Julian March

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Julian March
Julijska krajina
House with shutters
House on the Italy–Slovenia border at Gorizia with the 1945–1947 inscription, "Here is Yugoslavia"
Multicoloured map
The Julian March from 1923 to 1947, with provinces

The Julian March (Serbo-Croatian, Slovene: Julijska krajina) or Julian Venetia (Italian: Venezia Giulia; Venetian: Venesia Julia; Friulian: Vignesie Julie; German: Julisch Venetien) is an area of southeastern Europe which is divided among Croatia, Italy and Slovenia.[1][2] The term was coined in 1863 by Italian linguist Graziadio Isaia Ascoli to demonstrate that the Austrian Littoral, Veneto, Friuli and Trentino (parts of the Austrian Empire) had a common Italian linguistic identity. Ascoli emphasized the Augustan partition of Roman Italy at the beginning of the Empire, when Venetia et Histria was Regio X (the Tenth Region).[2][3][4]

The term was later endorsed by Italian irredentists, who sought to annex regions in which ethnic Italians made up most (or a substantial portion) of the population: the Austrian Littoral, Trentino, Fiume and Dalmatia. The Triple Entente promised the regions to Italy in the dissolution of the Austro-Hungarian Empire in exchange for Italy's joining the Allied Powers in World War I. The secret 1915 Treaty of London promised Italy territories largely inhabited by Italians (such as Trentino) in addition to those largely inhabited by Croats or Slovenes; the territories contained about 327,000 (out of total population of 1.3 million) ethnic Slovenes.[5][6] With the exception of most of Dalmatia, the 1919 Treaty of Versailles granted most of the areas to Italy.

A contemporary Italian autonomous region, bordering on Slovenia, is named Friuli-Venezia Giulia ("Friuli and Julian Venetia").[7]


The term "Julian March" may be considered a loose translation of the Italian "Venezia Giulia" (or "Julian Venetia"), coined by the Italian historical linguist Graziadio Ascoli. In an 1863 newspaper article,[4] Ascoli focused on a wide geographical area north and east of Venice which was under Austrian rule; he called it Triveneto ("the three Venetian regions"). Ascoli divided Triveneto into three parts:

According to this definition, Triveneto overlaps the ancient Roman region of Regio X - Venetia et Histria introduced by Emperor Augustus in his administrative reorganization of Italy at the beginning of the first century AD. Ascoli (who was born in Gorizia) coined his terms for linguistic and cultural reasons, saying that the languages spoken in the three areas were substantially similar. His goal was to stress to the ruling Austrian Empire the region's[8] Latin and Venetian roots and the importance of the Italian linguistic element.[4]

The term "Venezia Giulia" did not catch on immediately, and began to be used widely only in the first decade of the 20th century.[4] It was used in official administrative acts by the Italian government in 1922–1923 and after 1946, when it was included in the name of the new region of Friuli-Venezia Giulia.


Early Middle Ages to the Republic of Venice[edit]

At the end of the Roman Empire and the beginning of the Migration Period, the area had linguistic boundaries between speakers of Latin (and its dialects) and the German- and Slavic-language speakers who were moving into the region. German tribes first arrived in present-day Austria and its surrounding areas between the fourth and sixth centuries. They were followed by the Slavs, who appeared on the borders of the Byzantine Empire around the sixth century and settled in the Eastern Alps between the sixth and eighth centuries. In Byzantine Dalmatia, on the east shore of the Adriatic Sea, several city-states had limited autonomy. The Slavs retained their languages in the interior, and local Romance languages (followed by Venetian and Italian) continued to be spoken on the coast.[9]

Beginning in the early Middle Ages, two main political powers shaped the region: the Republic of Venice and the Habsburg (the dukes and, later, archdukes of Austria). During the 11th century, Venice began building an overseas empire (Stato da Màr) to establish and protect its commercial routes in the Adriatic and southeastern Mediterranean Seas. Coastal areas of Istria and Dalmazia were key parts of these routes[a] since Pietro II Orseolo, the Doge of Venice, established Venetian rule in the high and middle Adriatic around 1000.[10]. The Venetian presence was concentrated on the coast, replacing Byzantine rule and confirming the political and linguistic separation between coast and interior. The Republic of Venice began expanding toward the Italian interior (Stato da Tera) in 1420,[10], acquiring the Patriarchate of Aquileia (which included a portion of modern Friuli—the present-day provinces of Pordenone and Udine—and part of internal Istria).

The Habsburg held the March of Carniola, roughly corresponding to the central Carniolan region of present-day Slovenia (part of their holdings in Inner Austria), since 1335. During the next two centuries, they gained control of the Istrian cities of Pazin and Rijeka-Fiume, the port of Trieste (with Duino), Gradisca and Gorizia (with its county in Friuli).

Republic of Venice to 1918[edit]

The region was relatively stable from the 16th century to the 1797 fall of the Republic of Venice, which was marked by the Treaty of Campo Formio between Austria and France. The Habsburgs gained Venetian lands on the Istrian Peninsula and the Quarnero (Kvarner) islands, expanded their holdings in 1813 with Napoleon's defeats and the dissolution of the French Illyrian provinces. Austria gained most of the republic's territories, including the Adriatic coast, Istria and portions of present-day Croatia (such as the city of Karlstadt).

Habsburg rule abolished political borders which had divided the area for almost 1,000 years. The territories were initially assigned to the new Kingdom of Illyria, which became the Austrian Littoral in 1849. This was established as a crown land (Kronland) of the Austrian Empire, consisting of three regions: the Istrian peninsula, Gorizia and Gradisca, and the city of Trieste.[11]

The Italian-Austrian war of 1866, followed by the passage of what was then known as Veneto (the current Veneto and Friuli regions, except for the province of Gorizia) to Italy, did not directly affect the Littoral; however, a small community of Slavic speakers in northeastern Friuli (an area known as Slavia friulana - Beneška Slovenija) became part of the Kingdom of Italy. Otherwise, the Littoral lasted until the end of the Austrian Empire in 1918.

Kingdom of Italy (1918–1943)[edit]

Now part of the Kingdom of Italy, the new region included the County of Gorizia and Gradisca, Trieste, Istria, the current Italian municipalities of Tarvisio, Pontebba and Malborghetto Valbruna, and partially- and fully-Slovene portions of the former Austrian Littoral. Exceptions were the island of Krk and the municipality of Kastav, which became part of the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes.[12] Rijeka-Fiume became a city-state, the Free State of Fiume, before it was abolished in 1924 and divided between Italy and the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes.

The new provinces of Gorizia (which was merged with the Province of Udine between 1924 and 1927), Trieste, Pola and Fiume (after 1924) were created. Italians lived primarily in cities and along the coast, and Slavs inhabited the interior. Fascist persecution, "centralising, oppressive and dedicated to the forcible Italianisation of the minorities",[13] caused the emigration of about 105,000[6] Slovenes and Croats from the Julian March—around 70,000 to the Kingdom of Yugoslavia and 30,000 to Argentina. Several thousand Dalmatian Italians moved from Yugoslavia to Italy after 1918, many to Istria and Trieste.

In response to the Fascist Italianization of Slovene areas, the militant anti-Fascist organization TIGR emerged in 1927. TIGR co-ordinated Slovene resistance against Fascist Italy until it was dismantled by the secret police in 1941, and some former members joined the Yugoslav Partisans. The Slovene Partisans emerged that year in the occupied Province of Ljubljana, and spread by 1942 to the other Slovene areas which had been annexed by Kingdom of Italy twenty years earlier.

German occupation and resistance (1943–1945)[edit]

After the Italian armistice of September 1943, many local uprisings took place. The town of Gorizia was temporarily liberated by partisans, and a liberated zone in the Upper Soča Valley known as the Kobarid Republic lasted from September to November 1943. The German Army began to occupy the region and encountered severe resistance from Yugoslav partisans, particularly in the lower Vipava Valley and the Alps. Most of the lowlands were occupied by the winter of 1943, but Yugoslav resistance remained active throughout the region and withdrew to the mountains.

In the aftermath of the the fall 1943 Italian armistice, the first of what became known as the Foibe massacres occurred (primarily in present-day Croatian Istria). The Germans established the Operational Zone of the Adriatic Littoral, officially part of the Italian Social Republic but under de facto German administration, that year. Many areas, (especially north and north-east of Gorizia) were controlled by the partisan resistance, which was also active on the Karst Plateau and interior Istria. The Nazis tried to repress the Yugoslav guerrillas with reprisals against the civilian population; entire villages were burned down, and thousands of people were interned in Nazi concentration camps. However, the Yugoslav resistance took over most of the region by the spring of 1945.

Italian resistance in the operational zone was active in Friuli and weaker in the Julian March, where it was confined to intelligence and underground resistance in the larger towns (especially Trieste and Pula). In May 1945, the Yugoslav Army entered Trieste; over the following days, virtually the entire Julian March was occupied by Yugoslav forces. Retaliation against real (and potential) political opponents occurred, primarily to the Italian population.

Contested region (1945–1954)[edit]

Colour-coded map of Trieste
Division of the Julian March between June 1945 and September 1947, with the Morgan Line in red

The Western allies adopted the term "Julian March" as the name for the territories which were contested between Italy and the People's Federal Republic of Yugoslavia between 1945 and 1947. The Morgan Line was drawn in June 1945, dividing the region into two militarily-administered zones. Zone B was under Yugoslav administration and excluded the cities of Pula, Gorizia, Trieste, the Soča Valley and most of the Karst Plateau, which were under joint British-American administration. During this period, many Italians left the Yugoslav-occupied area.

In 1946, U.S. President Harry S. Truman ordered an increase in U.S. troops in their occupation zone (Zone A) and the reinforcement of air forces in northern Italy after Yugoslav forces shot down two U.S. Army transport planes.[14] An agreement on the border was chosen from four proposed solutions[15] at the Paris Peace Conference that year. Yugoslavia acquired the northern part of the region east of Gorizia, most of Istria and the city of Fiume. A Free Territory of Trieste was created, divided into two zones—one under Allied and the other under Yugoslav military administration. Tensions continued, and in 1954 the territory was abolished and divided between Italy (which received the city of Trieste and its surroundings) and Yugoslavia.[16]

After 1954[edit]

In Slovenia, the region is referred to as Slovenian Littoral, which is a common denomination for the two traditional regions of Goriška and Slovenian Istria. The name Slovenian Littoral is sometimes extended to comprise the Slovene-speaking territories in the Provinces of Gorizia and Trieste. In Croatia, only the traditional name of Istria is used. After the division of 1947 and 1954, the term "Julian March" survived in the name of the Friuli-Venezia Giulia region of Italy. This is however only a formal designation since no official borders between Friuli and the Julian March exist within the region, and their historical borders overlap (both include the province of Gorizia).

Ethnic and linguistic structure[edit]

Etnographic map of the Austrian Empire (1855) by Karl Freiherrn von Czoernig
Ethnic-linguistic division in Istria and Trieste in 1880. Italians are shown in blue, Slovenes in green, and Croats in aquamarine.

Two major ethnic and linguistic clusters aimed to be forcibly unified in the region. The western parts were inhabited predominantly by an Italian population, with Italian, Venetian and Friulian as the three major languages, and a small Istriot minority; the eastern and northern areas were inhabited by South Slavs, namely Slovenes and Croats, with small Montenegrin (Peroj) and Serb minorities.

Other ethnic groups included Istro-Romanians in eastern Istria, Carinthian Germans in the Canale Valley, as well as smaller German and Hungarian speaking communities in some larger urban centres, mostly members of former Austro-Hungarian élites.

This linguistic structure can be seen on the ethnographic map of the whole Austrian Empire, compiled by Karl von Czoernig-Czernhausen and issued by the Austrian k. u. k. Administration of Statistics in 1855. In 1910/1911, according to the Austrian census of those years, the whole Austrian Littoral (which will be annexed to Italy after 1920/1924) counted 978,385 people. 421,444 or 43,1% declared Italian as their language of daily conversation (Umgangsprache), while 327,230 or 33,4% spoke Slovene, and 152,500 or 15,6% and spoke Croatian.[17] In addition, there were around 30,000 German speakers (3,1% of the overall population), around 3,000 Hungarian speakers (0,3%), and smaller clusters of Istro-Romanian and Czech speakers.

The Friulian, Venetian and Istriot languages were counted as Italian. According to estimates, at least 60,000 or around 14% of those listed as Italians were, in fact, Friulian speakers, frequently with a pronounced separate ethnic identity.[18]

Romance languages[edit]

Percentage of native Italian (including Venetian and Istriot) speakers in Istria, according to the Austrian census of 1910.

Standard Italian language was common among the educated strata in Trieste and in Gorizia, as well as in Istria and Rijeka-Fiume. In Trieste (and to a lesser extent in Istria), Italian was the predominating language of primary education. Both in Trieste and Istria, during the Austro-Hungarian period the Italian-speaking élites dominated the provincial administrations, although they were increasingly challenged by the Slovene and Croatian political movements. Before 1918, Trieste was the only self-governing unit of Austria-Hungary, where Italian speakers formed an absolute majority of the population.

However, most of the Romance population did not speak standard Italian as their native language, but two other closely related Romance languages, Friulian and Venetian[19]. At the time, only Friulian was partially recognized as a separate language, while Venetian was mostly considered as a variant of Italian. Many friulans considered themselves as a separate ethnic group within the Italian nation. In the 1890s and the 1910s, a strong Friulian political movement existed, which tried to foster the Friulian language and introduce it into public life. On the other hand, no similar movement ever developed among the Venetian speakers,[citation needed] nor was there any attempt to introduce Venetian language into education and administration.

Friulian was spoken in the south-western lowlands of the County of Gorizia and Gradisca (except for the Monfalcone-Grado area where Venetian was spoken instead), as well as in the town of Gorizia proper. Larger Friulian-speaking centres included Cormons, Cervignano, and Gradisca d'Isonzo. A dialect of Friulian, known as Tergestine, was also spoken in Trieste and Muggia, but gradually evolved into a Venetian dialect in the 18th century. According to contemporary estimates, around three-quarters of Italians in the County of Gorizia and Gradisca were native Friulian speakers, which amounted to a quarter of the population of the County, and around 7 to 8% of the overall population of the Julian March.

Venetian dialects were concentrated in Trieste, Rijeka and in Istria. The Istro-Venetian dialect was the majority language on the western Istrian coast. In many small western Istrian towns, such as Koper (Capodistria), Piran (Pirano) or Poreč (Parenzo), the Venetian-speaking majority reached 90% of the population, with peaks up to 100% in towns like Umag (Umago) or Muggia. In Istria, Venetian was also strongly present on the Cres-Lošinj archipelago, and in some towns of the interior of and eastern part of the peninsula, like Motovun, Labin, Plomin and, to a lesser extent, Buzet and Pazin. Although Istro-Venetian was strongest in urban areas, clusters of Venetian-speaking peasantry also existed. This is especially true for the area around Buje and Grožnjan, in north-central Istria, where Venetian spread in the mid 19th century, often assuming the form of a pidgin Venetian-Croat vernacular. In the County of Gorizia and Gradisca, Venetian was present in the territory around Monfalcone and Ronchi, between the lower flow of the Isonzo River and the Karst Plateau, in an area popularly known as Bisiacaria, as well as in the town of Grado. In Trieste, the local Venetian dialect, known as Triestine, was widely spoken by virtually all strata of the population, although it was the native language of only about half of the city's population. In Rijeka-Fiume, a special form of Venetian, known as Fiumano, emerged in the late 18th and early 19th century, becoming the native language of around half of the city's population.

In addition to these two large language groups, two smaller Romance linguistic communities existed in Istria. In south-western Istria, in the coastal strip between Pula and Rovinj, the archaic Istriot language was spoken. In some villages of eastern Istria, north of Labin, Istro-Romanian language was spoken by around 3,000 people.

South Slavic languages[edit]

The Slovene language was spoken in the north-eastern and southern part of Gorizia and Gradisca (where it represented around 60% of the population), in northern Istria, and in the Inner Carniolan areas annexed to Italy in 1920 (Postojna, Vipava, Ilirska Bistrica, Idrija). Slovene was also the primary language of a significant minority in Trieste (between a fourth and a third of the city's population). Smaller Slovene-speaking communities lived in the Canale Valley (Carinthian Slovenes), in Rijeka, and in some larger towns outside of the Slovene ethnic territory, especially in Pula, Monfalcone, Gradisca d'Isonzo, and Cormons. Also worth noting is the community living since the 8th century in small rural towns along valleys of Natisone, Resia, Torre and Judrio in Friuli; this area, known as Slavia Friulana - Beneška Slovenija, is part of Italy since 1866.

A wide variety of Slovene dialects was spoken throughout the region. The Slovene linguistic community in the Julian March was divided among as many as 11 different dialects (seven larger and four smaller ones), belonging to three out of seven dialect groups in which the Slovene language is divided. Due to a high level of education, which included a high literacy rate, most Slovenes were fluent in standard Slovene variant, with the exception of some northern Istrian villages, where primary education was carried out in Italian, and when the Slovene national movement penetrated only in the late 19th century, and the Carinthian Slovenes in the Canale Valley which had been subjected to a policy of germanization until 1918, and could frequently speak only the local dialect, with no knowledge of standard Slovene.

Slovene-Italian bilingualism was present only in some coastal villages of north-western Istria and in the confined semi-urbanized areas around Gorizia and Trieste, while the vast majority of Slovene speakers had very little or no knowledge of Italian. Instead, German was the prevalent second language of the Slovene rural populations.

The Croatian language was spoken in central and eastern Istrian peninsula, on the Cres-Lošinj archipelago. In the town of Rijeka, it was the second most spoken language after Venetian. Around Buzet in north-central Istria, the Kajkavian version of Croatian was spoken, while in all other areas Čakavian was predominant, frequently with strong Kajkavian and Venetian influences in the vocabulary. Italian-Croatian bilingualism was frequent in all western Istria, on the Cres-Lošinj archipelago and in Rijeka, while it was quite rare elsewhere.

Other linguistic minorities[edit]

Until 1918, German was the predominant language in secondary and higher education throughout the region, meaning that all the educated élites were fluent in German. Many Austrian civil servants used German in their daily life, especially in larger urban centres. However, due to the scarcity of German speakers and the lack of a proper cultural infrastructure, most of the German speakers would speak Italian, Slovene or Croatian in social and public occasion, depending on their political and ethnic preferences and area of stationing. Among the rural population, German was only spoken by around 6,000 people in the Canale Valley.

In the major urban areas, mostly in Trieste and Rijeka, Hungarian, Serbian, Czech, and Greek were also spoken by smaller communities.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Adriatic routes to and from Venice were based on Dalmatian and Istrian harbours, which were more easily accessible for vessels than their Italian counterparts.


  1. ^ The New Europe by Bernard Newman, pp. 307, 309
  2. ^ a b Contemporary History on Trial: Europe Since 1989 and the Role of the Expert Historian by Harriet Jones, Kjell Ostberg, Nico Randeraad ISBN 0-7190-7417-7 p. 155
  3. ^ Bernard Newman, The New Europe, pp. 307, 309
  4. ^ a b c d e Marina Cattaruzza, Italy and Its Eastern Border, 1866-2016, Routledge 2016 - ch. I ISBN 978-1138791749
  5. ^ Lipušček, U. (2012) Sacro egoismo: Slovenci v krempljih tajnega londonskega pakta 1915, Cankarjeva založba, Ljubljana. ISBN 978-961-231-871-0
  6. ^ a b Cresciani, Gianfranco (2004) "Clash of civilisations", Italian Historical Society Journal, Vol.12, No.2, p.4
  7. ^ "The History of "Venetia Julia" Archived 2012-04-25 at the Wayback Machine.
  8. ^ In 1863 all of the Triveneto, as defined by Ascoli, was part of the Austrian Empire. After the Italian third war of independence against Austria of 1866, Veneto and part of Friuli (i. e. Venezia Euganea in Ascoli's terms) were annexed to the Kingdom of Italy.
  9. ^ Jože Pirjevec, Serbi croati sloveni, Il Mulino, 2002, ISBN 978-88-15-08824-6
  10. ^ a b F. C. Lane, Venice. A maritime Republic, The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1973
  11. ^ Veneto, including western part of modern Friuli, which had also become part of Austrian Empire since 1815, was included in the Kingdom of Lombardo-Veneto
  12. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2008-01-11. Retrieved 2007-11-28. 
  13. ^ The Problem of Trieste and the Italo-Yugoslav Border by Glenda Sluga, p. 47
  14. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2009-04-09. Retrieved 2008-09-19. 
  15. ^ The Italo-Yugoslav Border Issue: Four Solutions And The Urgent Need For Just One[full citation needed][dead link]
  16. ^ "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2009-03-19. Retrieved 2008-09-19. 
  17. ^ Jože Pirjevec and Milica Kacin Wohinz (Ljubljana: Nova revija, 2000), 303
  18. ^ Rolf Wörsdörfer, Krisenherd Adria 1915– 1955: Konstruktion und Artikulation des Nationalen im italienisch-jugoslawischen Grenzraum (Paderborn : F. Schöningh, 2004).
  19. ^ It should be understood that Italian language's division among regional dialects has always been very pronounced. Due to the lack of a central Italian state, a standard Italian language did not actually exist until the second half of the 19th century, nor there was, until then, an agreement among scholars on this language's features. As a result, only 2.5% of Italy's population could speak the Italian standardized language properly when the nation was unified in 1861. See for example the italian language historic evolution and "Lewis, M. Paul (ed.), 2009. Ethnologue: Languages of the World, Sixteenth edition". Ethnologue.com. Retrieved 2010-04-21. 

External links[edit]