Italian language in Croatia
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The Italian language is a minority language in Croatia, spoken by 0.46% of the total Croatian population. It is an officially recognized minority language in Istria County, where it is spoken by 7.69% of the population.
The 2001 Census in Croatia reported 19,636 ethnic Italians in the country (some 0.44% of the total population). Ethnologue reported 70,000 persons whose first language is Italian or Venetian in 1998 (referring to Eugen Marinov's 1998 data). This population was composed of 30,000 ethnic Italians and 40,000 ethnic Croats and persons declared regionally ("as Istrians"). Native Italian speakers are largely concentrated along the western coast of peninsula Istria. Because of Croatian trade and tourist relations with Italy, many Croats have some knowledge of the language (mostly in the service and tourist industries).
In Istrian contexts the word "Italian" can just as easily refer to autochthonous speakers of the Venetian language, who were present in the region before the inception of the Venetian Republic and of the Istriot language, the oldest spoken language in Istria, dating back to the Romans and now spoken in the south west of Istria in Rovigno, Valle, Dignano, Gallesano, Fasana, Valbandon, Sissano and the surroundings of Pola.
The term may sometimes refer to a descendant of colonized persons during the Benito Mussolini period (during that period immigration in Istria, Zadar/Zara and northern Adriatic islands, given to Italy after WWI, was promoted, 44,000 according to Žerjavić,). It can also refer to Istrian Slavs who adopted Italian culture as they moved from rural to urban areas, or from the farms into the bourgeoisie.
In the past the language had a much larger population than it does now: the Italian (Venetian speaking) population constituted (according to the Italian linguist Bartoli) nearly one third of Dalmatians in the second half of the 18th century. According to the Austrian census it had decreased from 22% in 1816 to 12.5% in 1853, down to a mere 2.9% in 1910.
After World War I Italy obtained Zara and some northern Dalmatian islands (Cherso and Lussino). During World War II the Kingdom of Italy annexed most of Dalmatia to the newly created Governatorato di Dalmazia. In 1942 there were 4020 Italians in these newly annexed areas: 2220 in Spalato (Split), 300 in Sebenico (Sibenik), 500 in Cattaro (Kotor) and 1000 in Veglia (Krk).
Furthermore there were 10,000 Italians in the Governatorato who took Yugoslav citizenship after World War I, in order to remain there and be accepted without problems by the new Yugoslavian regime after the fall of the Austro-Hungarian Empire.
In 1939 Italy conducted a covert census of the non-Italian population (Croats and Slovenes) in Istria, Kvarner, Zadar, Trieste and Gorizia. After the census, Italian authorities publicly stated that the Italian speaking population in those areas had increased. However, data proved that the share of Croatian speakers did not diminish in that period.
For various reasons mainly related to nationalism and armed conflict, the numbers of Italian speakers in Croatia declined during the 20th century, especially after the Second World War in a period known as the Istrian exodus when nearly 350,000 Italians left Yugoslav dominated areas in the eastern Adriatic. The 2001 census in Croatia reported 19,636 ethnic Italians in the country.
Italian in use
In Istria County, local government services are provided in Croatian and Italian, including the tri-lingual (Croatian, Italian and English) official government website. There are some Italian-language schools in Croatian/Croazian region Istra/Istria: primary schools in Buje/Buie, Umag/Umago, Novigrad/Cittanova d'Istria, Poreč/Parenzo, and secondary schools in Pula/Pola and Rovinj/Rovigno.
In the city of Rijeka/Fiume in the Kvarner/Carnaro Croatian region, there are Italian kindergartens, elementary schools, a secondary school and a high school. The daily newspaper La Voce del Popolo, the main newspaper for the Italian Croatians, is published in Rijeka/Fiume.
In various municipalities, census data shows that there are still significant numbers of Italians living in Istria, such as 51% of the population of Grožnjan/Grisignana, 37% at Brtonigla/Verteneglio and nearly 30% in Buje/Buie. Indeed, in Grožnjan/Grisignana 66% declared their native language Italian and nearly all of the inhabitants use a local form of Venetian dialect in daily communication.
In the village there it is an important section of the "Comunita' degli Italiani" in Croatia.
- Population according to ethnicity by towns/municipalities
- Ethnologue Ethnologue report for Croatia
- "Prešućivanje s poznatom namjerom". Vjesnik (in Croatian). May 28, 2003. Archived from the original on September 18, 2003.
- Časopis za suvremenu povijest br. 3/2002. M. Manin: O povjerljivom popisivanju istarskih Hrvata provedenom 1939. godine (na temelju popisnoga materijala iz 1936. godine)
(Journal of Contemporary History: Secret Census of Istrian Croats held in 1939 based on 1936 Census Data), summary in English
- Grisignana (in Italian)
- Unione Italiana - Talijanska unija - Italijanska Unija
- Website of the Italian Community of Croatia and Slovenia (in Italian)
- Region of Istria Official Website
- Official website of Italians from Grisignana/Piemonte d'Istria