Italians of Crimea
Ancestors of the Italians populated some areas of Ukraine and Crimea since the time of the Roman Empire, Republic of Genoa and the Republic of Venice. Some sources affirm that in Odessa, at the end of the 18th century, one inhabitant in ten was Italian.
In 1830 and 1870 two distinct migrations arrived in Kerch from the cities of Trani, Bisceglie e Molfetta. These migrants were peasants and sailors, attracted by the job opportunities in the local Crimean seaports and by the possibility to cultivate the almost virgin and fertile Crimean lands. Italian general and patriot Giuseppe Garibaldi worked as a sailor at least twice in the region of Odessa, between 1825 and 1833.
In Kerch they built a catholic church, still locally known as the Church of the Italians. From Kerch the Italians moved to Feodosiya (the former Genoese colony of Caffa), Simferopol, Mariupol and to other Russian seaports of Crimea, such as Batumi and Novorossiysk.
In the beginning of the 20th century the Italian community was numerous enough to have a primary school and a library. The local newspaper Kerčenskij Rabocij at that time used to publish articles in Italian. According to the information contained in the Ukrainian statistics archives, the Italians resident in Kerch accounted in 1897 to 1,8% of the population and in 1921 to 2% for a total of 3,000 people.
Between 1920 and 1930 many antifascist Italians seeking asylum in Soviet Union were sent from Moscow to Kerch to organise the local Italian community. According to the plans of Soviet collective farming, the Italians were forced to create a kolkhoz called Sacco e Vanzetti. Those refusing to comply were forced to leave or were deported. According to 1933 census the number of Italians in the region of Kerch had already dropped by 1,3%.
When in 1942 the Wehrmacht conquered Ukraine and Crimea, the Italian ethnic minority was deported to Asia with the same modalities of the Volga Germans, who had already been deported in August 1941. The entire Italian community, including the antifascists settling in the 20s was gathered and sent to Kazakhstan in sealed trains. The trip started on the 29 January 1942 and lasted until March, when the convoy arrived in Atbasar and the prisoners were moved to labour camps. Half of the convoy (including all the children) died during the trip, as well as many others during the detention in the camps.
Italians of Crimea today
The descendants of the survival Italians of Crimea account today to 300 people, mainly resident in Kerch.
Until summer 2015, the deportation of the Italians of Crimea was still not recognised by the Ukrainian Government, but Putin in September 2015 agreed to solve the problem in a meeting with Silvio Berlusconi
- Storia degli italiani in Ucraina e Crimea
- Page 6 of Giulia Giacchetti Boiko - Giulio Vignoli, L'olocausto sconosciuto. Lo sterminio degli Italiani di Crimea (Edizioni Settimo Sigillo, Roma, 2008)
- Giulia Giacchetti Boiko, Giulio Vignoli - La tragedia sconosciuta degli Italiani di Crimea - Neisvestnaja traghedija italianzev Kryma - Nevidoma traghedija italijzev Krymu (Kerch, 2007). Text in Italian, Russian and Ukrainian
- Italiani perseguitati da Stalin e poi dimenticati, Il Giornale, 23 January 2011
- Lorenzo Bordoni, Stefano Vergine, La tragedia dimenticata degli italiani di Crimea - Come vivono i 300 tra deportati e loro discendenti, Corriere della Sera, 27 January 2012
- Italians of Crimea recognized by Putin as a persecuted minority
- Giulia Giacchetti Boiko - Giulio Vignoli, La tragedia sconosciuta degli Italiani di Crimea - Neisvestnaja traghedija italianzev Kryma - Nevidoma traghedija italijzev Krymu (Kerch, 2007). Text in Italian, Russian and Ukrainian.
- Giulia Giacchetti Boiko - Giulio Vignoli, L'olocausto sconosciuto. Lo sterminio degli Italiani di Crimea (Edizioni Settimo Sigillo, Roma, 2008).
- www.sovietmemories.it. Documenti sulla comunità italiana di Kerch
- Italiani di Crimea
- La tragedia dimenticata degli italiani di Crimea sul Corriere della Sera