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