Italian Aegean Islands
|Isole italiane dell'Egeo
Ιταλικά νησιά του Αιγαίου
Italian Aegean Islands
|Today part of||Greece|
The Italian Dodecanese, formally known as the Italian Aegean Islands (Italian: Isole italiane dell'Egeo, Greek: Ιταλικά νησιά του Αιγαίου), were a group of twelve major islands in the southeastern Aegean Sea, which belonged to the Kingdom of Italy from 1912 to 1947.
The Dodecanese was occupied by Italy during the Italo-Turkish War of 1912 except Kastellorizo. Italy had agreed to return the islands to the Ottoman Empire according to the Treaty of Ouchy in 1912; however the vagueness of the text allowed a provisional Italian administration of the islands, and Turkey eventually renounced all claims on the Dodecanese in the Article 15 of the Treaty of Lausanne in 1923. Kastellorizo was temporarily occupied by France in World War I and was annexed to Italy from Ottoman Empire in 1919.  Dodecanese was formally annexed by Fascist Italy, as the Possedimenti Italiani dell'Egeo.
Italian interest in the Dodecanese was rooted in strategic purposes, and the islands were intended to further the Empire's long range imperial policy. The islands of Leros and Patmos were used as bases for the Royal Italian Navy.
From 1923, the Italians embarked on a gradual forced Italianization campaign of the islands. The first Governor General, Mario Lago, delegated land for Italian settlers and encouraged intermarriage with local Greeks. In 1929, scholarships at the University of Pisa for Dodecanesian students were promoted to disseminate Italian culture and language among the local professional class. The Orthodox rite was suppressed and only Catholic ceremonies were recognized. The Italian authorities also tried to limit the power of the Greek church without success by trying to set up an autonomous Dodecanesian church. Fascist youth organizations such as Opera Nazionale Balilla were introduced on the islands, and the Italianization of names was encouraged by the Italian authorities. Local Greek islanders did not receive a full Italian citizenship and were not required to serve in the Italian armed forces.
Under the governorship of Cesare Maria De Vecchi (1936 to 1940), the Italianization efforts intensified. The Italian language became compulsory in education and the public life, with Greek being only an optional subject in schools. The fascist municipality (comune) system was set up to the islands in 1937, with newly appointed podestàs. in 1938, Italian Racial Laws were introduced to the islands along with a series of decrees equalizing local legislation with Italian law.
Italian settlement efforts
Efforts to bring Italian settlers to the islands were not notably successful. By 1936, Italians in the Dodecanese numbered 16,711, the most of whom living on Rhodes and Leros. Italians of Rhodes and Kos were farmers involved in setting up new agricultural settlements, while Italians of Leros were generally employed by the army and lived at its facilities in the new Italian-built model town of Portolago (modern Lakki).
Mussolini wanted to transform the islands into showcases of the Italian colonial empire, and undertook a series of massive public works in the archipelago. New roads, monumental buildings in accordance with fascist architecture and waterworks were constructed, sometimes using forced Greek labor.
Some examples of Italian architecture are still found on the islands:
- The Grande Albergo delle Rose (now "Casino Rodos") built by Florestano Di Fausto and Michele Platania in 1927, with a mix of Arab, Byzantine and Venetian styles.
- The Casa del Fascio of Rhodes, built in 1939 in typical fascist style. It serves now as the City Hall.
- The Catholic church of San Giovanni, built in 1925 by Rodolfo Petracco, as a reconstruction of the medieval cathedral church of the Knights of St. John.
- The Teatro Puccini of the city of Rhodes, now called "National Theater", built in 1937 with 1,200 seats.
- The Palazzo del Governatore in downtown Rhodes, built in 1927 in Venetian style. It now houses the offices of the Prefecture of the Dodecanese.
- The Villaggio rurale San Benedetto, now Kolymbia village, built in 1938 as a planned model village with all modern services.
- The Community of Portolago (now Lakki) in the island of Leros, built in 1938 in typical Italian Deco style.
The Italians also surveyed the islands for the first time in history, and began to introduce mass-scale tourism to Rhodes and Kos. However, the smaller islands were mostly neglected by the improvement efforts and were left underdeveloped.
Mussolini stated that Rhodes had merely returned to its ancestral home after being annexed by Italy, as the Dodecanese had been an important part of the Roman Empire. Major Italian archaeological efforts from the 1930s onward were intended to discover Roman antiquities and thus strengthen the Italian claim on the islands.
|Island (Italian name in parentheses)||Area||Population|
|Rhodes (Rodi) and dependent islets||1,412 km2 (545 sq mi)||60,244|
|Patmos (Patmo) and dependent islets||57.1 km2 (22.0 sq mi)||3214|
|Leipsoi (Lisso)||174 km2 (67 sq mi)||993|
|Kalymnos (Calino) and dependent islets||128.2 km2 (49.5 sq mi)||15,338|
|Kos (Coo)||296 km2 (114 sq mi)||20,003|
|Astypalaia (Stampalia) and dependent islets||113.6 km2 (43.9 sq mi)||1767|
|Nisyros (Nisiro) and dependent islets||48 km2 (19 sq mi)||2375|
|Symi (Simi) and dependent islets||63.6 km2 (24.6 sq mi)||6176|
|Tilos (Piscopi) and dependent islets||64.3 km2 (24.8 sq mi)||1227|
|Halki (Calchi) and dependent islets||30.3 km2 (11.7 sq mi)||1476|
|Karpathos (Scarpanto) and dependent islets||306 km2 (118 sq mi)||7893|
|Kasos (Caso) and dependent islets||69.4 km2 (26.8 sq mi)||1913|
|Megisti (Castelrosso) and dependent islets||11.5 km2 (4.4 sq mi)||2267|
|Italian Aegean Islands||2,668.3 km2 (1,030.2 sq mi)||132,289|
- Source: Census of 1936
- Source: Annuario Generale, Consociazione Turistica Italiana, Roma, 1938
After the Battle of Greece, Fascist authorities pushed for the incorporation of the Cyclades and Sporades into Italy's Aegean possession, but the Germans were opposed to any territorial reduction of the puppet Hellenic State. As the Cyclades were already under Italian occupation, the preparation for outright annexation was continued despite of the German opposition.
End of Italian influence
After the Italian capitulation of September 1943, the islands briefly became a battleground between the Germans, British and the Italians (the Dodecanese Campaign). The Germans prevailed, and although they were driven out of mainland Greece in 1944, the Dodecanese remained occupied until the end of the war in 1945. During the German occupation, the Dodecanese remained under the nominal sovereignty of the Italian Social Republic, but were de facto subject to the German military command.
List of colonial heads of the Italian Aegean Islands (1912-1947)
- Giovanni Battista Ameglio (5 May 1912 - 14 October 1913)
- Ferruccio Trombi (15 October 1913 - 8 November 1913) (provisional)
- Francesco Marchi (9 November 1913 - 26 April 1914)
- Giovanni Croce (27 April 1914 - 26 May 1917) (provisional to 3 August 1914)
- Vittorio Elia (27 May 1917 - 15 December 1919)
- Achille Porta (15 December 1919 - 6 August 1920)
- Carlo Senni (7 August 1920 - 16 September 1920) (provisional)
- Felice Maissa (17 September 1920 - 16 August 1921)
- Alessandro De Bosdari (17 August 1921 - 15 November 1922)
- Mario Lago (16 November 1922 - 27 November 1936)
- Cesare Maria De Vecchi (2 December 1936 - 9 December 1940)
- Ettore Bastico (10 December 1940 - 14 July 1941)
- Inigo Campioni (15 July 1941 - 18 September 1943)
- Igino Ugo Faralli (18 September 1943 - 7 May 1945)
- Ulrich Kleemann (8 September 1943 - 20 September 1944)
- Otto Wagener (20 September 1944 - 5 May 1945)
- Peter Acland (May 1945 - 1945)
- Charles Henry Gormley (1945–1946)
- Arthur Stanley Parker (1946 - 15 September 1947)
- Treaty of Ouchy (1912), also known as the First Treaty of Lausanne
- Full text of the Treaty of Lausanne (1923)
- Marc Dubin (2002). Rough Guide to the Dodecanese & East Aegean islands. Rough Guides. p. 436. ISBN 1-85828-883-5.
- Anthony J. Papalas (2005). Rebels and radicals: Icaria 1600-2000. Bolchazy-Carducci Publishers. p. 101. ISBN 0-86516-605-6.
- Aegeannet, The Dodecanese under Italian Rule
- Dubin (2002), p. 437
-  in Italian
- Davide Rodogno (2006). Fascism's European empire: Italian occupation during the Second World War. Cambridge University Press. p. 85. ISBN 0-521-84515-7.
- Dubin (2002), p. 438
- Nicola Cospito; Hans Werner Neulen (1992). Salò-Berlino: l'alleanza difficile. La Repubblica Sociale Italiana nei documenti segreti del Terzo Reich. Mursia. p. 128. ISBN 88-425-1285-0.