Thursday, May 4, 2023


This month I want to research in detail what has happened -initially because of the Habsburg- to the Italians who lived in the Dalmatian islands in the XIX century. And also what happened -according to the historian Bortoluzzi- with the Italians in the dalmatian island of Lagosta (that was an island of the Kingdom of Italy from 1918 until -officially- 1947, the year when changed its name in the croat word "Lastovo") and in other areas of Dalmatia.

Of course we must remember that in 1804 all Dalmatia was united to the Napoleon's Kingdom of Italy and the Italians -according to the french Marmont, ruler of Italian Dalmatia between 1805 and 1809- were nearly 1/3 of the total population while were concentrated in the main cities (where they were the majority). After the Congress of Vienna in 1814 started a small reduction of their presence in Dalmatia -now ruled by the Austrian empire- while their percentage went down to just 20% around 1848 (when started the Italian Wars of Independence). Their reduction increased furthermore after 1866 when started also their disappearance, as I am going to explain in this essay (if interested in further info, please read -with "google translate"- this nice essay written by Maria cipriano:

The following are excerpts on this research, taken from Italian books & magazines about Dalmatia, Lagosta and other nearby localities":

Coat of arms of Dalmatia as used during the Habsburg Monarchy
The Habsburg genocide in Dalmatia

(Written by Marco De Turris; taken from “L'Italia e' la mia Patria”, September 13, 2010)

The so-called Austrian Empire (Austria-Hungary after 1866) was responsible for a great deal of persecution, abuse and violence against the Italian nation. We know how this decisively contributed to perpetuating the long state of division of Italy, the colonial possession of its vast territories under foreign rule, the condition of economic exploitation, cultural repression, political oppression and ethnic discrimination of its Italian subjects.

However, what is less known is how the Empire planned and accomplished after 1866 a true genocide (in the sense of forced denationalization) to the detriment of the Italian residents in their possessions. An objective and truthful assessment of the Habsburg Empire, founded on the principle of the hegemony of the ethnic Austrian element, can be introduced by recalling the minutes of the decision expressed in the Imperial Council of Ministers on November 12, 1866, held under the presidency of Emperor Franz Joseph. The minutes of the meeting reads as follows:

His Majesty has expressed the precise order that we decisively oppose the influence of the Italian element still present in some Crown lands, and to aim unsparingly and without the slightest compunction at the Germanization or Slavicization – depending on the circumstances – of the areas in question, through a suitable entrustment of posts to political magistrates and teachers, as well as through the influence of the press in South Tyrol, Dalmatia, and the Adriatic Coast.

[See Luciano Monzali, "Italiani di Dalmazia", Florence 2004, p. 69; Angelo Filipuzzi (edited by), “La campagna del 1866 nei documenti militari austriaci: operazioni terrestri”, Padua 1966, pp. 396.]

The Imperial decision of Franz Joseph to carry out an ethnic cleansing against the Italians in Trentino-Alto Adige, Venezia Giulia, and Dalmatia, can be found in Die Protokolle des Österreichischen Ministerrates 1848-1867. VI Abteilung: Das Ministerium Belcredi. Band 2: 8. April 1866-6. Februar 1867, Österreichischer Bundesverlag für Unterricht, Wissenschaft und Kunst (Wien 1973); the quote appears in Section VI, vol. 2, meeting of November 12, 1866, p. 297. The quotation in German appears in a section titled "Measures against the Italian element in some territories of the Crown", or rather "Maßregeln gegen das italienische Element in einigen Kronländern":

“Se. Majestät sprach den bestimmten Befehl aus, daß auf die entschiedenste Art dem Einflusse des in einigen Kronländern noch vorhandenen italienischen Elementes entgegengetreten und durch geeignete Besetzung der Stellen von politischen, Gerichtsbeamten, Lehrern sowie durch den Einfluß der Presse in Südtirol, Dalmatien und dem Küstenlande auf die Germanisierung oder Slawisierung der betreffenden Landesteile je nach Umständen mit aller Energie und ohne alle Rücksicht hingearbeitet werde. Se. Majestät legt es allen Zentralstellen als strenge Pflicht auf, in diesem Sinne planmäßig vorzugehen.”

This was followed by a call to all the central offices, giving them the strict duty of carrying out the order according to the will of the emperor. This government decision, made at the highest level by Emperor Franz Joseph and his council, to proceed with the Germanization and Slavicization of the regions with Italian population, Trentino, Venezia Giulia and Dalmatia, "unsparingly and without the slightest compunction", attests unequivocally to the discriminatory and oppressive nature of the Habsburg Empire against the Italian minority: remember however that this is only one example among many of the anti-Italian policy of Austria. This act of the government, directly ordered by the emperor himself, expresses a clear intention to perpetrate an anti-Italian genocide (not in the sense of physical extermination, but in the sense of eradicating national and cultural identity, that would lead precisely to the "death of a people"), which was then actually realized in Dalmatia (Austrian censuses report the reduction of the Italian ethnic group from nearly 20% to just over 2%) and undertaken in Venezia Giulia and Trentino: only the war and the Italian victory prevented the same from happening in these last two regions that happened in Dalmatia, where the Italian presence was eliminated.

This project, consciously elaborated by the highest authorities of the Habsburg Empire and by the manifest will of Franz Joseph himself, was then carried out against the Italians in a plurality of ways. The rear measures against the Italians were carried out from 1866 until 1918 and were different according to the place, the time, and the authorities (civil or military, central or local) that promoted it.

However, they all followed the pattern laid down by a substantial hostility of the Austrian ruling class against the Italians:
1)Mass expulsions (in the first years of the 20th century alone more than 35,000 Italians were expelled from Venezia Giulia);
2)Deportation to concentration camps (over 100,000 Italians deported during World War I);
3)Use of Slavic nationalist squads to exercise massive amounts of violence against Italians (with countless acts of violence, bombings, assaults, murders, etc. These actions were often substantially tolerated by the authorities or were not effectively suppressed);
4)Police repression;
5)Immigration of Slavs and Germans into Italian territories favored by the imperial authorities, to promote the gradual "submersion" of the native Italians;
6)Educational and cultural Germanization and Slavicization (Italian school closed, elimination of Italian place names and proper names, prohibition of Italian culture in all its forms: the question of education in Dalmatia in particular was very serious);
7)Deprivation or restriction of political rights (elections in Dalmatia saw very heavy vote rigging in favour of Slavic nationalists;
8)communes ruled by Italians were dissolved by the Austrian authorities, etc.);
9)Restriction of civil rights (dissolution of political associations, cultural associations, trade unions, people were arrested or convicted for trivial reasons, etc).

Lagosta's Italians

(Written by Mario Bortoluzzi, taken from the magazine “Il Borghese”, May 2004)

Unlike most of the other Dalmatian islands which were given to Yugoslavia after World War I despite being promised to Italy in the Treaty of London, the small Dalmatian island of Lagosta, which had been occupied by Italian troops since 1918, was formally acknowledged as Italian territory by the Treaty of Rapallo, signed in 1920 between Italy and the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes.

Lagosta (now called "Lastovo") thenceforth would belong to the Kingdom of Italy for the next thirty years, or thereabouts, forming part of the Province of Zara together with the islands of Cazza, Pelagosa and Saseno.

According to the 1921 census, the island's population counted some 1400 inhabitants, of which 208 (about 15%) were Dalmatian Italians. In the following years, several hundred other Dalmatian Italians – fleeing from the nearby Dalmatian territories which had been annexed to Yugoslavia – would settle on the island, so that by 1939 the Italian Dalmatian population had risen to 933 (38%). Many of them came from the nearby islands of Lissa, Curzola, Lesina, and from the Dalmatian city of Traù, which had been subject to Yugoslav rule since the Treaty of Rapallo.

The Italo-Dalmatian refugees preferred to live under Italian administration, rather than face difficulties or potential persecution under the Yugoslavs. The island of Lagosta thus became their new home.

The living standards of Lagosta improved significantly under the Kingdom of Italy. As in the rest of Italy during this period, many public works were initiated, and in 1939 the island reached its peak population with 2,458 inhabitants. A small fish farming industry was established in the village of San Pietro by fishermen from Puglia in 1941, aiding in the economic productivity of the island.

In August 1943 the island counted nearly 3000 inhabitants – including civilians and some military personnel – and was enjoying economic prosperity despite the ongoing war. The Italians numbered some 1500 people, or about half the island's population.

The extermination of the Italian population began on September 14, 1943, when Josip Broz Tito's Yugoslav Partisans occupied the island. The ethnic cleansing initially took the form of forced expulsion. In September 1943 about 100 Italians were expelled from Lagosta. These consisted of Italian citizens who were resident in Lagosta, but who were not born on the island.

Between October and December 1943, nearly 200 Italians were killed or disappeared. Tito's men began by killing the local governor Tomasin. They continued the terror by murdering Don Nicola Fantela, a priest of the Diocese of Ragusa, on October 25, 1944; the Communist Partisans tied a stone around his neck and drowned him in the sea between Ragusa and Lagosta.

Don Nicola Fantela was born on September 9, 1880 in Lagosta. After studying in Ragusa and Zara, he entered the priesthood in Zara in 1904. In September 1905 he became an assistant to the parish priest of Curzola. Later he served in Toppollo, Stagno Piccolo, Sarajevo and Sebenico. From 1930 to 1932 he was the parish priest and dean of Stagno. In 1934-1935 he was rector of San Biagio in Ragusa. After retiring as a military employee in 1935, he lived in Castelnuovo. In 1943 he happily returned to Lagosta, his native land.

However, after only four months, on February 6, 1944, he was subject to interrogation by the Yugoslav Partisan Kommissar, during which time he was harshly tortured, disfigured and mutilated. He was transferred to the partisan boat PC-62 “Ivo” in the bay of San Michele, just north of Lagosta, where, on the night of February 7, 1944 (other sources say October 25, 1944), a stone was tied around his neck and he was was thrown into the sea.

Aurora Corsano, a native of Lagosta, was shot to death on March 1, 1944 following a show trial by the Yugoslav Partisans. In 1944 and early 1945 the Yugoslavs conducted many such show trials and summary executions, murdering many Italians on the island and generally terrorizing the Dalmatian Italian population. Through these methods, they forced almost all of the Dalmatian Italians to completely abandon their homes by mid-1945.

After World War II, Lagosta was annexed to Communist Yugoslavia – made official by the Paris Peace Treaties of 1947 – and its name was officially changed to "Lastovo". In the same year the government proclaimed that only Yugoslav military personnel were permitted to live on the island. The few Dalmatian Italians who still remained – about 200 in number – were forced into exile.

So, in the span of only four years (from 1943 to 1947) an entire population and ancient community was wiped out: a perfect genocide, as happened in other Dalmatian islands - like in Lissa! (if interested about Lissa, please read my

Indeed, following the same fate as neighboring Lissa, the island of Lagosta became a Yugoslav militarized region immediately after the war, which led to economic stagnation and the depopulation of the island. This sealed the island's fate for the next several decades up to the present day.

Today the island has only 792 inhabitants, almost all Croats. According to the 2011 census, the Italian community has been reduced to just five people.

As a result of Yugoslav policy and the ethnic cleansing of the Dalmatian Italians – who comprised the productive element of the population – the island today remains one of the most impoverished and underdeveloped areas of southern Dalmatia.


The following are excerpts from the B. D'Ambrosio essay on "Lagosta:a perfect ethnic cleansing":

As early as 996 the Venetians ruled the islands of Lagosta and Lissa, and, though they retired for a time before the Ragusans, their power was effectually established in 1278. Vecia Issa in Lissa, then the chief settlement, was destroyed by Ferdinand of Naples in 1483 and by the Turks in 1571. The present city of Lissa arose shortly afterwards and was mostly populated by the local Dalmatian italians (while Lagosta was partially -66%- populated by Slavs). During the Napoleonic wars, the French held Lissa and Lagosta from 1805 until 1811, and during this period the islands prospered greatly, its population increasing from 4000 to 12,000 between 1808 and 1811 (with many Slavs settling in the islands).

Visiting the island, you can still see traces of twenty five years of Italian administration (theoretically Lagosta was Italian for almost thirty years since November 1918, when landed in the island some sailors of the Italian Royal Navy, until February 1947 when Italy gave officially the island to Tito). After the Second World War, the Treaty of Paris of 1947 assigned the island to the former Yugoslavia (with the croatian name "Lastovo") and is now part of Croatia.

Currently there are no Italians in the island: all survivors of the massacres made by Tito -initiated in September 1943 with the execution of Italian governor Tomasin and continued even with the drowning in the sea between Ragusa and Lagosta with a millstone around the neck of Don Nicola Fantela, canon of the Diocese of Ragusa/Lagosta in October 1944 - were forced to exile in 1947. The eradication of the Italians was started on September 14, 1943, when Tito occupied the island and immediately sent away the "regnicoli", as were called the Italians not born in Lagosta. In the months following the Tito partizans killed many Italians of the island, executing someone even with false trials in 1944 that terrorized the whole small Italian community: the Italians of Lagosta were forced by these methods to exile almost completely before summer 1945. As an example we should remember Aurora Corsano, born in Lagosta, shot 1-3-1944 in the cemetery of Lagosta, after a fake trial.

After the end of the war the few remaining were forced to leave in 1947, when the island was declared by Tito a "militarized territory" where only the Croats could remain.

Here it is a resumen of the ethnic cleaning in Lagosta:
1) August 1943: there were nearly 1500 Italians in the island of Lagosta. They were half the population of the island
2) September 1943: In the second half of this month happened the Tito occupation of the island and the expulsion of the Italians (nearly one hundred, called "Regnicoli") not born in Lagosta.
3) October-December 1943: nearly two hundred Italians -mostly linked to fascist or Italian government organizations- were killed (someone drowned) or "disappear", so the Italians in Lagosta were reduced to nearly 1200.
4) January 1944-April 1945: nearly 1000 Italians were forced to "exile", after a continuous climate of terror was created by Tito's partizans in the island with fake trials against Italians (like the one when Aurora Corsano was put on trial with false accusations, and executed in the Lagosta cemetery in March 1944).
5) May 1945-summer 1947: the remaing 200 Italians were all forced to go away from the island because Tito declared Lagosta (from February 1947 officially called Lastovo) a "military territory" of Yugoslavia. Only Croatians were allowed to remain in the island, because of security reasons.
6) August 1947: There were no more Italians in Lagosta.

In simple words: all the 1500 Italians of Lagosta "disappeared" in just 4 years, from August 1943 to August 1947. What a perfect ethnic cleansing!

The island of Cazza during the Venetian rule was inhabited by over 200 people (most of them venetian speaking), and live there today only the family of the lighthouse keeper and a pastor. On the island of about 5 km2 there are the remains of two churches. The oldest dates from the fourth century. Cazza remained depopulated after the Second World War

In addition we would like to remind once again that the Italian province of Zara between the two world wars was formed with the territory of Zara and also with the island of Lagosta. So we wonder when we will have in Lagosta something similar to what we have in Zara (now Zadar) as an "Italian organization" heir and/or result of that province? Perhaps a small branch of the Italian community of Zara (or even of Lesina) could be created in Lagosta?

On the other hand there are many in Lagosta who have kinship (far away, but sometimes even close) with the 40% of the population of the island that was Italian in 1940, and someone -may be because of tourism- still speaks a little bit of "veneto da mar" (venetian dialect).... Furthermore a friend of mine, who has visited the island five years ago, argued that some of the actual inhabitants of Lagosta (now called Lastovo) would like to have in the island something like the Italian kindergarten "Pinocchio" of Zara, but bilingual Italian-Croatian (or Croatian but with courses in Italian). We must remember that in 1941 arose a village in Lagosta (now called Uble), in which many Italian fishermen had moved from Puglia: they created a small industry of fish conservation (destroyed later by Tito), but they even were making the Italian the most spoken language of the island.

Indeed Lagosta in summer of 1943 enjoyed a certain economic well-being and had almost 3000 people (about half Italian speaking), while from 1945 in the hands of Tito's Yugoslavia the island has been depopulated and impoverished

Dalmatia in the XIV century (in pink color the territories of the Republic of Venice)

The population of Dalmatia in the XII/XIII centuries

(The following is a description of Dalmatia from the famous “Book of Roger” (Tabula Rogeriana), written by the Arab geographer Muhammad al-Idrisi at the court of King Roger II of Sicily in 1154)

In his descriptions Idrisi makes a clear distinction between the Slavs and the Dalmatians – the term ‘Dalmatian’ refers to the autochthonous Latin-speaking population who descended from the original Roman inhabitants.

Al-Idrisi wrote which towns and cities were inhabited by Slavs and which were inhabited by Dalmatians. The Dalmatians predominated in almost all the major towns and cities of Dalmatia (Zara, Spalato, Traù, Lissa, Ragusa, Cattaro), while the Slavs inhabited only one city (Antivari) and a couple of minor towns.

According to Idrisi, this was the ethnic composition of Dalmatia in the 12th century:

Segna - Populated by Slavs
Castelmuschio (Veglia) - Populated by Dalmatians
Arbe - Populated by Dalmatians
Zatton - Populated by Dalmatians
Zara - Populated by Dalmatians
Zaravecchia - Populated by Dalmatians and Slavs
Traù Vecchia - Populated by Dalmatians
Traù - Populated by Dalmatians
Spalato - Populated by Dalmatians
Lissa - Populated by Dalmatians
Stagno - Populated by Slavs
Ragusa - Populated by Dalmatians
Antivari - Populated by Slavs
Cattaro - Populated by Dalmatians
Dulcigno - Populated by Latins (Dalmatians)

His contemporary William of Tyre, in his chronicle Historia, described Dalmatia this way: “Dalmatia is inhabited by a very fierce people, given over to plunder and murder. ...with the exception of those who live on the coast and who differ from the rest in customs and language. Those on the coast use the Latin language, while the others (in the hinterland) use the Slavonic tongue and have the habits of barbarians.”

Also in the 13th century the chronicler Raymond of Aguilers, in his "Historia Francorum", described Dalmatia in the same way. He makes a distinction between the civilized Latins who inhabit the cities and urban centres of the Dalmatian coast and speak a Latin language, and on the other hand the rural Slavs who live in the countryside, whom he describes as “primitive people, barbaric robbers, ignorant of God” (“rudes, latrones, aggrestes hominem qui deum ignorabant”).

These testimonies make clear that the Dalmatian coast in the 12th and 13th centuries was not Slavic, but overwhelmingly Latin and belonged to Latin civilization. The cities of Zara, Spalato, Traù, Ragusa, Cattaro and Arbe, among others, were Latin cities whose population spoke Latin and later Italian. These Latin cities would remain Italian-speaking until the modern period.

ADDENDUM: further info can be found in the books of "RIVISTA MILITARE" (