The Kingdom of Italy During World War I Part 2

According to, Italy entered the struggle at a difficult time for the Entente and on the toughest front. With the heroism of his soldiers, with the sacrifice of 680,000 lives, he had to make up for the insufficiency of armament and the lack of a true military tradition. Nor did he always find understanding and recognition on the part of the allies, to whom he also made a contribution that was decisive for the fate of the war, as unsuspected testimonies of allies and enemies have recognized (for military operations, see World War). For national life, participation in the great conflict was of enormous value: in this tragic trial, which revealed neither great military nor political leaders (the Salandra ministry, who fell on 10 June 1916, was succeeded by that of Boselli and to this one on 30 October 1917 Orlando), they shone in full the steadfast qualities of the Italian people, who finally cemented their unity in the bloody struggle. The virtues of healthy people were those which allowed them to react to the reverse of October 1917. Two years of victorious struggles did not perhaps give proof of the admirable abilities of the Italian nation as much as the day after that painful autumn. Then the moral solidity and true heroism of the people, so different from the cloying journalistic exaltations, were fully revealed. On the line of the Piave the old Italy died of uncertainties, hesitations, fearful transactions and a new and better Italy was born, which in a few years would be fully established.

Essentially military defeat that of Caporetto – even if elements of another nature could have some influence – on which too much has been speculated inside and outside Italy; the revolt of a whole people that, by reversing the situation, forced the centuries-old adversary of the Italian people to surrender a year later and determined the collapse of the Central Empires (defensive battle in June, final offensive by Vittorio Veneto, October 1918).

An undertaking no less hard than the struggle, peace. Tiring and ungrateful the negotiations between mistrust and jealousy of allies, uncertainties and insufficiencies of Italian negotiators, which Wilson’s rigid doctrinaire exasperated, while in Italy the indecisive action of the government and a certain natural weariness after such a hard trial favored the formation of currents contrary to the tenacious resistance that would have been necessary. If the Treaty of Saint-Germain was signed on 10 September 1919, which ensured Italy the border of the Brenner, the question of the eastern border was extremely difficult and painful, where the claim of Dalmatia under the London pact was intertwined with that of Fiume. Here Italy no longer faced the enemy of the eve on which the victor could impose his law, but an ambiguous recent formation, Yugoslavia. Protected by Wilson, favored more or less directly by France and England, the interests of which the Italian difficulties benefited, the new state composed of the Serbs from Italy saved in 1916, of the Croats and Slovenes up to the last in arms against Italy itself in the Austrian ranks, it aimed to annex territories that historical traditions, vital interests, national aspirations and recent pacts assigned to Italy.

The allied diplomacy and the hostility of the American “associate” favored the greed of others, and the work of the Italian representatives, in contrast with direct and indirect Franco-English interests, was affected by the unfortunate setting of the London pact, which excluded Fiume, very Italian city, then assigned to Croatia. Against the requests of Orlando and Sonnino, Wilson opposed his personal appeal to the Italian people, in which he denied any right of Italy to Dalmatia. The Italian delegation responded to the incorrect action by abandoning the conference. But this was a sentimental gesture, with no chance of success at that moment. Sonnino and Orlando had applause in Rome and a favorable vote in parliament, but had to return to Versailles, where, in the meantime, the fate of Asia Minor had been decided without Italy.

Nor did further attempts lead to any results. When the Orlando ministry fell, he was succeeded by that of Nitti (June 24, 1919), equally unable to resolve the situation and to have the injustice of the denied Italian satisfaction recognized in comparison with the advantages secured by the allies in Europe and abroad.

In the sadness and disappointment of the diplomatic dispute, an episode of audacious disobedience, which recalled the Garibaldian tradition, affirmed the Italian protest against the threatened injustice. At the head of volunteers and army departments on 12 September 1919 Gabriele d’Annunzio moved to Fiume (march of Ronchi), occupied it and held it up to challenge European diplomacy, foreign threats, fearful advice and the frightened deprecations of Italian rulers.

In the end, D’Annunzio’s audacity also benefited the cause of peace, as the Italians and Slavs sought and found, at least for the moment, a ground of agreement. On November 12, 1920, under the Giolitti ministry, the Treaty of Rapallo was signed, which assigned the border of the Julian Alps, Istria and Zara to Italy, leaving Dalmatia with the Adriatic islands to Yugoslavia, abandoned by America. minus Cres and Mali Lošinj. Fiume was constituted as an autonomous city within the boundaries of the ancient  corpus separatum . D’Annunzio rose up, but in vain, against the treaty that sacrificed Dalmatia. Painful violence by Italians against Italians made it executive on Christmas Eve 1920.

The Kingdom of Italy During World War I 3

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