Slovene minority in Italy

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Slovene minority in Italy (Italian: Minoranza slovena in Italia, Slovene: Slovenska manjšina v Italiji), also known as Slovenes in Italy (Italian: Sloveni in Italia, Slovene: Slovenci v Italiji) is the name given to Italian citizens who belong to the autochthonous Slovene ethnic and linguistic minority living in the Italian autonomous region of Friuli – Venezia Giulia. The vast majority of members of the Slovene ethnic minority live in the Provinces of Trieste, Gorizia, and Udine. The estimations regarding their number vary significantly; most figures speak of 60,000 to 90,000 people, representing between 5% and 7.5% of the overall population of the region.

The Slovene minority in Italy enjoys legal protection of its collective rights, guaranteed by the Italian constitution and specific legislation, as well as by international treaties (especially the London Memorandum of 1954), and bilateral agreements initially stipulated between Italy and Yugoslavia (especially the Treaty of Osimo of 1975) and since 1991 between Italy and Slovenia.

Since 1945, the Slovenes in Italy have enjoyed partial cultural autonomy, including an education system in Slovene. They have a wide net of cultural and civic associations. The Slovene language is co-official in many of the municipalities with presence of the Slovene minority, and visual bilingualism is applied in most of the non-urban settlements with traditional Slovene presence. However, the implementation of these rights largely depends on the local administrations; thus, the situation varies significantly from area to area.

Both the Italian and Slovenian state promote Slovene culture in Friuli – Venezia Giulia through subsidies for Slovene associations and organizations.

Name[edit]

The denomination “Slovenes in Italy” is preferred to “Italian Slovenes” or “Slovene Italians” due to historical reasons and reasons of identity. The Slovenes of the so-called Julian March or Venezia Giulia (the present-day Provinces of Trieste and Gorizia) have become Italian citizens only with the Treaty of Rapallo of 1920; between 1922 and 1943, they have been subjected to violent policies of Fascist Italianization. In the late 1920s and 1930s, many of them supported underground anti-Fascist groups, such as the militant irredentist organization TIGR; during World War II, large portions of the population militated in the Yugoslav partisan movement, and between 1945 and 1947, many of them actively supported the annexation to Yugoslavia. In the aftermath of World War II, their integration in the Italian state was slow and difficult: much of the anti-Slav Fascist legislation (for example, the forced Italianization of family names) remained valid, and in the context of the Cold War, the Slovene minority was regarded by many political parties, as well as by segments of State institutions, as a potential Yugoslav Trojan Horse. As a consequence, the identification of the Slovenes with the Italian State has been frequently weak. Many Slovenes in Italy, especially the elderly, refuse to identify themselves as Italians. Thus the term “Slovene Italians” is deemed inappropriate by most Slovenes in Italy.

For these reasons, the term “Slovenes in Italy” has been used by Slovene minority organizations.

After 1947, the term zamejski Slovenci (literally meaning “Slovenes beyond the Border”) started to be used by the Yugoslav press and institutions, especially in Slovenia. Initially, this term referred to all Slovene minorities residing outside Yugoslavia (besides the Slovenes in Italy, the Carinthian Slovenes and Hungarian Slovenes). This is still the way how the term is used by the institutions of the Slovenian State. However, since alternative terms exist for Slovene minorities in Austria and Hungary, the term zamejski Slovenci tends to be used mostly for the Slovenes in Italy. This term is often used also by the Slovenes in Italy themselves, and is considered a neutral and politically correct term.

Geographical extension[edit]

Percentage of native Slovene speakers per municipality in Friuli - Venezia Giulia. The yellow lines show the provincial borders, with the Provinces of Udine, Gorizia and Trieste (north to south)[citation needed]

The Slovene minority in Italy lives in the autonomous region Friuli – Venezia Giulia, more precisely, in the Provinces of Trieste, Gorizia and Udine. Slovene immigrants living in other parts of Italy are not considered as members of the minority. Slovenes live along the border with Slovenia. Their traditional area of settlement includes:

  • the whole territory of the Province of Trieste (except for the town center of Muggia, which was until 1945 a homogeneous Istrian Italian urban settlement);
  • a thin strip of territory along the border with Slovenia in the Province of Gorizia, including the town of Gorizia;
  • the mountainous area of north-east Friuli in the Province of Udine, known historically as Venetian Slovenia, comprising the Natisone Valley, the upper Torre Valley, and the Resia Valley;
  • the Canale Valley (Province of Udine) in the north-easternmost part of Italy, on the border with Austria and Slovenia.

Historically, the Slovene minority has been present in 32 municipalities in the region: 6 in the Province of Trieste, 6 in the Province of Gorizia and 20 in the Province of Udine. In 16 of them, they are the majority of the population. In addition to these, since the early 1920s, the Slovenes have been settling in the industrial areas of the lower Isonzo valley, in the lowland areas around Monfalcone, known as Bisiacaria, and in larger Friulian towns (such as Udine, Pordenone, Conegliano and others). The former are nowadays considered members of the Slovene autochthonous minority and thus enjoy certain collective minority rights, while the latter don’t. Municipalities with significant presence of the autochthonous Slovene minority are as following.

In the Province of Trieste:

In the Province of Gorizia:

In the Province of Udine:

Ethnic and territorial identity[edit]

The Slovene minority in Italy is highly differentiated along geographic, cultural-historical, identity and linguistic lines. In cultural-historical terms, three separate groups can be differentiated: the Slovenes of the Julian March (the Provinces of Trieste and Gorizia), the Slovenes from Venetian Slovenia, and the Slovenes from the Canale Valley (in the Province of Udine). Each of these three groups has had a significantly different history, which resulted in different identities. The Slovenes in the Resia Valley are sometimes considered as a fourth group, due to their specific linguistic features and separate identity; nevertheless, they share a common history, as well as similar cultural and linguistic features with the Slovenes from Venetian Slovenia.

Slovenes of Trieste and Gorizia[edit]

A bilingual identity card issued in Trieste

The Slovenes living in the Provinces of Trieste and Gorizia shared, until 1918, the same history with most other Slovenes: by the end of the 15th century, they were included in the Habsburg Monarchy, and in the 19th Century they actively participated in the Slovene national revival. Between 1849 and 1918, they were part of the Austrian administrative region known as Austrian Littoral, and were known as Littoral Slovenes (Primorski Slovenci). After 1918, they came under Italian administration and were included in the region known as the Julian March (Venezia Giulia). They shared the same fate as other Slovenes in the Julian March: they were subjected to violent Fascist Italianization, which gave rise to pro-Yugoslav irredentism. In 1947, after World War II, a new border between Italy and Yugoslavia was drawn, dividing the Julian March between the two states. The border was artificial, insofar as it was not based on any significant historical or geographical divides: in some areas, it was not at all clear which villages would be annexed to Yugoslavia and which would remain in Italy. In many cases, the border separated families and ran through fields and estates. All these reasons contributed to the strong connection between the Slovenes which remained in Italy with their counterparts that were annexed to Yugoslavia.

Until the 1950s and 1960s, the Slovenes from the Provinces of Gorizia and Trieste frequently referred to themselves as Littoral Slovenes. Since the 1960s, this identification with the Slovenian Littoral has faded, but it can still be traced in the names of certain institutions, most notably in the title of the Slovene daily newspaper of Trieste, called Primorski dnevnik which means “The Littoral Daily”. Between the 1940s and 1960s, the Slovenes from the Provinces of Gorizia and Trieste established the infrastructure of minority organizations that now serve the needs of the whole minority. They have enjoyed a certain degree of cultural autonomy (the most important feature being the education system in Slovene) since 1945, and they have maintained strong relations with Slovenia, especially with the neighboring border areas of the Slovenian Littoral.

Venetian Slovenia[edit]

Venetian Slovenia (Slovene: Beneška Slovenija, Italian: Slavia Veneta) is the traditional name for Slovene-speaking areas in the valleys of upper Natisone and Torre rivers in eastern Friuli (currently in the Province of Udine). The history of these areas has been strongly linked to the history of Friuli. Unlike most other ethnic Slovene territories (including the areas of Gorizia and Trieste), this region was part of the Venetian Republic for around 350 years (hence the name of the region). During that period, they enjoyed a large degree of autonomy.

The Slovenes in this area were annexed to Italy together with the rest of the Venetia region in 1866, that is, half a century before the Slovenes of Gorizia and Trieste, who remained under Austrian rule until after World War I.

For long, the identity of the local Slovenes was mostly a linguistic and, to an extent, an ethnic one, but not a national one. The Slovenes of these areas lacked any form of collective minority or linguistic rights until the year 2000, when the Law for the Defense of the Slovene-Speaking Minority was passed by the Italian Parliament.

Canale Valley Slovenes[edit]

Around 3,000 Slovenes live in the Canale Valley in the north-westernmost part of the Province of Udine. The valley is currently divided among three municipalities: Tarvisio (Trbiž), Malborghetto Valbruna (Naborjet - Ovčja vas), and Pontebba (Tablja). Most of the local Slovenes live in the first two, representing around half of the population in Malborghetto Valbruna and a lower percentage in Tarvisio.

Until 1918, the Canale Valley (Kanalska dolina) was part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Since the Middle Ages, it was a part of the Duchy of Carinthia. The local Slovene speakers shared the same history, traditions and linguistic features with other Carinthian Slovenes. According to the last Austrian census of 1910, the valley had around 9,000 inhabitants, among whom around a third were Slovene speakers and the other were German speakers. In 1918, after the end of World War I, the valley was occupied by the Italian Army, and in 1919 it was officially annexed to Italy. In the 1920s and 1930s, many Italians were settled in this area, which bordered both to Austria and Yugoslavia. In 1939, the South Tyrol Option Agreement between Italy and Nazi Germany was also applied to the ethnic Germans in the area; as a conqequence, most of the German-speaking population was resettled to neighboring Carinthia. New settlers from other parts of Italy gradually took their place, which significantly altered the ethnic composition of the valley.

Nowadays, Slovene is still spoken in several villages in the valley, especially Valbruna (Ovčja vas), Camporosso in Valcanale (Žabnice), Ugovizza (Ukve), and San Leopoldo (Lipalja vas). There has been a revival of Slovene language in these villages after 1990, with a focus on the younger generations.

Resia Valley[edit]

Bilingual Italian-Resian road sign in the Resia Valley, Friuli

The inhabitants of the Resia Valley in north-western Friuli speak a specific dialect of Slovene, known as Resian. Due to its specific phonetic features and archaic grammar, Resian is not mutually intelligible with standard Slovene and with most other Slovene dialects. Historically and culturally (as well as linguistically), Resia could be considered a part of Venetian Slovenia. Nevertheless, the inhabitants maintain a special identity. According to Italian and regional legislation, Resians are considered as part of the Slovene minority in Italy; however, there are strong local movements that oppose identification with Slovenes and Slovene language, and defend a separate Resian identity. However, these movements are frequently associated with Italian nationalism, and defend a folkloristic understanding of the local culture.[citation needed] On the other hand, most of the more active cultural associations in the valley defend Resian culture as a part of a wider Slovene culture.[citation needed]

Notable Slovenes in Italy[edit]

Notable Slovenes, who were either born in what is today Italy, or who spent a considerable part of their lives in these area, include:

Actors and directors[edit]

Architects and designers[edit]

Authors[edit]

Journalists[edit]

Musicians[edit]

Painters[edit]

Politicians[edit]

Psychotherapists[edit]

Religious figures[edit]

  • Lambert Ehrlich, Catholic priest, ethnologist and traditionalist theorist from the Canale Valley
  • Pasquale Gujon, Roman Catholic bishop, author and minority rights activist from Venetian Slovenia
  • Marino Qualizza, Roman Catholic priest, minority rights activist, author and historian from Venetian Slovenia
  • Frančišek Borgia Sedej, last Slovene Archbishop of Gorizia, born in Cerkno, but lived in Gorizia
  • Virgil Šček, Catholic priest, Christian Socialist activist and politician from Trieste
  • Ivan Trinko, Roman Catholic bishop, translator and author from Venetian Slovenia
  • Jakob Ukmar, Roman Catholic bishop and human rights activist from Trieste
  • Božo Zuanella, Roman Catholic priest, author and minority rights activist from Venetian Slovenia

Resistance fighters and anti-Fascist activists[edit]

  • Ferdo Bidovec, anti-Fascist insurrectionist from Trieste, executed by the Fascist regime in 1930
  • Lojze Bratuž, composer and Catholic activist from Gorizia, assassinated by Fascist squads
  • Zorko Jelinčič, national liberal activist from Trieste, co-founder of the TIGR organization
  • Fran Marušič, anti-Fascist insurrectionist from Basovizza (Trieste), executed by the Fascist regime in 1930
  • Zvonimir Miloš, Slovene-Croat anti-Fascist insurrectionist from Trieste, executed by the Fascist regime in 1930
  • Pinko Tomažič, Communist activist from Trieste, executed by the Fascist regime in 1941
  • Ivan Regent, Communist activist from Trieste

Scholars[edit]

Sports[edit]

Others[edit]

Italians of Slovene descent[edit]

Besides members of the Slovene ethnic minority, many notable Italians have Slovene family background. Italian naturalized citizens of Slovenian background are also usually not considered to be part of the Slovene autochthonous minority, unless they reside in the areas of traditional Slovene settlement and partake in the community life of the minority.

Famous Italians of Slovene descent include:

References[edit]

See also[edit]