Bloody Christmas (1920)

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Bloody Christmas
Part of Company of the River clashes
Date24–29 December 1920
Result Italian victory.
 Kingdom of Italy Italian Regency of Carnaro
Commanders and leaders
Enrico Caviglia Gabriele D'Annunzio
8,000 2,500 legionnaires
Casualties and losses

25 soldiers dead 139 soldiers injured

2 civilians dead (Fiume)

7 civilians injured (Fiume)

22 dead Legionnaires (Fiume) 4 dead Legionnaires (Krk)

5 civilians dead (Fiume)

15 civilians injured (Fiume)

The Bloody Christmas of 1920 (Croatian: Riječki krvavi božić; Italian: Natale di sangue) was a series of clashes in Fiume (now Rijeka), which led to the conclusion of the Fiume campaign carried out by Italian poet and adventurer, Gabriele D'Annunzio in 1920.


Upon the return of the liberal politician Giovanni Giolitti to government in June 1920, during the Biennio Rosso, the official attitude towards the Kingdom of Italy's regency of Carnaro constituted in Fiume began to waver. On November 12 of the same year, Italy and Yugoslavia signed the Treaty of Rapallo, forming the Free State of Fiume as a consequence to an occupation of Fiume by Gabriele d'Annunzio and his troops which began with the Impresa di Fiume. D'Annunzio entered Fiume as part of his and many Italians protest for an incomplete victory after World War I, because Italy was denied some of the Eastern Adriatic lands it claimed and was promised at its entry to the war.


The resumption of Italy's premiership by the liberal Giovanni Giolitti in June 1920 signalled a hardening of official attitudes to d'Annunzio's coup. On 12 November, Italy and Yugoslavia concluded the Treaty of Rapallo, under which Fiume was to be an independent state, the Free State of Fiume, under a government acceptable to both. D'Annunzio refused to accept an ultimatum forced upon him to abandon Fiume and claimed the Treaty of Rapallo as illegal. Consequently, his Regency declared war on Italy, further provoking a backlash from the Italian forces, resulting in a cannonade from the Royal Navy. General Enrico Caviglia led his troops against the city, beginning on 24 December 1920 and after just five days occupied the city.

Following defeat[edit]

Following the defeat of d'Annunzio's forces, there was an election of the Constituent Assembly, giving autonomists and independentists an overwhelming victory with 65% of the vote. On 5 October 1921, Riccardo Zanella became the first and only elected president of the short lived Free State of Fiume, however this was unable to end disputes over the city.

Seven months later in Rome, Mussolini became prime minister, and Italy started heading towards a fascist regime. As a result, Zanella was overthrown in a putsch by local fascists in March 1922, resulting in an Italian military occupation of the city. This period of diplomatic tension ended with the Treaty of Rome on 27 January 1924, which assigned Fiume to Italy and Sušak along with other villages, to Yugoslavia, with joint port administration.

See also[edit]


  • Corrado Zoli. The days of Fiume. Zanichelli, Bologna., 1921.
  • Giuseppe Moscati. The five-day River. Publisher Carnaro. Second edition 1931
  • James Properzj Bloody Christmas, D'Annunzio in Fiume, Mursia Editore, Milan (2010) ISBN 9788842544258
  • Giovanni Savegnago, critical review of Alla Festa Della Rivoluzione. Artisti e libertari con d'Annunzio a Fiume. (Claudia Salaris). Bologna. Il Mulino. 2002.
  • New York Times articles on the following dates of 1920: 24 November, December 2, 8, 9, 10, 11th, 13th, 24th, 27th, 28th, 30th.
  • Tea Mayhew: Maritime and History Museumof Croatian Littoral RijekaBloody Christmas 1920 – Gabriele D'Annunzio’s Rijeka Adventure [1]
  • Bloody christmas in the book “Rijeka or death! D’Annunzio's occupation of Rijeka”