Julian March

"Venezia Giulia" redirects here. For the post-WWII Allied police corps, see Venezia Giulia Police Force.
Not to be confused with Friuli-Venezia Giulia.

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, today split among Croatia, Italy, and Slovenia.[1][2] Julian March was coined by the Italian geographer Graziadio Isaia Ascoli in order to present the Austrian Littoral as a unified region and "historic part of Italy", placing emphasis on the Augustan partition of Roman Italy at the beginning of the Empire, when Venetia et Histria was the Regio X ("Tenth Region").[2][3]

The term was endorsed by Italian irredentists, who sought the annexation of areas where ethnic Italians made up the majority or a substantial share of the population: the Austrian Littoral, Trentino, Fiume, and Dalmatia. The Triple Entente promised to grant these areas to Italy in the break-up of the Austro-Hungarian Empire in exchange for its joining the Allied Powers in World War I. The secret Treaty of London in 1915 promised Italy territories that were mostly populated by Italians, such as Trentino, but also ones that were mostly or exclusively populated by Croats and/or Slovenes; the territory contained approximately 327,000 out of total population of 1.3 million ethnic Slovenes.[4][5] With the exception of most of Dalmatia, the Treaty of Versailles (1920) after the war mostly granted these areas to Italy.

A contemporary Italian autonomous region, bordering on Slovenia, is still named Friuli-Venezia Giulia, literally meaning "Friuli and Julian Venetia".[6]


Ascoli, a linguist and amateur geographer motivated by his Italian patriotism, coined the term based on applying the ancient Roman Empire borders of Roman Italy to the 19th-century political geography of the area. He subdivided the ancient Roman region Venetia et Histria into three new regions:

The last was named after the Julian Alps, named after Julius Caesar, and formed the new northeastern border of Italy, limited by the lower flow of the Soča river and the Gulf of Trieste in the west, the Julian Alps in the north and north-east, and Carniola and Liburnia to the east, thus including all of the Kras Plateau and most of the Istrian peninsula.


Creation of the region in the Kingdom of Italy (1918-1943)

Along with both partially and exclusively Slovene ethnic areas in the former Austrian Littoral, in the newly created region were included the County of Gorizia and Gradisca, Trieste, Istria, and the current Italian municipalities of Tarvisio, Pontebba, and Malborghetto Valbruna. With exception of the island of Krk, and the municipality of Kastav, which were given to the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes.[7] Rijeka (Italian: Fiume) became a city state, called the Free State of Fiume, but was abolished in 1924 and divided between Italy and Yugoslavia.

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 mostly in urban areas and along the coast, while Slavs inhabited the hinterland. Fascist persecution, characterised as "centralising, oppressive and dedicated to the forcible Italianisation of the minorities" [8] caused the emigration of around 105,000[5] Slovenes and Croats from the Julian March, mostly to the Kingdom of Yugoslavia (around 70,000), but also to Argentina (some 30,000). On the other hand, several thousand Dalmatian Italians moved from Yugoslavia to Italy after 1918, many of them to Istria and Trieste.

In response to the forced Fascist Italianization of Slovene ethnic areas, the Slovene militant anti-Fascist organization TIGR emerged in 1927, co-ordinating the Slovene resistance against Fascist Italy until its dismantlement by the Fascist secret police in 1941, after which some of TIGR ex-members joined the Yugoslav Partisans.

In 1941, in the Province of Ljubljana occupied by Fascist Italy, the Partisans emerged and spread by 1942 in the rest of the ethnic Slovene areas, annexed by Kingdom of Italy twenty years earlier.

German occupation and resistance (1943-1945)

After the Italian armistice of September 1943, an uprising by the local populations took place in many areas: the town of Gorizia was temporary liberated by the Partisans, while in the Upper Soča Valley, a liberated zone, known as the Kobarid Republic, lasted for three months, between September and November 1943. The German Army started occupying the region, but encountered severe resistance by Yugoslav partisans, especially in the lower Vipava Valley and in the Alpine regions. By winter of 1943, most of the lowlands were occupied by the Nazis, but Yugoslav resistance remained active throughout the region, withdrawing to the mountainous areas.

In the aftermath of the Italian armistice, in autumn of 1943, the first cases of what would later become known as Foibe massacres occurred, mostly in what is today Croatian Istria. There, the Yugoslav Partisans executed several hundred Italian civilians, mostly high ranking Fascist Party members and Italian state officials, but also other individuals alleged of collaboration with the Fascist regime.

In 1943, the Germans established the Operational Zone of the Adriatic Littoral, which was officially part of the Italian Social Republic, but was de facto under exclusive German administration. Many areas, especially north and north-east of Gorizia were controlled by the Partisan resistance, which was very active also on the Kras Plateau and in the internal areas of Istria. The Nazis tried to repress the Yugoslav guerrilla with brutalities against the civilian population: entire villages were burned down and thousands of people interned in Nazi concentration camps. Nevertheless, the Yugoslav resistance took over most of the region by the spring of 1945.

Italian resistance in the Operational Zone was very active in Friuli but much weaker in the Julian March, where it was confined to intelligence and underground resistance in larger towns, especially in Trieste and Pula.

On May 1945 the Yugoslav Army entered Trieste and in the following days, virtually the entire Julian March was occupied by Yugoslav forces. Much retaliation against real and potential political opponents took place, mostly at the expenses of the Italian population.

The contested region (1945-1954)

A house on the Italy–Slovenia border at Gorizia with the inscription "Here is Yugoslavia", dating from the period 1945-1947
The division of the Julian March between June 1945 and September 1947, with the Morgan Line in red.

Western allies adopted the term "Julian March" as the official name for the territories, contested between Italy and the People's Federal Republic of Yugoslavia between 1945 and 1947. In June 1945, the Morgan Line was drawn, dividing the region into two militarily administered zones. Zone B was under Yugoslav administration, excluding the cities of Pula, Gorizia, Trieste, the Soča valley and most of the Kras plateau, which were under joint British-American administration. During this period, many Italians left the area under Yugoslav occupation, a phenomenon known as the Istrian exodus.

In 1946, U.S. President Harry S. Truman ordered the augmentation of U.S. troops within their occupation zone (Zone A) and the reinforcement of air forces in northern Italy after Yugoslav forces had shot down two US Army transport planes flying over the region.[9]

In 1947, from four proposed solutions,[10] an agreement on the border was reached at the Paris Peace Conference. Yugoslavia acquired all the northern portion of the region east of Gorizia, as well as 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 however continued and in 1954 the Territory was abolished and divided between Italy (which got the city of Trieste and its surroundings) and Yugoslavia.[11]

After 1954

See also: Treaty of Osimo

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).

The area's ethnic and linguistic structure

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 inhabited predominantly by an Italian population, with Italian, Venetian and Friulian as the three major languages, and a small Istriot minority, on one hand, and the eastern and northern areas were inhabited by South Slavs, namely Slovenes and Croats, with small Montenegrian (Peroj) and Serb minorities, on the other hand.

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.

According to the Austrian census of 1910/1911, the whole Austrian Littoral, 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.[12] 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.[13]

Romance languages

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 Italian as their native language, but two other closely related Romance languages, Friulian and Venetian. At the time, only Friulian was partially recognized a separate language, while Venetian was mostly considered as a variant of Italian. Many Friulians 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, 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 7-8% 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 Kras 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, 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-westen 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

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.

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

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 German speakers would speak Italian, Slovene or Croatian in social and public occasion, depending of 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


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