Corfiot Italians - Corfiot Italians and The Risorgimento

Corfiot Italians and The Risorgimento

The Italian Risorgimento was initially concentrated in the Italian peninsula with the surrounding continental areas (Istria, Dalmatia, Trentino, Nizzardo, etc.) and did not reach Corfu and the Ionian islands. One of the main heroes of the Italian Risorgimento, the poet Ugo Foscolo, was born in Zante from a noble Venetian family of the island, but only superficially promoted the possible unification of the Ionian islands to Italy.

The first newspaper of Corfu was in Italian: the official weekly newspaper (Gazzetta degli Stati Uniti delle Isole Jone) was first published in 1814. First in Italian, then in both Greek and Italian, finally from 1850 in Greek and English; and it continued for the entire duration of the English Protectorate until 1864.

According to historian Ezio Gray, the small communities of Venetian-speaking people in Corfu were mostly assimilated after the island became part of Greece in 1864 and especially after all Italian schools were closed in 1870.

However, the Italian language maintained some importance, as can be seen by the fact that poets like Stefano Martzokis (Marzocchi was the surname of the father, an Italian from Emilia-Romagna) and Geranimos Markonos, the first from Corf├╣ and the second from Cefalonia, wrote in Italian some of their poems in the second half of the 19th century.

The island of Corfu was a refuge for many Italians in exile during the Wars of Independence of Italy, like Niccol├▓ Tommaseo (who married Diamante Pavello-Artale, a Corfiot Italian).

After World War I, however, the Kingdom of Italy started to apply a policy of expansionism toward the Adriatic area and saw Corfu as the gate of this sea. Benito Mussolini developed an extreme nationalistic position in accordance to the ideals of Italian irredentism and actively promoted the unification of Corfu to Italy.

The Corfiote Italians, even if reduced to a few hundreds in the 1930s, were strongly supported by fascist propaganda and in the summer of 1941 (after the Italian occupation of the Ionian islands) Italian schools were reopened in Corfu city. During World War II Mussolini promoted an initial development of Italian irredentism in Corfu, similar to the one being promoted in Savoy.

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