Fiume’s Political Elites and Their Challengers, 1918–1924

Ivan Jeličić, Faculty of Philosophy and Social Sciences, University Rijeka 

This article was written partially under the auspices of the project NEPOSTRANS, “Negotiating post-imperial transitions: from remobilization to nation-state consolidation. A comparative study of local and regional transitions in post-Habsburg East and Central Europe,” financed by the European Research Council (ERC) Consolidator Grant agreement no. 772264. I would like to thank the NEPOSTRANS team members, in particular Gábor Egry and Cody J. Inglis, as well as Dominique Kirchner Reill, for their constructive remarks on previous versions of the manuscript. 

Fiume’s Political Elites and Their Challengers, 1918–1924

The city of Fiume, now Rijeka in Croatia,1 faced one of the most complex geopolitical puzzles at the end of the First World War. Immediately after the breakup of the Habsburg Empire in October–November 1918, rival national councils struggled to incorporate the industrial port city into the two nation-states to its west (the Kingdom of Italy) and to its east (the newly forming State of Slovenes, Croats, and Serbs (SCS); from 1 December 1918, the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes). From September 1919 on, Gabriele D’Annunzio and his followers occupied Fiume to force its annexation by Italy. When smooth annexation failed, additional political trajectories opened, including the proclamation of an unrecognized independent state in 1920.2 Most importantly, after Italian–Yugoslav territorial negotiations, the city briefly existed as independent state (1921–24), falling to a fascist coup d’état in March 1922 which preceded formal annexation to Italy. The transition from the (Austro-)Hungarian context to the Italian nation-state was anything but straightforward. From October 1918 to January 1924, institutions involved in administering or trying to administer the city on different levels were multiple and competitive, while political options were heterogeneous to say the least.3

Taking as its point of departure data gathered on figures involved in political life in the early twentieth century and after 1918, this essay seeks to address questions of continuity and rupture within the Fiumian political arena. First, I will show the continuity and discontinuity between municipal councils of the late Habsburg period and the Italian National Council established in 1918. I will then present the alternative political projects which disputed the Italian annexation project and trace the political trajectories of the political elites and their challengers from 1918 to 1924. The essay will demonstrate that the Executive Committee of the Italian National Council was a combination of sections of the old municipal elite and the Italian irredentist minority. From October–November 1918, most of the 1915 wartime municipal councillors disappeared and many of their pre-war municipal predecessors returned to the political scene as members of the Italian National Council. However, inside the Council’s Executive Committee, the loyal supporters of Riccardo Zanella’s – a former leader of the Fiumian Autonomist Party and one of the most popular local politicians – were marginalized. This faction of the pre-war municipal elite returned to the political scene when Zanella engaged in a new political struggle from September 1919 on, in a new international context. These longtime members and supporters of the Autonomist Party gathered around Zanella, such as Matteo Paicurich or Mario Blasich, were elected members of the Constituent Assembly in April 1921. Aside from the old-new municipal elite which countered or formed the Italian National Council, another group of challengers, comprising Socialists and Autonomist Democrats, attempted to establish their own political agenda. Hence, in 1918, there was no national revolution of formerly oppressed nationalities which obtained their coveted freedom from the Habsburg Empire. Rather, old and new political elites and their challengers attempted to maintain or (re)gain positions of power in an unstable and uncertain sovereignty context that lasted more than five years after wartime hostilities had ended. For many, the Empire and its institutions did not disappear in 1918–or 1924. In fact, Fiume’s privileged (and semi-autonomous) administrative status from the Habsburg era continued to be an inspiration for those who challenged the “natural” course of Italian annexation further down the line. International interests and brute force, thanks to local and nation-states’ support (or lack of it), were key factors explaining why the option of Italian annexation ultimately prevailed. 

Italian Nationalists, Magyarons, or National Renegades? 

The monograph Povijest Rijeke (The History of Rijeka), published in socialist Yugoslavia in the late 1980s, claims that Fiume’s Magyarons (mađaroni) almost entirely transformed into false Italians (talijanaši, i.e., national renegades that became or acted as Italians) in 1918. Those political figures, and the older Italian structures of Fiume, opposed the Slovene, Croat, and Serb (SCS) National Council’s attempt to unify the city with the coalescing South Slav state. Alongside these two national options, an autonomist option appeared, advocating for the city’s independence.4 According to the Povijest Rijeke, the Autonomists were representatives of an anational oligarchy and other sections of the population, mostly comprising locals and national renegade Croatians, and pursued their own material interests in an independent state.5 Older Italian-language monographs, on the other hand, tended to stress the continuity of the city’s Italian character through the centuries. While statements about the slow emergence of Italian national consciousness are present in these works, the Italian nationality of the population and of the local elite remained unquestionable.6 These two opposing historiographical visions tended to simplify rather ambiguous local conditions and political options on national bases. According to nationalistic accounts, it would seem that the Habsburg historical presence vanished almost overnight and that the citizens of Fiume and their elite easily abandoned their (Austro-)Hungarian backgrounds and heritage. Any claims that do not adhere to Italian or Croatian/Yugoslav national affirmations are labelled as bizarre, artificial, and anachronistic, as if the nation-state had been the sole natural option.7

Analysis of the political elites8 and their challengers shows that, at the end of the Hungarian state’s presence in Fiume, multiple possible future statehoods existed. The fading state order was substituted by national political actors that advanced solutions combining the local Habsburg historical framework and political ideologies with emerging worldwide slogans such as democracy and self-determination.9 But national revolutions were neither the only nor even the natural solutions to the power vacuum.10 Habsburg historical structures were reconceptualized in other terms, transformed in terms of class emancipation, economic development, or multinationality. The political interests of contending states, international support for certain options, the lobbying activities of local actors, and sometimes purely circumstantial events allowed singular national annexation to prevail over other options. In other words, from 1918 to 1924 there was no lack of political alternatives to the nation-state. 

Hungary’s Italian-Speaking Port 

The legal position of the city of Fiume and its belonging to imagined national communities became problematic around the second half of the nineteenth century.11 The ideology of Croatian state right and the Croatian national movement considered the city part of its national body, while the city’s Italian-speaking local elite was averse to the Croatian vision. Without expressing Italian annexationist attitudes, the local elite wanted to maintain the city’s position as an autonomous municipality and thus aligned itself with the Hungarian political elite. The result of the 1868 Croatian–Hungarian Settlement (Nagodba) was a provisional agreement that the city, geographically separated from Hungary proper, would be considered attached to the Hungarian crown and not to the nearby Kingdom of Croatia-Slavonia. As a corpus separatum, Fiume was assured a degree of autonomy and placed under Hungarian authority.12

Consequently, Fiumian citizens elected their municipal council as well as one deputy to the lower house of the Hungarian parliament, the House of Representatives (Képviselőház), but not representatives to the Croatian Diet (Sabor). To add a layer of complexity, the city was entitled to elect representatives to the Croatian Diet, a political right denied it by the civic elite in order to demonstrate Fiume’s lack of connection to Croatia-Slavonia. The right to vote in local and parliamentary elections was restricted to a minority that, over the years, slowly increased. Furthermore, the modalities of the elections were also restrictive: although local ballots were written and secret, parliamentary elections were, as in the rest of the Kingdom of Hungary, public and oral.13 Members of the municipal council were initially representatives of a merchant, industrial, and artisan elite, while the local patricians’ presence was almost insignificant.  

On the local level, the Hungarian state was represented by the governor. The governor, appointed by the (emperor-)king upon agreement with the Hungarian prime minister and the minister of commerce, was a member of the Hungarian nobility, and ex officio the Fiumian representative to the House of Magnates (Főrendiház). Municipal institutions, such as local schools and the hospital, used Italian as the official language, and Fiumian officialdom also possessed the right to communicate with the Hungarian state in Italian. While this was perhaps surprising considering the policies of Magyarization in late-nineteenth-century Hungary, in practical terms, it made sense to use Italian as Fiume’s working official language: until at least 1910, most of Fiume’s population did not know Hungarian, while Croatian (which many did speak) was seen as a language which would upset the administrative division of the city from Croatia-Slavonia, thereby threatening the maintenance of the corpus separatum.14 Just beyond Fiume’s administrative border, in territory under Croatian-Slavonian authority, a new suburb, Sušak, developed and served as a sort of Croatian counterpart to the Italian-speaking enclave of Fiume. United in curbing Croatian political incursion into the corpus separatum, Fiume’s local elite and the Hungarian authorities enjoyed a quite successful “honeymoon” in the first decades after 1868. However, towards the turn of the century, things began to change, partially due to Fiume’s increased size and importance, partially in response to Budapest’s increased efforts to centralize its kingdom. 

The result was the formation of a new local political group, the Autonomists, who collected ever more votes by advocating self-government for Fiume, something the Hungarian metropole was not willing to concede. The Autonomists were also an expression of an emerging middle class that, through appeals to the Italian language and local patriotism, sought to maintain at least the existing system of self-government. The only Hungarian port and the only official Italian-language territory thus became something of a political issue for Hungary. Furthermore, Hungarian political alliances and domestic instability affected the local scenario. A first split inside the Autonomist Party occurred during the parliamentary elections of 1901. While the then-leader of the Autonomist Party, Michele/Mihály Maylender, supported the former Hungarian governor as candidate for the lower house of the Hungarian Diet, another group advocated the election of Riccardo Zanella (Fiume, 1875–Rome, 1959) as a genuine Fiumian candidate. The former Hungarian governor won the election, but it was the start of a division of the party into two factions, one close to the former Liberal Party, and another closer to the Coalition Parties. As the Coalition Parties’ candidate, Zanella, now champion of the Autonomist Party, won a parliamentary seat in 1905 and again in 1906.15 After the overthrow of the Coalition government, the Autonomists split between István Tisza’s supporters and opponents and created two rival factions: the Autonomist Party and the Autonomist League. Tisza’s opponents, the Autonomist Party, held the majority in the municipal council until 1911, when the body was dissolved by order of the prime minister. The newly elected Autonomist League council majority lasted until 1913, when the governor commissioned the municipal council, inciting a few Italian irredentists to plant a bomb at the Governor’s Palace. Tisza’s autocracy increased political animosity, enhancing the appeal of Italian irredentism among a segment of Fiume’s youth. Radical action was an expression of politically active youngsters who were members of Giovine Fiume (Young Fiume) and who considered the Italian nation-state a real alternative state structure to the Kingdom of Hungary. As we will see, some members of that political minority would become important in the events after 1918. 

New elections were held in 1914, again resulting in a majority on a municipal council hostile to Tisza and in the election of Zanella as mayor. The mayor’s election by the municipal council had to be confirmed by the king, but Zanella’s mayorship was rejected by Franz Joseph under the influence of higher Hungarian authorities. After Italy’s entry into the war on the side of the Entente, and evident conflicts between Budapest and Fiume regarding the city’s self-government rights and the degree of centralization,16 elections for the complete renewal of the municipal council were held in July 1915. With only one official list of candidates, ethnic Hungarians gained a significant number of seats in the municipal council for the first time.17 Antonio Vio (Fiume, 1875–Bolzano, 1949), the Fiumian parliamentary deputy elected in 1911 as representative of the Autonomist League (the pro-Tisza faction), became a municipal councillor and was chosen as the city’s wartime mayor. After parliamentary by-elections in the autumn of 1915, Vio’s parliamentary seat was filled by Andrea Ossoinack (Fiume, 1876–Merano, 1965),18 another champion of the Autonomist League.  

The municipal council continued to operate throughout entire war, exposing its (Hungarian) Habsburg loyalty. As Vio stated after accepting the position of mayor, “we will find the best protection for all our heritage [Fiumian language and rights, author’s note] only in faith to the Nation and in sincere attachment to the Hungarian state which arose and made this city flourish.”19 Symbolically, in 1916, Fiume’s main promenade was renamed to honour the recently deceased Franz Joseph, while just a few months beforehand the municipal council had decided to award honorary citizenship to Tisza.20 At the same time, Italian citizens, Fiumians, and prominent members of political and cultural associations considered potentially hostile to the Hungarian state were arrested and sent to camps in the Hungarian hinterland. Local Italian historiography recalled the pressure and persecution from the Hungarian state police, which replaced the municipal police in 1916. Additionally, food shortages made the situation in the city difficult.21 Reasonably, the end of the war was perceived as a moment of relief and freedom. 

From Hungarian State Presence to Italian Annexation 

During the four years of war, nine municipal council mandates became vacant due to deaths and resignations. Thus, in September 1918, the last Habsburg-era by-elections were held. These elections were considered almost worthless, according to a local newspaper, since half the voters were still conscripted and there was only one list of candidates, which represented mostly, if not exclusively, the upper social strata.22 On the contrary, a significant part of the electorate turned out,23 but the period of political participation within the existing local Habsburg-Hungarian system was brought to an end by subsequent events. The newly elected had the opportunity to attend only two sessions of the municipal council, since the events of October 1918 changed the entire system of power. When Emperor Karl’s federalization manifesto was read in the Hungarian House of Representatives on 18 October, Fiumian deputy Ossoinack declared that Fiume would not become part of Croatia and the city, of Italian character, would adhere to its right to self-determination, demanding that historic rights be respected.24 A day later, the Central Committee of the SCS National Council in Zagreb also rejected the emperor’s manifesto, asking for the union of all its people in their ethnic territory. Fiume, or rather Rijeka, was listed as part of this ethnic territory. In Fiume itself, the atmosphere became tense. Five days after Ossoinack’s speech, following a Croatian (Yugoslav) national manifestation in Sušak, regular military troops of Croatian nationality clashed with the Hungarian state police, provoking the assault by many citizens on the prison and the local court. Furthermore, the events of 23 October were an opportunity for night-time looting of stores.25 The riots would become another expedient propaganda device with which to demonstrate the potential violence the Croatian menace would direct towards Italian Fiume. Meanwhile, the Hungarian prime minister resigned, making the situation precarious on both the central and the local levels. On 29 October, in a meeting called by the mayor, many civic representatives decided to confirm Antonio Vio as acting mayor and to create an (Italian) National Committee under the chairmanship of Antonio Grossich (Draguccio/Draguć, 1849–Fiume, 1926).26 The next day, the Italian National Council, enlarged by new members, confirmed the mayor once more, declared the municipal council’s mandates terminated, and took its place.27 On 29 October, the Croatian Sabor dissolved all ties with Cisleithania and the Kingdom of Hungary and proclaimed Dalmatia-Croatia-Slavonia with Rijeka as an independent state, recognizing the SCS National Council as its supreme authority. That day, the Hungarian Governor, left without instructions, handed over the Governor’s Palace to representatives of the SCS National Council of Rijeka-Sušak. As the name indicates, the SCS National Council perceived the two separate administrative units as a nationally unified entity. However, the SCS National Council was composed mainly of figures active in Sušak, the actual challengers to the Fiumian municipal elite, while the Italian National Council was comprised of Fiumians.28 The two national councils established relations, and on 30 October the head of the Sušak District, Konstantin Rojčević, took office as Commissioner for Rijeka and Sušak, designated by the SCS National Council in Zagreb. A day later, the lawyer Rikard Lenac (Rijeka, 1868–1949) was designated high sheriff (veliki župan) of Rijeka and the district by the SCS National Council in Zagreb and claimed the prerogatives of the former office of governor without abolishing Fiumian local civic institutions.29 The Italian National Council argued that, with the Hungarian state’s presence terminated, the city, as a legal body, was free to decide its own future. For the SCS National Council, Fiume was part of the newly proclaimed South Slav state with its own newly established institutions. Despite the legal dispute, the predominance of one national council over the other was determined rather by the progress of events. As in the case of the governor, the Hungarian central institutions abandoned their offices without any opposition. The state police force, introduced in 1916, was disbanded by the Hungarian prime minister on 29 October and replaced by a civil guard created under the authority of the city.30 On the other side, Croatian Habsburg military units and Croatian youth volunteers organized in a national guard recognized the SCS National Council as the political authority to which they owed allegiance. None represented a war-winning party, and the Italian National Council, fearing usurpation, asked for the intervention of the Italian army. On 4 November, an Italian fleet came to town “to protect the Italians,” albeit without landing troops. On 15 November, two Serbian battalions arrived in Fiume, taking charge of the Croatian troops there. After negotiations with Italian occupational authorities, and following orders from superiors from the Entente, the Serbian army retreated. On 17 November, the city of Fiume was occupied by Italian troops, some American soldiers, and British officers, making the occupation an Interallied one. The Italian general dismissed the Croatian high sheriff from the Governor’s office and recognized the Italian National Council as the only local authority.31 This way, the transition to the South Slav state was sidelined as a potential option. In the following days, French troops, commanded by a general with a higher rank than the Italian general, arrived in the town to establish a logistical base for the Armeé d’Orient. In response, the Italian government substituted their general with another of higher rank than the French one. Fiume, which was not promised to Italy in the Treaty of London, became a contested object between Italy and the newly forming South Slav state. However, these were not the only contestants. 

In July 1919, tensions between the Italian National Council’s armed group, pro-Italian civilians, and Italian and French soldiers escalated, resulting in the death of a few Vietnamese soldiers, members of the French colonial troops. The Entente forces reacted, creating a commission that decided that most of the Italian armed units had to leave Fiume. Fearing that the city’s annexation to Italy was threatened, the Italian National Council hailed D’Annunzio’s arrival in September 1919—doing so without opposition from the Italian army. Soon, the Interallied units abandoned the city, but the Italian National Council’s plan to force the Italian government to proclaim annexation was a failure. Peace talks continued until the end of 1920, while D’Annunzio tried to transform the town into his own political project antithetic to liberal democracy.32

When a treaty was signed between the Kingdom of Italy and the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes in November 1920, D’Annunzio and his legionnaires were forced to leave the city after a brief conflict with the Italian army in the late December of 1920. The Italian National Council had to prepare elections to hand over power to a new, to-be-elected government of the Fiumian Free State. The Free State of Fiume was politically unstable, however, due to the fierce rivalry between Italian annexationists and Fiumian Autonomists, with the annexationist group substantially continuing to hold onto power on the local level. Although the April 1921 elections gave the majority to the Autonomists, this faction was able to exercise power in Fiume only from October 1921 to March 1922, subsequently languishing in exile in the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes. Negotiations between Italy and the Kingdom of SCS reassumed, and another peace treaty was signed at the beginning of 1924, marking the official annexation of the city to Italy. 

The Italian National Council 

Though the membership of the Italian National Council increased following the events of October 1918,33 the real political power was held by an Executive Committee, elected by members present at the meeting of 29 October 1918. By the end of 1918, the ten-member Executive Committee had been enlarged by another eight figures, followed by a further three in January 1919 and five more in June 1919.34 None of the first ten members of the Executive Committee had participated in the municipal council elections of July 1915 or September 1918.35 Six had been deputies of the municipal council in previous years, while others appear to have never been elected previously.36 On the other side, the Committee’s eight new members, chosen before the end of 1918, were largely deputies elected in May 1915, among them the mayor from 1914 and the former deputy for Fiume in the Hungarian parliament.37 Among the three figures chosen in January, none of them were municipal councillors elected in 1915 or in 1918. However, one had previously been elected a member of the municipal council in the Habsburg era, one had a family member who had been elected in 1915, and one had both been previously elected and had a family member elected.38 The final enlargement in June 1919 was undertaken at the request of Fiumians who had fought in the war as Italian army volunteers. The group was composed of a younger generation, with the exception of Mario Blasich, elected municipal councillor in 1914, who did not actually accept the position on the Executive Committee of the Italian National Council.39 The Executive Committee included two others who had never been elected previously,40 while six were members of the irredentist association Giovine Fiume.41 Only three had no political experience at all, though two were engaged in the city’s social life as members of an association that promoted Italian language and culture.42 Thus, the Executive Committee was mostly made up of individuals with previous political experience and institutional familiarity with the local Hungarian power structure. This group was joined by elements of the former Italian irredentist movement, some of whom had fought as volunteers in the Italian army. There was no complete continuity between the wartime municipal council and the Italian National Council, and a revolution—in terms of the rise to power of an entirely new elite—certainly did not occur. Ethnic Hungarian municipal councillors completely disappeared, and with them the majority of the elected municipal councillors from 1915. Magyars and “Magyarons” did not transform into fake Italians; rather, some political figures, formerly champions of state-loyal autonomism, now presented themselves as Italian patriots. Simultaneously, an Italian irredentist minority was beginning to advance thanks to the status gained on the battlefield as Italian volunteers.43

This side-switching did not go unnoticed by contemporaries. The presence of an old-new elite was recognized by a local Croatian newspaper which attacked, in articles written in Italian, members of the Italian National Council for their former Habsburg patriotism. The president of the Italian National Council, the physician Antonio Grossich, was criticized for his conduct during the war, but also for his alleged Croatian ethnic origins. Still, Grossich’s Italian annexationist position was eased by his forced removal from the town by the Hungarian authorities in 1915.44 Someone who found himself in a more difficult position was the wartime mayor Antonio Vio. Not only had he championed the Autonomist League before and during the war, but his father and brothers had aligned themselves with Croatian national ideals and hence he found himself labelled a political and moral acrobat.45 Former parliamentary deputy Ossoinack, on the other hand, was attacked on ethnic grounds.46 As Ljubinka Karpowicz has noted, the two were mentioned alongside four other members of the Executive Committee as affiliates of the Hungarian Masonic lodge Sirius.47 The champions of Italian annexation had thus previously held positions of socio-political prestige and power in the Habsburg-Hungarian system and had tried to maintain it.  

The preservation of power and the lack of change to the elite is precisely the subject touched upon by opponents of the Italian National Council. In an Autonomist pamphlet published in 1920, the champions of the Italian National Council are labelled former Tisza supporters and Habsburg loyalists.48 Furthermore, the old-new elite were publicly accused of obtaining economic advantages in the transition period by the incorrect management of supplies which had been stocked in city warehouses for the former Austro-Hungarian army. In line with political ideals adapting to new contingencies, from October–November 1918 to a large part of 1919, even for the followers of the Autonomist Party, annexation to Italy was unquestionable. What was controversial was rather the scenario in which (yet-to-be) past Habsburg figures among the most loyal to the government in Budapest led the Italian National Council and the economic malfeasance of the transition period. 

Hence, the Italian National Council needed more legitimization; its authority was even questioned abroad by the Entente’s special commission investigating the violence in July 1919. And so new elections were to be organized. Unsurprisingly, they were held at a moment favourable to the new-old elite. When diplomatic negotiations over Fiume’s future seemed to have failed to bring Italian annexation, D’Annunzio was invited to the city by the Italian National Council in September 1919. A month later, in October 1919, elections were organized for the municipal council, which would function both as the municipal council and the Italian National Council. For the first time, the right to vote was extended to citizens of both sexes over the age of 20. Though women gained passive and active political rights, they only received three of the 56 seats and were the least voted-for. More than 68 per cent of the electorate voted for the sole list present, that of the National Union.49 Significantly, the Autonomist Party officially abstained from proposing candidates, calling on their supporters to vote for the only list to demonstrate that the population of Fiume wanted annexation to Italy.50

The newly elected municipal council included figures without previous political experience and was more socially diverse than the previous councils.51 Besides the female presence and some newly represented professions—for example in the form of a few journalists, a carpenter, and a tobacco factory worker—other figures maintained or regained their political positions. Former parliamentary deputy Ossoinack and at least fifteen other councillors had already been elected in previous ballots.52 Additionally, four other deputies had family members that had been elected previously.53 Though there were cases of representatives that had previously been affiliated with the Autonomist League, only two councillors had been members of the 1915–18 municipal council. The political elite most loyal to the former Hungarian state was sidelined, but its place was not taken over entirely by a new one. The new municipal council/National Council was a combination of the Autonomist Party’s old members, former members of the Italian irredentist youth, and ascendant figures of the Italian nationalist and soon-to-be fascist movement.54 A detailed analysis of less-known councillors’ biographies could provide further data on their political, social, and associational engagement before 1918, helping us to understand the reasons for their involvement with the National Council. Currently, it seems that the majority were not so popular, or were considered politically irrelevant. This points to one reason why, in the 1921 Constituent Assembly election, the Nationalist Bloc advanced the candidacies of only half of the municipal councillors elected in October 1919. 

Though the 1921 election criteria were similar to those for the 1919 elections, women were completely excluded as candidates, social diversification decreased, and the figures proposed by the Nationalist Bloc were mainly those who had been politically established before 1914.55 Furthermore, one former member of the 1919 city council and the Italian National Council aligned with the Autonomist Bloc, running as their candidate.56 The annexation movement was not so solid, and the international treaties and the ousting of D’Annunzio certainly shaped the revival of political options.57 Moreover, two years of economic uncertainty and D’Annunzio’s political experimentations conditioned the electorate to favour political options that promoted a return to normality. However, the political options that opposed Italian annexation did not appear suddenly when the Free State was established. Alternative political agendas had already appeared in October 1918, when alleged and presumed national belonging was becoming the main option. 

(A)national Alternatives 

Local Socialists’ response to the collapse of Habsburg state institutions was almost immediate. Juxtaposed to the two National Councils, the local Socialists established a Workers’ Council on 30 October 1918.58 The Workers’ Council was the local Socialist Party’s class-based response to ideas driven by the nationalist and bourgeois elites. The thirty-one council members were mainly industrial workers and trade union representatives whose highest institutional activity had been with the Workers’ Sickness Fund.59 The Socialists had been on the institutional fringes of Fiumian local society in the late Habsburg era and were challengers to the consolidated elites. The Workers’ Council, recalling President Wilson’s principles of self-determination, asked the Italian National Council for a plebiscite regarding the city’s future. The right to vote in the plebiscite had to be extended to all people 18 years of age and older, of both sexes, resident in Fiume for at least one year, regardless of their nationality. The Socialists’ position on the plebiscite, without naming the options, became more elaborate in the days that followed. When Italian troops entered the town on 17 November 1918, the Socialists organized a public meeting at which they voted against any annexation of the city, instead calling for the establishment of Fiume as a free, independent republic under the protection of the Socialist International.60

Though class-based, the Socialists’ attitude towards the old-new elite in the city was still ambiguous. They protested against Croatian annexation plans and recognized the Italian National Council as the local political power. At the end of October 1918, the Workers’ Council established an armed unit, the Red Guards, that collaborated with the Italian National Council in guarding municipal storehouses. That way, the Socialists gave a sign that the Italian National Council was to some extent the successor to the municipal council. Their very recognition of this demonstrates that the Socialists were still thinking within legal Habsburg-Hungarian terms. For instance, they declared that the Workers’ Sickness Fund had to be autonomous and rejected intervention by the Italian National Council or Zagreb in its affairs.61 For the Socialists, the Empire and its institutions were not yet dead. If criticism in a local Italian newspaper is to be taken seriously, then the Socialists still continued to display their dynastic loyalty in November 1918: Emperor-King and Empress-Queen portraits still hung inside the building of the Socialist-controlled Fund.62 For the Italian nationalist newspaper, the Socialists were “non-Italians” and “black-yellow” patriots. But the Socialists gave their own reading of the corpus separatum experience in class terms. Instead of Italian self-determination, the city had to become an independent republic.  

The Socialists continued to support the idea of a free state in the years to come, when the party transformed into the Communist Party of Fiume in 1921. In one of the last letters written to the Communist Party of Italy in 1923, the local Communists called for mass action against the annexation of Fiume to Italy.63 The Socialists, and later the Communists, sought to maintain the previous international and local pre-1918 status by supporting the alternative option of a free state on class grounds, something they considered similar to the city’s late-Habsburg autonomy. This position was backed by their unwillingness to become part of Italy. That solution would mean the destruction of the city’s economy, and the Socialists believed that—given the multinational character of the population— annexation to a nation-state was the wrong solution. As the Socialist leader Árpád Simon affirmed in an interview published in September 1919, “Fiume is an international centre, a convergence point of various races [to be understood as ethnicities or nationalities, author’s note], for whom a political regime based on neutrality is suitable.”64

One may argue that this internationalistic position was due to a lack of “Italians” among the Socialists. Compared to the other political options, the Socialist leaders were “more Hungarian,” as Simon and Samuele Mayländer were. Yet the Socialist and Communist base was not exclusively or even mostly made up of ethnic Hungarians—despite the fact that some of them became well known later, such as the Seidenfeld and Blüch sisters.65 Regarding the ethnicity of these families, their Jewish origins should probably be stressed more. For instance, the mass gathering in November 1918 was attended by more than a thousand workers and May Day 1919 saw the participation of thousands of people, regardless of their nationality. On both occasions, speeches were delivered in Italian, Croatian, and Hungarian, demonstrating the multinational character of the Socialists’ supporters. 

Despite its nationally inclusive character, the Socialist and Communist political option still remained on the margins. Weak connections with revolutionary Budapest, the presence and strength of right-wing military and paramilitary units in Fiume, a lack of support or interest on the part of international socialist/communist organizations—and even the lack of local radical revolutionary stances—all played a role in sidelining local Socialists and Communists in the local political arena.66

In the political arena more generally, Hungarians and pro-Hungarian forces almost vanished during the transition period, pushed aside by the power struggle between the respective supporters of a Croatian, an Italian, and an independent state.67 However, there was a minor attempt worth noting. In 1920, Desző Dárday (Bratislava/Pressburg/Pozsony, 1869–Budapest, 1922), a member of the former governors’ staff, wrote a small pamphlet stating that the region from Raša/Arsia in Istria (part of the Austrian half of the Empire before the war and controlled by Italy from 1918 on) to Vinodol in the Croatian Littoral (in the Hungarian half of the Empire and part of the semi-autonomous Kingdom of Croatia-Slavonia before the war, controlled by the Kingdom of SCS after 1918) had to become a territory with self-government, controlled by an administrative organ delegated by the Italians of Fiume, Hungary, and Yugoslavia, that is, the Kingdom of SCS.68 The Hungarian presence in this “condominium,” as Dárday named it, was justified by former Hungarian state investments, by the economic importance of Fiume for the hinterland, and by the stability Hungary could provide in a territory disputed between Italy and Yugoslavia. Dárday’s proposal, as we will see, had similarities with another free state concept, but was more marginal. Contingent events are again the key to understanding why that solution was unfeasible. With revolution, counter-revolution, and the reduction of the Kingdom of Hungary to a third of its pre-war size after 1920, the Hungarian state faced internal and external challenges that precluded any significant initiatives regarding Fiume. And Hungarians in Fiume flowed out, much as their state had. By the time of the December 1918 census, the Hungarian-speaking population had fallen by 2,000, resulting in the disappearance of many of the 1915 pro-Hungarian elements from the political arena and the accusation that some of them had Bolshevik tendencies—something that was not viewed favourably by the Italian occupation authorities.69 The vacuum opened by the disappearance of the Hungarian state and more generally the Habsburg Empire was partly filled by the (re)emerging Autonomist movement. 

Returning to the immediate post-war weeks, another challenger to the Italian National Council materialized in the political arena. In November 1918, Ruggero Gottardi/Gotthardi (Fiume, 1882–Diano Marina, 1954), a former Habsburg military officer and hitherto a politically unengaged trader, published an open letter questioning the Italian National Council’s political legitimacy and advocating a free state solution for the city instead. From 1919 on, this included an enlarged territory of roughly the same extent as Dárday’s plan.70 Though in his letter Gotthardi was open to Fiume becoming a South Slavic protectorate if that would protect the city’s autonomous rights, the text’s crucial element was its emphasis on Fiumian patriotism. As he put it, true Fiumians were of different ethnic origins but Italian speakers and had to put economic interests before political divisions.71 Thus the city’s mainly Italian character was implicit for Gotthardi, but he maintained that national character was not antithetic to economic interests and the freedom of other nationalities within Fiume. The Italian National Council’s annexation plans were contested from this same system of ideas: the city’s historical existence as a corpus separatum and its specific national/multinational character. While for the Italian annexationist elite the historical experience of municipal autonomy was the justification for Fiume’s annexation to Italy, for Gottardhi that was exactly why the city should be independent. 

Regarding their social extraction, Gotthardi’s political faction was made up of traders, figures employed in maritime businesses, and some Fiumian patrician families, and his option was even supported by dock workers.72 According to a report from the Autonomist Democrat Party’s general congress held in August 1919, the number of party delegates rose to 121.73 The congress’s low numbers were compensated by the 950 Fiumian voters—over a third of the pre-1918 electorate—who sent a request to Paris in May 1919 to internationalize Fiume. The Autonomist Democrats’ lack of political followers has to be related to Gotthardi’s political inexperience; Gotthardi himself was not keen on engaging in politics. In a political flyer published after the coup d’état of March 1922, he stated that his party was named “Autonomist Democrat” in hope of having as its leader the one “who always wanted the full liberty of Fiume: Zanella.”74 Gotthardi’s idea of an independent state and the Fiumian Socialists’ agenda certainly had an impact on the population. According to a British report from May 1919, aside from the Croatian and Italian annexation option, roughly one third of the population of Fiume and Sušak favoured the free state solution.75 A few weeks later, this option seemed achievable: the French–Italian conflict resulted in the July violence and its victims, the consequent forced departure of most Italian armed forces, the planned arrival of police officers from Malta, and potential British support represented a moment when the free state solution had the strongest prospects of realization.76 This is largely why the Italian National Council needed D’Annunzio, or another figure, to keep the idea of annexation to Italy afloat. 

Still, in 1918 and 1919, the majority of the Fiumian political elite aligned themselves with the Italian National Council. They clearly considered annexation the likeliest, fastest, and simplest solution. Their Italian national engagement could help them maintain the positions of power they had held previously.77 The Socialists had opposed annexation, in part because they wanted to overthrow the existing liberal system with a class-based one, but also for national and economic reasons. The latter issue was the same reason why Gotthardi’s party had been created in the first place. The Autonomist Democrats believed that Fiume could not flourish without a larger hinterland and, moreover, could not fend off Trieste’s economic rivalry. The working class and the lower-middle and middle classes would be hit hard by the city’s shift from Hungary’s main port to a peripheral Italian town. Further, they acknowledged that the population was not only made up of Italians, and that the Italians of Fiume were different from those within the Kingdom of Italy. All these contradictions cannot be understood without considering a key figure in the entire transition period: Riccardo Zanella. 

Riccardo Zanella was the main local political figure in the Habsburg era, the leader of the Autonomist Party from 1901, elected twice as the Fiumian deputy to the Hungarian Parliament, and chosen by the municipal council as mayor in 1914—though, as we have seen, his election was not confirmed by higher authorities. For more than a decade, Zanella and his party monopolized the civic administration and city affairs. As a professional politician, Zanella had a mass following and managed to present himself publicly as a man of the people, in contrast to other local politicians. Frequently advocating the idea of universal (male?) suffrage, he had the broadest range of sympathizers across class and linguistic divides. During the World War, he was sent to the front, captured in Russia in 1916, and then, upon being sent to Italy, began representing the Italians of Fiume in Italy. When the Habsburg Empire fell, Zanella was still in Italy, far from Fiume, and thereby did not participate in the initial formation of the Italian National Council. Nonetheless, quickly and quite publicly the council offered Zanella an official position. Zanella returned in December 1918 and was welcomed by a meeting organized by the Italian National Council. At that meeting, attended by a large crowd, Zanella declared himself explicitly in favour of the city’s annexation to the Italian “motherland,” arguing that Fiume would still become a maritime outlet for other nations.78 Even if many of his contemporaries considered his speech a little temperate in terms of annexationist fervour, no one doubted that he was aligning himself with the annexationists. 

As time passed, however, Zanella came into conflict with some of the Italian National Council’s personalities. The rifts were not ideological, but personal. Zanella resented not being given leadership within the Council—and not having exponents of his wing in the Autonomist Party as members of the National Council Executive Committee—and so quickly became the champion of the free-state movement.79 Zanella’s “flexible” political leanings were apparent to all between 1918 and 1920. As Gotthardi wrote in a flyer published after the March 1922 coup, in May 1919, Zanella stood on the annexationist side, allegedly hoping to become a prefect of a Fiumian province, given the hoped-for extension of the Italian administrative system to the city. In September 1919, when D’Annunzio marched into Fiume, Zanella backed the poet-soldier, hoping to become the political chief of the town.80 Undoubtedly, Zanella had strong ambitions and a very high political appeal, proven at the Constituent Assembly elections. Despite divergent electoral results—and a lack of precision—the Autonomist coalition undoubtedly achieved a great victory.81 Certainly, the desire for stability contributed to Zanella’s victory, but his political potential and knowledge were key elements of his coalition’s achievement. The Autonomist coalition had at least fifteen former municipal deputies, including Zanella himself, and a few figures with family members as former deputies.82 Thus, Zanella could still count on former Autonomist Party followers with their economic capital and social resources. This is also why there were cases of Italian National Council members that passed over to Zanella’s side.83 Nevertheless, Zanella’s triumph could not be completed without mass support obtained by gathering individuals from the lower and middle classes and by presenting the bloc as a genuinely popular faction opposing local high society.84 The annexationist National Bloc was certainly not elitist, but the main candidates were prominent and established figures in the local community, such as Antonio Grossich, Andrea Ossoinack, and Antonio Vio. They also included former irredentists and emerging figures of what would become the new fascist post-annexation elite.85

Zanella’s democratic victory transformed into an unconstitutional defeat, for the free state option was no longer in the international interest. Lacking real support from the Italian state, which was fundamentally interested in annexing Fiume, and with the city lacking any armed forces of its own, the free state option was hard to realize. Thus, local nationalists and even more so local Fascists became the main political elite, physically and symbolically ousting the advocates of a free state solution. Although various Autonomists exponents returned to Fiume from exile in the Kingdom of SCS on the eve of the city’s annexation to Italy, they remained politically insignificant. On the other hand, the integration of Fiume and its (nationalistic) political elite into newly fascist Italy is still a chapter to be written. 

Annexation to a nation-state as a contingent outcome 

This essay has shown that there was not a clear or straightforward evolution from previous Hungarian state loyalties to Italian annexationist nationalism, nor from autonomism to Italian nationalism. Rather, the international political situation influenced, enhanced, but also weakened certain political options. Obviously, there were political actors strongly committed to certain solutions: most Fiumian Italian army volunteers advocated annexation to Italy, yet the creation and the success of other, alternative political options was influenced by international, national, state, regional, or class support, all of which shifted greatly back and forth between late 1918 and the final resolution of the Fiumian question in 1923–24. Class-based projects, such as the Fiumian Republic under the Socialist International, or alternatives to nation-state annexation, such as Gotthardi’s project and the Free State of Fiume, could persist only when and if backed by other external factors. Since neither Italy nor the Kingdom of SCS were truly interested in supporting Fiume as an independent state and it was not a priority for other states and international actors either, supporters of a free state thus wound up on the defeated side of the post-Habsburg transition period. 

However, social and political transformations inside Habsburg-Hungarian society also affected the development of new and old post-1918 elites. The possibility of creating political capital in the late Habsburg period and exploiting it further after the Habsburg Empire’s downfall has to be taken into account when dealing with such a transition period. Nor should generational differences and generational shifts be forgotten. Certain minor political groups were convinced well before the First World War that the disappearance of the Empire was for the best, but most of them were young and had limited political influence. That group’s rise was rather due to the unexpected fall of the Empire in the autumn of 1918, and not vice versa.  

The social and political features of the aforementioned transition period were not specific to Fiume, while the political capital accumulated by the Autonomists in the early twentieth century was probably the most characteristic component of local political history. 

While before 1918 Fiumian autonomism was characterized by defence of the Italian language and self-government under Hungary, from late 1918 on it was either interpreted as proto-Italian nationalism or transformed into a struggle for self-determination and independence for the city of Fiume. Fascist violence and the fascist regime added another layer to the local political specificity. While the Autonomist-led Free State disappeared under fascist violence, the Autonomists presented themselves as antifascists and among the first victims of fascism. The endurance of Fiumian autonomism is related to the tough economic situation Fiume faced during the fascist regime as a periphery of the Italian state, and by the city’s belonging being challenged once more during the Nazi occupation (1943–45), all of which was tied to the remembrance of a prosperous past not so distant, a past when the Autonomists administered the city. Additionally, autonomism had a longer political legacy than fascism and institutionalized political legitimization thanks in large part to the 1921 elections. Thus, a variously understood notion of “autonomy” remained influential among locals until the end of the Second World War, when a new radical caesura meant a fundamental change from the Italian fascist regime and German Nazi occupation to socialist Yugoslavia. 

Ivan Jeličić obtained his PhD in History at the University of Trieste in 2017, defending a thesis on socialism in late Habsburg Fiume/Rijeka. From September 2018 to January 2023, he was a postdoc researcher within the European Research Council (ERC) project “NEPOSTRANS: Negotiating post-imperial transitions,” based at the Institute of Political History in Budapest. From February 2023 he is Assistant Professor (docent) at the Department of Italian Studies Department of the Faculty of Philosophy and Social Sciences in Rijeka. He collaborates on the project Rijeka in Flux: Borders and Urban Change after World War II, an international and interdisciplinary research project initiated by the University of British Columbia, Okanagan. His research interests are the political and social transformations between the 19th and 20th centuries and transition processes from the Habsburg Empire to the new states in the Upper Adriatic, particularly in the Rijeka area.  

  1. In the text I will refer to the city as Fiume and not Rijeka, since the term Rijeka can semantically include a larger territory than Fiume as a corpus separatum. ↩︎
  2. For a recent detailed account of the D’Annunzian period, see Federico Carlo Simonelli: D’Annunzio e il mito di Fiume. Riti, simboli, narrazioni [D’Annunzio and the Myth of Fiume. Rituals, Symbols, and Narratives]. Pisa 2021. ↩︎
  3. For the social, legal, and economic aspects of Fiume’s post-imperial transition up to 1921, see Dominique Kirchner Reill: The Fiume Crisis. Life in the Wake of the Habsburg Empire. Cambridge, Massachusetts 2020. ↩︎
  4. Danilo Klen (ed.): Povijest Rijeke [The History of Rijeka]. Rijeka 1988, p. 285. ↩︎
  5. Klen: Povijest Rijeke, p. 290.  ↩︎
  6. Silvino Gigante: Storia del Comune di Fiume [The History of the Municipality of Fiume]. Florence 1929. For a recent Italian-language monograph focused on city’s 20th century, mostly the first half, see Raoul Pupo: Fiume città di passione [Fiume City of Passion]. Bari–Rome 2018.  ↩︎
  7. On national indifference, see Tara Zahra: Imagined Noncommunities. National Indifference as a Category of Analysis. In: Slavic Review 69 (2010) 1, pp. 93–119 and Tara Zahra, Pieter M. Judson: Sites of Indifference to Nationhood. In: Austrian History Yearbook 43 (2012), pp. 21–27. ↩︎
  8. “Elites” are defined as that “small group of persons who exercise disproportionate power and influence” and who, thanks to their location in powerful institutions, organizations, and movements, are able to shape or influence political outcomes. See John Higley: “Elites,” In: Encyclopedia Britannica, <>, 17.1.2023. By contrast, challengers are simply defined as those who contest elites’ positions. ↩︎
  9. Erez Manela: The Wilsonian Moment. Self Determination and the International Origins of Anticolonial Nationalism. New York 2007. ↩︎
  10. On rethinking the end of the Habsburg Empire, see P. M. Judson: The Habsburg Empire. A New History. Cambridge (MA), London 2016, pp. 385–453; P. Judson: “Where our commonality is necessary…”. Rethinking the End of the Habsburg Monarchy. In: Austrian History Yearbook 48 (2017), pp. 1–21. See also: Jernej Kosi: Summer of 1919: A Radical, Irreversible, Liberating Break in Prekmurje/Muravidék? In: Hungarian Historical Review, 9 (2020) 1, pp. 51–68 and Gábor Egry: Negotiating Post-imperial Transitions. Local Societies and Nationalizing States in East Central Europe. In: Paul Miller, Claire Morelon (eds.): Embers of Empire. Continuity and Rupture in the Habsburg Successor States after 1918. New York 2019, pp. 15–42.  ↩︎
  11. For Fiume’s regional identification before Dualism, see Mario Maritan: National Indeterminacies at the Periphery of the Habsburg Monarchy: Nationalisms versus Multi‐ethnic Identities in Fiume/Rijeka and Trieste, 1848–1867. In: Nations and Nationalism, 27, 1, 2020, pp. 1–15. ↩︎
  12. Ljubinka Karpowicz: Riječki corpus separatum 1868–1924 [Rijeka’s Corpus Separatum 1868–1924]. Ljubljana 1986; W. Klinger: Negotiating the Nation. Fiume: from Autonomism to State Making (1848–1924). Fiesole 2007. ↩︎
  13. In the 1904 elections for the Fiumian deputy to the House of Representatives, around 6% of the entire population were eligible to vote (2.550 out of almost 39,000 according to the census of 1900). See: Le elezioni municipali – Le liste elettorali [The Municipal Elections – the Election Lists]. In: La Bilancia [The Balance], 20 February 1904, p. 2. ↩︎
  14. According to the last Hungarian census, the population per mother tongue was divided as follows: 48.6% Italians, 26% Croatians, 13% Hungarians, 4.6% Germans, 4.7% Slovenes, and 3% others. Again, according to that census, more than 20% of the entire population (including those who spoke Hungarian as their mother tongue) knew the Hungarian language. See: A Magyar Szent Korona Országainak 1910. évi népszámlálása [The 1910 Census of the Countries of the Hungarian Holy Crown], vol. 42. Budapest 1913, p. 42.  ↩︎
  15. On Zanella, see Amleto Ballarini: L’antidannunzio a Fiume. Riccardo Zanella [The Anti-D’Annunzio in Fiume. Riccardo Zanella]. Trieste 1995.  ↩︎
  16. For an interesting study of the border police in Fiume, as part of the Budapest vs. Fiume conflict, see Ágnes Ordasi: Borderline Syndrome in Fiume. The Clash of Local and Imperial Interests. In: Hungarian Historical Review 11 (2022), 2, pp. 387–421.  ↩︎
  17. Edoardo Susmel: La Città di passione. Fiume negli anni 1914–1920 [The City of Passion. Fiume in the Years 1914–1920]. Milan 1921. ↩︎
  18. For a critical overview of Ossoinack’s biography, see Krešimir Sučević Međeral: Businessman – The Case of the Ossoinack Family and Fiume. In: Collegium antropologicum, 41 (2017), p. 4, pp. 351–361.  ↩︎
  19. Original: “(…) la migliore tutela di tutto questo patrimonio, noi lo troveremo soltanto nella fiducia verso la Nazione e nello attaccamento sincero allo Stato ungarico che ha fatto sorgere e fiorire questa città. In: Avvisatore ufficiale del Municipio di Fiume, Protocollo V [Official Announcer of Rijeka Municapility, Protocol V], 2 September 1915, p. 2. ↩︎
  20.  Ballarini: L‘antidannunzio a Fiume, pp. 95–96. ↩︎
  21. For the wartime period in Fiume, albeit from a post-war Italian propaganda perspective, see E. Susmel: La Città di passione. ↩︎
  22. I candidati ai seggi rappresentatizzi [The Candidates to the Council Seats]. In: Il Giornale [The Newspaper], 26 September 1918, p. 2. ↩︎
  23. Around 300 people voted. See Elezioni suppletiorie [ Supplementary elections]. In: Ibid., 28 September 1918, p. 2. For comparison, in the by-elections of 1907 around 500 voted. See Ancora sull’elezione di ieri [More on the Election of Yesterday]. In: La Bilancia, 25 May 1907, pp. 1–2. ↩︎
  24. Antonella Ercolani: Da Fiume a Rijeka. Profilo storico-politico dal 1918 al 1947 [From Fiume to Rijeka. Political-historical Profile from 1918 to 1947]. Soveria Manelli 2009, p. 55. ↩︎
  25. I gravi fatti di ieri [Yesterday’s Serious Events]. In: Il Giornale, 24 October 1918, p. 2. ↩︎
  26. L’ora storica di Fiume [The Historical Hour of Fiume]. In: Ibid., 28 October 1918, p. 2.  ↩︎
  27. Il momento storico di Fiume [The Historical Moment of Fiume]. In: Ibid., 29 October 1918, p. 2. ↩︎
  28. For the list of members of the Committee of the SCS National Council of Rijeka–Sušak, see Nenad Labus, Viktor Ružić: “Moje uspomene [My Recollections].” In: Dometi [Ranges], 19 (1986) 4, p. 61. ↩︎
  29. According to Željko Bartulović, when the Croatian Sabor dissolved all ties with Hungary, the former governor was no longer recognized by the Croatian authorities as a representative of an existing authority. Thus, Lenac did not replace the Hungarian governor, but assumed a newly established office. See: Željko Bartulović: Talijanska okupacija Sušaka 1918. – 1923. [The Italian occupation of Sušak, 1918–1923]. In: Ivan Jurković (ed.): Bertošin Zbornik [Essays in Honor of Miroslav Bertoša], Vol. 3, Pazin-Pula, 2013, p. 166.  ↩︎
  30. La polizia di stato sospende la sua attività [The Police Interrupts Its Activities]. In: Il Giornale, 29 October 1918, p. 2 ↩︎
  31. As Klinger notes, he could do that because the Italian National Council was recognized by the Italian authorities as the administrative continuation of the municipal council. W. Klinger: Germania e Fiume. La questione fiumana nella diplomazia tedesca [Germany and Fiume. The Question of Fiume in German Diplomacy]. Trieste 2011, pp. 20–21. ↩︎
  32. See Enrico Serventi Longhi: The Father of ‘Sovereignism’: d’Annunzio in Fiume between the Crisis 
    of Liberalism and the Critique of Democracy. In: Modern Italy 27 (2022), pp. 35–47.  ↩︎
  33. See the list of 284 members and another 11 ad honorem published in Danilo L. Massagrande (ed.): I verbali del Consiglio Nazionale Italiano di Fiume e del Comitato Direttivo [The Records of the Italian National Council of Fiume and the Directive Committee]. Rome 2014, pp. 558–561. ↩︎
  34. See the list published in Massagrande (ed.): I verbali del Consiglio Nazionale Italiano, p. 561. I have excluded the Italian poet Sem Benelli from the counts. ↩︎
  35. There are no publications that collect all the local electoral results for the entire Dualistic period. A partial exemption is Elezioni per le cessate rappresentanze [Elections for the Ceased Councils], without place or date of publication, and attributed to Stanislao Dall’Asta, with mainly handwritten names of deputies until 1904. For the other elections I rely on newspaper articles: Elezioni suppletorie [Supplementary elections]. In: La Bilancia, 27 December 1905, p. 2; Ancora sull’elezione di ieri [More on the election of yesterday]. In: Ibid., 25 May 1907, pp. 1–2; Le elezioni di oggi [The elections of today]. In: La Bilancia, 30 December 1908, p. 1; Le elezioni di ieri [Yesterday’s elections]. In: Ibid., 14 April 1910, pp. 1–2; La città ha parlato. L’opinione pubblica ha trionfato [The city has spoken. The public option triumphed]. In: Ibid., 16 May 1911, pp. 1–2; Le elezioni amministrative suppletorie. La vittoria della Lega autonoma [The supplementary local elections. The victory of the Autonomist League]. In: Ibid., 30 December 1912, p. 1; Confusionismo [Confusions]. In: Ibid., 28 February 1914, p. 2 and Gradski izbori na Rieci [Local Elections in Rijeka]. In: Novi List [New List], 27 July 1915, p. 2.  ↩︎
  36. In brackets the year of their last election: Antonio Grossich (1914), Giovanni Schittar (1914), Adolfo Gotthardi (1914), Lionello Lenaz (1910), Silvino Gigante (1907), and Isidoro Garofolo (1904). Annibale Blau, Elpidio Spiringhetti, Salvatore Bellasich, and Francesco Codrich had not previously been members of a municipal council. ↩︎
  37. Francesco Gilberto Corossacz, Giovanni Rubinich, Andrea Ossoinack, Ugo Venuti, and Antonio Vio were elected in 1915. John Stiglich had last been elected in 1914, while Luigi Nicolich and Gino Sirola had not previously been members of a municipal council. ↩︎
  38. Attilio Prodam, Idone Rudan and Icilio Baccich were chosen as members. The father of Attilio Prodam, Giovanni Prodam, had been elected a councillor in 1915, as had Idone Rudan’s cousin, Aldo Rudan. Baccich Icilio and Rudan Idone had both been elected councillors in 1910.  ↩︎
  39. Riccardo Gigante (Fiume, 1881–1945), Mario Blasich (Fiume, 1875–1945), Giovanni (Nino) Host-Venturi (Fiume, 1892–Buenos Aires, 1980), Enrico Burich (Fiume, 1889–Modena, 1965) and Iti Baccich (Sušak, 1892–Rome, 1954). For short biographies of these figures, see Salvatore Samani: Dizionario biografico fiumano [Biographical Dictionary of Fiume], Dolo Venezia 1976, pp. 30–31, pp. 38–40, pp. 43–46, pp. 64–68 and pp. 79–83. ↩︎
  40. Riccardo Gigante and Giovanni (Gino) Sirola were candidates for the Italian Youth in 1911. Gigante: Storia del Comune di Fiume, p. 144. ↩︎
  41. Annibale Blau, Salvatore Bellasich, Attilio Prodam, Nino Host Venturi, Enrico Burich and Iti Baccich appear in the list published by Attilio Prodam: Gli Argonauti del Carnaro, pp. 371–378. ↩︎
  42. Luigi Nicolich and Elpidio Springhetti appear as members of Circolo letterario [Literature Circle] from 1911 to 1914. See Archivio Società di Studi fiumani-Roma, 4/64 bis, Circolo Letterario di Fiume, invitations to congresses of the society with list of members, 1911–1914. ↩︎
  43. For some considerations on this group, see Ljubinka Toševa Karpowicz, The “State of Rijeka” of the Italian National Council (23 November 1918-12 September 1919). In: Angela Ilić, Florian Kührer-Wielach, Irena Samide, and Tanja Žigon (eds): Blick ins Ungewisse: Visionen und Utopien im Donau-Karpaten-Raum 1917 und danach. Verlag Friedrich Pustet: Regensburg, 2019. ↩︎
  44. Grossich Antonio. In Samani: Dizionario biografico fiumano, pp. 71–77. ↩︎
  45. See also the critique of Vio’s previous political engagement noted by Henry Baerlein, who labelled him “the turncoat mayor”. Henry Baerlein, The Birth Of Yugoslavia, Volume II. London 1922, pp. 57–59.  ↩︎
  46. Nuove edizioni [New editions]. In: Primorske novine, 6 February 1919, p. 3. ↩︎
  47. Lj. Karpowicz: Rijeka pod vlašću Talijanskog nacionalnog vijeća (23.XI.1918. – 21.IX.1919.) [Rijeka under Italian National Council Rule]. In: Sušačka revija [Sušačka Magazine] (2018), p. 107. ↩︎
  48. See the accusation in Tønnes Ore: Indeficienter. Questioni di politica fiumana [Fiumian political issues]. Fiume 1920, pp. 6–11. ↩︎
  49. What should be stressed is the different participation rates between the urban district and the suburban districts. Jointly, 68% of the electorate voted. In the city, however, almost 76% voted, compared to 55% in the suburban districts. The Italian newspaper emphasized that 80% of the electorate voted for the list, since some deceased or absentees were still on the electoral roll. See: Il voto di ieri afferma dinanzi al mondo folle e vile la volontà di Fiume: Annessione [Yesterday’s ballot affirms the crazy and worthless world of Fiume’s will: Annexation]. In: La Vedetta d‘Italia [Italian Lookout], 28 October 1918, p. 2. On the position of women in Rijeka, see Francesca Rolandi: A never requested triumph? Reframing gender boundaries in Fiume and Sušak after 1918. In: Italia contemporanea Yearbook, 2020, pp. 11–36.  ↩︎
  50. Ore: Indeficienter. Questioni di politica fiumana, pp. 26–28.  ↩︎
  51. See the candidates’ names, generally with their occupation, published in: La Vedetta d’Italia [Italian Post], 25 October 1919, p. 2.  ↩︎
  52. Adriano Cattalinich (1918), Attilio Depoli (1914), Isidoro Garofolo (1904), Antonio Grossich (1914), Luigi Maroth (1914), Ariosto Mini (1914), Edoardo Mondolfo (1902), Andrea Ossoinack (1915), Ugo Pagan (1911), Giuseppe Pus (1907), Idone Rudan (1910), Giovanni Schittar (1901), Giuseppe Sussain (1901), Stefano Tuchtan (1912), Giovanni Villich (1910), and Pietro Zandegiacomo (1901). ↩︎
  53. Iti Baccich’s brother, Carlo Brazzoduro’s father or brother, Riccardo Gigante’s brother, and Attilio Prodam’s father. There is also a case of a civil deputy Serdoz, but this surname was quite common at that time in Fiume. ↩︎
  54. Members of the Giovine Fiume included Salvatore Bellasich, Annibale Blau, Carlo Colussi, Carlo Conighi, Vittorio Farina, Riccardo Gigante, Giovanni (Nino) Host Venturi, Clemente Marassi, Carlo Minca, Attilio Prodam, and Giovanni Rusich. It is interesting to note that Vittorio Farina, one of the founders of Giovine Fiume, had been a member of the local socialist movement during the late Habsburg era.  ↩︎
  55. For the list of candidates with their professions, see La Vedetta d’Italia, 22 April 1921, p. 2. ↩︎
  56. This is the case of Annibale Blau. Additionally, Raimondo Kucich’s wife and brother were members of the Italian National Council in 1919, while he was the candidate of the Independentist Bloc in 1921. It is interesting to note that, in the 1921 elections, the Klinz family split: the father was with the Nationalists, while the son stood for the Independentists. ↩︎
  57. For a list of parties in the annexation camp, see Daniel Patafta: Privremene vlade u Rijeci (listopad 1918. – siječanj 1924.) [Provisional Government in Rijeka (October 1918 – January 1924)]. In: Časopis za suvremenu povijest [Journal of Contemporary History], 38 (1), p. 213.  ↩︎
  58. Si costituisce il consiglio degli operai [The Workers’ Council is established]. In: La Bilancia, 31 October 1918, p. 1. ↩︎
  59. For the biographies of the members of the Workers’ Council, see Ivan Jeličić: Uz stogodišnjicu riječkog Radničkog vijeća. Klasna alternativa nacionalnim državama na sutonu Monarhije [On the Centenary of Rijeka’s Workers Council. A Class Alternative to the Nation-State at the Dusk of the Monarchy]. In: Časopis za povijest Zapadne Hrvatske [West Croatian History Journal] 12 (2017), pp. 63–85. ↩︎
  60.  Dite sul serio? [Are you serious?]. In: La Bilancia, 19 November 1918, p. 2.  ↩︎
  61. Per l’autonomia della Cassa distrettuale di Fiume [For the autonomy of the District Fund of Fiume]: In: La Bilancia, 16 November 1918, p. 2. ↩︎
  62. In punta di penna [From the tip of the pen]. In: La Bilancia, 27 November 1918, p. 2. ↩︎
  63. Luciano Giuricin, Mihael Sobolevski (eds.): Il Partito comunista di Fiume – Komunistička partija Rijeke 1921–1924. Documenti -Dokumenti [The Communist Party of Fiume 1921–1924. Documents]. Vol. II. Rijeka, Rovinj 1981, p. 187.  ↩︎
  64.  “(…) Fiume è un centro internazionale, un punto di confluenza di varie razze, a cui conviene un regime politico basato sulla neutralità (…) Fiume, repubblica libera ed indipendente [Fiume, free and independent republic]. In: L‘Avanti [Forward], 27 September 1919, p. 1. ↩︎
  65. Sara Galli: Le tre sorelle Seidenfeld: Donne nell’emigrazione politica antifascista [The Three Seidenfeld Sisters. Women in Antifascist Political Emigration]. Florence–Milan, 2005 and W. Klinger: Un fronte unico da Trieste a Salonicco [A Single Front from Trieste to Thessaloníki]. In: Quaderni, CRS-Rovigno [Quaderni – Yearbook of the Center for Historical Research in Rovinj], 24 (2014), 227–231. Regarding the ethnicity of these families, their Jewish origins should probably be stressed more. ↩︎
  66. There were also some who switched sides in the following years. For instance, some members of the 1918 Socialist Workers’  Council sided with the Italian Republicans or, later, with the fascist regime. ↩︎
  67.  On the last Hungarian to act as governor and on Hungarian civil servants, see Ágnes Ordasi: Egan Lajos naplója – Impériumváltások Fiumében a kormányzóhelyettes szemével (1918–-1920) [The Journal of Lajos Egan: Changes of Empire in Fiume through the Eyes of the Deputy Governor (1918–1920)]. Budapest 2019, and Á. Ordasi: “Scale e Serpenti”? Le condizioni dei rappresentanti del potere dello Stato ungherese dopo la Grande guerra. [“’Snakes and Ladders”? The Situation of the Representatives of Hungarian State Power after World War I] In: Qualestoria. Rivista di storia contemporanea [Qualestoria. Contemporary History Magazine], 48 (2020), 2, pp. 93–112.  ↩︎
  68. D. Dárday: The Solution of the Fiume Question. London, New York, Budapest 1920. ↩︎
  69. Luigi Emilio Longo: L’esercito italiano e la questione fiumana (1918-1921) [The Italian Army and the Fiume Question (1918–1921)]. Vol. 1, Rome, 1996, pp. 86–87. ↩︎
  70. Ljubinka Karpowicz: Biografia politica di un autonomista. Ruggero Gottardi [Political Biography of an Autonomist. Ruggero Gottardi]. In: Quaderni, Vol. VII, Rovigno 1983–84, pp. 39–64; Ruggero Gottardi: Ruggero Gottardi (Fiume, 1882–Diano Marina, 1954). In: Quaderni, Vol. XVI, Rovigno 2004, pp. 395–477. ↩︎
  71. Archivio Societa di Studi FIumani, Fondo Zanella: 1.4.5, Lettera aperta a tutti i veri fiumani [Open Letter to All the Real Fiumians]. ↩︎
  72. Ivan Jeličić: Za slobodnu državu prije Slobodne Države, razmatranja o riječkoj Autonomnoj demokratskoj stranci / Per lo stato libero prima dello Stato libero, considerazioni sul Partito autonomo democratico fiumano [For a Free State before the Free State. Reflections on the Autonomous Democratic Party of Fiume], 80–100. In: Danko Švorinić (ed.), Zbornik radova s međunarodnog znanstvenog skupa povodom 100 godina od osnutka Slobodne Države Rijeka / Raccolta di atti del convegno scientifico internazionale per i 100 anni di fondazione dello Stato libero di Fiume [Proceedings of the International Scientific Conference for the Centennial of the Foundation of the Free State of Fiume], Rijeka 2021.  ↩︎
  73. HR-DARI-53, Riječka kvestura, Questura di Fiume, A8 – Sovversivi della Provincia, Fasicolo persnale di Percovich Giuseppe, Partito Autonomo Democratico Fiumano, Relazione del Congresso Generale. ↩︎
  74. HR-DARI-53, Riječka kvestura, A1 – information, personal file of Giuseppe Bruss, Concittadini! [Fellow Citizens!], no date. ↩︎
  75. Klinger: Negotiating the Nation, p. 169. ↩︎
  76. Klinger: Germania e Fiume, p. 31. ↩︎
  77. As Dominique Kircher Reill’s book makes quite clear: Kirchner Reill: The Fiume Crisis. ↩︎
  78. Il memorabile comizio di ieri. Il discorso dell’on. Zanella [Yesterday’s memorable meeting. The speech of honorable Zanella]. In: La Bilancia, 13 December 1918, pp. 1–2. ↩︎
  79. Ballarini: L’antidannunzio a Fiume, p. 117. ↩︎
  80. HR-DARI-53, Riječka kvestura, A1 – information, personal file of Giuseppe Bruss, Concittadini! [Fellow Citizens!], no date. ↩︎
  81. As Attilio Depoli counted, 6,114 voted for the Autonomists and 3,440 for the annexationists. For Zanella, the results were 8,000 to 2,800, while Gotthardi stated that the total votes were 6,478 to 3,524. Attilio Depoli: Incontri con Facta e Mussolini. Pagine fiumane dai ricordi di un dittatore involontario [Encounters with Facta and Mussolini. Fiuman Pages from the Memories of an Involuntary Dictator]. In: Attilio DepoliFiume 30 ottobre 1918. Scritti scelti [Rijeka 30 October 1918. Selected Writings], ed by Mario Dassovich, S. Giovanni in Persiceto 1982, p. 270; Ballarini: L’antidannunzio a Fiume, p. 238; Gottardi: Ruggero Gottardi, p. 443.  ↩︎
  82. Mario Blasich (1914), Romualdo Capudi (1914), Luigi Duimich (1914), Mario Jechel (1910), Davide Klein (1914), Ignazio Krieger (1914), Raimondo Kucich (1910), Giovanni Mahla (1914), Angelo Martich (1914), Ignazio Milcenich (1914), Donato Mohovich (1911), Matteo Paicurich (1910), Sennen Raicich (1910), Aldo Rudan (1915) and Riccardo Zanella (1914). Additionally, Giuseppe Cante’s, Giuseppe Dalmartello’s, and Dante Walluschnig’s fathers were former municipal deputies. Also, Giovanni Duimich (deceased in 1917) elected councillor in 1915, was probably related to Giovanni Duimich (Fiume, 1879), elected in 1921. There are further former representatives that were elected in 1921, but their position was slightly different since they represented the electors of the districts.  ↩︎
  83. Nicolò Biasi, Mario Blasich, Annibale Blau, Ernesto Branz, Romualdo Capudi, Antonio Crulcich, Giovanni Duimich, Luigi Duimich, Elmirio Frankl (Franchi), Mario Jechel, Giovanni Mahla, Ignazio Milcenich, Otmaro Peters, Leone Spetz-Quarnari, Alcide Steffich, Isidoro Turk, Dante Walluschnig, and Antonio Wolf were all members of the Italian National Council.  ↩︎
  84. For the names and the professions of the Autonomist candidates, see Fiumani! [People of Fiume!]. In: Fiume dei Fiumani [Fiume to the People of Fiume], 23 April 1921, p. 1. ↩︎
  85. For the names and the professions of the annexationist bloc, see Blocco nazionale [The National Bloc]. In: La Vedetta d’Italia, 21 April 1921, p. 1. ↩︎