The term was sparingly used until the early 1990s, when Lega Nord, a political party in Italy, proposed Padania as a possible denomination for an autonomous Northern Italy. Since then, it has carried strong political connotations.
The adjective padano, derived from Padus, the Latin name of the Po river, was first used in the 19th century. In its true geographical sense, Padania refers to the valley of the Po river. In fact, the French client republics in the Po Valley during the Napoleonic era included the Cispadane Republic and the Transpadane Republic, according to the custom (emerged with the French Revolution) of naming territories on the basis of watercourses. The ancient Regio XI (the region of the Roman Empire on the current territory of the Aosta Valley, Piedmont and Lombardy) has been thus referred to as Regio XI Transpadana in academic literature only in recent centuries.
The term Padania has been used mainly as a socio-economic denomination as the terms Pianura Padana or Val Padana are the standard denominations in geography textbooks and atlases. The first use of the concept in socio-economic terms dates 1975, when Guido Fanti, the Communist President of Emilia-Romagna proposed a union composed of Emilia-Romagna, Veneto, Lombardy, Piedmont and Liguria. The term was seldom used in these terms until the Giovanni Agnelli Foundation re-launched it in 1992 through the volume La Padania, una regione italiana in Europa (English: Padania, an Italian region in Europe), written by various academics.
Even if Padania is often used as synonymous of Northern Italy, in a strict geographic sense it does not include Aosta Valley, Trentino, South Tyrol, Friuli-Venezia Giulia, a large portion of Veneto, Romagna, and, of course, Tuscany, Marche and Umbria, none of which are part of Northern Italy.
Since the 1960s journalist Gianni Brera used the term Padania to indicate the area that at the time of Cato the Elder corresponded to Cisalpine Gaul. In the same years and later, the term Padania was considered a geographic synonym of Po Valley and as such was included in the Enciclopedia Universo in 1965 and in the Devoto–Oli dictionary of the Italian language in 1971. A further use of the term Padania was limited to some linguistic research, in relation to Gallo-Italic languages, sometimes even extended to all regional languages distinguishing Northern from Central Italy along the La Spezia–Rimini Line.
Lega Nord, a political party born in 1991 by the union of several northern regional parties (notably including Lega Lombarda and Liga Veneta), later used the term for a geographical range to Fanti's and Brera's, but with stronger political and socio-economic connotations.
In political science
In 1990 Gianfranco Miglio, renowned political scientist who would be elected senator for Lega Nord in 1992 and 1994 wrote a book in which he expounded a draft constitutional reform. According to Miglio, Padania (consisting of five regions: Veneto, Lombardy, Piedmont, Liguria and Emilia-Romagna) would have been one of the three macroregions composing Italy, along with Etruria (Central Italy) and Mediterranea (Southern Italy), while the autonomous regions (Aosta Valley, Trentino-Alto Adige/Südtirol, Friuli-Venezia Giulia, Sicily and Sardinia) would have been left alone with their current autonomy.
In 1993 Robert D. Putnam, a political scientist at Harvard University, wrote a book titled Making Democracy Work: Civic Traditions in Modern Italy, in which Italy's "civic North" is defined according to the inhabitants' civic traditions and attitudes, related to the historical emergence of the free medieval communes since the 10th century. Putnam's theory has been acknowledged by Stefano B. Galli, a Padanist political scientist close to the League and columnist for Il Giornale and La Padania, as a source for defining Padania. Lega Nord's definition of Padania's boundaries is incidentally similar to Robert D. Putnam's "civic North", which notably includes also the central regions of Tuscany, Marche and Umbria. According to the author, these share with the North similar patterns of civil society, citizenship and government.
Gilberto Oneto, a disciple of Miglio, has made extensive research on northern traditions and culture as an evidence of the existence of Padania. Historian and linguist Sergio Salvi has similarly defended the concept of Padania. The very existence of a "Padanian nation" has been criticized by many, notably including the Italian Geographical Society and historian Paolo Bernardini, who is a keen supporter of Venetian nationalism instead. Angelo Panebianco, a political scientist, has explained that, even though a "Padanian nation" does not exist yet, it might well emerge as all nations are invented.
The first politician to consistently use the term Padania was Guido Fanti, a leading member of the Italian Communist Party who was President of Emilia-Romagna from 1970 to 1976 (see above). In an interview to La Stampa in 1975, Fanti proposed the creation of Padania in order to go over centralism.
Since 1991 Lega Nord has promoted either secession or larger autonomy for Padania, proposing also a flag and a national anthem. In 1996 the "Federal Republic of Padania" was proclaimed. Subsequently, in 1997, Lega Nord created an unofficial Padanian parliament in Mantua and organised elections for it. As national anthem, Lega Nord chose the Va, pensiero chorus from Giuseppe Verdi's Nabucco, in which the exiled Hebrew slaves lament for their lost homeland.
The term Padania has been also used in politics by other nationalist/separatist parties and groups, notably including Lega Padana, Lega Padana Lombardia, the Padanian Union, the Alpine Padanian Union, Veneto Padanian Federal Republic and the Padanian Independentist Movement.
Lega Nord's Padania
According to Lega Nord's Declaration of Independence and Sovereignty of Padania, Padania is composed of 14 "nations" (Lombardy, Veneto, Piedmont, Tuscany, Emilia, Liguria, Marche, Romagna, Umbria, Friuli, Trentino, South Tyrol, Venezia Giulia, Aosta Valley), slightly differing from the corresponding 11 Italian regions and from Gianfranco Miglio's project. The 11 regions forming Padania, according to the party, are listed below:
Flag of Padania
The "Sun of the Alps" is the unofficial flag of Padania and the symbol of the Padanian nationalism. It is formed by a green stylized sun on a white background. The "Sun of the Alps", also called Flower of Life, is a recurrent symbol which can be found in the Italian's art and culture since the 7th century BC (Civitella Paganico). The flag was created in the 1990s and was adopted by Lega Nord upon the declaration of Padanian independence.
While support for a federal system, as opposed to a centrally administered state, receives widespread consensus within Padania, support for independence is less favoured. One poll in 1996 estimated that 52.4% of interviewees from Northern Italy considered secession advantageous (vantaggiosa) and 23.2% both advantageous and desirable (auspicabile). Another poll in 2000 estimated that about 20% of "Padanians" (18.3% in North-West Italy and 27.4% in North-East Italy) supported secession in case Italy was not reformed into a federal state.
More recent polls show different results. According to a poll conducted in February 2010 by GPG, 45% of Northerners support the independence of Padania. A poll conducted by SWG in June 2010 puts that figure at 61% of Northerners (with 80% of them supporting at least federal reform), while noting that 55% of Italians consider Padania as only a political invention, against 42% believing in its real existence (45% of the sample being composed of Northerners, 19% of Central Italians and 36% of Southerners). As for federal reform, according to the poll, 58% of Italians support it. A more recent poll by SWG puts the support for fiscal federalism and secession respectively at 68% and 37% in Piedmont and Liguria, 77% and 46% in Lombardy, 81% and 55% in Triveneto (comprising Veneto), 63% and 31% in Emilia-Romagna, 51% and 19% in Central Italy (not including Lazio).
In popular culture
Padania is featured the anime/manga Gunslinger Girl, which features a pro-Padania terrorist group named the Five Republics Faction and the Italian counterintelligence and counter-terrorist agency called the Social Welfare Agency which tries to stop them.
Padania is mentioned in the William Gibson novel Virtual Light, in which the world political map is implied to be heavily fractured.
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