Gabriele D’Annunzio and the “Italian Donbass”

The context

The free territories of Fiume and Trieste may mean little today. However, they were two of the sovereign states that figured on the convulsive map of Europe in the 20th century. They had much in common, starting with their cultural, religious and even ethnic diversity, the result of their border reality, still alienated well into the century of cultural uniformity implanted by nationalism.

The two territories have a similar origin: an international agreement to recognize the specificity of two cities and their areas of influence on the Adriatic coast where Italians, Serbs, Slovaks and Croats formed heterogeneous communities dominated by a Latin majority.


Gabriele d’Annunzio in front of the crowd in Fiume

A socio-cultural reality that repeated itself on the Istrian peninsula, where the entire western coast was dominated by a clear Italian majority until the middle of the century, and on the Dalmatian coast, in this case with an Italian minority and a Slavic diversity which was completed with the Montenegrins. .

After the First World War, the Treaty of Versailles granted the Kingdom of Italy the territories of the so-called Austrian Littoral, which included Istria and northern Dalmatia, insufficient concessions for the irredentist movement, supported by a burgeoning fascism.

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Ramon Alvarez


This led the already popular poet Gabriele D’Annunzio in September 1919 to take the town of Fiume – today’s Rijeka – to annex it to Italy. An operation that took the Italian government and local authorities by surprise. At the head of an irregular force and with the support of Benito Mussolini, D’Annunzio takes the city and gives the speech that we offer to the crowd.

The proclaimed Italian regency of Carnaro lasted a mere 15 months during which the D’Annunzios ran a curious “poetic government” ruled by dispersed futurist, anarchist and fascist ideals, until the Kingdom of Italy and the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes sign the Treaty of Rapallo, which created the new independent state of Fiume or Rijeka in November 1920.

The poet, in front of his legionnaires in Fiume

The poet, in front of his legionnaires in Fiume

Although the first elections were won by the autonomists against the irredentist and fascist bloc, Mussolini’s rise to power meant that in 1923 Fiume was occupied by the Italian army and incorporated into Italy.

Less turbulent was the history of the Free State of Trieste, created in 1947 by the United Nations Security Council, in this case under the Treaty of Paris. Italy had to cede to the newly created Yugoslavia the Dalmatian city of Zara – now Zadar -, most of Istria and Fiume, and recognize the sovereignty of the free territory of Trieste.

Interestingly, the new state was an early beneficiary of the Marshall Plan and its flag appears on early posters that were made to popularize the US-sponsored and funded stimulus package among citizens as the flag of its new foreign policy.

Marshal's Plan promotional poster, featuring the flag of the Free State of Trieste (blue with a pike)

Marshal’s Plan promotional poster, featuring the flag of the Free State of Trieste (blue with a pike)

Divided into two management zones, the Anglo-American and the Yugoslav, the two countries signed the London Memorandum in 1954 with the consent of the United States and the United Kingdom, which ceded the administration of their zones to both countries. Until then, the Italian was overseen by governors from the United States, United Kingdom and New Zealand.

Until 1977, the two areas retained their independence to fully integrate with Italy and Yugoslavia. Various Italian historians have denounced the harassment suffered by the population of Italian language and culture in the former Yugoslavia.

The speech

“Italians from Fiume!” In this crazy and vile world, Fiume is today the sign of freedom; In this mad and vile world, there is only one pure thing: Fiume is only a truth. Fiume is just love. Boom!

“Fiume is like a bright beacon shining in the middle of a sea of ​​abjection. In this pilgrimage of love, I have come to dissolve the vow promised last May to the people of Rome.

“Then the vast flag of the River Timavo, the flag which had covered the body of the Infante des Infantes, was unfurled upon the balustrade of the Capitol, and as the red band came to bathe in the fountain below, it was baptized with water from the Capitol and all the people cried out the omen.

“Then I threw in a long strip of black crepe, so that the flag would remain covered until Fiume was ours, but the wind struck it and lifted it as if to take away the mourning, and the whole town cried again at the omen.

“Today I show you this flag that I was going to deliver to Trieste. But before taking it to Trieste, I had to come to Fiume to dedicate it to your faith.

“After this act of renewed will, I declare: I am a soldier, I am a volunteer, I am disabled in war… I know that I interpret the will of all the healthy people of Italy by proclaiming the attachment of Fiume to the homeland . .”

Last deliveries

This piece corresponds to a series of content published by the vanguard which compiles some of the most relevant speeches of the 20th century from a historical point of view and with an informative spirit.

Ramon Alvarez

Ramon Alvarez

Ramon Alvarez

Ramon Alvarez

Ramon Alvarez

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