Monday, August 1, 2022


Maps with the location of the 26 villages (above: Tripolitania; bottom: Cirenaica; villages created in 1938 (in blue) and in 1939 (in red). In orange are the first four created in 1934 in Cirenaica)


Italo Balbo as Governor of Italian Libya promoted a demographic colonization of the coastal areas of this colony by Italian families. Starting from 1938, he planned to relocate in just five years 100,000 Italians in a group of newly created farm villages: in early 1940 nearly 30,000 Italians were living in 26 agricultural villages of Tripolitania and Cirenaica. The beginnings of this colonization project were economically positive, but WW2 destroyed it all: by January 1943 the Allies had conquered all Italian Libya and the villages were mostly damaged & sometimes abandoned. A few survived with some Italian colonists until the late 1960s, but in worsening conditions (see the following video of Village Crispi in the 1950s:).

For a detailed & complete study with related photos, please read in Italian:

In 1938 more than 20,000 Italian farmers went to Libya and 26 agricultural villages were created for them: Olivetti, Bianchi, Giordani, Micca, Tazzoli, Breviglieri, Marconi, Garabulli, Crispi, Corradini, Garibaldi, Littoriano, Castel Benito, Filzi, Baracca, Maddalena, Aro, Oberdan, D'Annunzio, Razza, Mameli, Battisti, Berta, Luigi di Savoia, Gioda.

Ten other Libyan villages, in which Berbers and natives learned from Italian farmers to make money from their land with modern agriculture, were : El Fager (Alba), Nahina (Deliziosa), Azizia (Perfumed), Nahiba (Risorta), Mansura (Vittoriosa), Chadra (Green), Zahara (Fiorita), Gedina (New), Mamhura (Fiorente), El Beida (la Bianca) already named "Beda Littoria." All these ten villages had their mosque, school, social center (with gymnasium and cinema) and a small hospital, representing an absolute novelty for the Arab world of North Africa.

Indeed in this operation of Italian demographic colonization there was a unique and revolutionary novelty: the Italian government of Italo Balbo did not treat the native Libyan population as an "inferior race" (like did the French and British in their African colonies) to be exploited but, having recognized them Italian citizenship in the so called "Fourth Shore" of Italy, reserved the same treatment as the Italian nationals. So, farms to be cultivated were distributed to the Libyans (as well as to the Italians) and also for them were built some Libyan rural villages. All those ten villages were still inhabited and growing as agricultural centers in the independent Libya after WW2.

The agricultural village "Bianchi" -near Tripoli- when inaugurated in 1938 and showing the trees just planted

The following are excerpts translated from an essay written by Marco Piraino about these new villages ( ) and titled in Italian: "L’ITALIA FASCISTA E LA COLONIZZAZIONE DEMOGRAFICA DELLA LIBIA: premesse, sviluppi e conclusione di un progetto politico-sociale totalitario.


The project (of Libya's colonization by 30000 Italian farmers) was officially launched on May 17, 1938 with the Royal Decree Law No. 701, which specified, among other things, the urgent and absolute need to adopt extraordinary measures to support demographic colonization. It involved the totality of the components present in the colonial society, with the precise purpose of achieving a substantial balance between the metropolitan and the Arab population, taking into account the demographic relationship unfavorable to the Italians, in favor of whom the program provided for the reception of forty thousand new settlers in two years (in fact they went down later to thirty thousand), a prelude to a much more ambitious goal that counted on being able to install a population for the middle of the century whose total number would have been about five hundred thousand metropolitan. Balbo so ... announces the great project in May 1938 and six months later the first twenty thousand settlers land in Libya. In just six months, mobilizing 10,000 Italian workers and 23,000 Libyans, the two colonizing bodies, under the energetic leadership of Balbo, build dozens of rural villages and hundreds of farmhouses, roads and aqueducts, while they provide for the delimitation of 1800 new farms . Each farm, painted in white and with simple architecture, is equipped with: a) a farmhouse composed of a dining room, three bedrooms and a bathroom; b) a barn behind, separated from the house, and a warehouse. The barn can accommodate four working beasts and has a concimaia attached; c) a well of the first aquifer and a cistern to collect rainwater.

Obviously, the main task of the central government, assisted by that of the colony, was to choose, transport and arrange hundreds of families on previously set-up farms, all naturally at the expense of the treasury. This policy harmonized with the fascist ideal of a beneficial totalitarian state, the bearer of order, discipline and prosperity in the lives of its most humble citizens. However, the selection of the first wave of settlers had not proved to be a simple task, occupying for three months special medical committees chosen for the occasion which examined 6,000 families who had applied for admission to the colonization program. The selection was made in three months by three itinerant Commissions, appointed by the Commissariat for migration and colonization, made up of agricultural, sanitary and administrative technicians. The average composition of the 1,800 families (1,000 are allocated in Tripolitania and 800 in Cyrenaica) is 9.01, that is three male work units, two or three female units and the rest boys from three to 15 years [...]. The colonial families are supplied by 750 municipalities and come mostly from the Veneto, from Emilia, from the Lombard provinces of Mantua, Brescia and Bergamo, from the Abruzzi, from Puglia, from Calabria and from Sicily. The Commissariat that organizes large departures has arranged for one companion for every twenty families, who will direct them from their place of origin to the houses to each of them destined for Tripolitania and Cyrenaica [...].

The families are thus divided into the various villages: Tripolitania (National Fascist Institute of Social Security): 100 families at Oliveti, 75 at Bianchi, 111 at Giordani, 120 at Tarhuna; (Body for the Colonization of Libya): 37 at Oliveti, 320 at Crispi, 100 at Gioda, 110 at Breviglieri and 21 at the Azizia. Cyrenaica: 176 to the Barca [Barce], 210 to the Oberdan, 60 to the D'Annunzio, 120 to the Battisti, 39 to the Zorda, 81 to the Maddalena, 25 to the Race, 40 to the Deda [Beda], 35 to the Slonta, 15 to the Faidia , 66 to the Savoia [Luigi di Savoia], 35 to the Berta [...]. Subsequently the imposing program of demographic colonization will have new developments and the work of high civilization realized by the Regime will contribute effectively to the attainment of the economic autarchy of the Nation.

Village "Oliveti" in Tripolitania, surrounded by farm houses


The plans for logistics, organization and the transfer of settlers, in both migrations planned for the two-year period 1938-1939, were carried out punctually, with departures scheduled every year on the 28th October, the anniversary of the "March on Rome" , thus bringing about thirty thousand metropolitans to the coasts of Libya, who were placed on specially cleared state lands. The farmers were welcomed in the villages and colonization areas mostly developed along the coastal road by I.N.F.P.S. and from the E.C.L. that, assisted by the technical services of the government and the colonization offices, had supervised the completion of all the infrastructures and the development of land reclamation despite having a very short period, also setting up the enlargement of arable land in agricultural areas chosen in precedence and exploitation of new areas in view of the growing number of incoming "new Libyans". The two bodies, following now the established practice in previous years, planned the regular subdivision of the land into small lots, providing as usual the assistance of the settlers in the cultivation of their farms, after the latter had naturally been placed in their new homes equipped with of the necessary reserves. The total amount of the amount that was paid by the State for this plan was calculated at 945 million lire, of which 321 were destined for major general development works carried out directly by the government, including hydraulic works consisting of 2 large aqueducts and 35 artesian wells with related annexed structures. In addition, 250 kilometers of roads would have been built with the related communication lines, as well as the first nuclei of 20 new agricultural villages. A quota of 380 million was instead allocated to the construction of rural houses and the arrangement of agricultural land transformed from steppes into arable land. The remaining sum should have covered the technical organization of the operation and the contributions provided for the reclamation law, which should have been paid by the State in the first two years of the operation.

Overall, on the death of Balbo, which occurred on June 28, 1940, eighteen days after Italy entered the war in the Second World War, the work of corroborating the Libyan territories exceeded 200,000 hectares between private companies and official colonization. . In Cyrenaica, ten villages had sprung up, as well as various concessions and private companies, with 2755 families (over 10.000 members). Seven villages built in Tripolitania by the Tripolitania Colonization Agency at Misurata, Azizia and Tarhuna and nine others built by the National Institute of Social Welfare, without counting the private concessions and those of the Italian tobacco company at Garian which welcomed 3960 families with 23.919 members. The pertinent reclamation plan concerning the Italian demographic colonization in the years 1938-39 would have covered an area of ​​approximately 133,000 hectares divided in turn into lands extended from 15 to 50 hectares, with relative annexed farm, all due to the availability of water that of the type of cultivation.

As regards the measures taken in favor of the Arab population in the agricultural colonization program in the years 1939-1940, the Muslim villages of Zahra (Fiorita), el-Fager (L'Alba) and Chadra (Green ), Nahida (Risorta), Gedida (Nuova), Mansura (Vittoriosa); in Tripolitania the villages of Mahamura and Naima were inaugurated. 1,400 hectares of land were also destined to Libyan peasants, even if at the current state of research only 500 hectares are actually assigned, with plots whose size ranged from 2 to 10 hectares. Regarding the assignment of houses and land in these villages we have definite information only concerning 32 families residing in Alba and Fiorita, while in Mahamura we are aware of 100 farms occupied by as many families. However, it must be recognized that the set of the aforementioned measures could never be considered fully operational, both because of the initial mistrust of the native populations and, subsequently, of the impossibility of proceeding further in the complete realization of such plans due to the negative outcome the war had for the fascist Italy, with the invasion of 1941 and the integral integral occupation of Libya by the armies of the British commonwealth of 1943.


Italian colonists -with their belongings- approaching their farm village in Cyrenaica

In making a final judgment on the process of demographic colonization in Libya, the majority of historians have provided an overall negative balance of the story, minimizing the negative impact that the world war had on it and attributing the real failure of this project to the choices wrong strategic elaborated by the fascist regime well before the outbreak of hostilities with the allied powers, in this regard it is not unusual to come across statements like this: The reasoning later advanced by the apologists, for which the "demographic" colonization would be aborted only for the arrival of the war, it appears without foundation: the errors and failures were precedents, as evidenced by the frantic change of strategies in the space of a few years. A critical scholar noted that the high expenses of the regime and the poor results collected by the agrarian colonization of Libya, which moreover affected only a fraction of the Italian population residing in the colony, were "indicative only of the waste, of the investments and of the wrong choices" of fascism, rather than its efforts to enhance the Fourth side. There is no doubt that the Regime, also with regard to the colonial affair in question, in an attempt to gradually realize its own peculiar organizational political model, with Mussolini intent on acting as arbitrator in search of a substantial balance between the orientations expressed by the Fascist Party leaders, reflecting in this the internal dynamics of national politics, fluctuated, according to what we have observed, from an initial action to support the private initiative substantially of a liberal sign to a statist economic policy of the mold corporate-leadership, as can be clearly seen from the enormous effort made by the fascist state described in the previous pages and profused in the project of integrating the Libyan territories into the Italian political and economic circuit.

However, it is equally important to specify some data, particularly of a demographic and economic nature, to be contextualised in relation to a different perspective of analysis concerning the actual primary needs of the fascist government. Data that end up characterizing the modus operandi for an unquestionable primacy attributed to the ideological objectives of the totalitarian policy of the Regime, rather than to the opportunities and the real convenience suggested by the analysis of simple economic data referring to the concrete potentialities of the Libyan territory. Well, for what concerns the quantitative presence of Italians in Libya, the remarkable and consistent numerical growth of the so-called metropolitan is undoubtedly evident, whose population was more than quadrupled in less than two decades. In fact, from the 27,163 inhabitants present in 1921, the considerable figure of 128,264 inhabitants recorded in March 1940 was recorded, on the eve of Italy's entry into the war, a figure which we know was destined to grow for some time (at the end of 1940 there were 140,000 Italian civilians present on the "fourth shore" against 30,000 Israelites and 850,000 registered Libyans). An element which must necessarily be combined with the evident growth of the indigenous Muslim population compared to previous years. All phenomena of development that manifest the most significant demographic increase starting from the start of the direct management policy by the fascist State with the demographic colonization plans, significantly concomitant with the arrival in the colony of Governor Balbo and the inauguration of the great public Works. These works, with reference to the report presented by Minister Teruzzi at the end of November 1939, were so extensively illustrated: The complex of public works of the last two years is really important, above all due to the great amount of work required by the implementation of intensive demographic colonization plans.

To allow easy and rapid communication with the agricultural villages, numerous roadways have been and are being built across the colonization areas for a total length of about 380 km. Numerous tracks are connected to these roads. Of particular importance is the access road to the Ras Hilal landing, built with the same characteristics as the Libyan coast road and with a section running along the road tunnel that constitutes the access to the sea in most of the areas in the Cyrenaic Gebel. For the exploitation of the potassium salts of Marada and to facilitate the transport of the mineral to the coast from where it will be embarked for Italy a trunk of road is under construction [...] Recently the artificial road has been completed that crossing the Gefara [...] joins the port of Zuara with the territory of the Gebel Nefusa grafted into the Nalut roadway near Giosc. Several other local road trunks have been built and the vast network of tracks with natural bottoms has been improved and increased.

Among the aqueducts for the service of colonization, the importance of the Cyrenaic Gebel already in an advanced stage of construction, with a development of 198 Km, is of truly remarkable importance. of the capacity of 5000 cubic meters per day to all the colonization areas of the Gebel up to the most distant villages of Baracca and Filzi to the west of Barce. In western Libya, the aqueducts of Breviglieri and Marconi are of considerable importance. For the supply of drinking water in the main inhabited centers, considerable work has been carried out, including the development of the Benghazi water network and above all the completion of the Tripoli aqueduct, which today can have about 19,000 cubic meters of excellent second water per day groundwater. There are also numerous artesian wells and first and second aquifer wells excavated in colonization villages and private concessions. Particular care has been given to strengthening existing ports and creating new landings. In the port of Tripoli it was started in 1937 and a vast excavation program is being conducted at an accelerated pace so that it is now possible for the major transatlantic ships to enter the port and stand alongside the quay. Construction of new docks is also underway in order to increase the commercial potential of the port.

Villaggio "Oliveti" in 1939 Tripolitania

Expansion works are also underway in the port of Benghazi, a 160-meter-long reinforced concrete dock was built in Ras Hilal [...]. In addition to the schools included in the villages, another 28 school buildings sprang up in the various colonization areas, while new secondary primary schools were opened in Tripoli, Benghazi, Derna and Misurata, Italo-Arab schools in Jefren, Tauorga, Tigrinna, Zavia, Augila. The hospitals of Tripoli and Benghazi have now been completed and are now equipped with extremely modern hygiene and prophylaxis laboratories, and extension work is underway for those of Barce and Misurata. Of recent construction are the asylum for Muslims and the sanatorium of I.N.F.P.S. in Tripoli. The development of the major centers of the Fourth Shore in recent years has been truly remarkable. It will suffice to mention that in 4 years construction companies have increased by 20% with an increase in national workers employed of 300%. New important public buildings have sprung up and in relation to the ever-increasing building needs the new regulatory plans have been drawn up and approved, not only of the main urban centers, but also of many other smaller centers. Like -for example- in the nice village Oberdan.

An aerial photo of the village Oberdan in Cyrenaica, created in 1939

The complex of these results, according to the data reported so far, allows to establish how in reality the general picture of the colony was in full evolution and with concrete prospects for growth and improvement. An economic-demographic framework that we can define as encouraging. In such a context, just at the beginning of a phase of economic development and the resumption of demographic growth, the consequences and negative effects on the life of the colony that had the entry of fascist Italy in the world war in June 1940 should certainly be reconsidered. , beginning with the alteration of the normal daily rhythms of a territory that, it is good to not forget it, for the supplies depended almost totally on the connections with the Italian peninsula.


Photos "Archivio LUCE" of Italian Senate about Italian Villages inaugurations:

Video of Italian colonists moving to live in Village Crispi:

Video of arrival of the Italian colonists in Tripoli in 1938:


Nina Baker-January 5, 2020 at 2:13 AM Thanks for this fascinating insight into what seems to be an almost unknown aspect of 20th century fascist history. My dad was stationed at RAF Castel Benito in 1946 and lived in Garian, which he described as having more administration buildings than inhabitants and what few locals were still there were mainly nomadic arabs. Now I understand why there were all the buildings but no people.

Unknown-July 5, 2020 at 8:52 PM Today I live in villaggio Bianchi. My name is Muhannad

Unknown-July 5, 2020 at 8:55 PM +218910735172 Who has more information about Bianchi Village sends on Whatsapp