Governorate of Dalmatia

Governorate of Dalmatia
Governatorato di Dalmazia
Province of Italy
Flag Coat of arms
Foedere et Religione Tenemur
"We are held together by Pact and Religion"
Marcia Reale d'Ordinanza
"Royal March of Ordinance"a
The Governorate of Dalmatia in 1941
Capital Zara
Languages Italian, Croatian
Religion Roman Catholic
Political structure Governorate
   1941 Athos Bartolucci
  1941–1943 Giuseppe Bastianini
  1943 Francesco Giunta
Historical era World War II
   Invasion of Yugoslavia 17 April 1941
   Armistice of Cassibile 10 September 1943
   1941 5,001 km² (1,931 sq mi)
   1941 est. 380,100 
     Density 76 /km²  (196.9 /sq mi)
Currency Italian lira
Preceded by
Succeeded by
Kingdom of Yugoslavia
Province of Zara
Independent State of Croatia
Italian Social Republic
a: Unofficial anthem was Giovinezza ("Youth").[1]

The Governorate of Dalmatia (Italian: Governatorato di Dalmazia), was a territory divided in three Provinces of Italy during Italian Kingdom and Italian Empire epoch, created in April 1941 at the start of World War II in Yugoslavia from the existing Province of Zara together with occupied Yugoslav territory annexed by Italy after the invasion of Yugoslavia by the Axis powers and the signing of the Rome Treaties.[2]


Dalmatia was a strategic region during World War I that both Italy and Serbia intended to seize from Austria-Hungary. Italy joined the Triple Entente Allies in 1915 upon agreeing to the London Pact that guaranteed Italy the right to annex a large portion of Dalmatia in exchange for Italy's participation on the Allied side. From 5–6 November 1918, Italian forces were reported to have reached Lissa, Lagosta, Sebenico, and other localities on the Dalmatian coast.[3] By the end of hostilities in November 1918, the Italian military had seized control of the entire portion of Dalmatia that had been guaranteed to Italy by the London Pact and by 17 November had seized Fiume as well.[4] In 1918, Admiral Enrico Millo declared himself Italy's Governor of Dalmatia.[5] Famous Italian nationalist Gabriele d'Annunzio supported the seizure of Dalmatia, and proceeded to Zadar in an Italian warship in December 1918.[6]

However, in spite of the guarantees of the London Pact to Italy of a large portion of Dalmatia and Italian military occupation of claimed territories of Dalmatia, during the peace settlement negotiations of 1919 to 1920 the Fourteen Points of Woodrow Wilson that advocated self-determination of nations took precedence, with Italy only being permitted to annex Zadar from Dalmatia, while the rest of Dalmatia was to be part of Yugoslavia. This enraged Italian nationalists who considered this as a betrayal of the promises of the London Pact.


The Governorate of Dalmatia was made up of parts of coastal Yugoslavia that were occupied and annexed by Italy from April 1941 to September 1943, together with the pre-war Italian Province of Zara on the Dalmatian coast, including the island of Lagosta (Lastovo) and the island of Saseno, now Albania, and totalling about 200 square kilometers, which Italy had possessed since 1919. The town of Zara (Zadar), which had included most of the Italian population of Dalmatia since the beginning of the 20th century and was largely Italian-speaking,[7] was designated as its capital.

The creation of the Governorate of Dalmatia fulfilled the demands of Italian irredentism, but not all of Dalmatia was annexed by Italy, as the German puppet state known as the Independent State of Croatia took some parts of it. Nevertheless, the Italian army maintained de facto control over the whole of Dalmatia.

The Kingdom of Italy divided the Governorate in three Italian provinces: Zara (Zadar), Spalato (Split) and Cattaro (Kotor), but never created officially an Italian region with the name "Dalmatia". While the Governorate was not called a region of Italy, the northern Dalmatian islands of Veglia (Krk) and Arbe (Rab) were administratively united to the Italian province of Fiume (now Rijeka) and became areas of Italy.

In September 1941, Italy's fascist dictator, Benito Mussolini, ordered the military occupation of the entire Dalmatian coast, including the city of Dubrovnik ("Ragusa"), and islands such as Vis (Lissa) and Pag (Pago) which had been given to the puppet Independent State of Croatia of Ante Pavelić: Mussolini tried to annex those areas to the Governorship of Dalmatia, but was temporarily stopped by the strong opposition of Pavelić, who retained nominal control of them.[8]

Fascist Italy even occupied Marindol and other villages that had previously belonged to the Banovina of Croatia, Milić-Selo, Paunović-Selo, Žunić-Selo, Vukobrati, Vidnjevići and Vrhovci. In 1942 these villages were annexed to Cernomegli (now Črnomelj, in Slovenia), which was then part of the Italian Province of Lubiana, even though their population was not Slovene but Croatian.

The governorship was held until January 1943 by Giuseppe Bastianini, when he was recalled to Italy to join the cabinet, his place as governor being taken by Francesco Giunta.[9]

The Governorate of Dalmatia was cancelled administratively by Badoglio on August 19, 1943: it was substituted by direct rule of the 3 "Prefetti" governing the provinces of Zara, Spalato and Cattaro.


Detailed map of the three provinces of the Governorate of Dalmatia.

The Governorate of Dalmatia consisted of three provinces: Zara (Zadar), Spalato (Split) and Cattaro (Kotor). The administrative capital was Zara.

After the autumn of 1941 the Dalmatian islands of Pag (Pago), Brač (Brazza) and Hvar (Lesina), part of the Independent State of Croatia, were occupied by the Italian army, along with an area of Croatia which was away from the coast of Sinj towards the center of Bosnia, near Sarajevo and Banja Luka. However these were not formally annexed to the Governorate [10]

Province Area (km²) Population[11]
Zara 3,179 211,900
Spalato 1,075 128,400
Cattaro 547 39,800
Total 4,801 380,100

After the Kingdom of Italy changed sides to the Allies in 1943, German forces took over the area. This territory was not given to the fascist Italian Social Republic (which was a puppet state of Germany), but instead completely dissolved and added to the puppet Independent State of Croatia.

But Zara (and the surrounding territory that was the original Provincia italiana di Zara until 1941) remained Italian (even if under nominal control and protection of the German Army) until 1945. The city suffered a terrible bombing in 1944: the Allies documented 30 bombing raids, while contemporary Italian accounts claim 54; fatalities recorded range from nearly 1,000, up to as many as 4,000 of the city's 20,000 inhabitants and 60% of the city's buildings were fully destroyed.

On October 30, 1944 the last Italian authority in Dalmatia -the Zara prefect Vincenzo Serrentino- left the destroyed city with the remaining Dalmatian Italians (who started the Istrian-Dalmatian exodus).[12]

Part of a series on the
History of Dalmatia

Governors of Dalmatia

See also


  2. Governatorato di Dalmazia (in Italian)
  3. Giuseppe Praga, Franco Luxardo. History of Dalmatia. Giardini, 1993. Pp. 281.
  4. Paul O'Brien. Mussolini in the First World War: the Journalist, the Soldier, the Fascist. Oxford, England, UK; New York, New York, USA: Berg, 2005. Pp. 17.
  5. Paul O'Brien. Mussolini in the First World War: the Journalist, the Soldier, the Fascist. Oxford, England, UK; New York, New York, USA: Berg, 2005. Pp. 17.
  6. A. Rossi. The Rise of Italian Fascism: 1918-1922. New York, New York, USA: Routledge, 2010. Pp. 47.
  7. Vrandečić, Josip (2001-10-07). "Razvoj talijanskog nacionalizma u Dalmaciji" (PDF). Dijalog povjesničara - istoričara 6 (in Croatian). Zagreb: Political Science Research Centre Ltd. (PSRC) for Scientific Research Work. pp. 204–205. Retrieved 2013-02-06.
  8. Giorgio Bocca, Storia d'Italia nella guerra fascista 1940-1943. Mondadori editore. Milano, 2006
  9. Jozo Tomasevich, War and revolution in Yugoslavia, 1941-1945: occupation and collaboration, Stanford University Press, 2001, pp. 136-137
  10. Davide Rodogno. Fascism's European empire. Cambridge University Press, 2006 Pp. 419/20.
  11. cfr.: Davide Rodogno Il nuovo ordine mediterraneo, ed. Bollati Boringhieri, Turin, 2003.
  12. History of Zara bombing (in Italian)

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