Molise Croats

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Molise Croats
Total population
5,000 approx.
Regions with significant populations
Italy (Molise Region)
Related ethnic groups
Croats, Italians, Montenegrins
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Croatia, Historic Coat of Arms, first red square.svg

Molise Croats or Molise Slavs (Italian: Slavomolisani, Croatian: Moliški Hrvati) are Shtokavian-speaking Italians, who live in the Molise region of Italy in the villages Acquaviva Collecroce (Kruč), San Felice del Molise (Štifilić), Montemitro (Mundimitar) and elsewhere. In these three villages they are a majority. There are about 1,000 active speakers of the Slavomolisano dialect. Additionally, there are about 1,000 people in other parts of Italy and emigrants in other countries originating from these villages.

These three villages are the descendants of colonies of Croat refugees (due to the Ottoman advance), that appeared in the Italian southern Adriatic hinterland (from Marche to Puglia) in the 15th century.[1]

Ethnic identity[edit]

The governments of Italy and Croatia recognize the Molise Croats as a Croatian minority in Italy. However, the people consider themselves to be Croatian-speaking Italians, and the term "Molise Croat" is a recent exonym rather than their own name for themselves.[2] However, the term Molise Croats is of newer age, dating from late 19th century. Prior 19th century, terms Schiavoni, Sklavuni, Skiavuni and Šćavuni were used as well as de Sclavonia, de Dalmatia or partibus Illirie.[3]

Religion and traditions[edit]

The Molise Croats, in majority are Catholic. Tradition holds that the community settled "zone bane mora" (from the other side of the sea) in the 15th century, and was once much more widespread. A legend says that they came to the new country on one Friday in May carrying only the statue of Saint Lucy. Because the exact year and date of their arrival is unknown they hold processions dedicated to Saint Lucy (Sveta Luca) on every Friday in May.


Scientists offer the following hypotheses about the geographical origins of Molise Croats:

  • About the 16th century, their ancestors migrated to Molise from the valley of the river Neretva, which is partly in southern Croatia, partly in Herzegovina;
  • At the beginning of the 16th century the Croat refugees arrived in Molise from Dalmatia, precisely from the area around the mouth of river Neretva (Reissmüller);
  • Molise Croats came from areas around the city of Zadar (Aranza);
  • Molise Croats originated from štokavian-morlakian part of southern Istria (Badurina);
  • Molise Croats originated from Zadar and Šibenik hinterland (Hraste);
  • Molise Croats originated from area of Zabiokovlje (hinterland area of mountain Biokovo) in southern Croatia, between cities of Imotski, Zagvozd and Makarska (theory based on čakavian and štokavian-čakavian features in Molise Croatian speech, found also in Zabiokovlje area) (Muljačić).
  • Molise Slavs originated from Montenegro (Bar region). According to Josip Gelecich, colonies in Italy were founded by the settlers form Montenegro between 1513 and 1517.[4] The term Molise Croats was used since 19th century, as a reflection of the Illyrian movement.

See also[edit]


  • Aranza, Josip (1892), Woher die südslavischen Colonien in Süditalien (Archiv für slavische Philologie, XIV, pagg. 78-82, Berlin 1892)
  • Heršak, Emil (1982), Hrvati u talijanskoj pokrajini Molise", Teme o iseljeništvu. br. 11, Zagreb: Centar za istraživanje migracija, 1982, 49 str. lit 16.
  • Vesna Kukvica (2005), Iseljenički horizonti, Prikazi i feljtoni (ur.: Željka Lovrenčić), Hrvatska matica iseljenika, Zagreb, ISBN 953-6525-37-2, article "Migracije Moliških Hrvata u Zapadnu Australiju" (Migrations of Molise Croats in Western Australia)


  1. ^ Bruni, Francesco (2001). "Le "isole" linguistiche". Storia della Lingua Italiana (in Italian). Rai International. Retrieved 2013-06-30. 
  2. ^ Anita Sujoldžić, "Molise Croatian Idiom", Coll. Antropol. 28 Suppl. 1 (2004) 263–274

    Along with the institutional support provided by the Italian government and Croatian institutions based on bilateral agreements between the two states, the Slavic communities also received a new label for their language and a new ethnic identity – Croatian, and there have been increasing tendencies to standardize the spoken idiom on the basis of Standard Croatian. It should be stressed, however, that although they regarded their different language as a source of prestige and self-appreciation, these communities have always considered themselves to be Italians who in addition have Slavic origins and at best accept to be called Italo-Slavi, while the term "Molise Croatian" emerged recently as a general term in scientific and popular literature to describe the Croatian-speaking population living in the Molise.

  3. ^ Perinić, Ana (2006-05-15). "Moliški Hrvati - Rekonstrukcija kreiranja ireprezentacijejednog etničkog identiteta". Etnol. Trib. 29. 36 2006. (15/10/2006): 91–106. Retrieved 3 October 2014. 
  4. ^ Perinić, Ana (2006-05-15). "Moliški Hrvati Rekonstrukcija kreiranja i reprezentacije jednog etničkog identiteta". Etnol. Trib. 36, 2006. (15/10/2006): 91–106. Retrieved 3 October 2014. 

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