Croatia is erasing, distorting and misappropriating the past of Dalmatia, Quarner region and Istria (and nobody says anything).
--------------------NOW YOUR HISTORY BELONGS TO US--------------------
While visiting the Dalmatian coast of the Adriatic Sea, western journalists usually admire her ancient towns. They notice almost everywhere that the regional architecture is “heavily influenced” by a “Venetian” (or “Italianate“) “accent” or “flavor”. Years ago, a famous chef posing in front of a XVI century Dalmatian building for a documentary, claimed that its architecture was “quintessentially Croatian“. In the past, certain Western writers were almost convinced (and disgusted) that Croatians “imitated” Venetian and Italian Renaissance architecture in building Dalmatian towns. Today, Croatian and international tourist guides are presenting the rich artistic patrimony of Dalmatian coastal towns as essentially “Croatian” or “a reflection of Croatia‘s history“. They almost never mention the autochtonous Italians (about 80.000 in 1800s) who lived there since Roman times and who built those architectural jewels before disappearing in modern times. Where did they go? Almost all of them became refugees. They were the victims of the first ethnic cleansing documented in the Balkans.
The history of Dalmatia is compromised by strategic interests and political correctness. The current ignorance about the eastern Adriatic coast is appalling and widespread. It is, in short, the consequence of a “damnatio memoriae” of political nature. On one side, in the West nobody knows the real history of the region. On the other side, ”’today a phalanx of nationalistic Croatian historians, political leaders, journalists and tourist operators, profiting from this vacuum are erasing, falsifying and misappropriating the real history on an international level using books, newspapers, tourist propaganda and Internet sites”’.
The ethnic cleansing of the autochtonous Italian population of today’s Croatian coastline started in the second half of the 1800’s. Then, towns like Zadar, Split, Sibenik, Trogir, Dubrovnik had Italian names (and were called Zara, Spalato, Sebenico, Trau, Ragusa), Italian communities in a dominant position and a cosmopolitan population (of Croatian, Serbian, Albanian, Greek, Jewish, etc. origin). Everybody spoke Italian and Venetian dialect, the “lingua franca” of the time. Helped by the Austrian government (then all Eastern Adriatic coastline was part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire), Croatians launched a political campaign against the “Italian Dalmatia” to annex the territory. Since the beginning it was an integral part of the political national aspirations of Croatians struggling to form their own state. It continued to be so during the turbulent formation of the first, monarchic, Yugoslavia, when Croatia accepted willy-nilly the Serbian domination and on the same time continued the assault - violent, almost a civil war - against all Dalmatian towns inhabited by ethnic Italians. Following a first exodus toward the end of the 1800s, in 1905 in Rome a Dalmatian Italian Association to help the refugees was founded. Then, after WWI tens of thousands of Dalmatian Italians abandoned their towns and villages in 1920-1930s and settled on Italian territory. During WW2 a third and final exodus: the winning Communist movement embraced the Croatian’s irredentist cause and included it in its war strategy and national political platform. The consequence was the violent expulsion of 350.000 Italian speaking autochtonous inhabitants from all the Eastern Adriatic coastline - from the southern Dalmatia to the Istrian peninsula - and the consequential erasing of two millennia of a very rich civilization.
Ethnic cleansing had happened in many parts of Europe in both old and modern times, so the demographic and cultural extirpation of Italian presence in Dalmatia, the Quarnero region and Istria is not really a new phenomena. But this slow, brutal and in 1945 also military operation had an unexpected development, something very peculiar. After erasing almost all the Italian speaking population in Dalmatia proper, without succeeding completely in the Quarner region and Istria, Croatia adapted a new form of genocide: the stealing of the “enemy’s” history in order to obliterate his memory and aggrandize the country. Completely ignored in the West, this skullduggery is a new Pandora’s vase “Balkan style“.
Sack and disinform
Croatia, a country of about 5 million inhabitants, has “nationalized” the history of her Adriatic coastline, a territory that had never been part of the Slavic hinterland, either historically, politically or culturally. In order to totally “Croatianize“ the coastal territories, the country is manipulating their history and striving to “show” the world that Dalmatia, the Quarner region and Istria have “always” been Croatian. There is no actual political contingency to justify this operation: the old Italian irredentism ended up definitely in the dustbin of the history, and no other countries - except for Slovenia - have pressing territorial ambitions toward Croatia.
Never methodically investigated, nobody knows how and when these history misappropriations started. In 1858-60 Ivan Kukuljevic Sakcinski, who belonged to Croatian nobility, published his “Slovnik umjetnikah jugoslavenskih”, an encyclopedic dictionary of Yugoslav artists (then, Croatia was under Hungarian domination and Yugoslavia was still a dream). In this book among Slavic artists you can find the painter Vittore Carpaccio - born in Venice, 1460/65 ca. - 1525/26 ca. - only because Carpaccio used to create religious paintings commissioned by churches in Istrian peninsula and Dalmatia. Kukuljevic Sakcinski, a hot headed nationalist, “opined” that the artist’s last name derived from a Croatian root: “Krpaci, Skrpaci or Krpatici”.
Take for example the history of the Republic of Ragusa, officially known as Dubrovnik only from 1919 on. Ragusa has been an independent republic governed since the Middle Ages by a Latin/Illirian oligarchy. When it was abolished in 1808 by the Napoleonic army, the small but influential and immensely rich maritime republic left a gigantic archive in which all government documents were written, first in Latin, then in Italian “volgare” and finally in modern Italian (the Republic had an office in charge of translations from Slavic vernacular). In the daily business of the government and in diplomacy - Ragusa had over 80 consulates in every major European and Middle Eastern city -, the official language of the small republic was Italian. Furthermore, The Republic of Ragusa is remembered as ”The fifth Maritime Republic of Italy” (with Venice, Pisa, Amalfi and Genoa). For centuries, the well-to-do Ragusan families sent their children to study in the Italian universities. Across the Adriatic sea, Ragusans had daily contacts with Italy. The celebrated libraries of Ragusa were full of Italian editions of every kind, but no books printed in Serbo-Croatian language.
Today in some Croatian history books the real history of Ragusa disappears almost completely. The historians maintain that Dubrovnik “is an important page of the history of Croatia”, although Ragusa had only commercial liaisons with a Croatian territory that has not been a state for nine centuries. They repeat obsessively that the maritime republic was Croatian “almost since the beginning of her history”, that her merchant fleet was completely Croatian. Every family of the town’s aristocracy - Basilio, Cerva, Ghetaldi, Luccari, Menze, etc. - is given arbitrarily “the equivalent Croatian name“. All Ragusan state institutions are receiving Croatian denominations, all monasteries in town are presented as “Croatian”, although the clergy was Italian. You find all these misappropriations in Wikipedia “the free encyclopedia” site, where the authors (clearly Croats) are demonstrating how grotesque are their pretensions when, at a certain point, they report the list of Ragusan senators who attended the last session of their Greater Council, the one in which it was announced that the glorious republic was dissolved (Aug. 29, 1814): of a little over forty incontestable Italian names of the senators, only one is of Croatian origin: Marino Domenico, count of Zlatarich.
In 2006, with his book “Dubrovnik - A history” published in England and sold in every English speaking country, the British author did an unwanted favor to the extremely voracious Croatian nationalistic historiography. Using only Croatian sources and materials, he wrote an essentially extremely nationalistic Croatian book in English language. Explaining his readers the mystery of place, institutions and personal Italian names translated into Croatian, he wrote: “I have used the Slavic form throughout, simply because that is the one most commonly found in the historiography” (obviously Croatian). “No other significance - he pointed out - is implied”. And with this elegant explanation, the deontology of the historian took a vacation.
A “patriotic mission"
Some Croatian historians and researchers are a legion of agit-props engaged in the “patriotic mission” of promoting the grandeur of their homeland. Their patriotism obey to a categorical imperative: the country comes first, at any cost, even lying. They “Croatianize“ everybody and everything. Literally hundreds of public figures, artists, scientists, academics - Italian Dalmatia had in XIX century 32 newspapers and periodicals, a rich history, an incredible artistic, academic and literary life, and glorious maritime traditions - today are mentioned as “Croatian“. In 1998, writing for “The Atlantic” magazine Robert D. Kaplan (author of influential “Balkan Ghosts”) seemed to be the first American essayist to reveal the truth about the suppression of the Italian past of Ragusa by Croatia (and by extension of Dalmatia). “A nasty, tribal principality - he wrote - who was attempting to transform, in the old Republic, its character subtly from that of a sensuous, cosmopolitan mélange into a sterile, nationalistic uniformity”. Of the original Italian speaking population of the town only about 40 individuals survived the ethnic cleansing.
Unnoticed by academic authorities in the West, an implacable (first Panslavistic, then Pancroat) “nationalization” of non-Croatian history continued for decades in a dramatic crescendo. In the last half century it reached epidemic proportions: Andrea Antico, born in Montona (today Motovun) in Istria, a composer and music publisher of the 1500s (he is studied in every music school of this globe), was rebaptised Andrija Staric (or Starcevic); the Renaissance painter Lorenzo De Boninis, born in Ragusa/Dubrovnik, is presented in Croatian history books and tourist guides as “Lovro Dobricevic”; Nicola Fiorentino, an Italian born XVI century architect active for decades in Dalmatia, becomes the fake Croat “Nikola Firentinac“. Giovan Francesco Biondi, a writer born in 1572 on the Dalmatian island of Lesina (Hvar) is introduced to the Western cybernauts as an improbable “Ivan Franc Biundovic”, although he was a diplomat (and maybe a spy) in the service of the Venetian Republic and with his three books is considered the first modern Italian novel writer. (The “superpatriotic” Croatians historians completely ignore the “Italian” aspects of his biography, reducing his creations to “an excellent history of the British civil wars while living in England” to be added to Croatian merits).
The case of Francesco Patrizi, a XVI century philosopher and scientist who was a teacher of “La Sapienza” university in Rome, is almost incredible. He became “Franjo Petric” (or “Petricevic”), that means a “Croat”, only because he was born on the island of Cherso (Croatian “Cres“) in the Quarner gulf. Croatian academic and political circles are so proud of “Franjo Petric” that almost every year they are holding in Zagreb, the capital of the country, and on “Cres“, an academic symposium dedicated to this magnificent intellectual mind. Many years ago they published one of his books printed in Italy in 1500s. They took the original, ornate volume, translated it into modern Croatian language and published it presenting the book as an anastatic edition of the original, in order to demonstrate the high level of their national civilization in the 1500s (when Croatian capital Zagreb was still a village and Croatians in toto were still an agricultural/pastoral population). But they made a mistake: they used the Croatian diacritic signs (“accents” on certain consonants) invented only in the middle of the 1800s.
Another example is that of Pier Paolo Vergerio, a catholic bishop and an historical figure in the turbulent times of the Reformation. He lived in Capodistria, a small town on the Istrian peninsula. In a Croatian history book, written by a Croatian academic and published in the USA, the bishop is presented as “Petar Pavao Vergerije”, without pointing out that he was Italian, that the town of Capodistria never had anything to do with Croatia, never had a noticeable Slavic minority among her population and today is part of… Slovenia.
There is a Ragusan writer who, from 1909 up to today, underwent involuntarily to a name-change quiet a few times: Benko or Beno Kotruljevic, Kotruljic, Kotrulic or Kotrulj. Croatian historiographers do not care much in this regard. To them is important that this was “one of the first Croatian writers on scientific subjects”. “Croatian”, they repeated a hundred times in their essays on this historical figure. But that gentleman’s real name was Benedetto Cotrugli (or de Cotruglis). This is the way he signed his correspondence and also his famous book, “Della mercantura et del mercante perfetto”, one of the first manuals on merchandising, book-keeping and “the good merchant”, published in Venice in 1573. This book is known in every university and a college with an Economy department. Cotrugli went to school and lived for all his adult life in Italy, serving as a diplomat the Kingdom of Naples and as director of the Mint in L‘Aquila. He never wrote anything in Croatian language. By the way, his book was published in Croatia only in 1963, five centuries after it was written. But he is considered “Croatian”.
This kind of uncontrolled appetite is also directed toward classic antiquity. A reliable Croatian archeologist, Josip Vlahovic, studied a bas-relief in the Split (Spalato) Baptistery, portraying a Middle Ages king on the throne, with a crown on his head and holding a cross. At his side there is a figure, maybe a court official, and in front of him another figure prostrated on the floor. Examining the clothing, hairstyle and other details, Vlahovic concluded, honestly, that the bas-relief was ”most probably” created by a band of Longobards, who settled in Dalmatian interior in the VI century before moving out of the territory, in an uncertain period, and disappearing. According to Daria Garbin, an archeologist living in Spalato (Split), who wrote extensively about that barbarian band, that Medioeval king “could be” the Longobard Alaric. Finally, the elegant and rich book “Croatia in the Early Middle Ages - A cultural survey”, published by the Croatian Academy of Sciences and Arts, printed in London in 1999, and distributed in all English speaking countries, is embellished by a magnificent, full-page picture of the same bas-relief. Beside the picture, there is the explanation: “Marble carving of a Croatian king (maybe Zvonimir)”. Here the Longobards do not receive any attention.
One of the most frequent tricks in this “propagandistic history” is to find a couple of Croatian personalities and squeeze between them the Slavicized name of an Italian local personality in order to “demonstrate” that a Dalmatian town was, yes inhabited by “some” Italians, but was predominantly Croatian. Take for example Trogir, known for a millennia as the Italian Dalmatian town of Traù, incredibly rich in arts and architecture, and since 1997 protected by the UNESCO. On a Croatian Internet site you can notice that a humanist and writer from Trogir, Koriolan Cipiko, active in 1500s is sandwiched between two Croatian historical figures that had nothing to do with him nor Trogir. Here the intention is to “neutralized” completely that gentleman, whose real name was Coriolano Cippico, a member of an illustrious centuries old Dalmatian dynasty (of bishops, writers, philosophers, army and navy leaders, you name it) of Roman origin. Another Croatian site says that “during this period Italian citizens, until 1918 the ruling class and almost half part of the population, were forced to leave for Italy”. Forced by whom? The authors of the site cautiously don’t say it. In another Croatian site we find that in the same period Trogir had 16.000 inhabitants, that means that 8.000 were Italians. Today the Italians living in Trogir are only a handful.
There are literally hundred of episodes and cases like these, in numerous Croatian history books and tourist guides published in English language and distributed in the West, and now also on Internet. Outright falsehoods, half truths, tendentious presentations, patriotic rhetoric and grotesque nationalistic grandiosity are very common in them. This part of the Croatian academic world knows no limits in the national appetite for glory, veneration of patriotic heritage, and stealing of other people’s cultural icons to show off. Nowadays in Croatia (and through Internet in the United States also) they maintain that Marco Polo was born on Croatian island of Korcula (historically Curzola; up to 1920s the main town of the island was populated by an Italian majority) and that he was a Croat, not a Venetian, without any document to prove it. They also appropriate Giovanni da Verrazzano, the Tuscan explorer who is considered to be the first European to have discovered the bay of New York, in 1524 (decades before Henry Hudson). For this primacy his name was given to the spectacular modern bridge that connects Brooklyn with Staten Island. But now Verrazzano is proclaimed “Croat”. Why? Because while exploring the Eastern Atlantic coast going North, he used to give some Dalmatian names to certain territories and islands he discovered during his voyage. So Verrazzano becames “Vranjanin or Vrancic”. The same destiny is reserved to an Austrian composer, Franz Joseph Haydn, only because he was born (in 1723) in an Austrian region inhabited by a community of Croatian origins who settled there in V or VI century A.D. during barbarian invasions of Europe.
Certain Croatian nationalistic historiographers are busy creating for their country the desolating fake image of a civilized and highly spiritual nation, using the heritage of a civilization the country eradicated in the first historically documented, but still unknown, Balkan ethnic cleansing.
Today nobody is noticing and condemning this threatening phenomena. These charlatans with a master degree are doing a tremendous disservice first of all to their own country. They are also dangerous. In a region in the past tremendously violent and today with so many unsolved problems, this kind of piracy is very ominous and should be stopped. (di.ve.)