to the Italian Consulate in Fiume, before being sent to Italy in October 2018, where a ceremony was held in Udine.

Meanwhile, in September 2018, the proposal in favor of restoring visual bilingualism had been finally approved. For the Italians, long-awaited vindication and reconciliation seemed to be in the air.

Then, in February 2019, Antonio Tajani, President of the European Parliament, became the target of an international smear campaign when, in his ceremonial speech at Basovizza, near Trieste, in commemoration of the victims of the Foibe Massacres and the Julian-Dalmatian Exodus, he said:
Long live Trieste, long live Italian Istria, long live Italian Dalmatia, long live the Italian exiles, long live the heirs of the Italian exiles!
(“Viva Trieste, viva l'Istria italiana, viva la Dalmazia italiana, viva gli esuli italiani, viva gli eredi degli esuli italiani!”)
The Croatian and Slovenian press, together with several politicians, including the prime ministers, organized a media campaign – which was immediately picked up by the international press – depicting Tajani as a “Fascist”, misrepresenting his words as “declarations of territorial aspirations”, accusing him of “falsifying history” and demanding his resignation from the European Parliament.

The politicians of the two Balkan countries then proceeded to justify the violence and crimes committed by the Yugoslavs at the end of World War II, blaming it on Fascism and referring to the genocide of Italians merely as a “reaction” to Italian crimes – a false Communist narrative which has been frequently reiterated so as to justify the ethnic cleansing of Italians from their own homeland.

Current Crisis: The Statue of D'Annunzio

Entirely unrelated to those events – but which has now become part of the same matrix of polemics – is the statue of Gabriele D'Annunzio, unveiled today in Trieste.

Gabriele D'Annunzio was an Italian poet, journalist, playwright and soldier. Already famous and widely popular as a poet, he became even more popular for his exploits during World War I, particularly his Flight Over Vienna and the Buccari Mockery. Immediately after the war he gained greater notoriety on the international stage when he marched on Fiume.

In 1918 the city of Fiume had voted and declared itself for union with Italy, which however was firmly opposed by Great Britain and France. In 1919 D'Annunzio led a group of Italian legionaries into Fiume to oppose the Franco-British occupation and to prevent the city from potentially falling into the hands of the nascent Kingdom of Yugoslavia. There he established the Italian Regency of Carnaro, a small Italian city-state which survived until late 1920. In 1924 Fiume was formally united with Italy.

Statue dedicated to Gabriele D'Annunzio
Inaugurated Sept. 12th, 2019 in Trieste
D'Annunzio was considered a fairly non-controversial figure in Italy and was near universally revered – indeed there are schools and streets named after him all throughout Italy – until earlier this year, when it was decided to dedicate a statue to him in Trieste; then, over night, D'Annunzio suddenly became a villain according to the polemics of the political Left, who denounced D'Annunzio as a “Fascist” and opposed the erection of the statue.

Croatia too has now decided to join the fray. On September 12th, 2019 the Croatian Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs issued a diplomatic protest condemning the statue, inexplicably referring to D'Annunzio's defense of Fiume as an “occupation” and even going so far as to imply that the monument is “Fascist”. The diplomatic note delivered to the Italian embassy in Zagreb reads:
“The Republic of Croatia strongly condemns the unveiling of the monument in Trieste, on the exact date of the 100th anniversary of the occupation of Fiume. Although it is a decision of local and not state authorities, it not only undermines the excellent neighborly and friendly relations between the two countries, but, moreover, it pays tribute to an ideology which is completely at odds with European values.”
(“La Repubblica di Croazia condanna fermamente la scoperta del monumento a Trieste proprio nel centenario dell’occupazione di Fiume. Nonostante si tratti di una decisione delle autorità locali e non di quelli statali, essa va a minare gli ottimi rapporti di vicinato e d’amicizia tra i due Paesi e, inoltre, rende omaggio a un’ideologia completamente in contrasto con i valori europei.”)
Evidently, the leaders in Zagreb think that Fiume was a Croatian city. They speak of an “occupation”, as if it were a Croatian city whose sovereignty had been violated and trampled upon by foreign invaders, whereas, in reality, Fiume was predominantly inhabited by an Italian population, which, in the face of a crumbling Austro-Hungarian Empire (formally dissolved on Oct. 31, 1918), had exercised its right to self-determination by voting in favor of union with Italy. The only occupiers at that time were the French, British and American troops who attempted to impede the wishes of the Italian city.

It should also be noted that under D'Annunzio's Regency there were no persecutions, no criminal acts to speak of; the Croatian minority was not harmed. On the other hand, do we really need to remind Croatia once again of what occurred under the Yugoslavs during and after their invasion of 1945? If ever there was a true and proper occupation in the history of Fiume, it was the Yugoslav occupation at the end of World War II, which saw massacres, persecutions, forced annexation and the near total ethnic cleansing of an entire city.

Furthermore, the note falsely characterizes the statue as a “tribute to Fascism”, which is not only false but preposterous and borders on the delirious. Gabriele D'Annunzio had achieved worldwide fame and respect as a poet and man of culture long before Fascism existed. At any rate, D'Annunzio's later political opinions do not negate his previous literary and intellectual merits, just as it does not negate the merits and contributions of other great men, such as Guglielmo Marconi, Enrico Fermi and Nobel Prize-winner Luigi Pirandello – all of whom held pro-Fascist sentiments.

The statue itself depicts a reflective Gabriele D'Annunzio, contently sitting on a bench and reading a book. More importantly, despite his sympathies for the movement, D'Annunzio in fact was never a member of the Fascist Party. Meanwhile, those responsible for the statue's inauguration are very far from being Fascists: Roberto Dipiazza, the mayor of Trieste, is centre-right and is politically closer to the centre-left than to the Far Right. In short, there is nothing Fascist nor ideological about the monument.

Moreover, if we are to speak about tributes to ideology, then what are we to say of the numerous statues in Croatia dedicated to Josip Broz Tito, who was responsible for massacres, genocides and other heinous crimes against German and Italian civilians, not to mention Slavic clergy? Why do we not speak of the dozens of streets and squares dedicated to him throughout Croatia? In August 2017 Google data showed that there were no less than 276 squares, streets and waterfronts named after the Communist dictator in the former Yugoslav states, 35 of which are located in Croatia.

The same Yugoslav Communist dictator who was responsible for the massacre of at least 652 Italians in Fiume, today has monuments, streets and squares named in his honor throughout Croatia. And yet the same Croatian government which permits this, has the audacity to protest against the dedication of statue to a soldier-poet whose only “crime” was entering that same Italian city which, in accordance with the principle of self-determination, had proclaimed itself united to Italy.

The Croatian government's supreme hypocrisy and total obliviousness of itself is revealed and put on display once again. This is a nation which still has yet to face the horrific crimes of its recent past – which, among other things, includes ethnic cleansing, genocide, mass theft of private property and lands, destruction of monuments and eradication of Italian symbols, in addition to a grotesque rewriting of history and usurpation of cultural heritage – previously met with decades of denial or silence, but today met with justification and refusal to offer compensation.

This small, former Communist country – which only became a country 28 years ago – has the arrogance to protest and accuse Italy of provocations, solely for dedicating a statue to its national poet. When and if the Republic of Croatia finally decides to eliminate all the monuments to its former Communist dictator, changes the names of all the streets and squares dedicated to him, and at last compensates the ignored victims of Istria, Dalmatia and the Quarnaro, perhaps then Croatia will earn the right to protest. Until then, they have no right to lecture others.

Revisionist Statements of the Croatian President


In addition to the diplomatic note, on September 12th, 2019 the President of Croatia Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović posted the following highly provocative message on Twitter:
“Rijeka [Fiume] was and remains a proud part of the Croatian Fatherland, and the erection of a monument in Trieste extolling irredentism and occupation is unacceptable.”
(“Rijeka je bila i ostaje ponosni dio hrvatske Domovine, a podizanje spomenika u Trstu kojim se veliča iredentizam i okupacija su neprihvatljivi.”)
In the first place, the statue is not a monument to irredentism, nor to any imagined occupation. As was already pointed out by the communal assessor Giorgio Rossi, the statue depicts that of a reflective if not melancholic D'Annunzio—not that of a heroic soldier or man of action. The statue has nothing to do with ideology nor with territorial aspirations; it is a harmless monument to one of Italy's most celebrated poets of the last two centuries.

In the second place, Fiume was never “a proud part of the Croatian Fatherland”. This is nothing more than shameful historical revisionism which seeks to justify the Yugoslav occupation and annexation following World War II, and the tearing away of this ancient Italian city from Italy. In her attempt to indite and accuse Italy, with all of her faux outrage, the Croatian president hypocritically sustains Croatia's own imperialist territorial ambitions and incites provocations against Italy.

It would be good for President Grabar-Kitarović if she would first consult historical records and census data before making any pronouncements. In 1918 Fiume and its environs counted 28,911 Italians (62.5%) and 9,092 Croats (19.6%); in the city itself there were 14,194 Italians (83.3%) and only 2,094 Croats (12.3%).

Fiume traces its origins back to the Romans, who founded the original city with the name Tarsatica. Throughout the Middle Ages, the citizens clung to their Roman roots, continuing to adhere to Roman law and institutions, and continuing to speak the Latin language. The city later became a free commune, following in the same footsteps as Trieste and the other medieval Italian communes.

Since the 15th century the official language of Fiume was Italian; the city's municipal statutes were drawn up in Latin and Italian; and in order to partake in the social, commercial and cultural life of the city, one had to speak Italian. All the archives and historical documents of Fiume are written in Latin and Italian; not a single document was ever written in Croatian or any other language.

When in 1776 Maria Theresa of Austria attempted to incorporate Fiume into the Kingdom of Hungary, through Croatia, she was met with protests by the inhabitants of Fiume, so that only three years later, in 1779, Fiume was proclaimed a corpus separatum or separate body of the Crown of St. Stephen, entirely separate from Croatia. In 1848 Croatian soldiers under Josip Jelacic invaded Fiume; the ensuing 19-year military occupation was strongly opposed by the native inhabitants.

Jelacic himself promised to respect the Italian tongue of Fiume. However, when an attempt was made to introduce Croatian into schools, the city of Fiume protested, sending an address to Emperor Franz Joseph on January 31st, 1861:
“...it would be superfluous to demonstrate what is universally known, that is, that the Italian language has always been spoken since Fiume existed, which is the country's own language, being the language of school, court, commerce, every public and private discourse, and one of the principal elements to which can be attributed the degree of her culture and progress, both commercial and industrial.”
(“...sarebbe superfluo dimostrare ciò che é universalmente noto, esser cioè l'idioma italiano da secoli in Fiume la lingua della scuola, del foro, del commercio, di ogni pubblico e privato convegno; insomma essere la lingua del paese, ed uno dei principali veicoli a cui attribuire devesi il grado di sua cultura e del suo progresso commerciale e industriale.”)
In 1867, following the Austro-Hungarian Compromise, the city's autonomy was restored and the Croats evacuated. In 1918, with the collapse of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, Fiume voted in favor of union with Italy, and afterwards welcomed D'Annunzio's entry into the city with celebrations.

Residents of Fiume cheering D'Annunzio
and his Legionaries, September 1919
These are unassailable facts of history. A three-year incorporation into the Kingdom of Hungary and an unpopular 19-year military occupation of an Italian city: that was the grand sum of Croatia's connection to Fiume prior to its annexation to Communist Yugoslavia after World War II.

To suggest that Fiume was “a proud part of the Croatian Fatherland”, not only in light of its ancient history but especially in light of all that occurred there just a few decades ago – massacres, thefts, ethnic cleansing – is one of the most dishonest, appalling, insulting and provocative statements issued by a head of state in recent memory.

This sort of historical revisionism and blatant disregard for historical facts on the part of Croatian leaders is nothing new, however. One only needs to recall the incident of 2011, when former Croatian president Stjepan Mesić went to China to inaugurate a museum dedicated to the “Croatian explorer” Marco Polo, sparking protest and outrage in Italy. Just a few months later, Croatia then went to war against the United Kingdom after Croatian tourist bosses and local authorities laid claim to King Arthur, proclaiming him too a “Croat”.

Nonetheless, the statement made today by the current President of Croatia is one of the most shocking and offensive to come out of the modern Croatian state. Above all it is an insult to the Fiumani, that is the Italians of Fiume, who are the historical soul of the city, spanning some two millennia; theirs was the language of the city, theirs was the culture, theirs were the institutions, the traditions, the toponyms, the squares, the streets, the stones, the very foundations; indeed, Fiume was and rightfully remains their city.

Other Controversies

Governor's Palace, Fiume
September 12th, 2019
While all this was taking place, on the early morning of September 12th, 2019, in the city of Fiume-Rijeka, a group of unknown individuals hung a large flag of the old Kingdom of Italy over a gate outside the former Governor's Palace (today a museum). Croatian police immediately removed the flag. Four Italians were arrested and are being criminally charged with “disturbing the peace”, simply for posting a flag.

According to Cristiano Puglisi of “Il Giornale”, responsibility was assumed by a mysterious patriotic group called “Gli Idraulici”. Several Croatian media outlets falsely labeled the group a “Neo-Fascist” front, despite the group having no ties to Fascist ideology.

The same media outlets exaggerated the episode to absurd heights, depicting the raising of the old royal Italian banner as a great “scandal” and “Fascist provocation”, and stoking fear in the minds of its Croatian readers to such an extent that they began to entertain delirious conspiracy theories in the comments sections anticipating an Italian invasion and declaration of war against Croatia.

In reality, the act was done by a small group of patriots with no connection to the current Italian government nor to Fascism. “Il Talebano”, an Italian identitarian group close to “Gli Idraulici”, stated on its website:
“Today, on the 100th anniversary of the Fiume Enterprise [impresa di Fiume], we wanted to show that now just as then some Italians do not surrender. We wanted to show that there are still Italians who are not willing to accept being represented by a puppet government that does not defend national interests. By a government that instead of defending its borders and its citizens opens its doors to invaders. By a government of men and women who do not know beauty, courage, daring, dignity. Today a group of Italians raised the tricolor outside the Governor's Palace of Fiume.”
(“Oggi, nel centenario dell’impresa di Fiume, abbiamo voluto dimostrare che ora come allora alcuni Italiani non si arrendono. Abbiamo voluto dimostrare che esistono ancora italiani che non sono disposti ad accettare di essere rappresentati da un governo fantoccio che non difende gli interessi nazionali. Da un governo che anziché difendere i propri confini e i propri cittadini spalanca le porte agli invasori. Da un governo di uomini e donne che non conoscono bellezza, coraggio, audacia, dignità. Oggi un gruppo di Italiani ha issato il tricolore sulla facciata del Palazzo del Governatorato di Fiume.”)
In an unrelated controversy earlier this year, in June 2019, three Italian youths filmed themselves draping an Italian flag over Tersatto Castle (Castello di Tersatto), just outside the city of Fiume. They later clarified on their Facebook page:
“It was not a hostile act towards the Croats, but a curious, romantic, adventurous and fascinating enterprise. ... As an Italian I feel for Italian Fiume, it is as if a part of the family has been torn from us. We will no longer bow our heads before historical injustices!”
(“Non un atto ostile nei confronti dei croati, ma un impresa curiosa, romantica, avventurosa e affascinante. ... Da italiano sento Fiume italiana è come se una parte della famiglia ci fosse stata strappata. Non abbasseremo più la testa davanti alle ingiustizie storiche!”)
Italian flag over Tersatto Castle near Fiume, June 2019
The action was harshly condemned by the Croatian mayor Vojko Obersnel, who called it a “cowardly act” and declared: “Fiume is a Croatian city and will remain so forever.” The mayor is also less than enthusiastic about the recent decision to restore bilingual signs in the city, but was willing to compromise for the sake of improving Croatia's image before the international community.

With his long history of opposition to the Italians, it comes as no surprise that the same mayor Obersnel issued a statement today denouncing the statue of D'Annunzio in Trieste, accusing the poet of “imposing Italian power in Fiume” and of committing “a Holocaust of monstrosities”. Earlier today he also participated in the inauguration of a new museum in Fiume dedicated to highlighting the supposed “crimes” of D'Annunzio.

The lifelong socialist mayor – who last year spent 5.4 € million in public funds to refurbish the former yacht of Communist dictator Josip Broz Tito – has quite a fanciful imagination and inclination towards delusion, to say the least. Gabriele D'Annunzio has never been accused – let alone found guilty – of any crime during his regency.

To put it in blunt, non-diplomatic terms: these new accusations against D'Annunzio are outrageous lies and fabricated falsehoods unsupported by any scholars outside of recent Croatian polemical circles, who are desperate to rewrite the city's history and deflect attention away from the atrocities committed by their own people in these territories just a few short decades ago.

Obersnel himself, formerly president of the Croatian Socialist Youth (Savez socijalističke omladine Hrvatske) and a member of the League of Communists of Yugoslavia for nearly 20 years, was born in Fiume in 1957. It would be interesting to discover whether his parents were natives of the city, or whether they were one of the thousands of post-war colonists transplanted by Tito to replace the expelled Italian population. If the latter is the case, then this – together with his strong Communist background – would certainly go a long way in explaining his profound contempt for Italy and his obstinate denial of Fiume's Italian past.

Finally, late on September 12th, 2019 it was reported that three Italian aircraft belonging to the private company FlyStory, which were partaking in a commemorative flight to Fiume with the prior consent and approval of the Croatian Civil Aviation Agency, were suddenly intercepted: two of the aircraft were blocked upon landing and are still being detained in Fiume; the third aircraft, while still in flight, was ordered to return to Italy by the authorities in Zagreb and its pilot was threatened with being shot down by military fighters if he refused. This so far is the most serious escalation and hostile threat against Italy on the part of Croatia.

The President of FlyStory stated:
“We found ourselves facing an absurd situation. It was supposed to be a day of celebration, but the Croats reacted badly. ... Rijeka [Fiume] was selected as the European Capital of Culture for 2020, but with this sort of mentality it is truly difficult to understand why.”
(“Ci siamo trovati davanti ad una situazione assurda. Doveva essere una giornata di festa, i croati invece hanno reagito male. ... Rijeka si è candidata come capitale europea della cultura per il 2020, ma con questa mentalità la vedo veramente dura.”)
The sudden increase in controversies surrounding Fiume-Rijeka can be traced back to the EU's decision to declare it the European Capital of Culture 2020, and to dissatisfaction with the dishonest and provocative statements which several Croatian politicians have expressed since then towards the city's Italian heritage and history, specifically the tendency to downplay its significance in favor of a multicultural revisionist interpretation of the city's history.

The senseless press campaign against Antonio Tajani earlier this year undoubtedly also contributed to stoking the flames of hostility between the two countries.

Now, with the latest diplomatic protest and the military threat against Italian civilian aircraft, it remains to be seen how the Italian government will respond.

See also:

The Italian Language Returning to Fiume?
Response to Croatian Statements on Bilingualism in Fiume
Castua Massacre: Exhumations Completed After 73 Years
Quotes on the Italianity of Fiume
Statement of Alexander Oldrini on Fiume
Statement of Ernest Papich on Fiume
Statement of Fiorello La Guardia on Fiume
Statement of Lawrence Yates Sherman on Fiume
Statement of Leopold Vaccaro on Fiume
Statement of S. A. Cotillo on Fiume
Statements of Gino Speranza on Istria, Fiume and Dalmatia
Statements of Lawrence Yates Sherman on the Treaty of London