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Spazio vitale (Italian for "vital space") was the territorial expansionist concept of Italian Fascism. It is similar to the German Nazi Party's concept of lebensraum. However, unlike lebensraum, spazio vitale was not based on the genocide of the subjugated nations, but presented the Italian race as a "custodian and bearer of superior civilization", whose mission was to export the fascist revolution and "civilize" the territories conquered. The defeated nations would be subjected to Italian rule and protection, but were to keep their own languages and cultures. Fascist ideologist Giuseppe Bottai likened this historic mission to the deeds of the ancient Romans, stating that the new Italians will "illuminate the world with their art, educate it with their knowledge, and give robust structure to their new territories with their administrative technique and ability".
The territorial extent of the Italian spazio vitale was to cover the Mediterranean as a whole (Mare Nostrum) and Northern Africa from the Atlantic Ocean to the Indian Ocean. It was to be divided into piccolo spazio ("small space"), which was to be inhabited only by Italians, and grande spazio ("large space") inhabited by other nations under Italian domination.