Sunday, October 7, 2018


Dalmatia is a region south of the Istria peninsula that was populated by fully Romanized Illirians at the end of the Western Roman Empire. These neolatin inhabitants in the early Middle Ages created the Dalmatian City-States, later assimilated by the Republic of Venice and so fully Italianized: this continuity of Dalmatia's Italians was antagonized since the seventh century by the Slavs, who slowly made disappear -for a group of reasons and circumstances- those Dalmatian Italians. But before their disappearance there were important Dalmatian Italians in History: Niccolo Tommaseo (the creator of the first Italian dictionary was born in Sebenico), Antonio Bajamonti (the famous 1865-1880 mayor of "Spalato italiana", who desperately tried to save the historical Italian rule of his city), Arturo Colautti (a famous journalist/writer who was one of the first supporters of the union of Dalmatia to Italy), Antonio Tacconi (leader of Italian irredentism who masterminded the creation of the "Governorato di Dalmazia") and many others left their legacy in the history of the Italian people.

Historically the disappearance started with the barbarian invasions (of the Avars and Slavs) of the eight century, that forced the autochthonous population of the Roman Dalmatians to take refuge in the Dalmatian islands and in some city-islands near the coast (like Ragusa, Trau and Zara, now called Dubrovnik, Trogir and Zadar). These "Adriatic" areas were nearly all romance-speaking until the "Duecento" (XIII century), when started the Ottoman invasion of the Balkan peninsula. Since then the Republic of Venice -that ruled the region until the Dinaric Alps for many centuries- was forced to accept many refugees (mostly Slavs, but also a lot of Slavicized Vlachs called "Morlachs") from the Muslim conquered regions of the western Balkans and soon the newly arrived become majority in the coastal region. When Napoleon conquered the Republic of Venice in 1797, the Italian linguist Bartoli calculated that in the "Dalmatian Venetia" more than two thirds of the population was Croatian speaking (with pockets of Serbian speaking areas): the Dalmatian Italians were a minority of less than 33% of the total Dalmatian population and were concentrated in the main cities. Because of higher fertility rate and further emigration toward the relatively rich and developed Dalmatian coast from the poor inland mountain regions, the Slavs in the first half of the XIX century become more than 80% of the Dalmatian population. The Austrian census done in 1857 registered -south of the Quarnero islands (Cherso, Lussino, Veglia and Arbe, now called Chres, Losinj, Krk and Rab)- 45,000 Dalmatian Italians (nearly all in the islands and in the main cities, where they were the majority in some towns like Zara and Veglia) and 369,310 Slavs: the romance speaking population of coastal Dalmatia was reduced to less than 20%! Since then started to appear the Croatian nationalism, soon in fight with the Italian nationalism: in one century and half of wars and political battles of every kind the Dalmatian Italians disappeared (being reduced in the Croatian census of 2011 to a few hundreds in an area that has nearly one million inhabitants!). This fact has originated the suspicion that the disappearance of the Dalmatian Italians could be related to an "ethnocide" (read in Italian:

There it is in Italian language an interesting essay (of the Italian "National League") about the Italians of Dalmatia, which documents in quite detail their process of disappearance first under Austria and then under Yugoslavia. Here it the translation in English language:




Venice, after the year 1000 AD, for three centuries had made its presence in Dalmatia every year more and more incisive, although opposed by the rebellions of the coastal "neolatin" Dalmatian cities and by the pretensions of Hungary. So from 1409 - with the Venice's "Santa Intrada", meaning "saint entrance" in Dalmatia as it will be remembered - until 1797 Venice exercised continuously the full sovereignty on nearly all the Dalmatia coast from the Istria peninsula until what is now the coast of Montenegro.

Niccolo Tommaseo (Sebenico 1802-1874), father of Italian linguistics
During the four centuries of its undisputed dominion, the Republic of Venice with the "cagnide morlacche" (or vlachs slavicised soldiers)- which over time would have been transformed into the Slav militia - had rejected the Turks (wars of Candia and Morea) who were also pressing along the chain of the Bedie Alps (Velebit) and of the Dinarics mountains.

In those territories devastated by the Ottoman raids that came under the walls of Zara, depopulated by wars & famine, the Venetian Republic granted hospitality and assigned fields and lands to Bosnians, Vlach "Morlacchi", Erzegovesi and Serbs who escaped from the Turk.

While the cities along the coast preserved their "Venetianity" and their autochthonous romance language, the countryside became the seat of Slav populations who -progressively, entering in contact with the inhabitants of the maritime centers- adapted themselves to the local customs and rules (but maintained their Slav language). By the XVII century because of huge demographic increase the Slavs were soon majority, outnumbering -in the "Venetian Dalmatia" - the autochthonous Dalmatian Italians outside of the main cities.

Some venetians -and Italians- moved to live in Dalmatia in those centuries and helped to assimilate the Dalmatian neolatins inside the Italian cultural world that was experiencing the "Rinascimento" (Italian Renaissance), but their presence was only in the main cities and in some islands (like Lissa and those of the Quarnaro), while minimal in the countryside distant from the coast.

The first 40 years of Austrian domination

Two hundred years ago, Dalmatia with the Treaty of Campoformio (1797) passed to Austria which, excluding the French parenthesis (1806-1813) when Dalmatia was part of the Napoleonic Kingdom of Italy, would remain there until November 4, 1918.

Vienna, in the first forty years respected the Venetianness of this province, and administered it like the other Italian possessions of the Monarchy.

In May 1818, the "Council of Government of Dalmatia", while noting that "the inhabitants of the mountainous area and those of the maritime side were profoundly dissimilar for their customs, inclinations, occupations, aspects, and language", instead of administering with a military government - as proposed by Vienna - and the others with a civilian one, promoted the opportunity to "blend in a homogeneous people the two indigenous peoples so deeply alien from each other".

On 4 August 1821, with Sovereign Resolution, the Emperor dispose that the Municipalities of Dalmatia - with the exclusion of the Càttaro circle - were governed by structures and with similar criteria to those of the Municipalities of Lombardy-Veneto.The discussion of how much administrative interest was in Dalmatia was the responsibility of the "Aulica Chancellery for the affairs of Italy", and the laws and decrees carried the words: "Valid for the Kingdom of Lombard Veneto and Dalmatia".

The events of 1848

The first turning point in the history of Italians in Dalmatia occurred in 1848 with the affirmation of the principle of nationality.

In that year, the Venetian-Dalmatians loyal to San Marco (I "Marcolini") heard the call of the reborn Republic and participated in the defense of Venice enlisting in a military unit, the "Istrian-Dalmatian Legion". They were over three hundred. They came from all the cities of the coast and with them, from the Dinaric mountains inside Dalmatia, also sons and nephews of the faithful Schiavoni of 1797.They not only fought - [six died] - but assumed the highest responsibilities. - Niccolò Tommaseo from Sebenico and Leone Graziani from Spalato were triumviris. The Marquis Paulucci delle Roncole, from Zara, became minister of the Navy, then of the War. Matteo Ballovich from Perasto, superintendent of the Navy. Enrico Germani, from Sebenico, transport commander and member of the War Council. Vincenzo Solitro, from Spalato, member of the Assembly. Angelo Minich, from Cattaro, Head of the health service.

Four were the Dalmatians "proscribed" by Austria - Niccolò Tommaseo from Sebenico, Don Luca Lazaneo from Brazza, Count Demetrio Mircovich from Bocche di Cattaro, Federico Seismit-Doda from Ragusa.

In 1848, at the same time, Austria had the "insurrection of Vienna", with the request of constitutional laws and freedom of the press.In those years (1848-1849), despite exceptional ferments, while the Dalmatian-Venetians fought in Venice, and in the cities of the coast was constituted the "Civic Guard" which raised the Tricolor as its flag, the Dalmatian Croats with the the exception of some intellectuals abstained from any political activity.

On the other hand were very active those from Zagreb, where the "Illirism" of Gaj and Count Draskovic, as well as the theories of an "historical law" in support of an alleged "Trialistic Kingdom of Croatia-Slavonia-Dalmatia", had found a more fertile ground.In Vienna, on March 17, 1848, Emperor Ferdinand granted the Constitution. Eight days later, the Croats in Zagreb, meeting in their Assembly, approved the so-called "national program". At the third point the union of Dalmatia was requested for Croatia.The Municipality of Spalato, as soon as it knew the content of the "national program", addressed a "supplication" to the Emperor asking that "Dalmatia, which for more than six centuries has always been treated, and also treats its public affairs, in Italian language, - that is taught in schools and is spoken and written almost exclusively in all the towns and villages of the coast and the islands and also in many Mediterranean countries - and in which there are everywhere, especially in the cities, families of Italian origin with customs and Italian customs, it could only be part of the Italian Section of Austrian State".

The Croats presented the "national program" to the Emperor on March 31st. Immediately also the Dalmatians-Italians present in Vienna, with an "address" to the Sovereign protested "against any proposal or deliberate that it was done in the name of Dalmatia, without the intervention of people appointed by it to legally represent it".

Despite the protests, on 19 December of that same year, the Banal Conference of Zagreb sent an "address" to all the Municipalities of Dalmatia, and its appeal to the union ended with the following words: "But you brothers and neighbors of italic idiom, that Dalmatia call your homeland, do not see in us Croat your enemies. We not even from a distance intend to touch your language, your customs, your rights, nor your statutes. Our sacred rights are sacred to us, therefore there must also be yours ". And they added: "We see in you the pleasant intermediators between our Slav nation and the brilliant Italy, to whom we have much to thank for our and for the Dalmatian shoreline. ... You have scattered among us many good germs, and we are grateful to you, for the Slavic can not be ungrateful."

It was the beginning of the struggle between Croatian "unionists" and Italian "autonomists", (and additionally a Croatian autonomous component) and until 1859/60, the Croatians of Zagreb were the antagonists.

The second turning point of the events in Dalmatia began with 1860. Austria, in that year, had lost Lombardy. In 1861 a new constitution was given. In 1866 also the Veneto was lost. The following year - 1867 - the unitary Austrian Empire was transformed into the dualistic State of Austria-Hungary (Ausgleich).But above all, the exit from the "Germanic Confederation" would have diverted Vienna's interests towards the Balkans. Becoming a Danubian power the Viennese rulers would have had to deal with the Croatian-Slavic component of their Empire.

Antonio Bajamonti (1822-1891), the best Italian major of Spalato
The events of those years, and above all the establishment of the double monarchy, gave the Croatians new pretexts to demand the annexation of Dalmatia. Boasting the so-called "Historical law" they proposed themselves as the third state of the Empire, in equal position with Vienna and Budapest.

But to have greater contractual force they had to make feel the weight of their number. And the 384,000 Croats, present in Dalmatia according to the census done in 1857, were more and more important to their opinion. But those Croats were administered by an Italian minority that - according to official statistics - amounted to only 45,000 people south of the Quarnaro area ( ).

Even if though they constituted 12.5 percent of the Dalmatia's population (or nearly 20% if added Fiume (actual Rijeka) and the Quarnaro islands Cherso/Lussino/Veglia/Arbe), they were the most socially qualified, the most educated part, its economic activities, its extensive land holdings, its capitals. Above all - the Dalmatian Italians administered the 84 municipalities of the province.It was - in every sense - the actual ruling class. And locally the Croats willingly gave them a large mandate. For a deep-rooted respect towards the heirs of the Venetian counts, towards the traditional families. For their capacity. For habit.

Italian autonomists and Croatian annexionists

Zagreb, to undermine the Italian minority, was to make the Dalmatian Croats understand the importance of annexation. Hence the need to reduce or - possibly - to exclude Italian pre-eminence.It was a program that came in tune with the policy of Vienna, aimed at controlling Italian nationalism but also controlling the power of the Kingdom of Hungary. In fact, Croatia belonged to the Hungarian Kingdom, while Istria and Dalmatia responded to Vienna (the Austrian part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire). The annexation of Dalmatia in Zagreb would have, therefore, unbalanced the relations of forces in the Empire.

For Austria, after the establishment of the Kingdom of Italy (1861), it was essential to control and condition the Italians who were within their borders - in Trentino, in Istria, in Dalmatia. They felt too much the call of national and unitary values ​​that had animated the Italian Risorgimento.If for Vienna, the Italian minority in Dalmatia was part of a wider problem of international order, for Zagreb it constituted a question of internal order with constitutional significance.Different motivations and interests, but the goal was common.The constitutional changes introduced by Austria in 1860 included the establishment of Provincial Diets on an elective basis. Democratically, even if still in a limited way, they represented the popular will but, at the same time, and for the first time, involved the counting of the number that formed the groups.The antagonists were counted and were counted. The statistics came into play. And the contrast that had taken place on an institutional level will, from now on, be decided by the ballots.

The Dalmatian Diet was inaugurated on April 8th, 1861. Thirty Italian deputies, eleven Croatians. The Catholic and Orthodox bishops were part of the law. At the April 18 session, the government representative asked that the question of the annexation of Dalmatia to Croatia be discussed and requested the sending of a Delegation to Zagreb. The proposal was rejected with the unanimous vote of Italian deputies. The Croatian minority left for Vienna to protest to the Emperor. An Italian delegation immediately followed her and she was able to get the legitimacy of the vote cast. But Zagreb did not give up.

In September, autonomously, the Croatian minority presented to the Emperor an "address" to ask for the annexation. Francesco Giuseppe with the 'Sovereign Rescript' of 8 November postponed any decision until the problems with Zagreb were resolved in their entirety (parity of Croatia with Vienna and Budapest). That Rescript, however, on the issue of annexation explicitly stated that: "In any case, it would have been necessary to take into account the diversity of the national origin of the two regions, Dalmatia and Croatia, the divergence of their political viewpoints, the differences between them". Decisions that allowed Vienna not to officially take any decision.

But the Austrian Government - in daily practice - supported the Croats, even in their own interests.

In the fight against that Italian minority - which from 1861 until 1870 would consistently express the majority to the Council of the Empire, the Dalmatian Diet, in all 84 Dalmatian Municipalities - Vienna several times changed the electoral districts. Between 1873 and 1893 the Austrians created five new municipalities, and their institution changed the numerical and political relations also in other ten or fifteen Municipalities, from which the new ones had been cut out.

Vienna also promoted the use of Croatian teachers to educate the masses, mobilized the clergy to influence the population. From 1870 onwards the Italian minority progressively lost its deputies in the Council of the Empire. From 1882, the Dalmatian Diet, the president, the vice-president, and the councilors, would have been Croats. Italian administrations fell into all the Municipalities (like in the island of Lissa where only 50 years before they were nearly 80% of the inhabitants, read ), minus Zara.

Arturo Colautti (1851-1914), journalist/writer born in Zara


In these same years the statistics recorded heavy regresses in the number of Italians. From 55,000 (including the Quarner islands) of the 1865 census they passed to 27,305 in the 1880 census. To fall to a minimum of 15,279 in 1900 and, inexplicably, go back to 18,028 in 1910.If the electoral defeats could be explained by the presence of the political scenes of their new men, [Constantine Vojnovic, Gaetano Bulat, Joseph Smodlaka], with the support of the Government, however falcidia remains incomprehensible of the number.

Because, in fifteen years, a community of 55,000 people, historically rooted in the territory, is reduced by almost 50 percent, falling to 27.305 units, one should think of epidemics, mass emigration, or massive change of ethnic identity when the struggle became more heated. But no source validates similar hypotheses. Instead, the reasonable doubt arose of a deliberate manipulation of numbers.

It is sufficient to show the date of the 1880 census with a document from 1887 - "Situation of the language of service in all the Municipalities of Dalmatia" ('Ausweis der Dienstesprache sämmtlicher Gemeinden Dalmatiens') - compiled for the use of the Lieutenancy of Dalmatia.The table shows that, in the 84 Municipalities, 19 had the Italian language as their office language, 26 were bilingual (of which 3 with prevalence of Italian and 9 of Croatian) and 39 used the Slavic language.In other words, the Italian language was used in 23 percent of the Municipalities (16 percent of the population). By sharing the bilingual common interest, the percentage reached 40 percent of the "Comuni" (Municipalities).

It was not possible, therefore, that the Italians constituted - as was apparent from the censuses - only the 5.8 % of the population in 1880, and furthermore impossible the 3.1 % in 1890. It was difficult to admit that a municipality of 16,000 inhabitants such as Trau (now called Trogir), tin order to administer 171 Italians (as indicated in the 1890 census), would have employed the Italian language in the offices. The same difficulty to admit applied for Còmisa with 52 Italians on a population of about 4,500 people. Or for Lissa who would have had 300 Italians out of 5,000 inhabitants, and so on.

Rise of Croatian nationalism

The Croats, having obtained the majority of the Dalmatian diet, did not insist on the annexation, although they ritually raised the question almost at each new session. But, since the Sovereign Resolution of Francesco Giuseppe of 1861, they had mobilized to de-nationalize (with the process of croatization) what was Italian.

To do the croatization meant to fight - in particular - against the use of the Italian language, which in Dalmatia had been and was the basis of living.

Austria, in 1813, assuming - after the Napoleonic period - full sovereignty over Dalmatia, had found that Italian as well as being the common language, was also the language of all administrations. Consequently, in 1815, he ordered that the judicial proceedings - as in the Lombardy-Veneto region - be treated only in Italian. Similarly, the notaries, according to the regulation of February 15th, 1827, had to formulate the deeds in Italian. It should not, therefore, be surprising that in 1842 the Schmiedt, in his "Das Koenigreich Dalmatien", could write: "The language and the Italian customs were increasingly dominating, so Zara and Spalato, for example, had the appearance of a city purely Italian".

And it is not surprising that Kaznacic, director of the "Avvenire" of Ragusa, in 1848 replied -to those who criticized him for printing a Croatian newspaper in Italian- that "except for rare exceptions, the universality of those who read newspapers in Dalmatia needs to learn from the Italian the slave truths ". Or that Costantino Vojnovic, noted that the Italian had "invaded schools, administration, justice, churches, theaters", and it was 1861.

When Austria lost Veneto (1866), the atmosphere in Dalmatia became increasingly murky. Vienna made its resentments felt against the subjects of Italian nationality, and had the faithful allies in the Croatians. In that year the Austrian government issued a decree making it compulsory for all civil servants to know the Croatian.

Antonio Udina (of Veglia) was the last speaker of the autochthonous "Dalmatian language"

In 1872, the Austrians ordered all offices in Dalmatia to handle written and oral practices in the language requested by the parties. But in the Austrian administrations the resistance of the Italian language had to be very tenacious if for its suppression it will have to arrive to 1909. The "Ordinance" provoked the protest of the Italian employees. And the "Memorial of State Officials of Italian Nationality in Dalmatia", directed to the Ministry of the Interior, carried 506 signatures.

The violence, the personal attacks, the damage to the camps had begun since 1866. The peasants, once quietly cohabiting with the "Italians", were stirred up by those who were more trusting, the priests. The first serious incident occurred in 1869, in Šibenik, with the aggression of the Italian sailors of the "Corzambano" pyro-corvette. About twenty wounded, even serious, on both sides. The fact resonated with the Italian Parliament. Tommaseo wrote the brochure "The Monzambano in Sibenik".

The struggle against the use of the Italian language, in the administrations of the State, developed at the same time on the level of school teaching.In 1866, in Dalmatia (excluding the school district of Càttaro) between government and municipal schools there were 38 "popular" (elementary) Italians, 34 bilinguals, 17 Croatian.For medium education, and all with teaching in Italian, there were 3 gymnasiums of eight classes (Zara, Spàlato, Ragusa); 3 gymnasts of four classes (Cùrzola, Sebenìco, Càttaro); a "real" (technical) school of seven classes in Spàlato, and one of 4 classes in Zadar; two nautical institutes, one in Spàlato and one in Càttaro. In addition two "normal schools" (magistrali), an Italian one in Zadar city, and one in Borgo Erizzo (district of the city) with Slavic language.In that year Vienna arranged that in elementary schools one should pass from teaching up to that moment taught exclusively in Italian to that in the Croatian language.

As soon as the Italians lost the majority to the Dalmatian diet, when the individual Municipalities fell, it was easy for the Croats to suppress Italian in their municipal or provincial schools. At the same time the Government supported the opening of Croatian schools by all means.In 1871 there were already 159 and 31 bilinguals. In 1910 the Croats would have been 459. Achievements that, from the social point of view, constituted a felt need in the face of an illiteracy that reached 62 percent among the Croats. But, at the same time, they constituted the most valid instrument to supplant what was in Italian.

The reaction of the Italians

The loss of representation in the elective organs and the abolition of the schools led to a twofold phenomenon in the Italian minority: organizing themselves into their associations, setting up their own schools.They were private initiatives, but they played a decisive role in city life. And from the struggle between "annexationists" and "autonomists", the "Italian party" was opposed to the "Croatian party".The Italians created the "Reading cabinets", they were gathered in the mutual aid workers' societies, in the Bersaglieri companies (target shooting) with uniforms similar to that of the Italian bersagliere, in the sports clubs (gymnastics, rowing, cycling, running, fencing). ).

The "Spalatino" Antonio Tacconi was a leader of the Italian Irredentism in Dalmatia (and masterminded the creation of the "Governorate of Dalmatia")

They constituted the city music bands, the social circles, the philodramatic societies. All hidden from the "Dalmatian Political Society" which, from 1899 onwards, in terms of action and propaganda, would avail itself of the "Society of Italian Students of Dalmatia". And through the students were created the "Popular libraries", were promoted - especially in Zadar - conferences of politicians, journalists who, invited, came from the Peninsula.Faced with the contextual need to provide for the education of their children according to their own tradition, in 1898 the Italians enthusiastically joined the "Pro Patria", established in Trento to spread the Italian school teaching in the provinces of the Empire. They enrolled in the "Dante Alighieri". They perched around the "National League".Constituted the "Adriatic Section" of the National League, they only financed it with their own personal commitment. In Zara they set up 4 kindergartens, an elementary school, the "Niccolò Tommaseo" boarding school, with 140 places for pupils from all the Dalmatian towns. Two elementary schools in Sebenico, two in Spàlato, one in Cùrzola. Teaching was also given by teachers who came from the Peninsula.

The outbreak of the world war prevented the opening of two other schools, one in Ragusa and the other in Cittavecchia.The defense of the language represented the synthesis of the political struggle. Not being able to exalt Italy was praised the language of "SI". Most probably, among all the ethnic minorities of Europe, that of Dalmatia was the only one that made reference to the language its irredentist creed. His anthem was "El Si!", And the refrain said: "In the homeland of Paravia", or "After death, in burial", "we will speak Italian, SI! .SI!".Well, according to the 1910 census, all this cultural, political, sporting activity would have been supported and developed by 18,028 Italians. If the most compact nucleus was that of Zara with 11,469 people, in the rest of Dalmatia the Italians, mathematically, would have amounted to 6,559. Suspect even for the same Croats. Ivo Rubic, in one of his works, will admit that under Austria "our municipalities, when they compiled the statistics, took into account a number less than the real when it referred to those who spoke Italian". But the statistics of Vienna were official and as such were accepted, even by the Italian Government.

The 1919 Peace Conference

Italy, in November 1918, occupied Zara, Sebenìco, the territories from Tenìn to Punta Planca, the islands in front and those in the south (Cùrzola, Lèsina, Làgosta, etc.), as established by the London Pact of 26 April 1925.For our soldiers, for the authorities, it was the discovery of a new world. The commander of the R.N. will write Puglia, Giulio Menini, who first attracted to Šibenik: "We were all ignorant, even we fighters, of having many brothers on the other side, and that that part of the population that now militates in the adverse party has such an Italian education, that for uses, customs and culture does not make it stand out from the purest citizens of Rialto. ".

The newspapers, public opinion, would have acquired more knowledge of the recent and past history of Dalmatia, during the discussions at the Peace Conference in Versailles, which brought to the fore the Adriatic question.While Italy, in the territories of the Pact of London, established the "Governorate of Dalmatia" (Rear Admiral Enrico Millo), a temporary government of the Serb-Croatians-Slovene (S.H.S.) was established in Spàlato. Kingdom born of the disintegration of Austria.

In this way Italy, as regards the arrangement of the eastern borders, found itself faced with a complex situation.In Versailles, to define the new frontier, Giulia, rather than Austria, would have had as a counterpart the Serbia that had been transformed into the Kingdom of the Serb-Croatians-Slovenians. It was the champion of Croatian interests based on the Pact of Corfu, stipulated in 1917 by the Serbian Nikola Pasic and the Croatian (of Split) Ante Trumbic.The State SHS, even if not included among the "Great", was heavily felt, supported - not inexplicably - by Wilson when, in addition to the messianic "14 points", think that his personal doctor was the Spalatino Dr. Biankini, brother of the Croatian deputy Jurai Biankini.

The First Exodus

From November 1918 until the beginning of 1921 (entry into force of the Treaty of Rapallo) there was a first and uncontrolled exodus of Italians from the areas occupied by the Serbs (from Spàlato, from Trogir, from Ragusa, etc.).The Consul General of Italy in Split, Carlo Umiltà, will write in his book of memories, "Yugoslavia and Albania", that "the Croatian and Serbian provocations and bullying [..] had pushed many thousands of Italians to abandon their country and to take refuge in the Peninsula ".

Already on 18 November 1918, the Provisional Government of Split had imposed on all officials the oath of loyalty to the State S.H.S. Those of Italian nationality opposed that "with regard to the provisional nature of the present situation they were not conscientiously obliged to lend it until the final decision on the part of the Conference of Peace". Immediately they were declared "fallen from office and emoluments".The violence of the Serbs and those of the Croatians did not even ensure personal safety.

In Spàlato, on 12th July 1920 the corvette captain Tommaso Gulli, commanded by R.N.Puglia and the motorist Aldo Rossi were killed.A large part of the Italian element, left at the mercy of its traditional adversaries, not protected by any diplomatic representation (the Consulates will be open in January 1921), left their homes.For a numerical comparison, even if approximate, of this exodus we can compare the data - by nationality - of the movement of the population of Zara, as they appear in the censuses of 1910 and 1921.Between the two dates the "Italians" (11.469 in 1910) increase physiologically by 606 units. The "Croats" decrease from 5,705 to 1,255 (-4,450) certainly not to remain under Italian sovereignty.The "foreigners" are increasing and may even be surprising: 2,289 in 1910 to 3,735 (+ 1446) in 1921. But this is not a distortion, but rather a particular phenomenon.In 1910 under the heading "foreigners" were recorded Austrian officials and employees who, while working in Zara, maintained their residence in the countries of origin. But with the occupation of the city by Italy, except for a few dozen people, they had all returned to their places of origin.Instead, starting from November 1918 and up to the beginning of 1921 (entry into force of the Treaty of Rapallo) under the heading "foreigners" were recorded people of Italian sentimental feelings from other places in Dalmatia. They were not yet Italian citizens, it was uncertain whether they were Yugoslavs for employment, or if they still had Austrian citizenship, and they could also be stateless. In doubt they were registered as "foreigners".

If in the spring of 1921 alone Zara received not less than 3,500 refugees from Dalmatia, it is legitimate to suppose that another five thousand six thousand have continued to Trieste, Venice, Ancona. But no one has ever spoken of this exodus.

In August 1941 the remaining Italians of Arbe (actual Rab) did a ceremony to celebrate the union of their island to the kingdom of Italy

The Treaty of Rapallo

To solve the Adriatic problem it was necessary to resort to direct negotiations between Rome and Belgrade, which signed the Treaty of Rapallo on 12 November 1920. Italy brought the eastern borders of Venezia Giulia to the natural borders made by the chain of the Alps.

Fiume became an independent state. But the Italian Dalmatia of the Pact of London was given to the new State of Yugoslavia, less Zara and the island of Làgosta (a total of 104 sq km of territory). The Italians of Arbe and Veglia protested and even sent their cities flags to Italy and San Marino (see the following image of a famous stamp of S.Marino Republic).

One should suppose that in Rapallo, the diplomats of Palazzo Chigi, almost feeling on its shoulders the weight of renunciation to the Dalmatia territories, wanted to protect the Italian minority that, in this way, remained under the sovereignty of the Yugoslavia state.

Perhaps failing to obtain a special status for that community - in this case changing some norm from the former Austrian law for the minorities of the ceased Empire - they devised a clause that allowed Italians - as such - to stay in their cities. Evidently the exodus of those thousands of Italians, in 1919 and 1920, as well as the reasons that had determined it, did not seem to have been evaluated and so Rome did not capture the real situation in which the Italians were experiencing in Dalmatia. In international customs it is expected that, with the change of sovereignty over a given territory, the population is able to not accept the citizenship of the new State but with the obligation to transfer its residence elsewhere. In other words, it is granted the right to exercise the right of option.

However, in the Treaty of Rapallo, in this traditional institution, a completely new clause was introduced. Those who opted for Italian citizenship were not obliged - as a rule - to transfer their residence. And innovation was considered a success of Italian diplomacy, so much so that Count Sforza - in the Chamber of Deputies - declared that they "had obtained privileges such as none of the recent European treaties had come to recognize for an ethnic minority".

But those who opted to remain Italians and kept the residence in place automatically became "foreigners". They remained ousted from the political and administrative life of their cities to which, until then, they had - well or badly - always participated. They were faced with considerable difficulties to continue their professions, to obtain licenses and permits necessary for the exercise of arts and crafts. And in that naturally hostile environment they would have been pointed out as "Italians".

On the other hand, those who opted not to be Italians became Yugoslavian citizens, as sanctioned by the Constitution of the State of Yugoslavia: "Citizenship is one in the whole Kingdom".

With the Treaty of Rapallo the General Consulate of Spàlato, the Consulate of Sebenìco, the Vice Consuls of Cùrzola and Ragusa were reopened or established to allow the Italians to opt. In those moments, however, Rome still ignored how many Italians "really" there were in Dalmatia, which certainly were not the 6,559 of the 1910 census.

At the Chamber of Deputies, during the debate on the Treaty of Rapallo, the same Salvemini, who certainly was not in favor of Italian aspirations in Dalmatia, stood at the figure of 40,000 Dalmatian Italians. Similarly, the deputy Colajanni did not rule out even a presence of 60,000 people.
Furthermore, in 1919 the Spalatini (native neolatin citizens of Spalato) had affixed 8,000 signatures - authenticated - to a petition sent to the Italian Delegation to the Peace Conference to demand the annexation of the city to Italy. That is, in the city of Spàlato/Split alone there were at least 8,000 Italians able to sign.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs, in order to have more precise data, had to ask the Consular Representatives for information on the spot that they answered with a series of notes between February and April 1921.The Italian Vice Consul in Cùrzola reported the "huge number of citizens of Cùrzola - 118 families with 564 members - who announced themselves to this civil commissioner with the intention of leaving the city and moving to the Kingdom". And he added: "Excluding the regnicoli here domiciled and the officials of the ceased Austrian regime entered our service [who are almost all Italians] and not even calculated the Italians of fresh date, declared such after our occupation, still remain between Cùrzola and the neighbor Petrara Village as many as 189 families with 835 members ". Overall, therefore, the Italians were more than a thousand.

From Sebenìco, that Consul informed that in the city lived 190 Italian families with 650 people and , with the surrounding territory, they would have been at least 800. Data for defect, since when the so-called "second zone" (Sebenìco) was evicted - as far as we know - 20 families left on 20 April 1921. A week after 300 people, and on June 13 another 653.

In Lissa, April 17, 1921, the Italian flag was lowered. The minutes of the handover were countersigned by the mayor Lorenzo Doimi of de Lupis and 30 Italian family leaders.

In relation to Ragusa, the Consul General of Spàlato, reported on the existence of about 100 families of "Regnicoli" (Italians born in the Italian Peninsula), and added: "Italian Dalmatian families who will opt will be fifty".

In this search for data, the list of names of the Dalmatian magistrates and chancellors who were displaced in the Peninsula can be of some interest. These are 74 former Austrian employees placed in the roles of the Italian judiciary in Dalmatia since 1919.The Consul General Umilta, in his book of memories, would have written that, "Including Zara, remained annexed to Italy, the Italians were certainly not inferior to 50/60 thousand." And he added: "Then we must mention those who, isolated in the countryside and in small villages, were to be called Slavs not to be slaughtered by the Croatian energumens, then the indifferent who, while they wished that their country was annexed to Italy, did not dare to demonstrate openly their aspiration, so as not to see any possibility of life precluded ".Finally, a more political than statistical consideration: "In short, among Italians proper and sympathizers, there were no less than one hundred thousand people in Dalmatia, who did not expect anything good from the union of Dalmatia to Yugoslavia.

The exodus of Dalmatian Italians from Spalato

Second Exodus

By 1921, the Italians who were still in the Dalmatia occupied by the Serbian troops, and in the areas formerly controlled by the Italians, were able to exercise the right of option. But there is very little news about it.

The elements that the Consul General Umilta provides, even if not included in an official or service publication but in his book, are probably those closest to reality given the authoritativeness of the source and the non-instrumentality of the volume, considering that it was published in 1948."When it came to the moment of the option," he writes, "and this operation lasted about five months, a ten thousand people became Italian citizens [..], a total of fifteen thousand people remained yugoslavian subjects".The option applications, collected by the consular representations, were sent for notification to the "Civil Commissariat for Dalmatia", then the Prefecture of Zara. And they were a declaration of faith. The interested party, in fact, signed a question where, in addition to the reference to Article 7 of the Treaty of Rapallo, it was specified that the option was "in accordance with the rules that will be enacted". That is, you opted for a closed box.

On 11 April 1923, the newspaper "Corriere di Zara" reported the news that up to that date, despite a rather complex procedure, 3,419 applications had been accepted. Furthermore, a note from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs shows that 344 late applications had been accepted by late May 1925, while a hundred were still in the preliminary investigation.In any case, it is believed that in 1921-1922 more than 10,000 Italians exercised their right of option. In general, people traditionally clinging to their cities, or who had their own heritage, their own self-sufficiency, so they could resist the pressures of the environment.The other 15,000 who did not opt, despite remaining "spiritually" Italian, became confused with the Croatians. But, in progression of time, many later moved to Italy. Because of the difficulty that the Croats, at all times, opposed to their cohabitation. For the political instability of Yugoslavia. For the animosity of Belgrade towards Rome that found immediate resonance in the Dalmatian cities.

According to a Yugoslavian statistic, only between September 1926 and October 1929, 1,493 Italians emigrated from Dalmatia, and Ivo Rubic considers the presence, around 1930, of only 7,500 Italians. Therefore the figures presented by the Consul General Umilta can be considered coherent.

The Last Exodus

Italy returned to Dalmatia in April 1941. Following the Pacts of Rome on 18 May, that were concluded with the Independent State of Croatia which arose from the disintegration of Yugoslavia, Italy included under its own sovereignty both the territories of the London Pact of 1915 and those of Spàlato & Càttaro, erected to new provinces of the Kingdom of Italy which, with that of Zara (constituted the "Government of Dalmatia").

In 1941 there were 20,000 Italians and 2,000 Croats in Zara. In the rest of Dalmatia there will have been at most 3 to 4 thousand Italians (lacking precise data), with the most consistent groups in Spàlato, Ragusa, Sebenìco and Cùrzolabr/>
On July 25, 1943, the personnel of the "Government of Dalmatia" and of political organizations from the Peninsula returned to Italy.

On September 10, while Zara was being guarded by the Germans, and the city's population suffered no offense, the Tito's partisans entered the town of Spàlato. They remained there until September 26, when the city was conquered by the Germans. In those 16 days, between Spàlato and Trau, the titines suppressed 134 Italians, including public security agents, carabinieri, prison guards.Ten people were shot in Sebenìco, although the partisans had the chance to stop only one day. Shootings happened also in Ragusa. Another 94 Italians were suppressed in various locations in Dalmatia. 51 were also shot by the Germans or died in Nazi deportation camps. And each figure shown here corresponds to the sum of persons identified by name. Therefore, it is permissible to think of others who, similarly disappeared, have left no memory.

During 1943 and 1944, from the place occupied by the Germans - like Spàlato, Ragusa, Sebenìco - the last Italians, took the road of exile in their homeland. But there were still the 20,000 Italians from Zara. Tito, making the city appear to be a crucial logistic center for the supplies of the German divisions engaged in the territory of Yugoslavia, convinced the allies of its military importance.The Anglo Americans, between November 2, 1943 and October 31, 1944, with fifty-four bombings razed the city to the ground. No less than were 2,000 dead under the rubble. About 10-12,000 were the "Zaratini" citizens who at various times managed to save themselves in Trieste. Just over a thousand were able to reach Puglia.The Tito partisans entered Zara on October 31, 1944, and 138 were the Italians shot, suppressed, or drowned: this number limited to those identified by name.

With the Treaty of Peace of 1947, Italians who were still in Dalmatia were granted the right to opt for Italian citizenship, but with the obligation to transfer residence in Italy. There will not have been more than five thousand and all of them were scared by the terror related to the foibes and the massacres done with continuous harrassments perpetrated by the Titos's partisans.

The exodus was total. In Dalmatia the Italian minority had ceased to exist.

Lega Nazionale


A group of Dalmatian Italians (and Istrians) in a 1947 refugee camp in Tuscany's Pisa

An Ethnocide?

Finally I want to remind the readers that in 2018 there are still one hundred Dalmatian Italians in Cherso-Lussigno/Cres-Losinj and about a half hundred in Zara/Zadar.

Someone (a few dozen old ones) is also found elsewhere, from Spalato/Split to Lagosta/Lastovo and Ragusa/Dubrovnik of Dalmatia. However you do not reach half a thousand, to be optimistic! The Dalmatian Italians who exiled in the world have their own association called "Libero Comune di Zara in esilio" (Free city of Zara exiled in the world) and have their magazine called "Il Dalmata" ( ).

In short, in the nineteenth century according to the reliable Austrian census of 1857 there were in Dalmatia (excluding the Quarnaro/Kvarner islands: Cherso/Cres, Lussino/Lošinj and Veglia/Krk) 45,000 Italian Dalmatians and 369,310 Croats ( ). So, officially almost 15% of the inhabitants in Dalmatia south of the Quarnaro area was Italian (and if you add these islands of the Quarnaro where the Italians were very numerous, you reach almost twenty percent) but today unfortunately nothing remains. Only a percentage that is practically nothing! And -sincerely- this fact raises a disturbing question: this disappearance of the Italians in Dalmatia should be called "Ethnocide"?

PS: If interested in further information, please go to (about the complete disappearance of the Italians in Lagosta -now in Croatian called Lastovo, a Dalmatian island that was officially part of the Kingdom of Italy until 1947).

MAPS OF DALMATIA WHEN WAS PARTIALLY ITALIAN (after the Republic of Venice fall in 1797):

A) Map showing the borders of Italy from WW1 to WW2 with blue line and the borders of the Governorato of Dalmatia (1941-1943) with yellow points line

B) Map showing the Dalmatia inside the Napoleonic kingdom of Italy (1806-1810). In 1808 was added Ragusa