by Almerigo Apollonio
Our criticism of the document issued by the Italian and Slovenian experts starts with some general reflections. In this sense the text:
1) is presented as an official history textbook and pretends to define too dogmatically an extremely controversial period of time. Considering its political influence, it could result in a limitation of the freedom of research on both sides of the Julian border.
2) The presuppositions are by now outdated. Among them, for example, the historiographic approach based on an enthusiastic attitude towards the democratic re-emergence of the so called “People without a history” and the end of the Habsburg Empire, seen as the responsible of nationality demolition.
A critical history of the different nationalistic movements is now of utmost necessity in consideration of all the inter-ethnic tragedies of our times.
3) It lacks a 360-degree perspective of the most important phenomenon for the Italo-Slovenian coexistence between 1918 and 1991, i.e. the Yugoslavian state, that proved to be a unique form of government and main responsible, in better or worse, of the Slavic expansion in the world.
Mistakes can be solved only if it will be:
Ad 1) publicly stated that the “joint textbook” is only a hypothesis and does not intend to influence further future research.
Ad 2) recognized the urgency to re-examine the whole historical production regarding the Habsburg Empire and the successor states. Also, the need of a critical analysis of all national movements arisen in the former Habsburg area, in order to study their causes and developments, also in light of the internal social changes of the different communities. Each movement should be examined in a perspective that encompasses the period of time from 1900 to 2000. We ask for a self-critical and qualitative work, as that of the Italian historiography of the last half century.
Ad 3) rewrite the text for the years 1880-1941 after an accurate examination of the following themes:
a) the imperialism of the so called trialism of the Austro-Hungarian Empire;
b) the expansionism of the Jugoslav ideologies;
c) the expansionism characterizing Jugoslav history from 1918 onwards;
d) the imperialist face of the communist regime by Tito;
e) the oppressive nature of the Jugoslav regime for the Slovenian and Croatian populations.
Furthermore, it is necessary to stop considering the Italian imperialism as the only cause of the end of peace and peaceful coexistence of people living between the Isonzo river and the Julian Alps. This can only be reached if an analysis is carried out comparing the old belief of the absolute supremacy of the countryside over cities - as reported in the third column of the document published in the “PICCOLO” - with the Nazi ideology of “Blut und Boden”, a terrible chapter in human history.
We suggest re-examining the history of the region focusing on the following elements:
1) thousand-year old coexistence of Italian and Slovenian people in the same area and the expansion/reduction tendencies in cultural or numeric terms century by century.
2) Mutual Italo-Slovenian influence and impact of other nationalities present on our territory.
3) Mutual respect of cultural values in general terms. In this sense I would like to mention the discourse in defence of the Slovenian people by Rossetti in his “ur Mnemosyne des Herrn Joseph Kreil”.
4) Religious differences and similarities between these two nationalities.
5) Differences and similarities in the participation in the Liberation movement of the 19th century.
6) Differences and similarities in the participation in Catholic-dynastic movements and then in Social-Christian parties. Electoral support of both movements in Gorizia and Istria.
7) Differences and similarities in the participation in socialist movements.
8) Political and administrative alliances between Italy and Slovenia, even between Liberals and Catholics.
9) The role of the trialist myth in the Slovenian national movement.
10) Italian irredentism and its position towards the Slovenian national movement before and after the establishment of a trialist system.
11) The existence (or absence) of a Slovenian movement aiming at achieving total independence by September 1918.
12) Impact of the Yugoslav myth on the national movements in Slovenia.
13) Different Slovenian positions in regard to Yugoslavia between 1918 and 1924.
14) Slovenian proletariat joining the international communist movements led by Italy between the two world wars.
15) Slovenia joining other Italian parties after 1920.
16) Fascist positions towards the Slovenian population between 1922-1943.
17) Forms of cooperation between Slovenia and the fascist regime.
18) Italian low and middle classes Resistance against the fascist anti-Slovenian propaganda.
19) Italian and Slovenian participation in the same anti-fascist movements before 1941.
20) Analysis of acts of violence perpetrated on the border by both countries between 1922-1943.
These are preliminary studies to be carried out in order to get a clear idea of the facts preceding the war and the post-war period. This becomes more difficult as we approach the period between 1941 and 1954. The experts of the committee were unable to find a balance between historically outdated positions, which are, in any case, the result of fairly academic work. They had to develop a position halfway between two entirely political visions - not always in contrast. The Italian one derived from a moderate, anti-fascist vision, the Slovenian one of Yugoslav descent with notes of partial revisionism and last-minute anti-communism.
The result was a completely unbalanced text that:
1) makes comparisons between utterly incomparable situations (e.g. abuses by the Carabinieri in Val Natisone and OZNA’s murderous crimes).
2) Underestimates the impacts of such tragic facts as the “Istrian foibe” of 1943 (sic).
3) Gives absurd responsibilities to political movements of minor importance or that had nothing to do with the matter. This happened with the members of the Cominform, accused of exacerbating the local anti-Italian social tendencies. Anti-communist statements emerge frequently in the text: "quod fecerunt rubei, non fecerunt sclavoni".
4) It describes the Italian economic situation in 1954 in an extremely positive way in order to make it a plausible reason for the Istrian exodus. We would like to underline that the economic boom in Italy started after 1960 and that in the thirty years following the end of the war the rate of unemployment was very high.
5) Makes bizarre comparisons between today’s nationalist Slovenian people in Trieste and Duino and Istrian people that were forced to leave their homes and still live, as exiles, in Italy and worldwide
6) Keeps on repeating old and dispelled propaganda myths like that of a pervasive Istrian fascism.
7) Misuses figures in order to create strange proportions between migrations and exodus - facts that took place in different times and under different circumstances. The reader could get the wrong idea that the total number of exiled Slovenian people from 1918 up to now would be higher than that of all the exiled Italian people (more than 100.000 people vs 27.000).
8) Maliciously minimizes the numeric and cultural meaning of the no longer existent Italian presence in Koper, Isola and Pirano, examples of developed Italian societies in contrast with Ljubljana, Celja and Maribor that were villages and markets where German was mainly spoken and therefore still called themselves Laibach, Cilli and Marburg an der Drau.
9) Accepts the fact that Italians were expelled from their homes back in Istria as a form of compensation for the failure to reach national unity for the Slovenian population, including into their borders the Slavic parts of Trieste and Gorizia, cities that, according to the document could have become more Slovenian on the eve of the first world war. Without even taking into account the fact that these supposedly historical facts are based on sheer conjectures, there is also a significant sentence of the Slovenian part: “Croatian people obtained everything they wanted in Istria”. Does that mean that Koper, Isola and Pirano are not enough as pretium doloris (price of pain)?
10) In conclusion the document states, almost offering a little bit of consolation to the Italian side, that everything happened “as a particular aspect in the process of national states formation on territories characterized by ethnic diversity, that led to an end of the multilingual and multicultural reality of Central and Southeastern Europe”. It is a fairly right supposition, yet the same authors started by declaring that the Habsburg Empire failed in “establishing a political system that could reflect the multinational society on a governmental and administrative level and in the institutions”. It is also strange to hear such conclusions from the Slovenian side, since between 1945 and 1954, their own nation acted exactly like Serbia, Croatia, Albania, etc. in the ‘90s.
The second part of the “joint document” is clearly a failure from our point of view. The ideology supported by the Slovenian historians did not allow to reach valid conclusions, despite the conciliatory efforts of the Italian historians or maybe even because of their efforts to reach a joint document signed by both parts.
Today’s Slovenian approach to national history is still influenced by a perspective that does not takes into account the ideological responsibilities of the thinkers and intellectuals in the context of the nation’s independence. In the future this approach may be reviewed and changed and that will be the right moment to re-open the discussion on this document and its contents.
The dialogue must continue not only to reconsider the history before 1941 - following the above-mentioned guidelines and/or new suggestions from the Slovenian side - but also to address the main cause of the unsuccessful analysis of contemporary history: lack of undeniable “sources” to document history from 1941 onwards. The available sources were manipulated and damaged in order not to give a fair, correct and real picture of the past events.
We believe, therefore, that it is necessary to start with a methodic and comprehensive study of all Italian-Slovene relations, more precisely of the Italian-Yugoslav relations in the ex Italian territory annexed by Slovenia from 1941 onwards.
However, all researchers on the other side of the Italian border are not very welcome if they show interest in this matter, unless they belong to certain “lucky” circles or groups. At the same time the access to the simplest administration documents is becoming more and more difficult because of tough controls and bans, that wear out the interested ones, as archive users may confirm. We propose that a memorandum is signed by the responsible authorities on both sides of the border where it is made clear that:
- every document regarding the former Italian territories will be publicly available and made accessible to all researchers, regardless if the archive has been organized or not.
- Researchers from interested countries should carry out studies in unexplored fields, as well as studies concerning the former Federal State.
- Publications must be translated or written in different languages so that researchers of different nationalities may make full use of these contents.
In anticipation of an agreement, it is necessary that from now on all of the Italian, Slovenian and Croatian cultural associations - including archive associations - collaborate officially in this new direction, by exchanging news and offering assistance and by strongly involving their governments and institutions.