Molise Croats

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Molise Croats
Total population
Regions with significant populations
Molise region, Italy
Slavomolisano, Italian
Roman Catholicism
Related ethnic groups
Croats, Italians

Molise Slavs (Italian: Slavo-molisani, Slavi del Molise) or Molise Croats (Croatian: Moliški Hrvati) refers to a Croatian community in the Molise province of Campobasso of Italy, which constitutes the majority in the three villages of Acquaviva Collecroce (Kruć), San Felice del Molise (Štifilić) and Montemitro (Mundimitar). There are about 1,000 active and 2,000 passive speakers of the Slavomolisano dialect. The community originated from refugees fleeing the Balkans from the Ottoman Empire in the 15th and 16th centuries.

Identity and status[edit]

The community does not have an ethnonym of their own, but are traditionally accustomed to the term Zlava and Škjavuna ("Slavs").[1] The governments of Italy and Croatia recognize the community as a Croatian minority in Italy. However, the people consider themselves to be Italo-Slavs or Croatian-speaking Italians, and the term "Molise Croat" is a recent exonym rather than their own name for themselves,[2] dating to the late 19th century. Historical terms for this community include Schiavoni, Sklavuni, Skiavuni and Šćavuni ("Slavs"), and also demonymic de Sclavonia, de Dalmatia or partibus Illirie.[3] The minority has also been called "Serbo-Croats of Molise" (Serbo-croati del Molise[4]).


Slavs fleeing the Ottoman Empire from south Bosnia, Dalmatia and Herzegovina settled the Apennine Mountains[5] in the later Middle Ages.[6] According to Josip Gelecich, Slavic colonies in Italy were founded by settlers from Montenegro between 1513 and 1517.[7] Specific geographical origin of the Molise Slavs has been theorized to have been in the Neretva region,[8] Zadar region,[9] hinterland of Zadar and Šibenik,[10] Zabiokovlje,[11][better source needed] southern Istria,[12][better source needed] respectively. Slavs founded fifteen settlements in Molise,[13] of which only three today have a Slavic-speaking community.

The existence of this Slavic colony was first mentioned in the 1850s, and was unknown outside Italy until 1855 when linguist Medo Pucić from Dubrovnik did one of his journeys to Italy and overheard a tailor in Naples speaking with his wife in a language very similar to Pucić's own. The tailor then told him that he came from the village of Kruč, then part of the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies.[citation needed] In 1864, Ruscalla wrote the work Le colonie serbo-dalmata del circondario di Larino, provincia di Molise, and dedicated it to Mihajlo Obrenović.[14] Risto Kovačić visited Molise in 1884 and wrote a report to the Serbian Learned Society about Serbian settlements. In his report, published in 1885, he emphasized that there were nine Serbian settlements of as many as 16,000 people. In three settlements about 4,000 people still spoke Serbian language and kept tradition of badnjak as their legacy.[15]

There is a diasporan community of Molise Croats in Western Australia.[16]


The community is mostly adherent to Roman Catholicism. 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.


The dialect was added to the "Endangered Languages and Dialects"-list in 1993.


There are about 1,000 people in other parts of Italy and emigrants in other countries (such as Argentina and Australia) originating from these villages.


The original surnames have been Italianized, e.g. Jović→Joviccio, Stanišić→Staniscia.[17]

See also[edit]

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  1. ^ Bernd Kortmann; Johan van der Auwera (27 July 2011). The Languages and Linguistics of Europe: A Comprehensive Guide. Walter de Gruyter. pp. 435–. ISBN 978-3-11-022026-1. 
  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. ^ Atti del Convegno internazionale sul tema: gli Atlanti linguistici, problemi e risultati: Roma, 20-24 ottobre 1967. Accademia nazionale dei Lincei. 1969. I tre villaggi serbo-croati del Molise sono invece completamente isolati, quindi risentono molto dell'ambiente circostante. 
  5. ^ Časopis za zgodovino in narodopisje: Review for history and ethnography. Univerza v Mariboru in Zgodovinsko društvo Maribor. 1990. ... škofa mno- žica beguncev zapustila južno Bosno, Dalmacijo in Hercegovino in se naselila na Apeninskem polotoku. Njihovi potomci so današnji Molizanski Hrvati. 
  6. ^ Colin H. Williams (1991). Linguistic Minorities, Society, and Territory. Multilingual Matters. p. 61. ISBN 978-1-85359-131-0. Croatian in three villages in the Molise region stems from settlement there by Slavs during the later Middle Ages (Ucchino, 1957). 
  7. ^ 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. 
  8. ^ Regine Eckardt; Klaus von Heusinger; Christoph Schwarze (1 January 2003). Words in Time: Diachronic Semantics from Different Points of View. Walter de Gruyter. pp. 352–. ISBN 978-3-11-089997-9. 
  9. ^ Aranza, Josip (1892), Woher die südslavischen Colonien in Süditalien (Archiv für slavische Philologie, XIV, pp. 78-82, Berlin 1892)
  10. ^ Mate Hraste (1964), Govori jugozapadne Istre, Zagreb, p. 33, Tom se prilikom stanovništo toga plodnog kraja u zaledju Zadra do Šibenika selilo na sve strane. Jedan dio je odselio u Istru, jedan se odselio u pokrajinu Molise; nastanio se u nekoliko sela [...] Mišljenje Badurinino da su hrvati u južnoj Italiji doselili iz štokavskog vlaškog produčja u južnoj Istri ne može stati, jer je prirodnije da su hrvati iz Dalmacije krenuli u Italiju ravno morem preko Jadrana, nego preko Istre u kojoj bi se u tom slučaju morali neko vrijeme zaustaviti 
  11. ^ Žarko Muljačić believed that they hailed from Zabiokovlje (the hinterland of mountain Biokovo) in southern Croatia, between the cities of Imotski, Zagvozd and Makarska; theory based on Shtokavian-Chakavian features also found in Zabiokovlje. Muljačić, Žarko (1996), Charles Barone, La parlata croata di Acquaviva Collecroce (189-190), »Čakavska rič« XXIV (1996) • br. 1-2 • Split • siječanj - prosinac 1996. 
  12. ^ Badurina, Teodoro (1950), Rotas Opera Tenet Arepo Sator (Roma, 1950)
  13. ^ Ivan Ninić (1989). Migrations in Balkan history. Serbian Academy of Sciences and Arts, Institute for Balkan Studies. p. 72. ISBN 978-86-7179-006-2. In Molise alone fifteen Slavic settlements came into existence42, but the majority of Slavs in cities and villages were, ... 
  14. ^ Dragoljub. Štamparija D. Albrechta. 1867. p. 237. 
  15. ^ Univerzitet u Beogradu. Filološki fakultet (1971). Prilozi za književnost, jezik, istoriju i folklor, Том 37 (in Serbian). p. 37. Retrieved 10 September 2012. 
  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)
  17. ^  Missing or empty |title= (help)


  • Heršak, Emil (1982), Hrvati u talijanskoj pokrajini Molise", Teme o iseljeništvu. br. 11, Zagreb: Centar za istraživanje migracija, 1982, 49 str. lit 16.

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