Ljubljana – A century ago today the Treaty of Rapallo was signed by the Kingdom of Italy and the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes. In exchange for international recognition the latter, established after World War I, gave up the western-most part of its territory, leaving some 300,000 Slovenians, a third of all Slovenians at the time, in Italy.
The Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes lost the regions of Goriška, a part of Notranjska, and Istria, the islands Cres, Lošinj, Lastovo and Palagruža, and the cities of Trieste and Zadar, while Rijeka was at first a free city but later given to Italy by the Treaty of Rome in 1924. The territory remained under Italy until the end of World War II in 1945.
The newspaper Slovenec said in its report of the Treaty of Rapallo that the document “slashes our nation in three parts, pushing the sons with the greatest national awareness from one slavery into one that is even worse”. The assimilation policy that followed vindicated this prediction.
The Slovenians living in Italy were subjected to strong nationalism and were politically and culturally repressed. The anti-Slavic campaign resulted in a number of attacks on Slovenian and Croatian clubs and organisations, including the arson of the Slovenian National Hall in Trieste in 1920.
Many Slovenians left the region, moving either to the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes or elsewhere, as Fascism and violence became increasingly intense.
This gave birth to the secret organisation TIGR in 1927, established to fight Fascism and to have Primorska, Istria and Rijeka reunited with the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes.
President Borut Pahor said on the occasion of the anniversary that the people of Primorska rebelled against Fascism a hundred years ago. “The organisations TIGR and Borba [a branch of TIGR] represent the seeds of anti-Fascism in Europe, which, with the Partisan army, later regained the better part of the Slovenian national territory in the west.”
The press release from the president also noted that National Hall had this year been returned to the Slovenian community in Italy and that he and his Italian counterpart Sergio Mattarella honoured the memory of the four anti-Fascist fighters executed in Basovizza in 1930.
“It was an event without comparison in relations between Slovenia and Italy,” the president said.
The Park of Military History in Pivka marked the centenary with a conference on Wednesday, which was addressed by National Council President Alojz Kovšca, who said the Treaty of Rapallo was a big stain in Slovenia’s history.
“The Italian compromise was a cheap bargain for which the Slovenian nation paid a high price,” he said.