Italianization (Italian: Italianizzazione; Croatian: talijanizacija; Slovene: poitaljančevanje; German: Italianisierung; Greek: Ιταλοποίηση) is the spread of Italian culture, people, or language, either by integration or assimilation.
It is most known for a process organized by the Kingdom of Italy to force cultural and ethnic assimilation of the native minority populations living in the former Austro-Hungarian territories that were given to Italy in exchange for their joining an alliance with the United Kingdom in World War I, but italianization was also applied in the South Tyrol and in the Ionian Islands. This process was conducted during the Fascism, between 1922 and 1943.
Regions and populations affected
Between 1922 and the beginning of World War II, the affected people were the German-speaking population of Trentino-Alto Adige, and the Slovenes and Croats in the Julian March. The program was later extended to areas annexed during World War II, affecting Slovenes in the Province of Ljubljana, and Croats in Gorski Kotar and coastal Dalmatia.
Istria, Julian March and Dalmatia
The former Austrian Littoral (later renamed Julian March) was after Armistice with Austria occupied by Italian army. Following the annexation, 400 cultural, sporting (for example Sokol), youth, social and professional Slavic organisations, and libraries ("reading rooms"), three political parties, 31 newspapers and journals, and 300 co-operatives and financial institutions had been forbidden, and specifically so later with the Law on Associations (1925), the Law on Public Demonstrations (1926) and the Law on Public Order (1926), the closure of the classical lyceum in Pazin, of the high school in Voloska (1918), the closure of the 488 Slovene and Croat primary schools followed.
The period of violent persecution of Slovenes in Trieste began with riots in April 13, 1920, which were organized as a retaliation for the assault on Italian occupying troops in July 11 Split incident by the local Croatian population. Many Slovene-owned shops and buildings were destroyed during the riots, which culminated when a group of Italian Fascists, led by Francesco Giunta, burned down the Narodni dom ("National House"), the community hall of Trieste's Slovenes. Benito Mussolini praised this action as a "masterpiece of the Triestine fascism"; in two years he would become prime minister of Italy.
In September 1920, Mussolini said:
When dealing with such a race as Slavic - inferior and barbaric - we must not pursue the carrot, but the stick policy. We should not be afraid of new victims. The Italian border should run across the Brenner Pass, Monte Nevoso and the Dinaric Alps. I would say we can easily sacrifice 500,000 barbaric Slavs for 50,000 Italians.
Italian teachers were assigned to schools and the use of Croat and Slovene languages in the administration and in the courts restricted. After March 1923 these languages were prohibited in administration, and after October 1925 in law courts, as well. In 1923, in the context of the organic school reform prepared by the fascist minister Giovanni Gentile, teaching in languages different from Italian was abolished. In the Julian March this meant the end of teaching in Croatian and Slovenian. Anyway, in Šušnjevica (it: Valdarsa) the use of Istro-Rumanian language was granted since 1923.
In 1926, claiming that it was restoring surnames to their original Italian form, the Italian government announced the Italianization of German, Slovene and Croat surnames. In the Province of Trieste alone, 3.000 surnames were modified and 60.000 people had their surnames amended to an Italian-sounding form. First or given names were also Italianized.
Slovene and Croat societies and sporting and cultural associations had to cease every activity in line with a decision of provincial fascist secretaries dated 12 June 1927. On a specific order from the prefect of Trieste on 19 November 1928, the Edinost political society was also dissolved. Croat and Slovene financial co-operatives in Istria, which at first were absorbed by the Pula or Trieste savings banks, were gradually liquidated.
In 1927, Giuseppe Cobolli Gigli, the minister for public works in fascist Italy, wrote in Gerarchia magazine, a Fascist publication, that "The Istrian muse named as Foibe those places suitable for burial of enemies of the national [Italian] characteristics of Istria".
The Slovene militant anti-Fascist organization TIGR emerged in 1927. It co-ordinated the Slovene resistance against Fascist Italy until its dismantlement by the Fascist secret police in 1941. At the time, some TIGR ex-members joined the Slovene Partisans.
During World War II, Italy occupied almost all of Dalmatia, and the Italian government made stringent efforts to Italianize the region. Italian occupying forces were accused of committing war crimes in order to transform occupied territories into ethnic Italian territories.
The Italian government operated concentration camps for Slavic citizens, such as Rab concentration camp and one on the island of Molat. Survivors received no compensation from Italy after the war.
Mario Roatta was the commander of the 2nd Italian Army in Yugoslavia. To suppress the mounting resistance led by the Slovene partisans, he adopted tactics of "summary executions, hostage-taking, reprisals, internments and the burning of houses and villages." After the war the Yugoslav government sought unsuccessfully to have him extradited for war crimes from Spain, where he was protected by Francisco Franco.  Mario Robotti issued an order in line with a directive received from Mussolini in June 1942: "I would not be opposed to all (sic) Slovenes being imprisoned and replaced by Italians. In other words, we should take steps to ensure that political and ethnic frontiers coincide."
In 1919, at the time of its annexation, the southern part of Tyrol was inhabited by almost 90% German speakers. In October 1923, the use of the Italian language became mandatory (although not exclusive) on all levels of federal, provincial and local government. Regulations by the fascist authorities required that all kinds of signs and public notices had to be in Italian only. Maps, postcards and other graphic material had to show Italian place names. In September 1925, Italian became the sole permissible language in courts of law. Illegal Katakombenschulen ("Catacomb schools") were set up by the local German-speaking minority to teach children the German language. The government created incentives to encourage immigration of native Italians to the South Tyrol.
Several factors limited the effects of the Italian policy, namely the adverse nature of the territory (mainly mountains and valleys of difficult access), the difficulty for the Italians from southern Italy to adapt to a completely different environment and, later on, the alliance between Germany and Italy. Under the 1939 South Tyrol Option Agreement, Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini determined the status of the German people living in the province. They either had to opt for emigration to Germany or stay in Italy and become fully Italianized. Because of the outbreak of World War II, this agreement was never fully implemented and most ethnic Germans remained or returned at the end of the war.
The cultural remnants of the Venetian period were Mussolini's pretext to incorporate the Ionian Islands into the Kingdom of Italy. Even before the outbreak of World War II and the Greek-Italian 1940-1941 Winter War, Mussolini had expressed his wish to annex the Ionian Islands as an Italian province. After the fall of Greece in early April 1941, the Italians occupied much of the country, including the Ionians. Mussolini informed General Carlo Geloso that the Ionian Islands would form a separate Italian province through a de facto annexation, but the Germans would not approve it. Nevertheless, the Italian authorities continued to prepare the ground for the annexation. Finally, on 22 April 1941, after discussions between the German and Italian rulers, Hitler agreed that Italy could proceed with a de facto annexation of the islands.
From then on, and until the end of the war, the islands passed through a phase of Italianization in all areas, from their administration to their economy. Italian was designated the islands' only official language; a new currency, the Ionian drachma, was introduced with the aim to make trade with the rest of Greece impossible; transportation with continental Greece was limited; in the courts, judges had to apply Italian law when judging, in the name of the Italian king as in the rest of Italy; and schooling followed the educational model of the Italian mainland. The Italianization efforts in the Ionian islands ended in September 1943, when Italy switched sides and began to back the Allies.
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