Wednesday, August 3, 2016


One of the best books about the minorities in northern Italy borders was written during World War First by professor Martinelli. It was published in 1919 by the "American Geographical Society of New York". Here it is the section related to northern Italy, with detailed maps, as in "THE GEOGRAPHICAL REVIEW Vol. VII March, 1919 No. 3":


THE REGIONS OF MIXED POPULATIONS IN NORTHERN ITALY (By OLINTO MARINELLI Professor of Geography, Royal Institute of Higher Studies, Florence): Medieval Colonization of the Alps and the Present Ethnography of Northern Italy


It is strange that the Po Valley should be linguistically so uniform, in view of the repeated barbarian invasions to which it has been subjected. From its western extremity at the base of the Alps in Piedmont to its easternmost limit, where it joins the slopes of the Carso near Monfalcone, it is inhabited by a population which, except for slight anthropological differences and dialectal variations, shows how the language and civili zation of Rome unified races of divers origins. After the Gallo-Italian dialects, such as those of Piedmont, Lombardy, and Emilia, come those of Venetia and Friuli; yet they are all dialects of Italian and are dominated by Italian as a language of culture. The only traces remaining of medieval foreign occupation are to be found in the place names; and even these are scattered and insignificant, with the exception of a well-localized group of Slavic names in the plain of Friuli west of Udine. Except for this latter region, which furnished the highroad for the foreign invasions, the great Po Valley, even in the centuries of Italy's greatest depopulation, possessed enough civilized inhabitants to assimilate the people who came from outside, often in great masses but always without sufficient support from new arrivals. The valley might be held for centuries by foreign peoples, but they were always sure to be more or less rapidly fused with the native population.


Very different, however, were the vicissitudes of the Alpine district which flanks the Po Valley. Here natural conditions prevent a dense popu- lation and an uninterrupted settlement. The thickly populated districts are confined to the valley bottoms and to the slopes with favorable exposure. The Alpine peoples, of whatever origin, may have been able partly to escape from Celtic influence but not from that of Rome. In antiquity they, like the peoples of the plain, were almost completely Latinized. There is evidence of this in the series of Alpine dialects which with slight inter- ruption extends from the Grisons to Friuli — dialects differing among them- selves but regarded by linguistic experts as constituting a single group called ^^Ladin." Some of these peoples call themselves ^^Ladins," while others call themselves ^^Romansh"; both terms are reminiscent of the civilization of Rome and at the same time are living indications of its con- fines. Today, however, these confines are no longer what they once were. The place names show that the Ladin territory included a great part of eastern Switzerland and of the Tyrol, Vorarlberg, a great part of Bavaria, Salzburg, the Pustertal, and other territory which is now German. It used to include also the Julian Alps, now in great part Slav. It appears certain that the population of the Alps, already sparse in ancient times, became still more sparse during the early Middle Ages, whereas the Germanic and Slavic peoples experienced that great increase which was the indirect cause of the violent migrations toward the Medi- terranean countries and of those slower and more continuous movements of expansion by which their present distribution in Europe is chiefly explained.


Almost all the great barbarian invasions were directed at the regions of Italy which were richest in treasures accumulated through the ages. The Alps could only prove a temporary resting place for peoples who were seeking passage by the easiest and most accessible routes. So these inva- sions had no direct influence upon the ethnography of the Alpine territory but only an indirect influence due to the havoc they wrought along their path. Of far greater importance were the varied colonizing movements which took place in the wake of the great barbarian invasions for centuries. This colonization was accomplished by groups that were numerically small but were often renewed during the long periods of time involved; they found the conditions favorable for a secure settlement in the midst of the sparse Alpine population. These movements lasted until the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, and in some cases even longer. They were often favored by feudal lords who desired to populate abandoned territories and who were unscrupulous about the people among whom they recruited colonists.


It is well known that in the Middle Ages the Alps were less a country of feudal castles than of hospices and convents. Even before any concep- tion of nationality was developed, the abbots and bishops, were the natural upholders of the Koman element, while the dukes, counts, and marquises — almost all of German origin — were certain to favor the German element. Nevertheless, in many of the ecclesiastical estates German colonization pro- ceeded without hindrance and in some cases with encouragement. This is explained in part by the fact that the Italian element had no settlers to furnish, and in part by the fact that the Germans alone possessed the knowledge of some special craft, such as that of mining. At the eastern end of the Alps the Franks granted lands in the plain of the Tagliamento to the Slavs, while later the Patriarchs of Aquileia admitted to their territory groups of German settlers. All this shows that we are dealing here with phenomena explained by geographic, economic, and social factors which were more weighty than the desires of the governors. In several particulars the German colonization of the Alps differed from that of the Slavs, among others in the greater role played by agriculture and various arts and trades as compared with stock-raising, and because in general it was later and continued longer ; there were, too, some territories in which the Germans came and settled in Slav colonies.


The movement of the Slavs toward the west began at the end of the sixth century and was arrested by the Bavarians in the Pustertal and by the Lombards in Friuli. But these combats were probably against the first bands of robbers, behind which came the peaceful stream of colonists, not numerous, but sufficient to populate completely Styria, Carinthia, Carniola, and parts of Friuli and Istria. The Italian element with which they came into contact in the latter regions showed a remarkable power to assimilate the Slavs. But only in a few cases could it offer an effective resistance. A considerable resistance was offered, however, by the German element, especially in Carinthia. In the eighth century the German colonists had begun to establish themselves in force among the Slavs, who were evidently much scattered, so that Carinthia and northern Styria were already in the twelfth century largely populated by Germans or Germanized Slavs, as were also later central Styria and the greater part of the basin of Klagen- furt. This diffusion of the Germans over territory once Romanized and later become Slav took place on the southern side of the Alpine watershed only in a few cases, as in the upper valley of the Fella (at the source of this river and at Pontafel) and in the basin of the Isonzo, where, however, the little colony of Deutschrut, imported by the Patriarchs of Aquileia in the fourteenth century, has now become Slovene.


There have been many cases on the other hand in which German coloni- zation passed beyond the Alpine watershed, pouring directly into Italian territory. The most notable is certainly that of the upper Adige region; but from the Monte Rosa massif to the Carnic Alps there is a whole series of German peninsulas and islands in Italian territory. On the other hand, around the upper Rhine and the upper Inn (Engadine) the Ladin element is still found on the northern slope of the Alps. Thus, when the line of the Alpine watershed is considered in relation to the limit between the German and Italian peoples, it is easy to see that a coincidence is quite exceptional. It is evident also that the medieval colonization of the Ger- mans followed sometimes the highroads from the trans-Alpine countries into Italy and sometimes secondary paths and difficult passes; wherefore it is not always easy to see a close relationship between the topography of the Alps and its ethnographic conditions.


1)Location between Political Boundary of Italy and Alpine Watershed

We must now examine separately each of the territories with a mixed population. They are almost all outside of the political state of Italy, the greater part of them lying between the boundaries of the kingdom and the Alpine watershed. Since this watershed is conventionally regarded as the natural boundary of Italy, these territories are generally considered as outskirts of Italy under foreign rule. To some of them Italian geographers have given special names which differ from their official or political names and sometimes even from their traditional names. **Venezia Giulia" (Julian Venetia) , for example, has been used by Italians for some decades to designate the region which the Austrian government calls the Klisten- land, together with parts of Carinthia, Carniola, and Croatia. The southern part of the Tyrol south of the watershed, on the other hand, is called the ^^Trentino'' (i. e. the Trent district), a comparatively old name, and the northern part ^'Alto Adige'' (i. e. the basin of the Adige above Salorno), a name only recently used, at least in its present acceptation. The terms *^ Italian Switzerland ' ' or ''Swiss Lombardy" and the name ''Nizzardo'' (i. e. the district about Nice) have no need of special explana- tion. Almost none of the regions here mentioned has any geographic unity, since their extent is dependent on the often irrational position of the political boundary of Italy in relation to its so-called natural boundary. Most of these districts result from an aggregate of diversified territories or parts of territories which often have had no common history and have now no administrative unity.

2)Extension of Trans-Alpine States to Italian Territory Facilitated BY Ease of Crossing Alpine Watershed and Carso

Almost all are territories conquered at the expense of Italy, when for centuries it was divided and weak. These conquests usually find their geographical reason in the interest which the Alpine or partially Alpine states had in securing for themselves the possession of the roads which led down into the Po Valley by occupying the passes and southern Alpine valleys. The states in the Po Valley — strong because they were rich in population and civilization^ — were the states which, although usually at war among themselves, saved Italy from total subjection to the foreigner and later rendered possible its unity. The extension of the trans- Alpine states to Italian territory was facilitated by the fact that the Alps are not every- where a difficult obstacle and that their divide is not everywhere clearly defined. The line is most undecided at the eastern extremity of the Alpine chain, in the Carso, where most of the watercourses flow partly under- ground and where none of the various relief features have a decided character. The Carso, indeed, presented serious difficulties to railroad con- struction, though not requiring long tunnels, but it always offered easy access to the old forms of transportation and to great masses of migratory peoples. The population which established itself in the Carso did not feel that isolating influence exercised in the Alps by the high mountain barriers separating one valley from another. Moreover, even in the more rugged parts of the Carso the anthropogeographieal conditions in some respects approach the conditions in the plains, while in other respects they are distinctive. It is precisely in the region of the Carso that the occupation of Italian territory by foreign peoples has reached its widest extension. Here, in Julian Venetia, we find the greatest aggregation of diversified territories and the greatest ethnic complications.


Julian Venetia in General

Julian Venetia includes, besides a part of Carniola and a smaller part of Croatia, the upper Fella valley, the Gorizia district (i. e. the County of Gorizia and Gradisca), Trieste, Istria, and Fiume. The upper Fella valley was never under the rule of an Italian state ; the County of Gorizia, after the extinction of its ruling house, which was feudally dependent first on the Patriarchs of Aquileia and then on Venice, passed in 1500 by inherit- ance to the House of Austria and has belonged to it ever since; inland Istria, for similar reasons, had previously undergone the same fate, while the seacoast belonged to the Republic of Venice until the Treaty of Campoformio (1797) ; Trieste in 1382 placed itself beneath the protection of the Dukes of Austria in order to have their support against Venice; Fiume in 1483 through inheritance came under the same dominion, but in 1778 was handed over to the Hungarian Crown. Julian Venetia includes Alpine territory (the Julian Alps), foothills (Julian Pre- Alps), plateaus (the high Carso) and high plains, and a piece also of real plain (eastern Friuli). It cannot be considered in its entirety, but only in the separate parts into which it is traditionally divided.

Italian Character of Istria

Istria is the most notable part of Julian Venetia. Administratively it includes the islands of the Quarnero (Veglia, Cherso, and Lussin) and excludes Trieste and Fiume. The islands of the Quarnero can be considered as belonging physically to the archipelago of Dalmatia, while Istria finds its physical unity mainly in its peninsular character. Istria resembles a typically Italian region both in its physical features and in the human occupation of its soil, especially its arboxiculture. An even stronger impression of being in Italy is made upon the visitor by its cities, both by their monuments and the general appearance of their buildings. Art and culture are everywhere entirely Italian.

Ethnic History

However, the ethnographic conditions of Istria are complicated. In few regions could there be found a more mixed population. The whole peninsula was Eomanized in antiquity, with the result that there became established, in the north, upon a Carnic foundation, a Ladin dialect, which has only recently disappeared, and, in the south, upon an lUyrian founda- tion, a Venetian dialect, the Istrian of today. In the seventh century there arrived from the north the Slovenes and, a little later, from the east, the Croats. They were chiefly shepherds and only later became tillers of the soil. The Italian population of the cities, located mainly on the coast, maintained itself almost everywhere and in a great part of the region was strengthened by the rule and civilizing influence of Venice. But for various economic and social reasons Istria, in the fourteenth and following centuries, underwent a depopulation. To repair this the Eepublic of Venice favored colonization by outside peoples, principally from Dalmatia and Albania. The ethnography of Istria is, in large measure, the product of this immigration, which took place in the fifteenth, sixteenth, and seven- teenth centuries, and which was directed both toward the inland districts and to those parts of the seacoast remaining unpopulated. The last of these colonies (1657) is that of Peroi, near Pola, settled by people from the Bocche di Cattaro region and by Montenegrins, who still preserve their Greco-Oriental religion. This colonization, which continued more than two centuries, strengthened the Slav element in the interior and introduced it in the Italian cities of the west coast. It also brought Kumanians, the greater part of whom, however, are now Slavicized, their original language being preserved by only a few hundred people in two small districts in Croatian territory. The Slavicized Kumanians are the so-called Cicci (Chichis), who inhabit the most mountainous part of Istria, the Fucki, and perhaps some other stray element, which, in the past, fused with the Italian. It is worthy of remark, however, not only that many of the Slavs of Istria use Italian as their language of culture and commerce, but also that some hybrid dialects have been formed, as is the case with the so-called Schiavetto.

Present Ethnic Conditions

The last century brought, on the one hand, the strengthening of the Italian element in the coast cities, thanks to the assimilation of the unedu- cated Slavs and to the immigration of laborers from Friuli, and, on the other, the extension and consolidation of the Slavic element in the country and in the interior. The latter phenomenon may be due to the greater fecundity of the Slavs, their absorption of the Eumanian elements, or their increased spirit of nationality, as a result of which some bilingual popu- lations which in the past considered themselves as Italians today regard themselves as Croats. Later, in the interior of the peninsula, which did not belong to Venice, there was added the German element, which during the feudal period had difficulty in securing a foothold. In very recent times it has become somewhat numerous in a few seaside and winter resorts such as Brioni and Abbazia and at Pola. From being a small town, which a century ago numbered less than 1,000 inhabitants, Pola has become the largest city of Istria, with 60,000 inhabitants, since its transformation into the chief naval port of Austria-Hungary. The other coast cities of Istria had little modern industrial and commercial development. This enabled them to preserve their Italian character intact, in their architecture and their language as well as in all the manifestations of family, civil, and artistic life. It is difficult to determine with certainty the distribution of the popu- lation of Istria according to language, even within its administrative limits (4,956 sq. km.). This is due to the difficulty of classifying ifiixed or bilingual peoples and to the frequent unreliability of the statistics collected in a region occupied by hostile nationalities. In the census of 1910 the Italians numbered 147,388, the Serbo-Croats 167,966, the Slovenes 55,407, the Germans 13,279, the Rumanians 883. But these figures include only Austrian subjects; thus the 147,388 Italians rise to 153,415 if we add the 6,027 citizens of the kingdom of Italy who inhabit Istria. On the other hand, the number of Germans would be reduced to less than a third if we excluded the garrison of Pola. These figures show, in any case, that in Istria no nationality predominates in a marked degree. It is, however, to be noticed, that in agriculture and economic activity the Italians have an importance out of all proportion to their numbers, so much so that a great many of the Slavs speak Italian.


As Economic Outlets of a Large Hinterland

Trieste and Fiume do not form a part of Istria either geographically or politically. Trieste has administrative autonomy in Austria and Fiume in Hungary. The small territory included in these divisions^ — 95 square kilo- meters for Trieste and 21 square kilometers for Fiume — is in contrast with the size of their present economic hinterland, but it finds an explanation in the conditions of the past, which have their basis in the geographical position of the two cities. Trieste is not at the mouth of a valley, while Fiume is at the mouth of a valley of rather limited length and has behind it the Carso, which is here more impassable than at Trieste. The two cities were for centuries Adriatic ports, much like those of Istria in importance and presenting similar conditions of development. These two cities, as long as they mainly lived from the sea and in the days of small industries, sailing ships, and the old methods of land transportation, developed their economic activity within very narrow lines, which often did not pass beyond the bounds of their own hydrographic basin. So they had a limited importance. Nevertheless their Italianism, although scarcely felt in a nationalistic sense, was in no danger of extinction, because life on the shores of the Adriatic, which is so completely an Italian sea, could not but be strengthened by it. But in modern times these two ports became the outlets of large territories in the interior of Europe, extending far beyond the Danube. The two cities grew rapidly through the influx of inhabitants from near at hand, prevailingly Slavs, and from the more remote regions, Germans in the case of Trieste, and Hungarians of Fiume. To the natural development of this phenomenon we must add in the last decades the policy of the governments of Austria and Hungary, which was directed not only to developing these outlet ports but also to rendering less dangerous the singular state of affairs involved in the fact that the chief port of a state in which the German element dominates is in reality Italian and accessible only across more than a hundred kilometers of Slovene terri- tory and that the chief port of the other state, in which the Magyar element is supreme, is also Italian and accessible only across two hundred kilo- meters of exclusively Croatian territory. This policy has contributed to diminishing, though in slight measure, the relative numerical importance of the Italian element in the two cities ; but it greatly helped to give these Italians a strong sense of their nationality and to make Trieste the chief center of ''irredentism'' — ^that is, of the movement for the political reunion of the "unredeemed'' districts with the Italian fatherland.

Size of the Population According to Nationalities

Only in the eighteenth century, and especially in the second half of it, did Trieste surpass in population the other cities of Istria — Fiume only in the nineteenth; but, except during the last twenty years, the growth of the two cities, despite the great prevailing influx of Slavs, was always less than the power of assimilation of the more intelligent native element. For instance, the 120,000 Italians in Trieste according to the census of 1910 doubtless cannot be regarded as descendants of the few thousand who lived there in the first half of the eighteenth century (3,865 in 1735). A large percentage of the population of Trieste, as is shown by the family names, is of Slav or German origin; another large number is due to the not inconsiderable immigration from Friuli or Venice. This influx, like that of the Slovenes, is explained by the modern industrial development of the city. In 1910, besides the 120,000 subjects of Austria, there were in Trieste almost 30,000 Italian citizens. Out of the 220,000 inhabitants of the city, the Italians represented three-fourths of the population, so that the 60,000 Slovenes, who live chiefly in the suburbs, and to a still greater extent the 12,000 Germans, represented minorities only. At Fiume in 1910 the Italians, including those born in Italy, represented little more than one- half of the population, which numbered about 50,000 ; yet even numerically they formed the dominant element, as compared with 15,000 Slavs and 6,500 Magyars. It is in the presence of these newcomers that the people of Trieste and Fiume felt their allegiance to Italy all the more, though at first but weakly ; but in Istria this allegiance has always been deeply felt, if only in the form of devoted attachment to Venice.


The County of Gorizia

The old County of Gorizia represents a fragment of Friuli which a feudal family in the Middle Ages succeeded in detaching from it and which, as we have seen, later passed to the House of Habsburg. Under the name of County of Gorizia and Gradisca it forms a province by itself. It includes, besides a piece of the Carso behind Trieste and the valley of the Vippacco (German, Wippach), which separates the Carso proper from the high Carso (the plateau of Ternova), two principal geographic regions: the valley of the Isonzo and the eastern part of the plain of Friuli. The limits of this province towards the kingdom of Italy are most unnatural; the most unnatural section of the boundary is that which runs through the plain and which is for the greater part defined by the little river Judrio. This was the limit of Venetian Lombardy as long as this region belonged to Austria, and it represented a rectification of a still more complicated boundary which for centuries limited the Republic of Venice on the east. On both sides of this frontier are to be found not only the same physical and economic conditions, but also the same Italian population, which extends compactly to the foot of the Carso. Here there is no question of a mixed population as in Istria, because the separation between the Italian plain and the Slovene mountain district is almost everywhere clean-cut. As was shown above, the Slavs had also established themselves in some parts of the plain of Friuli, but here the Italian population quickly re- gained the lost territory, and for centuries the ethnographic has coincided with the geographic boundary. Kather than a mixed zone, there could be distinguished one in which the Slavs, who were in close relations with the Italian centers at the foot of the mountains, were compelled to speak, beside their own dialect, that of Friuli.

The City op Gorizia

Gorizia, which was always the political center of the entire territory, has always formed an exception. But ever since the commercial activity of the town in the plain began to prevail over the court life in its feudal stronghold, the city has been almost exclusively Italian in population and character. Recently, however, the development of the city, and especially its suburbs, as a great industrial center has brought about a profound change inasmuch as the workers have been recruited chiefly among the Slovenes. Thus the census of 1910 showed that the population was only half Italian: as against 14,838 Italians (to whom must be added 1,110 sub- jects of Italy) there were 10,782 Slovenes and 3,236 Germans. These last, when they do not belong to the garrison, are there because Gorizia is a favorite resort of Austrian state pensioners and of persons desiring or requiring a mild climate. (Though with evident exaggeration, Gorizia is often called the Austrian Nice.)

Population op the County

Within the confines of the County of Gorizia and Gradisca (2,918 sq. km.) the census of 1910 showed 90,181 Italians (Friulians and, at Monfalcone, Venetians), to which must be added 8,947 Italians born in Italy, while there were 154,537 Slovenes and 4,481 Germans.

The Slovenes op the Province op Udine and the Resians

It must be noted here that the Slovene area of the County of Gorizia, while it continues on one side into Carniola and into Carinthia, on the other side includes, in the province of Udine, a territory consisting in large part of valleys which send their waters into the Isonzo and which have easy communication with this river. These Slovenes of the province of Udine, according to the census of 1911, numbered 31,730, to which must be added 4,650 Eesians, who inhabit the valley of Resia in the basin of the Taglia- mento and speak a dialect which seems to be related to Serbo-Croat. These Slovenes of the province of Udine do not anywhere, as they certainly did in the past, reach the plain and still less the Fella valley, along which run the frequented highway and railroad via Pontebba, while in the mountain- ous region where they have persisted, even if they are distinguished by their origin and dialect from the people of Friuli, they nevertheless, like them, regard Italy as their fatherland.

The Upper Fella Valley

The upper valley of the Fella, on the other hand, is still subject to Austria as far as Pontafel, and throughout its small area of 220 square kilo- meters presents a singular succession of German villages alternating with Slovene villages. A little more than half of the entire population, which does not amount to more than 4,000, is Slav; a little less than half is German. It has been shown elsewhere how in this region German coloni- zation has been superimposed upon that of the Slavs, as is the case through- out Carinthia, of which the upper Fella valley forms a part.


The German-Italian Contact Zone

The valley of the Fella, belonging to the basin of the Tagliamento, is the only valley south of the watershed where for centuries Italians, Germans, and Slavs have lived side by side. The Slavs once extended west as far as the sources of the Eienz (south of Toblach) but left their only trace there in the place names; so that today to the west of the Fella we find only superimpositions of the German element directly on the Italian. These superimpositions took place during a long period of time, but the ethno- graphic situation today is substantially the product of the eleventh to the fourteenth centuries, during which German colonization, favored by the foreign lords, became possible because extended tracts in the Venetian mountains were sparsely populated, while they were rich in unexploited minerals, forests, and pastures. Small German groups crossed the Carnic Alps, entering the upper basins of the Tagliamento and of the Piave (the villages of Timau and Sauris in the former and Sappada in the latter, with a total population of less than 3,000, are still German), but the main channels of German penetration south of the watershed led along the upper forks of the Adige, which continue the lines of easiest communication between Central Europe and Italy. These lie over the Brenner (1,362 meters) and the Toblacher Feld (1,208 meters). The German coloniza- tion, though intense, was practically confined within the principal valleys, so that in the higher and more remote valleys the original Ladin population was able to persist for a long time, in some cases even to our own day. Hence beside the Val Monastero (Miinstertal), which is connected with the basin of the Adige but is politically a part of Switzerland, the Val Gardena (Grodnertal), an eastern tributary of the Eisack, is also Ladin, as well as the valleys of Marebbe (Bnneberg) and Badia (Abtei), both of which send their waters to the Rienz. In the lower part of the valley of the Adige the German infiltration was stopped by the presence of a more numerous Italian population, and here, between Bozen and Salorno (Salurn) lay a zone of contest between the two populations — a contest which still continues. But this did not prevent German colonization from thrusting small units much farther south, even to the Pre-Alps, in sight of the Venetian plain; but here, contrary to what happened in the upper Adige region, the Ger- mans did not maintain themselves in the main valleys, but settled in the higher tributary valleys and on the table-lands. This is the case with the isolated German colony of the Mocheni in the valley of the Fersina east of Trent and with the Germans of Luserna, on the Austrian side of the plateau of the Sette Comuni. The whole plateau was once populated by Germanic peoples, but they are today in great part Italianized — the number of Ger- mans in the Sette Comuni being only 2,800 in 1911 — as are also almost all the inhabitants of the Tredici Comuni north of Verona, where in 1911 German was spoken by only 170 persons.

Germanization of the Ladins

While the ethnographic conditions of the Adige basin and the adja- cent regions are largely due to the immigration of the period prior to the fifteenth century, yet many changes have taken place since, even down to our own time. On the one hand the Italianization of the more advanced German centers has made progress; on the other the Ladin element has become in most cases Germanized or is now becoming so. The latter phenomenon is due not so much to inferior civilization as to other circum- stances. The region about the headwaters of the Adige, once Ladin, lost its original character, not only through frequent contact with the German element but also because in the seventeenth century the local dialect was forbidden in order to prevent the spread of Calvinism in the Tyrol from the Engadine. On the other hand, with the change in the suitableness of a terrain to communication which modern progress in methods of transpor- tation has brought about — a change which led to the abandonment of the uplands and divides formerly favored for secondary routes and the selec- tion of the valley trenches, even when narrow — the elevated tracts and high tributary valleys populated by the Ladins partly lost contact with each other and established closer relations with the inhabitants of the deep main valleys. In general, they were no longer able to maintain the isolation which for centuries had preserved their characteristics. Another contribu- tory influence to this result was the passing of tourists, who were in great part German. We are now referring to the Ladins in the Dolomites. By means of the schools and an intense propaganda organized by Austrian and German societies for the diffusion of the German language and influence, these Ladin populations are drifting away from their natural cultural affiliation, without making any appreciable resistance.

The Bozen Eegion

As has been pointed out, the zone for the possession of which the Italians and Germans have most contended and still contend has Bozen for its center and extends from Meran to Salorno. The valley of the Adige lies at a rather low elevation at this point (Meran, 301 meters; Salorno, 224 meters) and especially in the section above Bozen is well protected from north winds, has a limited rainfall, and enjoys a climate which permits the culture of the vine and of the mulberry, thereby making this the region in which Mediterranean vegetation and cultivation penetrate farthest into the Alps. On the racial distribution this fact has had two opposite ejffects: it has favored the inflow of Germans to certain centers as health and summer resorts, on the one hand, and, on the other, the immigration of cultivators from the Trentino into the rural districts. This last phenomenon arises from two causes: the Tyrolese have less experience than the people of the Trentino with intensive agriculture, and the latter, because of the economic conditions in their own district, have been compelled in the last decades to emdgrate in large numbers, some going to distant America and others to the neighboring regions of the Tyrol and Vorarlberg. The 17,182 Italian immigrants from Austria listed in the United States census of 1910 under ** foreign white stock'' were almost all from the Trentino. Through Bozen and the valley south of it passes the Brenner highway. Hence, the development of this center and of the region tributary to the highway always reflected the fluctuations of commerce and industry, which, in the past, have favored the influx now of Italians, now of Germans. Since the construction of the railroad the latter have had a distinct advantage. The conditions of the Italian element between Meran and Salorno have, therefore, been quite varied ; of late, the Italians have tended to increase in the country and to decrease in the cities and towns. However, when we pass from this disputed territory and enter the high, tributary valleys, the upper Adige district is almost entirely German, whereas the Trentino is almost exclusively Italian.

Population of the Alto Adige and the Trentino According to Nationalities

The Alto Adige district, i. e. the basin of the Adige above Salorno (7,178 sq. km.): this district includes the administrative divisions, called political districts, of Bozen, Brenner, Brixen, Meran, and Schlanders.If we depend upon the Austrian census of 1910, which certainly is inexact but for which it is difficult to find any substitute, was inhabited by 215,345 Germans and 16,510 Italians. Even if this last figure ought to be doubled or tripled in an impartial reckoning, and with the addition of those born in Italy, the Italian element would still form a small minority. In the Trentino (6,356 sq. km.), still according to official figures, the Italians, exclusive of those born in Italy, numbered 377,039, the Germans 13,477; but this last number would be reduced to less than half if the members of the garrisons and the government employees were excluded. The Trentino, besides the middle section of the Adige basin between Salorno and the Italian frontier includes Giudicaria, i. e. the basin of the upper Chiese and the Sarca, with a part of Lake Garda; the Valsugana, i. e. the upper Brenta valley; and the regions around the sources of the Astico (Lavarone), of the Cismone (Primiero), of the Cordevole (Livinallongo) and of the Boite (Ampezzo). The two last regions, corresponding to the political district of Ampezzo (390 sq. km., 6,674 population), because of their history and their geographic conditions, are considered to be outside of the Trentino proper. The population speaks a Ladin dialect strongly affected by Venetian. In the Dolomites it is the district most frequented by foreigners ; this explains why in the census of 1910 we find 443 persons who speak German. Though the Trentino does not represent a complete geo- graphic unit, it possesses an individuality of its own, if only by contrast with the upper Adige district, in population and physical and economic conditions. The tree culture of the Italian plain and hills is widespread here, and around Lake Garda even the olive grows. Toward Italy are directed the aspirations and interests of the Trentino.

Individuality and Separatist Tendency of the Trentino

In earlier centuries this difference between the upper Adige and the Trentip^ was recognized politically in the independence of the episcopal principality of Trent, which lasted until 1796 and, though with a few varia- tions in the boundary, embraced almost all the racially Italian area. Yet no account was taken of this difference by Austria in the present system of administrative divisions. In this the Trentino forms, together with the Tyrol, a single province (i. e. the County of Tyrol and Vorarlberg) whose government is in the main entrusted to the German majority. For, accord- ing to the census of 1910, in the total population of 1,049,169 the Germans numbered 651,858, the Italians 391,557. The struggle of the latter for their liberation from the Austrian yoke assumed, then, not only the form of irredentism, or return to the Italian fatherland, but also agitation for administrative autonomy, or separation from the German Tyrol. Notwithstanding the legitimacy and legality of this demand, it was never heeded by the Austrian government. The Italianism of the Trentino, in culture, in tradition, and in sentiments, has been splendidly demonstrated not only in the daily opposition to the arrogance of the central and provincial governments and to the invasion of the German element, abetted by the Pan-German societies, but also in the support of schools and other cultural agencies through which even the lowest classes of the people tried to strengthen their Italian allegiance, even to the point of purging their dialect of the slight traces of German which had crept into it during the centuries of commercial relations. Thus their aspiration grew continuously to free themselves from the double yoke of their forced membership in a foreign state and their administrative association with real enemies. It is not out of place to recall here how the struggles undertaken within the sphere of Austrian law by Italian subjects of Austria, for the autonomy of the Trentino, for an Italian university in Trieste, and for many other ideal and material interests, had little effect, inasmuch as they were strenu- ously opposed by an always hostile government. This is because, while in the Adige region the Italians were in open opposition to the Germans, in Julian Venetia they were confronted chiefly with the Slavs; so that they did not have the support even of the latter, who ought to be, as they now are, their natural friends.


The Two Teutonic-Eomance Contact Zones

When we turn from the territories subject to the Austrian yoke to con- sider Switzerland, the problems of the contact between the Eomance and Teutonic peoples present themselves under quite different aspects. Two contact zones should be distinguished, a longitudinal, running east and west, along which Ehaeto-Eomans and Italians abut against Germans, and a transverse, running north and south, along which French peoples face the Germans. In the latter zone the German element comes into contact chiefly with populations whose dialect belongs to the Franco-Provencal group and whose written language and culture are almost completely French. The ethnic boundary was more subject to successive thrusts toward the west, the chief of which occurred before the year 1000. The French element strongly resisted this movement at various times, but it has resisted it especially in the last decades.

The German Wedge

The ethnic boundary between Germans and French lies not only in Swiss territory, but continues into Italian territory. Here, south of the Monte Eosa group the Germans in the valley of Gressoney (German, Lystal) are on the west in contact with Franco-Provencals of the valley of Aosta, among whom French holds first place in the church, schools, and in general culture. We also find Germans southeast and east of Monte Eosa in the upper Val Sesia and its tributaries (Alagna, Eima, and Eimella) and in the valley of Anzasca (Macugnaga). Gondo (G., Euden) and Simplon (Simpeln) are also German; although on the southern side of the Alpine watershed, they belong politically to Switzerland. In Italian territory the valley of Formazza (G., Pommat), i. e. the uppermost valley of the Toce, and, in the Swiss canton of Ticino on the other side of the crest which encloses the valley on the east, Agaro and Bosco (G., Gurin) are likewise German. It is probable that these German centers, which today number, all told, about 5,000 inhabitants, were in the past more numerous, but the more advanced of them, like Ornavasso on the lower Toce near Lake Mag- giore, have not been able to avoid the assimilating influence of the more numerous and cultured Italian population, and this influence still continues in force. Taken together as a unit, the Germans of these wild Alpine valleys form a wedge whose apex, at Issime,^ is thrust forward to within 20 kilometers of the Po Valley. This wedge completely separates French Switzerland from Khaeto-Romanic Switzerland, which includes almost all the valleys of the uppermost Rhine and Inn basins and the Val Monastero, already mentioned, all, except the last, lying north of the Alpine watershed. The watershed separates this valley from the rest of Rhaeto-Romanic Switzer- land and puts it in more direct and intimate relation with German Tyrol.

The Rhaeto-Romans Increasing Germanization

The condition of things as here set forth explains why the Rhaeto- Romanic people of the canton of the Grisons do not consider themselves Italians, as do the Ladins almost everywhere else in the Alps. The Rhaeto- Romanic people have tried to raise their dialects to the dignity of literary tongues, though with little result. This effort has hardly passed beyond the most elementary stage, for their culture is German and is growing increas- ingly so not only through the influence of the schools but also through commercial relations and the flourishing foreign tourist trade. The Rhaeto-Romanic people of the Grisons could not look toward France, from which they are separated by too wide a German zone, nor towards Italy, from which they are cut off not only by the main divide of the Alps but also by differences of religion (they are largely Protestant) and feeling. In their inability to create for themselves a real language and a culture of their own and in their reluctance to adopt that of one of the great Latin nations, many students of the question see their weakness and fear their early disappearance. Indeed the colonization by Germans of some of the valleys of the upper Rhine in the Middle Ages already at this time interrupted the continuity of the Rhaeto-Romanic territory. Furthermore, in many centers of mixed population, especially those on the floor of the main valleys, the German element has been increasing of late as a result of the growth of commerce and the influx of German travelers. The very favorable climate, both in summer and winter, of the Engadine, for instance, has made it and its center, St. Moritz, one of the most famous health and winter-sport resorts in the world. St. Moritz is frequented especially by Germans. In the commune of issime the subdivision of Issime St. Jacob is German in speech while that of Issime St. Michael is French. In the schools Italian and French are taught, as in the other communes of the District of Aosta. The growth of the tourist trade has not caused any falling off in the old tendency of the natives of the Engadine to emigrate, usually for part of the year, to various parts of Europe.

The Number op Rhaeto-Romans

The number of Rhaeto-Romans in Switzerland has remained stationary for some decades at about 40,000, which represents a constantly diminish- ing proportion to the total population of Switzerland as well as to that of the Grisons, outside of which canton there are only a few thousand in other parts of Switzerland and some in Italy and the United States. (The census of 1910 showed 408 Rhaeto-Romans in the United States.)

The Italian Parts of the Canton of the Grisons

The canton of the Grisons also includes, south of the main Alpine water- shed, territories with Italian populations (in all less than 10,000 people). These are the Val Mesocco and the Val Calanca, whose waters flow first into the Ticino and then into Lake Maggiore, and the Yal Bregaglia and Val di Poschiavo, whose waters reach Lake Como through the Mera and jthe Adda, These form a part of so-called Italian Switzerland, which includes, in addition to these three little pieces of the canton of the Grisons and a small piece of the canton of Valais (the upper valley of the Diveria near the Simplon Pass), the whole of the canton of Ticino.

The Canton of Ticino

Italian Switzerland is lacking in geographic unity as well as in political unity. The territory itself of the canton of Ticino (2,801 sq. km.) is an aggregation of very different parts, with limits which cannot but appear very strange, especially where they include half of Lake Lugano, leaving on one of its shores, as an exclave in Swiss territory, a small area belonging to Italy (Campione). The canton of Ticino, like all of Italian Switzerland, is, in fact, conquered territory. When the strategic importance of the relevant passes is considered — Simplon, St. Gotthard, Lucomagno, San Bernardino (connecting the Val Mesocco with the Rheinwaldtal), Maloggia, Muretto, and Bernina^ — it is easy to understand why Switzerland strove to possess them. The consequent extension of Swiss territory encompassed areas purely Italian not only in population but also in type of cultivation. On the Swiss shores of Lake Lugano and Lake Maggiore the vine and mulberry and in some places even the olive flourish. The districts constituting the present canton of Ticino were severally joined to Switzerland at various times and were variously governed, but always as conquered territory, until 1803, when the Ticino became an independent state of the Confederation. The population (160,680 in 1913) is altogether Italian both in dialect and culture and, moreover, is attached to Italy by strong economic inter- ests; but it is much more closely attached to the Swiss Confederation because of the great political liberty granted by its constitution ; so there is no marked tendency to reunite this region with the rest of Italy. More- over it should be remarked that, while the canton of Ticino has furnished a considerable emigration, especially to the United States (the census of 1910 enumerated 14,923 Italian Swiss), it has experienced an intensive agricultural colonization by Lombard peasants, so that half of the present population of the canton is estimated to consist of families born in Italy who have established themselves there in the last fifty years. Then, too, the region, like almost all of Switzerland, is subject to an intense temporary immigration of Italian workmen and day laborers, who spend the working season there and return to their homes for the winter. Indeed, this periodic migration affects all the countries which border on Italy.


In the western Alps there is no clean-cut boundary between the dialects which may be called Italian and those which should be regarded as French ; in most cases only a trained philologist could decide whether certain valleys or districts ought to be placed on one side or the other of this boundary. It appears upon examination that, along the Eiviera, the dialect spoken at Mentone is Provengal, while at Ventimiglia it is still Ligurian ; so that the political boundary of Italy at this point does not diverge much from the dialectal boundary. In the Alps of Liguria and Piedmont, however, the Provengal and Franco-Provencal dialects occupy all the upper valleys of the tributaries of the Po, in some places even approaching the plain, where Gallo-Italian dialects are spoken, which represent a transition between the Italian and French dialects. The Italian literary language and culture, equally with the French, found a soil favorable for development among these different populations. The preference for one language or the other in a given region was usually dependent on its political affiliation or other historical vicissitudes. Hence, the boundary between the Italian and French literary languages does not coincide with that between the Italian and French dialects.

Number of French-Speaking People in Italy

From the last Italian census (1910) we can learn, not how many people speak the Provengal and Franco-Proven§al dialects within the Italian boundaries, but only how many of them use French as the language of the church, of the school (where it is usually spoken along with Italian), and of culture in general. The census shows that 70,560 inhabitants of the administrative district of Aosta spoke French. In the valley of Aosta, Italy has actually kept French in the elementary schools, and in the churches French is used. In the Susa district there are 7,070 French in the villages of the upper Dora Eiparia valley; this area is one of the territories east of the Alpine watershed which was longest under the rule of France (until the Treaty of Utrecht, 1713), and with France, too, it was further related by cultural and commercial contact through the Mont- Genevre Pass. Next to the south lie the valleys of the Chisone and the Pellice, which are inhabited by the Waldensians, the well-known Protestant sect, which, after many persecutions in the Dauphiny and in Savoy, found a final refuge here. According to the census of 1910 there were 8,330 French-speaking people in the administrative district of Pinerolo, which includes these valleys. The dialect of the Waldensians is Provencal, differ- ing, however, from that of the adjoining regions because the Waldensians came from the Dauphiny and settled in the territory which they now occupy only in the Middle Ages. The official language, as well as that of their church and culture, is French.

The Waldensians

It is important to remark that the official language of the Waldensians was Italian until they had to call in the services of pastors from Geneva, because almost all their own native pastors had fallen victims to the pestilence of 1630. The French literary language was thus introduced. It has since flourished because it conformed more closely to the character of the local idioms, but especially because it became, as it were, the symbol of their spirit of rebellion against the Church of Rome. While the French- speaking persons in the district of Pinerolo number 8,330 according to the Italian statistics, the Protestants of the same district, i. e. the Walden- sians, number 14,841; the difference indicates that the Waldensians are largely bilingual. The total number of Waldensians is, however, much greater than these figures indicate, for they do not include the numerous colonies of that sect in Italy, elsewhere in Europe, and in the western hemisphere (especially in Uruguay).

Italian Populations in France: Nice

While some populations with Provengal and Franco-Provengal dialects and often even with French language and culture are thus included within the political boundaries of Italy, there are some populations with Italian dialects and Italian culture within the territory of France. To be sure, the only popu- lations in France with Italian dialects are the inhabitants of that section of the middle valley of the Roia which, being included in the old County of Nice, was detached from Italy in 1860, when this county was ceded to France. Nice, with a good part of the Nice region, including also the principality of Monaco, was at that time prevailingly Italian in language and culture. But gradually, as the ''Cote d'Azur,'' or French Eiviera, has become one of the most frequented winter resorts of the world, the old traditional culture has grown weaker and in some places has even disappeared, so that the whole region, including Nice, the birthplace of Garibaldi, has become almost entirely French. The old character was but little fostered by the modern stream of Italian immigration to this region (the Italians number 30,000 in Nice alone). Beside the Cote d'Azur other centers of the south coast have been affected by this immigration, especially Marseilles, where there are about 100,000 Italians who were born in Italy. But their influence was much less than the number would indicate, because for the most part their sojourn is temporary and they belong mostly to the laboring and servant class.

Italian Emigration to Southern France

This Italian migration into southern France, in its causes and its character, is of exactly the same type as that to Switzerland, Trieste and Fiume, and Austria-Hungary in general. The consequences of this migra- tion, while identical in their influence on the economic and social conditions of the countries bordering on northern Italy, are very different in their effect on the spread of Italian culture. The Italians who change from temporary sojourners into permanent inhabitants of the countries which receive them are quickly assimilated in France, while in Italian Switzer- land, in the Trentino, and in Julian Venetia they go to swell the Italian element and the strength of its resistance against the foreign elements. The ethnographic and political consequences of this modern migration of Italians, which has taken place on so large a scale to the New World, within Europe itself, and to the Mediterranean countries, are not all evi- dent, nor is this the place to consider them.

Tuesday, July 5, 2016


When the neolatin population of Roman Dalmatia was massacred by the Avars and Slavs, the survivors were divided in two groups: those in the coastal areas who took refuge in the islands with a few walled cities like Ragusa, Spalato and Zara (now called Dubrovnik, Split and Zadar) and those who moved to the mountains & highlands where they lived a pastoral life.

The first (more civilized) were called Dalmatians while the second Vlachs. In Dalmatia the neolatin Dalmatians after some centuries were assimilated by the Italians of the Republic of Venice: by the fourteenth century they practically disappeared in a process of "italianization" (the last was Antonio Udaina, who was the last speaker of the Dalmatian language when he died in 1898-according to the linguist Matteo Bartoli).

But the other group, the Vlachs, grew in importance in the Balkans until the Turkish invasion pushed some of them into the Dalmatia owned by the Venetians. They were poor people but with warrior attitude. Their occupations were mostly trading, shepherding and craftsmanship, but judging from their variety of ancient vocabulary related to agriculture we can assume that in the late Roman period they were mostly farmers.

Indeed the Vlachs moved into central coastal Dalmatia, controlled by the Republic of Venice, initially in the 1300s, when the Ottoman invasion of the Balkans started.

They were called by the Venetians with the name "Morlacchi" (or "Mor(ava-va)lacchi"; in english: "Vlachs from Morava river" or "Morlaks") and came mainly from the Bosnia-Erzegovina's "Romanija" and the Serbia's "Stari Vlah", but some of them even from Montenegro and Kossovo/Albania. Most of them spoke their original neolatin language, but with many serbo-croatian words and sentences. Indeed one sixteenth-century Venetian writer described the Vlachs of the Dalmatian hinterland as speaking "Latin, though in a corrupted form" (some shepherds in those mountains were still using Vlach counting-words as recently as 1985).

Cristian Luca wrote -in his book: The Vlachs/Morlaks in the Hinterlands of Traù and Sebenico- that "the Romanic origin and the linguistic and ethnic communion between the Vlachs and the Romanians living to the north of the Danube are well known, so that it is not necessary to bring into discussion the theories, which are devoid of any scientific basis, which consider the Vlachs/Morlaks/Aromanians as Greeks or Slavs. In the case of the Morlaks from Dalmatia, it is true that they were gradually slavicized, although the process which led to their assimilation into the Croatian population lasted for several centuries".

The term “Vlach” originates from the old Germanic words Walh/Walah/Welsch, meaning "people of the Wall" (the Roman Limes) and is related to the words “Italian,” “French,” or generally “Roman.” Similarly, in medieval Croatian documents in Latin language, the term is translated as Latinus, i.e., “Latin.” As for the question of the origin of the Vlachs, we know for sure that the Vlachs were descendants of an indigenous Romanised pre-Slavic Balkan population living in the highlands of the central Balkans, such as Illyrians, Thracians, and Dacians, who had mixed with Roman colonists from the Italian peninsula.

Unlike the population of Roman towns and villages in the Balkans that disappeared after the migration of the Slavs, the nomadic/semi-nomadic Vlachs survived the Slavic massacres as an individual entity. In the course of time, however, under the influence of a Slavic environment the outnumbered Vlachs started to Slavicise and at first, became bilingual after the IX-X century. By contrast, some of the Slavic population in some areas adopted the transhumant life-style of the Vlachs and mixed with the Vlachs in some areas, like in Rascia/Arsia (originating the first state of the Serbs).

Cristian Luca also wrote that from the 15th century, the Vlachs in Dalmatia were also called "Morlaks", and from about the first decades of the 18th century, they became also named "Aromanians" or "Macedoromanians", belonging, from an ethno-linguistic point of view, to the Eastern Romanity, being speakers of a Romanian dialect. As mentioned above, the Vlachs settled in Dalmatia and then in Bosnia, mainly from the beginning 14th century, and came from the mountainous areas of the central Balkan Peninsula. They were scattered – in small, closed communities, united in a strong solidarity which arose from dealing exclusively in long term transhumant sheep breeding – in different parts of the South-Danubian area. Their presence was frequently attested to in sources from the 12th-18th centuries in Albania, Macedonia, Bulgaria, Serbia, Montenegro, Bosnia, Herzegovina, Croatia and mainland Greece (even in several Greek islands).

Although traditionally devoted to transhumant sheep breeding, there is also early documentary evidence mentions their presence in the Balkan Peninsula, and their excellent enterprising ingenuity in engaging in the caravan trade. By the first decades of the 17th century, they had established themselves as one of the most important groups of trading middlemen between the Italian Peninsula and Eastern Europe.

The migration of several groups of Vlachs/Morlaks from inside the Balkan Peninsula towards the coast of Venetian Dalmatia (Venetian Dalmatia on English Wikipedia
) was also determined by the phenomenon of transhumance, which was the main occupation of this Romanic population. In it, sheep were bred in open areas, in the pastures of the high mountain ranges of the Balkan region. Transhumant sheep breeding imposed seasonal rhythmic cycles on the movement of flocks. Thus, as a result of their search for areas with a milder climate to settle down for the winter, the Vlach shepherds begin arrived on the coasts of central Dalmatia in the 14th century, where their presence was frequently reported in contemporary sources. In this coastal region they found pastures all along the winter, so that many decided to settle in the hinterland of urban centers under Venetian domination. In the subsequent centuries, some of them divided their existence between the Dinaric Alps, where they were kept their herds from spring until autumn, and these Dalmatian regions.

A situation of this kind can be found in the 16th century in the hinterlands of the towns of Traù (Trogir in Serbo-Croatian) and Sebenico (Šibenik in Serbo-Croatian), which had been part of Venice’s "Stato da Mar" since the second decade of the 15th century. Sebenico, is located in central Dalmatia, at the point where the Krka river flows into the Adriatic Sea. It is situated at about 30 km South of Traù.However both ports were economically eclipsed in importance by another Venetian port, Spalato (Split), the main transit center which coordinated the trade on the Balkan land routes between the Serenissima and Eastern Europe. Sebenico, through its strategic position and the military functions of its port, had an important role in defending the Venetian possessions in Dalmatia. Therefore Serenissima’s government decided to build a fortification named St.Michael, on the heights that dominated the city. In its turn, Traù was mainly protected by its natural location, the urban settlement being built on two islands lying in front of the central Dalmatian coast.

In 1774, when abbot Alberto Fortis made his famous journey in Dalmatia, the Vlachs/Morlaks from the settlements on the Krka river, including those in the hinterland of the town of Sebenico, were not yet slavicized, although the Venetian author inaccurately assigned them this origin.

Prior to Fortis, Giovanni Lucio, quoted by Jacob Spon and George Wheler, mentioned the Romanic origin of the Morlaks of Dalmatia and their ethnic and linguistic affinity with the Wallachians from the Romanian Principalities.

Venetian sources from the second half of the 16th century recorded the earlier stages of the Vlachs/Morlaks penetration and establishment into the hinterland of the town of Traù. In 1562 the inhabitants of the town of Trau (the old Tragurium) which belonged to Serenissima’s "Stato da Mar" mentioned the seasonal presence of the Vlachs/Morlaks in the area, where they had started arriving in 1525 to find winter shelter for their herds: in less than a decade, by 1531, the Vlachs/Morlaks had steadfastly settled down in the territory of the town of Traù, near the border with the Ottoman province of Bosnia.

The newcomers founded several rural settlements and began to grow grain on the neighbouring arable lands. Finally, in 1550 no less than 11 settlements inhabited by the Vlachs/Morlaks were recorded. They were located in Veneto-Ottoman border territory, in the area lying between Traù and Sebenico: Labin,Opor, Trilogue (Trolokve), Radosich (Radošić), Podine, Vrsno, Liubitoviţa(Ljubitovica), Lepeniţa (Lepenica), Prapatnica, Suchidol (Suhi Dolac) and Sitno.

The Vlach/Morlak settlements from the hinterland of Traù were already a demographic, economic and administrative certainty in 1626, when another morlak settlement was done: in the area of the port-town of Sebenico a gradual penetration of the Vlach/Morlak shepherds, merchants and carters, was also recorded. The latter were also active at Zara (Zadar) and Traù, but without having settled down in the Trau hinterland, where the establishments mentioned earlier had been founded by the shepherds and their families.

Indeed during the first years of the second half of the 16th century, the Vlachs/Morlaks were exploiting, together with the Venetian subjects of Sebenico, several mills built on the Krka river, near Scardona (Skradin). The Vlachs/Morlaks penetrated only temporarily into the territory of the town of Sebenico, without attempting to establish durable settlements in the area under the jurisdiction of the Serenissima and recognized as such by the Sultan Süleyman I Kanûn.

The Bunjevci, a group of Vlachs who presumably originated from western Herzegovina, migrated to venetian Dalmatia in the early 1400s, and from there to Lika and Bačka (actual northern Serbia) in the 16th and 17th century. They were catholic "Vlasi", who escaped from the Ottoman invasions and slowly were fully assimilated by the Croats.

The Bunjevci's roots were in middle-ages Bosnia-Erzegovina, a country with a majority of inhabitants speaking a neolatin language before the year 1000 AD (see map above).

Tuesday, June 7, 2016


Italians during WW2 planned attacks on New York, after the entry in the war of the United States in December 1941. There were two plans: one by navy and a second by aircraft. The most famous is the first, planned by Junio Valerio Borghese, but even the second (that was purely symbolic -by direct orders of the same Mussolini- because planned to drop only some leaflets (Italians planned an attack on New York with a big hydroplane
) is worth some research and remembrance.

The Italian CANT Z.511, the biggest hydroplane in History, was ready to attack New York in 1943

The attack by navy

The activities of the "10th Light Flotilla" (armed with the famous "Maiali" and called "Decima MAS" in Italian language) of the "Marina italiana" during WW2 were not limited to the Mediterranean. The commander of this Italian Navy's special operations unit, prince Junio Valerio Borghese, was responsible for the planning of an attack on the New York harbour, that for a group of reasons was not done.

Indeed in 1942, after the United States entered the war, Borghese devised a plan to attack the New York Harbor using a "CA type" midget submarine and commando frogmen (read The Southeast Missourian: Italians planned attack on New York
). The midget submarine would be transported across the Atlantic by being carried on the deck of a larger submarine. The Italian submarine Leonardo da Vinci was chosen for the task of transportation and modified at the Italian base in Bordeaux (called BETASOM).

Borghese planned even another similar attack against a British base in Freetown (Sierra Leone) and studied in 1942 the successful tests of a midget submarine in Lake Iseo of Lombardy.

Here it is an essay on this planned attack, appeared on, and written by Cristiano D'Adamo:

The role of Borghese in the 10th Light Flotilla would be an important one. This man was not just a commanding officer, but also a leader. As he would later write, he perfectly understood the value of “the psychological effect on the Americans, who had not yet undergone any war offensive on their own soil” In his view, it was paramount to conduct an attack outside the Mediterranean. The idea was audacious, but realistic. The Germans had concocted similar plans relying on agent saboteurs to infiltrate the United States and damage critical production or manufacturing sites, but failed. These attacks were prevented by the highly developed American information system and by the insular nature of the American continent. The Japanese, well after the attack on Pearl Harbor, sent a submarine to bomb the California coast, causing minimal damage but much turmoil.

The physiological damage caused by this attack would have been much greater than the actual physical one.

The "CA 3" midget submarine that was planned to be used in the attack

Borghese intended to bring war to the American continent by conducting an action that would be demonstrative in nature and which would have limited military value in damage inflicted, but enormous value in terms of psychological effects. The plan, to which today we have only limited documentation, called for the delivery of an insidious weapon off Fort Hamilton to then have this craft navigate upriver toward the Hudson River and deliver explosive charges to some of the merchant ships docked along West Street. Due to the nature of the harbor and the distance of New York from the nearest Axis-occupied port, the use of human torpedoes was not only unsuited, but also impractical. In the Mediterranean, the 10th Light Flotilla had used delivery submarine equipped with three cylindrical containers mounted on deck. Later, the cylinders would become four and would be installed to the side of the hull. The cylinders were used to protect the human torpedoes from the weather, but made navigation harder and, due to their size, increased the profile of the vessel, thus increasing the risk of being spotted. For the attack against New York, the 10th Light Flotilla would have had to employ a different craft, one designed for longer missions, one protecting its crew from the weather, but still one small in size and stealthy. The solution would be found in a warehouse in the military port of La Spezia.

The craft in question, known as a CA, was the invention of the firm Caproni, originally founded by Giovanni Caproni and well-known around the world for the construction of advanced airplanes, winners of many world records. During the crisis of 1935, when Italy was on the brink of war with Great Britain and during the same period when the Italian Navy instituted what would later become the 10th Light Flotilla, his firm was asked to collaborate with the Regia Marina in the construction of new assault weapons. This collaboration between the aeronautic firm and the Navy was unique, but it also allowed for the introduction of new and unique engineering ideas in the relatively rigid field of naval engineering. Caproni sought the collaboration of a trained naval engineer and he selected Vincenzo Goeta, an independent naval consultant with offices in Genoa. In a few months, the Goeta-Caproni project, as it will be later known, was presented to the Italian Ship Design Committee of the Navy, a reputable bureau led by General Umberto Pugliese, an extremely talented individual highly recognized for the invention of an underwater protection system which bears his name. The project presented to the Navy in early 1936, and eventually approved three months later , was encouraging, especially because the ideas proposed by the Caproni firm were exceptionally innovative. The project was given the name “G”, and called for a craft with a crew of two, powered by a diesel engine and capable of launching torpedoes.

Caproni called this craft a “submergible motorboat”, but in reality it was a submarine. In Caproni’s vision, this little craft was the equivalent of a fighter plane; his previous experience in the aeronautic field was an important factor in shaping both the craft and its possible tactical utilization. Unfortunately, the Navy was not quite ready to embrace these new and somewhat radical ideas, but at the same time they were still interested in pursuing “Project G”. As common during the period, the Goeta-Caproni team was assigned an engineer from the Ship Design Committee, Major Spinelli, to begin constructing two prototypes which eventually came to be known as CA 1 and CA 2 . Construction began in earnest at the Caproni factory located in Taliedo, near Milan. This miniscule submarine had a resistant hull with semispherical caps at each end. Ballast tanks, torpedo launchers, and other components were placed externally to the resistant hull. The project called for a crew of two; the commanding officer would sit on a special seat from which he had access to the periscope and the controls, mostly a joystick, just like an airplane, and also navigational instrumentation resembling more a cockpit rather than a control room. The enlisted man would instead crawl near the engine since there was enough room to stand up.

The first prototypes were delivered to the Navy in 1938 in total secrecy. Loaded on a special railcar, the odd-looking crafts were properly disguised and taken to Lake Iseo near Brescia and Bergamo. This is a relatively small lake with a depth of about 750 feet (251 meters) and a perimeter of about 60 kilometers. The lake is shaped like an S and has a relatively large island in the middle. Initial testing confirmed the good quality of the crafts and allowed for the correction of some defects, and the improvement of many components. Naturally, due to the absence of salt, buoyancy in a fresh body of water was different from the ocean, thus testing continued in Venice. At the arsenal of Venice, a military shipyard with a long and lustrous history, three young officers began the official testing. They were Lieutenants Torri, Gatti and Meneghini . Testing confirmed some already known issues, mostly related to the sensitivity of the controls , but the submarines were able to navigate on the surface at a speed of 7 knots, 5 knots while submerged, and repeatedly launched the two 450 mm torpedoes without many inconveniences.

Having completed the tests in Venice, the two submarines were sent to La Spezia, Italy’s largest naval base. Experience acquired during the testing of CA 1 and CA 2 induced the design team to increase displacement of about 4 tons, reaching the 20 ton mark. Meantime, the two prototypes were abandoned and placed in storage, the same storage where they would be found by the 10th Light Flotilla. Having been laid up for over two years, the two submarines were in poor condition. It was decided to send them back to the factory for a complete refurbishing, but also to make some changes. The refurbished CAs were redesigned to better fit the needs of the 10th Light Flotilla, thus the torpedo launchers were removed and replaced with eight 100 Kg explosive charges. These charges would be manually placed under enemy ships by a frogman. The diesel engine was also removed as the boats were expected to operate like a “human torpedo”, thus within the range of the electric motor. Further alterations included the removal of the cunning tower and the periscope. With the combustion engine removed, the second crewmember became the operator of the explosive charges, also known as frogmen. The scuba equipment used was the same already employed by the operators of the human torpedo and consisted of a full-body rubber suit and a breathing apparatus fueled by pure compressed oxygen.

At the end of this work, the CA could have been considered a new craft. Range was limited to about 70 miles, underwater speed was increased to 6 knots and maximum depth was tested up to 47 meters: quite an achievement for such a small unit. Further testing brought forth more issues, some quite relevant. The explosive charges had been placed in the cavities left by the removal of the torpedo launcher at the base of the hull, but their position made the release of the charges themselves very difficult. Thus, the two cavities were eliminated and the charges were moved further up almost in line with the small deck. The hydraulic pump, made by the firm Calzoni, was found to be too noisy; this was a problem common to most Italian submarines. Thus, the pump was removed and replaced by one operated manually by one of the two crewmembers. During testing, CA 1 sank to the bottom of Lake Iseo due to a small failure and even if rescued, it would not be ready for action for quite some time. Thus, the 10th Light Flotilla was left with only one craft ready for action: CA 2.

Expecting the refurbishing of CA 1 to happen promptly, Commander Borghese envisioned two attacks to be carried out in the Atlantic; one against the British base of Freetown and one against New York. To deliver the midget submarines to their targets, Borghese needed submarines, but those already assigned to his unit were too small for oceanic navigation. Thus, according to his memoirs, Borghese attempted to obtain German submarines on loan from the Kriesgmarine, but it appears that Admiral Donitz, the commander of the German submarine forces, could not spare any. If a German submarine had been made available, the possibility of completing the attack would have been much greater because the U-Boats were newer, and more reliable and maneuverable than the rapidly aging Italian submarines.

During this period, the Italian Navy was still operating its Atlantic submarine base in Bordeaux and the Italian submarines were well suited for the task due to their large displacement, but were very limited in numbers. The commanding officer of the base was Rear-Admiral Romolo Polacchini, later replaced by Commander Enzo Grossi, famous for having claimed the sinking, later discovered false, of two American battleships. Polacchini, we are told, immediately made one of his boats available to Borghese, while later on, Grossi wholeheartedly provided support and encouragement to the operation. The submarine selected was the Leonardo Da Vinci, an oceanic vessel of the Marconi class commanded by Lieutenant Gianfranco Gazzana Priaroggia, one of the most talented Italian submarines, whose qualities were certainly appreciated by Commander Borghese, a submariner himself.

The Leonardo Da Vinci was one of the most active submarines of the Italian fleet. On July 1st, 1942 it returned to base after a successful patrol in which it sank around 20,000 t. of enemy shipping. Upon its arrival in Bordeaux, the boat was sent to the local shipyard to be transformed into a transport submarine for the CA submarines. Under the direction of the chief construction engineer, Major Giulio Feno, the forward deck gun and its base were removed and a cradle created between the resistant hull and the deck superstructure. The midget submarine would rest in this cradle about one fourth below deck and the remaining portion sticking out, but without obstructing the view from the cunning tower. Two large claws operated from inside the transport submarine secured the small craft. Although it is not known, it should be assumed that the mother ship was also able to provide the midget submarine with power to recharge or tip off the batteries.

Trials began in September 1942. On the 9th, the Leonardo Da Vinci with its load on deck went out to sea to experiment with the release and recovery of the midget submarine. The same difficult and tedious maneuvers were repeated until the 15th of the same month when the whole process was proven not only doable, but also successful. The Leonardo Da Vinci could have left for New York in a few days, but it was too early. The plan called for action in December, when the daylight is minimal and the darkness of the night gives the operators more time to penetrate the enemy port and place the explosive charges. Also, the Italians had minimal knowledge of the situation in New York and were looking for more intelligence. For reasons unknown to us, the mission against New York was postponed until December 1943 ; it would never take place. Some secondary sources claim that Borghese had decided to wait for the completion of CA 3 and CA 4, two newer and more advanced midget submarines. Meantime, on May 6th, T.V. Gazzana Priaroggia was promoted "for service in war" to the rank of Lieutenant Commander and a few days later, on May 22nd, the Da Vinci launched the last radio signal informing the base that the following day it would begin "hidden" navigation. The boat was expected to arrive in Bordeaux within a week, but it would never arrive. In 1945, the English Admiralty confirmed that on May 23rd 1943 at 11.35 (T.M.G.) the destroyer "Active" and the frigate "Ness " conducted an attack just off Cape Finestrelle. There were no survivors and the 10th Light Flotilla had lost its transport submarine and the only captain trained to release and retrieve the CA.

A few months later, on September 8th, Italy would sign the armistice with the Allies. Most of the Navy followed the clauses of the armistice, and even if officially open, the base in Bordeaux ceased to exist. The CA remained in Bordeaux under German control and, when the city was evacuated in 1944, it was left behind. In 1945, CA 2 was found in Bordeaux on a flatbed railcar resting on wooden blocks and secured by two chains. The hull of the craft was almost intact, including the propeller, but all the control surfaces had been removed. It is not known when, but the small submarine was scraped. The remaining vessels of the CA class were also lost, some in circumstances still unknown, thus all we have left of their history is a few fading pictures. After the armistice, both the Royal Navy and the U.S. Navy became very interested in the 10th Light Flotilla and studied their tactics scrupulously. The legacy of this small group of men lives on in the special forces of most navies in the world. Cristiano d'Adamo

The attack by airplane

The attack by plane was centered on the "CANT Z.511", the biggest hydroplane ever built in History.( CANTZ.511 photos

The "CANT Z.511" Long Range Cargo Hydroplane was first designed by Fillipo Zappata. The first flight took place in Monfalcone (Trieste, north-eastern Italy) in October 1940. It’s first operational start took place in February 1942. In early 1942 (after the USA started to be at war with Italy) plans for a number of different long-range special missions were made using the "CANT Z.511". The unique and unusual ideas were proposed by the "Aviazione Ausiliara per la Marina" (Naval Aviation Service) as well as strategists of the "Regia Aeronautica'.

Several projects were considered:

1)An operation to liberate 55 captured Italian soldiers and pilots held in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, by Arab-British forces; such a plan was indeed carried out for Italian Navy Airborne Forces.[citation needed]

2)An air-raid on the strategic Soviet ports of Batumi and Poti in the Black Sea, or a raid against the port of Baku in the Caspian Sea.

3)An attack on British oil installations at Bahrain on the Persian Gulf.

4)A non-stop Rome-Buenos Aires flight (of 8,000 km) to evacuate prominent political and military Fascist personalities if needed.

5)A special propaganda mission, taking off from Bordeaux, France, refuelling from German Kriegsmarine "Milch Kuhn" ("milk cow") U-boat tanker submarines, to fly over New York City, dropping one ton of propaganda leaflets.

6)A raid against the Port of New York, with two aircraft each carrying four "Siluro a Lenta Corsa" human torpedoes (nicknamed "Maiale") to attack port facilities and ships. The crews were 16 special naval volunteers, who after completing their mission would be permitted to surrender, since there was no provision for them to return to the seaplanes. By May 1943 Kriegsmarine U-boat support had been obtained, the CANTs had successfully tested launching the Maiale, and the volunteers had been chosen and trained for the one-way operation. The raid was scheduled for mid-June. However the aircraft was damaged by British fighters when the CANT's base in Lake Trasimeno was strafed. The arrest of Mussolini in July 1943 and the subsequent signing of the Italian Armistice by Marshal Pietro Badoglio (the new Italian leader) meant that the New York raid, and all other plans, were cancelled

Indeed -as stated by Jim H. of when Italy entered war in June 1940, the project manager Filippo Zappata and his team were ready with the first prototype of the "CANT Z.511". This aircraft – strong and beautiful, able to carry (in theory) 16 passengers to a destination of more than 5.000 km away, flew in October 1940 giving good impressions in spite of its dimensions and its imperfect engines’ setting up (after he had tested some national engines, Zappata asked the High Command the permission to purchase six U.S. Wright Cyclone R-2600A propellers: due to the worsening of the diplomatic relationship between Rome and Washington, his request was not accepted).

The CANT Z.511 was then provided with four Piaggio P.XII RC.35 1500 hp engines, the only ones to guarantee acceptable performances on an aircraft weighing 34 tons. In April 1941, the prototype flew from Monfalcone to Grado (far from the unsafe Yugoslavian border) for other trials. On January 1942, the hydroplane had to be employed on different long range routes, as the war against the United States prevented the civil use of CANT Z.511 in the Atlantic area. The ideas were actually original and unusual. Among the projects taken into consideration, were plans to free fifty Italian soldiers and pilots imprisoned in Jeddah by Arab-English forces; to bomb some Russian ports on the Black Sea (Bathumi and Poti), on the Caspian Sea (Baku), or British bases on the Persian Gulf (Oil ports in Bahrein). Some had the odd idea of a spectacular mission (taking off from Bordeaux and twice supplying from German supply-submarines) in the skies of New York, launching one ton of tri-colored leaflets.

Monday, May 2, 2016


Italy did in the 1930s some attempts to export the Fascist revolution to areas formally and informally controlled by Britain in Egypt and Palestine. The challenge mounted by the Italian government to the British imperial structure rested upon the development of preferential relations with nationalist movements throughout the empire; such relationship would be forged by propaganda in a region, the southern and eastern shores of the Mediterranean, which was central to Mussolini’s foreign policy.

The promotion of Fascist ideology among the Middle Eastern populations, and in particular in Egypt and Palestine, was driven by political priorities rather than ideological imperatives insofar as propaganda was carefully employed to expand the economic and military capacity of Fascist Italy.

While the Italians in Palestine were a few thousands (mostly Italian jews), the size of the community in Egypt had reached around 55,000 persons just before World War II, forming the second largest expatriate community in Egypt and greatly influencing the local society. The expansion of the colonial Italian Empire after World War I was even directed toward Egypt by Benito Mussolini, in order to control the Suez Canal.

So, the Italian "Duce" created in the late 1920s/early 1930s some sections of the National Fascist Party (NFP) in Alexandria and Cairo, and many hundreds of Italian Egyptians become members of it. Even some Italo-egyptian intellectuals, like Filippo Tommaso Marinetti (founder of the "Futurism") and the famous poet Giuseppe Ungaretti, were supporters of the Italian nationalism in their native Alexandria and promoted the Italian influence in Egypt. Furthermore, some egyptians were influenced by the ideals of the fascism promoted by the NFP sections in Egypt, like the founder of the "Muslim Brotherhood" Al-Hasan Al-Banna. As a consequence, during World War II the British authorities interned in concentration camps nearly 8,000 Italian Egyptians with sympathy for Italian fascism, in order to prevent sabotage after the Italian Army attacked western Egypt in summer 1940. However until 1941 the king Faisal of Egypt (famous for his pro-Italian attitude & sympathies) always successfully blocked those internments.

An X pinpoints the young Gamal Abdel Nasser in a group of fascist "Green shirts"

Consequently many young arabs were influenced by Italian fascism. The most famous were Anwar Sadat and Gamal Abdel Nasser, two important presidents of Egypt after WWII. Sadat was active in many political movements, including the "Muslim Brotherhood", the fascist "Young Egypt", the pro-palace "Iron Guard", and a secret military group called the "Free Officers", which sought to liberate Egypt from British influence with help from the Axis powers. He spent much of World War II in jail for aiding Italy & Germany in their efforts to force the British from Egypt. Nasser was a member of the fascist organization "Young Egypt" for 2 years just before WWII. When the Italo-german troops of Rommel attacked Egypt in 1941, Nasser -then a young officer of the Egyptian Army- declared that he was ready for a "revolt" against the British empire in case the Axis reached the Nile delta.

Indeed in the summer of 1942, when Rommel's Afrikakorps stood just over 100 kilometers from Alexandria and were poised to march into Cairo, Sadat, Nasser and their buddies were in close touch with the Italo-german attacking force and —even with Muslim Brotherhood help— preparing an anti-British uprising in Egypt's capital. A treaty with the Axis including provisions for recognition of an independent, but pro-Axis Egypt had been drafted by Sadat, guaranteeing that “no British soldier would leave Cairo alive”. When Rommel's push east failed at El Alamein in the fall of 1942, Sadat and several of his co-conspirators were arrested by the British and sat out much of the remainder of the war in jail.

For about five years, from the end of 1933 to the end of 1938, political life in Egypt saw the rise of paramilitary youth groups known as the "Green Shirts", founded by the fascist Young Egypt Society ("Misr al-Fatah") that was created in October 1933 by the attorney Ahmed Hussein, and the "Blue Shirts", founded by the Wafd nationalist (and half-fascist) Party for its younger members. Mussolini openly supported the Green Shirts, who were said to be even connected to the main adviser of king Faruk, the Italo-egyptian Antonio Pulli until his forced resignation on February 4, 1942.

After 1939 grew in importance the secret military organization called Free Officers ("Al-Dubbat al-Hahrar") that even worked with the Italian secret services (SIM) to create manifestations & revolts in Egypt against the British rule, mainly in summer 1942 (read Italian SIM and Egypt fascists during WW2, in Italian language
). Indeed when the Axis troops reached El Alamein in summer 1942, the Italian & German secret services -according to the British Intelligence service- promoted huge demonstrations in the main Egyptian cities, where crowds of thousands of Egyptians screamed "Away the British empire" and "Welcome Axis" and a popular revolt was feared by the Allies. As a consequence in 1942/43 nearly 6000 egyptian officers (like Sadat) were interned for security reasons in concentration camps by the British military for some years.

In Palestine the Italian influence was not strong as in Egypt and was practically limited to radio propaganda in arab language from the famous "Radio Bari", even because Mussolini had a good relationship with the Zionist Revisionist forces. Indeed the military Navy of Israel was initially created in the late 1930s by Italy thanks to Maurizio Rava, an Italian jew who was a fascist leader and a colonial governor: the Betar Naval Academy was a Jewish naval training school established in Civitavecchia, near Rome, in 1934 by the Revisionist Zionist movement under the direction of Ze'ev Jabotinsky, with the agreement of the same Mussolini.

Furthermore, Mussolini in 1934 sought to gain favourable support for Italy's intervention in Ethiopia, and appealed to Zionists by offering them a solution to the Jewish question, in which Italy would set aside a certain amount of territory from conquered Ethiopia to be a homeland for Jews. Mussolini claimed that territory from conquered Ethiopia would make an ideal homeland for the Jews, noting that there were large numbers of "Falasha" (black jews) already living there who identified as Jews. However Zionist leaders rejected this proposal, saying that they would only live in the Holy Land in the Levant. Mussolini viewed this as an offensive snub, and responded in frustration saying "If Ethiopia is good enough for my Italians why isn't it good enough for you Jews?". Afterwards Mussolini's relations with the Zionist movement cooled, and he did not maintain his tentative to increase the Italian presence/influence between Palestine's jews.

However during the 1930s the italian secret service SIM was always connected to the muslim "Mufti" of Jerusalem (Amin al-Husseini). After Mussolini's alliance with Hitler, the local arab fascists started to be helped even with some money support. Indeed Italian involvement (read Mussolini's help to the arab revolt in British Palestine (1936 - 1939)
) in the Arab Revolt in Palestine, from 1936 to 1939, was an attempt to destabilize London's position in the Middle East. In 1941 there was even a meeting in Rome between the Mufti and Mussolini, when he took refuge in Italy after escaping from the Middle East.

The following are excerpts from a book written by Manuela Williamsand and titled "Mussolini's War of Words: Italian Propaganda and Subversion in Egypt and Palestine, 1934-1939":


"....In the 1920s, the Fascist regime attempted to establish its presence in the international arena by targeting primarily the numerous Italian communities overseas. The "fascistizzazione" of Italian society went hand in hand with the process of expansion of Italian culture abroad and the gradual centralisation of Italian diplomatic and cultural institutions such as the "Direzione Generale delle Scuole Italiane all’Estero and the Fasci all’Estero", which were brought under the umbrella of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.14 In 1927, new reforms were introduced to tie Italian nationals living overseas to the metropole, which led to the creation of the "Direzione Generale degli Italiani all’Estero" and of the "Comitato per l’Espansione della Cultura all’Estero"; however, the vigorous drive towards the rapid fascistizzazione and ideological mobilisation of Italians abroad carried the risk of sowing division within the Italian communities and alienate them from the political and social environment in which they had until then prospered. At the heart of the cultural, political and economic expansion of Fascist Italy was the "Società Nazionale Dante Alighieri", established in Rome in 1899 to disseminate the Italian language and culture overseas. Throughout the 1920s the Dante Alighieri society was gradually incorporated into the propaganda machine of the regime, although it would be fair to say that despite the initial resistance of the Dante Alighieri, the relationship between the society and the government was based on collaboration and common nationalist ideals; such strong nationalist component furthered «the rapid identification of the objectives of the society itself with those of the regime».

In the 1930s, the organisation of propaganda overseas received new impetus as the regime became increasingly keen to proclaim the international and universal nature of Fascism. The process of expansion of Italian propaganda overseas, which would no longer target Italian nationals but engage foreign audiences in a bid to overturn prejudices and stereotypes that had marred perceptions and understanding of the Fascist regime, was mainly driven by Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. In 1932, Mussolini took over the interim direction of the Ministry and reformed its structure: as a result, five distinct sections emerged based on a subject-area division: Political Affairs – that since the 1887 Pisani-Dossi reform had retained clear primacy – Economic Affairs, Treaties and Private Affairs, Personnel, Italians Abroad and Schools.

The centralization of Italian propaganda and cultural diplomacy was supported by La Farnesina (the Italian Foreign Ministry) and culminated with the creation of an office for overseas propaganda, under the aegis of the Press Office of the Head of the Government, led since 1933 by Galeazzo Ciano, Mussolini’s son-in-law. The propaganda apparatus that began to emerge in 1934 was the brainchild of Ciano, who had been inspired by the establishment of the German Ministry of Popular Enlightenment and Propaganda in March 1933. The newly created overseas propaganda section was initially located within the building of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs with which it kept close relations over time. The strong interdependence between foreign policy and overseas propaganda was also emphasised by the presence of Galeazzo Ciano head first of the Ministry of Press and Propaganda (established in 1935 and renamed Ministry of Popular Culture in 1937) and then of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
The strategies adopted by Italian propagandists overseas aimed to provide the most suitable response to local socio-political conditions, and mostly rested on the existing consular and community structures. The activities of the Italian communities overseas have been the subject of recent historical research. In particular, the role of Italian immigrants to the United States and the extent to which they were actively promoting Fascist policies, culture and values, have received considerable attention. Efforts were made to accelerate the process of fascistizzazione of the Italian immigrants and the second generation of Italo-Americans. The Fascist regime engineered the systematic penetration of the numerous cultural and leisure organisations of the Italian community: the Ordine Figli d’Italia, Società Nazionale Dante Alighieri, the Italian Library of Information in New York, the Italy-America Society, the Italian Historical Society, the Casa Italiana at Columbia University among the most renowned. Membership of community institutions was particularly high among the socalled prominenti, a class of successful Italo-American professionals and businessmen that became one of the most important and effective conduits of Fascist propaganda, although once Mussolini fell out of favour in America, the prominenti did not hesitate to denounce Fascism as quickly as they had embraced it.Cannistraro highlights the importance of the immigrant communities «as points of leverage and reference for Italian interests abroad – that is, an Italy lobby in foreign countries».19 Establishing a modus operandi that would be perfected in the Middle East, from the late 1920s Italian propagandists weaved a network that rested on cultural institutions as well as some Catholic parishes and that was dedicated to the promotion of Fascist ideals among Italian immigrants; the outcome was what Italian historian Gaetano Salvemini termed as a «Fascist transmission belt».Propaganda activities would be ultimately coordinated by Italian consular offices, and in particular by the local cultural agent. Italy would thus attempt to influence international perceptions and affairs through soft power as well as diplomatic manoeuvring and military agreements.

The Italian communities overseas were particularly keen to promote the image of a triumphant Italy. For example, in August 1935, when Ciano arrived in Port Said, British sources reported that approximately 3,000 Fascists travelled from all over the country to the town. A crowd of 20,000 people, including those resident in the area, invaded Port Said: «Those who travelled by car scattered coloured leaflets bearing fascist slogans in the streets. Some were in uniforms [...]. They were noisy and aggressive [...]. The demonstration has not done any good to Italian name. The overbearing behaviour of the Fascist contingents has disgusted local people».In Egypt Italian nationals appeared particularly proactive and vociferous; Italian diplomats and intelligence agents and their Egyptian contacts relied on the infrastructures and support of a broad Italian community settled in Cairo, Alexandria and Port Said. Italian communities in Egypt had enjoyed a degree of prosperity and amicable relations with their Muslim neighbours at least until the Abyssinian crisis, when suspicion and resentment towards Italy’s aggression rapidly spread among the Egyptian population. The size and internal structure of the Italian community in Egypt offered a solid base of support to the regime’s propagandists.

Italian census data revealed that in 1936 18,548 Italians lived in Alexandria, some 17,300 in Cairo and around 600 in Port Said. Community life was centred upon a number of cultural, political and recreational associations such as the Fascio, the Società Nazionale Dante Alighieri, the Circolo Italiano Dopolavoro and the Associazione Nazionale Combattenti, all controlled by the government in Rome. These organisations – whose members often operated behind the scenes on behalf of the Italian authorities – did not always appear directly involved in promoting Fascist political propaganda or other activities designed to undermine the internal stability of Egypt and the relations between the Egyptian government and its British counterpart.The Italian authorities appeared extremely proud of the status and achievements of Italian residents in Egypt. At the end of 1936, The Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs – assessing the activities of Italian nationals in the upper Nile valley – claimed that the «solid, close and patriotic Italian community in Egypt was still providing an outstanding example of the achievements of Italian citizens abroad under the direction of the [Fascist] regime». The social profile of the Italian population of Egypt was rather diversified, including skilled workers, clerks, professionals and entrepreneurs. Some had achieved positions of responsibility within the structures controlled by the Fascist government, others had attempted to enter the high circles of the Egyptian political establishment. A small influx of Italian doctors and foreign doctors holding an Italian degree into the Sudan began in 1934, raising concerns that foreign professionals could be used by the Italian authorities to penetrate social and political circles in the Anglo-Egyptian condominium

Italy and the Middle East in the 1920s and 1930s

The history of Italian propaganda activities in the Middle East dates back to the end of the First World War. In the aftermath of the war, the newly born Fascist movement seemed to sympathise with the nationalistic aspirations of the Middle Eastern peoples with which it shared suspicion and resentment towards the British and French colonial systems. The Fascist leadership established close relations with Arab nationalists whose initiatives were soon championed and amplified by the Italian press, generating among British officials fear of a possible collusion between Italy and the Islamic activists.In the late 1920s, having consolidated his power Mussolini appeared prepared to undertake a more active role in the international arena and sought to build and consolidate an empire, occupying those few territories in North and East Africa that still remained independent. Central to the Fascist ideology and political programme was the notion of empire initially conceived as economic and “spiritual” expansion of the proletarian nation. Towards the end of the 1920s the imperial vocation led the regime to become engaged in the Balkans and in Africa aiming eventually to assert Italian hegemony in the Mediterranean and secure access to the Oceans.Italian foreign-policy makers soon realised that to achieve a position of power in the mare nostrum, Italy had to seek an alliance with forces that could challenge the British imperial and mandatory system from within. The most interesting aspect of Italy’s complex Middle Eastern policy was the unlikely partnership between an aspiring colonial power and an anticolonial movement. In other words, anti-colonialism became in the hands of the regime a tool for colonial expansion. In order to further its political and economic interests in the Middle East and Levant, Italy needed to ensure the friendship and compliance of the Arab nationalists, who in turn would gain the protection of Mussolini’s government, the necessary diplomatic and political leverage, and financial and military support, to force British and French colonial administrators to withdraw from the region. In Syria, for example, the nationalist Misak Party was keen to reach an understanding with the Fascist regime, which would lead to the recognition of an independent Syrian state under a constitutional monarchy, while the Italian government would provide for the security of the Syrian coastline. The alliance between Fascist Italy and Arab leaders would be forged by propaganda. The main task awaiting Italian propagandists was to erase the violent colonial record of Italy in North Africa and Ethiopia, and to promote the image of Mussolini as the champion of modern Islam. However, the response generated by Italian propaganda in the Arab world did not necessarily match the objectives of Fascist foreign policy makers. Suspicion towards the real aims of Mussolini’s policy in the Middle East and resentment at his colonial undertaking in Africa remained widespread, eventually leaving the success of Italian propaganda confined to limited factions of the nationalist movement. The initial thrust consisted mainly of cultural propaganda aimed at strengthening Italian ties with the Arab peoples «by praising Italy and the Fascist system.The Italian government organised a number of initiatives, along with the sponsorship of Arab press, distribution of Italian publications, the foundation of schools and hospitals, the creation of a news agency in Cairo and the institution of Radio Bari, which began to broadcast programmes of music and news in Arabic in March 1934. The aim was originally to restore Italian prestige after the Senussi massacre and the dramatic events in Libya, but the outbreak of hostilities in Abyssinia produced a sudden change in the propaganda campaign orchestrated by the government in Rome. Attacks on British policy in the Middle East became more frequent and direct; attempting to encourage Arab unrest in a region where Britain’s presence was strongly resented, the Italians were hoping to keep British troops engaged in security duties and therefore prevent them from intervening in the Ethiopian war.

Italian cultural propaganda in the Middle East and North Africa dramatically increased in the early 1930s, and targeted mainly students and the Arab nationalist intelligentsia. The considerable variety of publications sent directly from the Ministry of Popular Culture to Italian embassies, consulates and representatives abroad was instrumental in promoting the messages of the Fascist regime. The production of a wide range of books, journals and periodicals increased noticeably with the outbreak of hostilities in East Africa and was primarily designed to praise the achievements of the Fascist regime and emphasise Italian role in the international, and more specifically Middle Eastern, political arena. Academic and cultural institutions also opened to a larger Arab membership, Italian schools organised trips to Italy for Arab students, while the Italian government encouraged and promoted the creation of a Confederation of Oriental Students in Europe based in Rome. The Confederation was launched in December 1933 with great pomp in Rome, where 600 Asian students (including a large Egyptian contingent) were hosted by the Gruppi Universitari Fascisti. Mussolini’s speech was delivered in Italian and English then translated into French and German. The Duce reminded his audience that under the auspices of the Roman empire East met West, and the emerging union of cultures became central to the development of Western civilisation. Such fusion of Eastern and Western values was kept alive by the Fascist regime and would acquire renewed importance during times of political and social instability: «Today Rome and the Mediterranean, with the Fascist spiritual rebirth, are reclaiming their “unifying mission”».However, Mussolini’s attempts to win Arab support were not always successful: Italian manoeuvres were still regarded with suspicion in some Arab circles such as the Arab Youth Committee of Geneva, which boycotted the rally organised in Rome by the Oriental Students in 1933 and denounced it as «an instrument of Italian imperialism».

Cultural and educational exchanges had always been regarded as a key area for the activities of Italian propagandists. This was acknowledged by British officials in the Middle East who had urged the government in London to co-operate with its regional counterparts in order to establish regular exchange programmes for parties of teachers and students who wished to visit the United Kingdom during the summer vacation. The Italians had successfully and ruthlessly exploited their connections with education institutions in Egypt and Palestine providing special discounts for parties interested in visiting Italy; for example, the equivalent of £10 per person would cover a return ticket from Palestine as well as two to three weeks staying in Italy. Undoubtedly, the Italian government’s longstanding ability to manipulate education and leisure for propaganda purposes proved to be invaluable. In 1939, the British Foreign Office expressed anxiety about the inroads made by Italian and German agents into Egyptian schools and universities, where young people had been offered free travelling to Italy and Germany in order to study and understand the Fascist and Nazi movements and their achievements; British officials anticipated that many of the young Egyptians might return home «ardent admirers of the totalitarian states […] and would thereafter act as German and Italian propaganda agents». On the eve of the outbreak of the conflict in Europe, the Foreign Office appeared uncertain about the friendship of the Egyptian people and fearful of losing control of an area that was vital for the defence of the empire.


Although the geopolitical map of Italian propaganda activities covers a vast area, from South America to South East Asia, the examination of Egypt and Palestine offers a clear insight into patterns of propaganda and strategies of information adopted by the Fascist regime. Throughout the 1930s, as the Arab-Jewish dispute over Palestinian land grew in intensity, the Italian government adopted a distinct position in support of Arab claims. The directions of Italian policy in Palestine were not based on racial antiSemitic prejudices, but on political and strategic considerations: in the eyes of the Italians, a powerful and independent Jewish community in Palestine, and eventually a Jewish state, would provide a solid and permanent base for Britain in the Mediterranean. Italian endorsement of the Arab cause became even more explicit as a clear division of camps gradually emerged both in Europe and in the Middle East. Thus Italian propaganda bluntly presented the Axis coalition as the saviour of the Arab world. Despite Italian outright support of Arab nationalist demands, Italy’s prestige in the Arab world had been seriously undermined by the war in Abyssinia. Italian officials complained that the Palestinian press had expressed strong disapproval of Italian policies in East Africa. However, officials in Rome were quite certain that, after their initial rejection of Italy’s military campaign in Abyssinia, Palestinian Arab nationalists would come to realise that an alliance with the Fascist regime offered them the best prospects of future independence. All this was cause for concern in London, where British Foreign Office and intelligence officials believed that Italian activities in the Middle East – of which they claimed to have seen substantial evidence – were also part of Mussolini’s war plans, intended to keep Britain ‘fully occupied in her Mandated Territories’ during the hostilities.

Looking at Palestine in the critical years 1935 and 1936, it is possible to observe that the operational pattern adopted to conduct propaganda in that area rather differed from the one that had characterised Italian activities in Egypt. This seems to reflect a Palestinian social and political environment that was crucially distinct from the Egyptian, and in which Italian agents had to deal with markedly different circumstances and actors. First of all, the existence of a British mandatory government removed the opportunity for Italy to find precious allies and sympathisers in the higher or middle spheres of the administration. Second, political interactions in Palestine were rather complex and fraught, based on the development of competing interests of the Arab and Jewish communities, and on the ‘policy of equilibrium’ adopted by the British mandatory authorities. Having already presented Italy as the champion of the Arab people, Mussolini – despite a brief flirtation with the Zionist Revisionist forces – lent his support to the demands of the Palestinian Arab community against the much resented mandatory government, and an even more despised community of Jewish newcomers, seen as the guarantor of British perpetual presence in the Mediterranean and the Middle East.

Like in Egypt, the Italian community appeared broadly cohesive and proactive; many Italian firms, and in particular engineering firms, were directly subsidised by the government in Rome; managers and employees of companies of international reputation, such as insurance brokers Lloyd Triestino and the Banco di Roma, seemed «unceasing in their efforts to disseminate Italian and Fascist propaganda».33 However, the main vehicle of Italian propaganda against British policy in Palestine was information, distorted information according to British sources, disseminated not only through press and radio broadcasts, but also books, pamphlets, leaflets, cartoons, and all types of visual and verbal communications. Pamphlets like Ce que fait l’Italie pour l’Islam et l’Afrique, outlining in the text and emphasising with images that Italy cared about the moral and physical welfare of the Muslim populations by building schools, mosques, hospitals, community centres in its African colonies. Or more gruesome publications like What the League of Nations does not want to see containing pictures illustrating atrocities allegedly committed by Abyssinians against Italians and their supporters. More pamphlets found their ways into Arab households in countries like Egypt, where young Fascist men began to distribute propaganda material in French and Arabic, such as Abyssinia and Slavery, which depicted atrocities and violations committed by the Abyssinians not only against the Italians, but also against local Muslim communities. Four Palestinian newspapers were also believed to be the recipient of funding from Italian agents; among them, «Al jami’a Al Islamiya» was regarded as the most open to Italian bribe and inclined to amplify the messages of Fascist propagandists.

Information was the most effective medium used by the Italian government and its agents for propaganda purposes. Information through press and other printed publications, however, had a limited target of recipients, an elite who was not only literate but also highly educated. Large sections of the Arab populations, particularly in Egypt and Palestine, would have remained oblivious of the message of Italian propagandists if in the 1930s radio broadcasts had not become one of the main instruments of domestic and international propaganda. The key to the success of radio broadcasts was simple: the radio relied upon spoken words leading to a more personal and direct approach compared to that of other media; it was capable of reaching the masses, regardless of their geographical location, social status, education or ideological affiliations; and finally, lacking adequate jamming devices, radio transmissions were extremely difficult to silence.The success of Radio Bari with its broadcasts in Arabic was not overlooked by the British government of Palestine. In November 1935, British officials estimated that over 10,000 licences had already been issued in Palestine, where Bari broadcasts had become increasingly popular in Arab cafes. Radio Bari was created in 1934 by Galeazzo Ciano, at that time director of the Under-secretariat for Press and Propaganda. Initially, Arab programmes were broadcast three times per week and reached the Italian colony of Libya as well as the French and British territories of Morocco, Tunisia, Egypt, Palestine and part of the Red Sea region. They consisted mainly of Arab music, a favourite among listeners, news, likely to reach a wider audience in an area of high illiteracy, and finally talk shows.The language used during the first news broadcasts was classical Arabic, which was understood only by a minority of educated listeners. Fearing a sharp decline in audience, Radio Bari began to employ Egyptian and Palestinian speakers who could be followed by a wider Arab audience.

Already during the summer of 1935, Radio Bari was broadcasting every day and had expanded the length of its well-received programmes. By the end of 1935, Radio Bari broadcasts were becoming increasingly popular, especially in Arab cafes. Arab broadcast news contained a section dedicated to international events, mainly related to Italy and, after the creation of the Axis, to its allies Germany and Japan.

Interestingly, the broadcasts in Arabic appeared to be very discreet about the Italian empire, often leaving out of the bulletin news coming from Somalia, Ethiopia or other regions where Italian policies could be opened to criticism. Reports of events in the Middle East were considered interesting as long as they underlined the contrast between the positive role played by Italy and the repressive measures adopted by Britain and France. As a result, «areas such as Egypt, Palestine, where the relationship between Western Democracies and Arabs was strained, were the ones that hit the headlines». To promote Italy’s diplomatic endeavours and the values and ideology of the regime, Italian propagandists also relied on personal contacts. Among them, most prominently features the Syrian nationalist writer Emir Shakib Arslan who in the 1930s began promoting an alliance between Italy and nationalist forces in Syria and Palestine, and his friend and collaborator Ihsan al-Jabiri, as well as Haj Amin al-Hussaini, the Mufti of Jerusalem, who in the 1930s gradually shifted towards more amicable relations with the Axis powers. In 1934 al-Jabiri and the Mufti were believed to have distributed 30,000 Italian lira to Scout groups and Nazi and Fascist organisations in Palestine.Italian propaganda in Palestine kept its momentum for a few years, exploiting the situation of political and social unrest that was undermining Britain’s presence in its own mandate, in particular at the outbreak of the Arab rebellion of 1936. Eventually, the pressure brought by the intensifying Fascist campaign in the Middle East and the Levant forced the Italians and the British to look for a settlement over the major object of their contention: the Mediterranean sea. The Gentlemen’s Agreement of January 1937 was a first step in this direction. Furthermore, in April 1938, after long on and off negotiations, Rome and London signed the Easter Agreement in which both parties agreed that any form of hostile propaganda would be «inconsistent with the good relations which is the object of the present agreement».Italy’s subversive activities in Palestine seemed to have waned as a result of the agreed settlement. Broadcasts from Radio Bari were reported to have softened their tone, although part of the local press – backed by Rome - still maintained a fairly violent opposition to the mandatory government. By the end of 1940, Italian activities in Palestine were not as preponderant as they had been: Italy had broadened the scope of its overseas propaganda and was simultaneously engaged in various geographical areas. Italian embassies in Portugal, South America, Iran, in the Indian subcontinent and the Far East were by then providing the logistic support for Italy’s promotional activities.


During the interwar years Egyptian politics critically shifted from traditional – moderate and West-friendly – values to the adoption of more militant and pan-Arabic models, which gradually re-shaped Egyptian national identity and brought Egypt right to the heart of the Arab world. The escalating tension between nationalist forces and British representatives together with the emergence of a pan-Arab orientation within the nationalist movement created favourable conditions for the Italian government to promote a closer alliance with some Egyptian political and intellectual circles. During the interwar years, and in particular in the late 1930s and early 1940s, Egyptian national consciousness moved from values based on a glorious pharaonic past to the adoption of a shared Arab and Islamic identity. The Arabisation and Islamisation of Egyptian national identity had profound repercussions on Egyptian society and politics and offered new opportunities to Italian propagandists: nationalist forces began to look up to the Axis regimes and borrow their ideological blueprint, as well as political and cultural models.

Italian agents like the journalist Ugo Dadone were instrumental in establishing contacts with radical nationalists. In June 1935, the "Agenzia di Egitto e Oriente" (AEO) was created; on the surface, this was a news agency but behind the scenes the AEO provided local support to the propaganda activities of the Italian government. In particular, it was tasked with developing close relations with the Arab press by offering financial backing to Egyptian newspapers and by bribing journalists.

The Agenzia had its headquarters in Cairo and was placed by Galeazzo Ciano under the direction of Ugo Dadone, previously editor of the «Giornale d’Oriente». Dadone’s directorship of the AEO lasted until 1938 when, as Italy started reorganising and scaling down some of its operations in Egypt, the Agenzia was closed and its functions absorbed by the local branch of the Agenzia Stefani, the official news agency of the Fascist regime. Dadone left for Rome and then Germany, where he would conceivably ease the transfer of propaganda initiatives in the Middle East from the Italians to the Germans, at a time when the Third Reich, initially reluctant to challenge Britain’s presence in the region, had opted for heavier involvement in Arab politics. Dadone’s importance within the Fascist overseas propaganda machine was not downplayed by British officials: «Signor Dadone would, with all the information he has been able to collect in the Near East, no doubt be regarded at Italian headquarters in Rome as an expert of anti-British propaganda». Dadone and his collaborators scoured the political landscape of Egypt in search of support from the more vociferous and militant quarters. Among the youth nationalist organisations approached the Young Egypt movement, for example, was asked to lend its voice to an anti-British campaign during the Abyssinian crisis. In order to ‘inflame Egyptian public opinion as much as possible against Great Britain’, the Italian consular authorities suggested that the main points of the propaganda campaign should be: a) Egyptian application for membership of the League of Nations; b) the restoration of Egyptian rights in Sudan; c) the abolition of the Capitulations; and finally the recognition of Egyptian right to protect the Suez Canal.

The effects of Italian manoeuvres soon became visible. Attracted to Fascist antiparliamentarian ideas and to the financial support promised by the Italian government, the Young Egypt society gave its contribution to the pro-Italian and anti-British campaign orchestrated in Rome. For example, ignoring the wave of indignation that had swept over Egyptian public opinion after the invasion of Abyssinia, at the end of October 1935 members of the Young Egypt movement sent a petition to King Fuad, demanding that Egypt should remain neutral towards the Abyssinian dispute. However, it should be remembered that Young Egypt was by no means representative of the views of mainstream nationalists. Recent scholarly research into 1930s Egypt, has successfully demonstrated that Egyptian public opinion was by and large unreceptive to the allures of the European revisionist powers and the ideological and political constructs of fascism and totalitarianism.

Italian propaganda in Egypt gathered momentum following the increasing tension in East Africa. The Italians, concerned by the mounting hostility expressed by most Egyptian press, began to explore more affective ways to increase the profile of Fascist Italy to the detriment of Britain’s influence in the upper Nile region. Galeazzo Ciano took direct interest on the matter and suggested that existing publicity outlets, and mainly press activities, should be strengthened. In particular he proposed the creation of a news bulletin under the aegis of the Italian Legation in Cairo, which in form and contents ‘would meet the special demands of public opinion in Egypt’. The new organ would make use of material provided by the Italian publication «Giornale d’Oriente» and by intercepts supplied to a wireless receiving set «to be installed in a suitable place with due secrecy». Overall, supported by a well-connected network of agents – and the role of Italian secret services in North Africa deserves special treatment – co-ordinated by the Italian Consular offices and relying on the infrastructures of the Italian community in Egypt, Fascist propaganda carefully attempted to exploit domestic political feuds and nationalist sentiments emerging among Egyptian political and intellectual forces.

The means employed by the Italian government to open new channels of communications with broader sectors of Egyptian society as well as the Palace and parliament were very varied. Attempting to engage in a dialogue with the Egyptian educated urban class, the Italians began to implement an educational programme that would expose Egyptian students to the history and culture of Fascist Italy. Starting from primary education, the Italian authorities were offering a wide range of incentives to pupils interested in Italian history and culture. The two Italian elementary schools in Cairo, for example, provided special subsidies and support to children coming from non affluent backgrounds: shoes in winter, sandals in summer, aprons, books and stationery, together with free meals, were given to poor children to encourage them to register with schools run by Italian authorities. In the only Italian secondary school in Cairo, all subjects – mainly vocational or art-related – were taught in Italian, while books on Italian history and literature were distributed as a reward to the most deserving students. Following strict Fascist traditions, every morning pupils entering the school had to greet the Head Teacher with the Fascist salute. Egyptian universities were also targeted by the Italian propaganda machine. Italian staff at the Faculty of Arts of the Egyptian University in Cairo liaised directly with Italian Ministries in Rome, and actively promoted cultural exchanges by providing financial support to Egyptian students who wished to undertake short-term courses at Italian universities.

Anglo-Egyptian relations deteriorated in the winter of 1935 and through 1936, when unresolved constitutional issues created a state of tension in urban areas between the Palace and middle class youth. This opened new opportunities to Italian propagandists like the Colonial Attaché of the Italian Legation, Patrizi, who in the autumn and winter of 1935 frantically worked to document public demonstrations, fuel resentment and prove that Britain was to blame for the state of unrest in Egypt. The British government laboured to provide an adequate response to Italian propaganda and subversion. Fuelled by the events in East Africa, relations between Rome and London reached a critical stage. British representatives in Egypt called for a more coherent and decisive line of action, which needed integrating into an overarching counter-propaganda and counterintelligence strategy. Italian activities in Egypt continued undisturbed until 1937, when the Gentlemen’s Agreement between Rome and London softened the tone and intensity of Fascist propaganda; however, the British government proved to be somewhat slow in co-ordinating its cultural and information policies designed to mend the broken relations with its Egyptian counterpart and with the leadership of the nationalist movement. This set the trend for the interaction between British, Italians and nationalist forces in Egypt right until the outbreak of the Second World War, when Egyptian and Arab forces fought for the last times to defend Britain and the empire...."


It is noteworthy to pinpoint that Italo Balbo (governor of Italian Libya) in the summer 1940 died in "strange" circumstances: his airplane was shot down by mistake by Italians in the first days of the Italo-british war in WWII north Africa, while flying toward western Egypt. He was in contact (probably in the oasis of Siwa, where he was going) with members of the arab fascist organization "Young Egypt", who were ready for a revolt -and a possible military coup- in Egypt.

In early 1941 the retired Chief of Staff of the Egyptian Army, Field Marshal `Aziyz al-Masriy, along with two Egyptian Army officers: Husayn Dhuwl Fuqar Sabriy and `Abd al-Mun`im Ra'uwf, had attempted to reach the Axis lines aboard an Egyptian Royal air force. A few miles north of Cairo the plane experienced engine trouble and crashed landing on an orange grove in the province of al-Qalyuwbiyah. For a while the three eluded the authorities, but after a while they were caught and brought to trial in May 1941 for having attempted to reach the Axis lines in the Western Desert and thus defecting technically to the "enemy". Security conditions in Egypt remained dangerous for the British in those months. Read for details: The forced abdication of the king of Egypt in February 1942.

In 1942 while the Italian "136th Infantry Division Giovani Fascisti" occupied the oasis of Siwa in western Egypt (see original video of the Italian conquest of the Siwa oasis in June 1942
), a tiny Egyptian puppet government-in-exile was set up at Siwa (video images of Siwa city hall with Egypt flag during italian occupation, that lasted until November 1942

Probably this puppet government was the only real & concrete consequence of the Italian influence in Egypt during the late 1930s.