Wednesday, September 2, 2020


The Kingdom of Italy (1861-1947) expanded Italian influence and control on some islands of Greece. In the first half of the XX century there were also a few tentatives to create the following "italian provinces" in those islands: "Provincia di Corfu", "Provincia di Rodi", "Provincia delle Cicladi" and "Provincia delle Sporadi".

Initially these tentatives were due to some ideals linked to the "Italian Irredentism", like as happened with Corfu and the Ionian islands. Those islands (mainly Corfu, actual Kerkyra, please read also in the beginning of the XIX century had a huge community of venetian speaking inhabitants (the island of Cefalonia -actual Kephalonia- was nearly totally venetian speaking in the XVIII century, according to: Kendrick, Tertius T. C. (1822). "The Ionian islands: Manners and customs"; p. 106 ), as a consequence of the Republic of Venice "dominions" in this region since the Middle Ages. For example one of the Italian "Risorgimento" fathers was Ugo Foscolo, born in Zante (actual Zakynthos).

Festa di San Spiridiano in "Citta di Corfu" (Corfu city) in early summer 1942, showing some of the 2000 Corfiot Italians of the island. The city was proposed to be the capital of a possible 1943 "Provincia di Corfu", but WW2's Italian defeat blocked this project
In Corfu, the "Corfiot Italians" were helped by Mussolini, when he took control of Italy in the 1920s (read, if interested in further information, the article I created in wikipedia and named "Corfiot Italians" or see:

Additionally it is noteworhty to pinpoint that the island of Corfu was "administratively" separated from Greece, when was occupied by Italy in spring 1941, while the Corfiot Italians welcomed the Italian troops in those 1941 days: see There were -also- some comments from the same Mussolini in order to create a "Provincia di Corfu" in late 1942.

Furthermore in 1911 the Italians conquered from Turkey the "Rodi archipelago islands", that they called "Dodecaneso italiano". They added in 1932 to this possession also the island of Castellorizo with the small surrounding little islands, that were the remains of the Italian possessions in Licia (southwestern Anatolia) after WW1

The Dodecanese islands were formally annexed by Fascist Italy, as the "Possedimenti Italiani dell'Egeo" in 1923, following an agreement between Mussolini and Kemal Atatürk. Italian interest in the Dodecanese was rooted in strategic purposes, and the islands were intended to further the Italian Empire's long range imperial policy: the islands of Leros and Patmos were used as bases for the Royal Italian Navy. In the 1930s, Mussolini embarked on a program of Italianization, hoping to make the island of Rhodes a modern transportation hub that would serve as a focal point for the spread of Italian culture in Greece and the Levant.

Dodecaneso Italiano (Rhodes archipelago)
The Fascist program did have some positive effects in its attempts to modernize the islands, resulting in the eradication of malaria, the construction of hospitals, aqueducts, a power plant to provide Rhodes' capital with electric lighting and the establishment of the Dodecanese Cadastre. In 1940 there were nearly 9000 italian colonists in these islands, mainly in Rodi that was greatly improved with monumental buildings in accordance with fascist architecture. Some Italian nationalsts proposed to create a "Provincia italiana di Rodi" in the early 1940, but the start of the war blocked all these projects.

Additionally, during WW2 the Italian authorities proposed to create two provinces in the Aegean sea: the "Provincia delle Cicladi" and the "Provincia di Samo" (named also "Provincia delle Sporadi"). Here it is an interesting article related to this tentative (it was written for the University of Genova by B. D'Ambrosio):


Few scholars have thoroughly analyzed the Italian occupation of the Sporades and Cyclades islands in the Second World War.

After all the war difficulties, Italy - with the "suffered" victory over Greece - in 1941 obtained control of most of mainland Greece (Epirus, Thessaly, Attica and Peloponnese), in addition to the Ionian islands with Corfu, Zante and Kefalonia, Cyclades, and the southern Sporades with Samos, Furni and Icaria plus a territory at the eastern tip of Crete.


The territorial division of Greece was fundamentally decided by the Germans and communicated to the Italians as a 'fait accompli' ("the Germans communicated a boundary to us, we could not but acknowledge" Mussolini himself recognized), as was the Athens settlement of the Tsolakoglu government.

Italy's plans for the annexation of various Greek territories (the Ionian Islands, the Cyclades and the Sporades to be added to the Dodecanese, the Epirus to be annexed to Albania) were postponed by the Germans themselves at the time of the final victory in the war.

The military occupation of the Greek regions, entrusted to the "XI Armata", represented a heavy commitment for Italy in terms of men and resources employed, even if very uneven in terms of the armed opposition encountered: the Greek Resistance was active in the northern regions, Epirus and Thessaly, while in the Peloponnese and in the islands it was never particularly strong, leaving to the Italian units there more police-related tasks than violent repression.

However, in spite of the hostility shown at the time of surrender in April 1941, with the passage of time the attitude of the Greek population became more benevolent towards the Italians, whose behavior in principle had little to do with the methods of violent occupation of the Germans. After all, it is enough to see a famous film about the Italian occupation of Kefalonia - "The mandolin of Captain Corelli" - to understand how the Greek populations showed themselves "benevolent" towards the Italian occupants (and vice versa).


The irredentism of Fascism wanted to include in its project of enlargement of imperial Italy - going back to the maritime republics of Venice and Genoa - even the islands of the Aegean between the Dodecanese and the Ionian islands. In this way Mussolini wanted to create (after his victory in WW2, as he hoped) a historical-geographical continuity of Italian islands that from Corfu '(in front of Albania) arrived until Castellorizzo (in front of southern Anatolia).

For this purpose - after the occupation of almost all of Greece in April 1941 - the Italian authorities proceeded to implement a forced "Italianization" of the local populations of these Greek islands together with the administrative creation of "Italian Provinces" (such as the Ionian provinces, p[us the Cyclades and Samo provinces).

For Corfu' Mussolini went back to the "Italian Corfioti", immediately detaching the Ionian islands from Greece (at least administratively), while for the Aegean islands he limited himself to wait until the end of the war in order of not going against the will of Hitler.

The Cyclades islands and some of the Sporades islands were militarily occupied in the spring of 1941 and were immediately incorporated into the "Italian islands of the Aegean". Ettore Bastico had the title of "Civil and Military Governor" of the Italian Isles of the Aegean, just like the previous governor of the "Islands of the Dodecanese" Cesare Maria De Vecchi of Val Cismon.

ETTORE BASTICO was governor from 10/12/1940 to 1/7/1941. Admiral Inigo Campioni, later shot by the Germans, succeeded him from 15/7/1941 to 11/9/1943. Consul General Igino Ugo Faralli was its last governor, from 11/9/1943 to 18/9/1943. Indeed Ettore Bastico was an artillery general. Thanks to his noble conduct, he earned the esteem and affection of the civilians and the military in the Italian Aegean islands, taking measures to improve their lives. He occupied Castellorizzo, the Cyclades, Samos and Icaria as well as the east part of Crete. He was suddenly transferred, perhaps as a reward, to the African front (Fanizza Rugerro: "De Vecchi, Bastico, Campioni, the last governors of the Aegean." Vasbonesi, Forlì, 1947).

INIGO CAMPIONI followed Bastico. He tried to impose a process of "Italianization" in these islands, but with only minor results.


CYCLADES: The Cyclades were administered as a future "Italian province": the "CIVIL COMMISSIONER FOR THE PROVINCE OF CYCLADES" was established on the island of Syra (also called "Siro" in Italian). Ermopoli, the administrative capital of the Cyclades islands, was and is the capital of the island. In Siro, the Italian authorities created a police station that promoted - among other things - food aid to the civilian populations of the Cyclades: in this way the terrible famine that hit the Greek population in 1942 did only a few thousand victims in the Cyclades (and were relatively few in all the other Greek islands that, in Mussolini's projects, should have been annexed to Italy at the end of the "victorious" world war). Only a few minor islands suffered a great deal initially - but they were immediately rescued by the Italian government, unlike the huge disaster (with many deaths: over 300,000 between 1941 and 1944!) that occurred in the Greek mainland. If interested, read on page 144-149 the book "Famine and Death in Occupied Greece, 1941-1944", written by Violetta Hionidou

The Italian occupation began on the islands in the Aegean on May 6, 1941. The island of Siro, with the capital of the Cyclades, was occupied after only five days. The invasion force was formed by units of the "Regina" Division, which were transported by destroyers Crispi and Sella (departing from the nearby Dodecanese). The following 10 July 1941 took over the "Cuneo" Division to the "Queen" units in the southern Cyclades and Sporades garrison. An air link between Rhodes and Siro guaranteed the postal service. In Italian Cycladic schools the study of the Italian language became compulsory.

Among the civilian population there was a substantial approval of the Italian presence only in the area of ​​the capital of Siro and in the island of Tino, where many boasted distant Venetian roots and were numerous Catholics for centuries - especially in the town "Ano Syros", founded in 1200 by the Venetians. Ano Syros, the Catholic stronghold in Siro, supported the Italianization of the Cyclades even if moderately: this was assisted by the Italian authorities and did not suffer death from the famine that damaged the Greek population especially in February 1942. Many Catholic inhabitants of Ano Syros (and someone from Tino) were later imprisoned by the Greeks (Orthodox) with the charge of collaborationism in 1945.


SPORADES: The same happened with the southern Sporades islands occupied by the Italians. In fact the three main islands of the Italian Sporades (Samo, Icaria and Fourni) were administered with the creation of the "CIVIL COMMISSIONER FOR THE PROVINCE OF SAMO". Also in this case it was expected that at the conclusion of the war these islands were to unite to the Kingdom of Italy in the newly created "Province of Samo".

On May 9, 1941 the island of Samo, the main island of the southern Italian Sporades, was occupied by the "Regina" Division and Vathy (near the historic town of Samo) declared its administrative capital. In the following September, the "Cuneo" Division took over the "Regina". In Samo a first telegraph service was set up in September 1941. A forced attempt at Italianisation was also begun here, especially in schools.

The attempt by the wife of the political commissioner Bianco Tizianotti to organize social events in Samo and Icaria, failed miserably. The antipathy of the population was such that very few local Greeks (less than a hundred in all) were accused of collaboration after the end of the war (in 1945).

At Samos from the end of 1942 there was a reduced action of Greek partisans against the Italian troops, unlike the other Cycladic islands and Sporades where until September 1943 - when Italy surrendered to the Allies - there was no military or paramilitary activity.

In fact, at the time of the Badoglio armistice, in September 1943, on the island of Samos, there were two groups of resistants of about 300 men. These groups, which politically were of the extreme left, had been organized in October 1942. The ELAS (Greek Resistance Army) of Samos received the armament and financial help of the British service SOE, located in Asia Minor, with whom it had been in permanent contact since the end of 1942.

The essential contribution of this resistance was the harassment of the Italian authorities and the main purpose was a general uprising. The plan failed because the anti-fascist committee, waiting for the maneuvers of Badoglio who took over from Mussolini, did not dare to move openly. Restless, the Italian authorities of Rhodes sent two battalions of Italian fascist 'Black Shirts' to observe the possible maneuvers of these resisters.... and all remained quiet (Nicola Tsagas: "Icaria under the Italian occupation, 1941 - 1943").

Map of the theoretical provinces of Italy in Greece's Aegean sea: