Free Territory of Trieste

From Academic Kids

The Free Territory of Trieste (Italian Territorio Libero di Trieste, Slovenian Svobodno tržaško ozemlje, Serbo-Croatian Slobodna teritorija Trsta) was a neutral state of 738km2 with approx. 330,000 inhabitants consisting of the city of Trieste, a small part of Istria and a narrow strip of coastal land connecting it to Italy. Established after World War II in 1947 as a part of the Treaty of Peace With Italy, it was formally dissolved and divided between Italy and Yugoslavia in 1954.


In 1921 Italy formally annexed parts of Austria-Hungary it captured in World War I, including Trieste, Istria and what is now western Slovenia. In 1925 Italy also annexed Rijeka (Fiume in Italian). The rural area was populated by Slovenes in the north and by Croats in the southeast, while Italians constituted the majority of inhabitants in Trieste, Rijeka and the towns of Istria. During the 1920s and 1930s the Slavic population complained of a severe Italianization and discrimination under the Italian Fascist regime. They were also exposed to violence, including the burning of the Slovene National Club (Narodni Dom) in Trieste on July 13, 1920, as an immediate answer to killing of two Italian sailors by Yugoslav gendarmerie in the course of riots in Split.

Many Slovenes and Croats emigrated to Yugoslavia, while some joined the TIGR resistance organization, whose methods included more than 100 terrorist actions in Trieste and surroundings during the 1920s and 1930s. At the same time, ethnic Italians and Germans living in Yugoslavia complained of discrimination and persecution and many of them also emigrated.

Italy fought with the Axis powers in World War II. When the Fascist regime collapsed in 1943 and Italy capitulated, Slovenia and Croatia (that were to become parts of the Yugoslavia) formally annexed the territory, but German forces occupied it. The Yugoslav 4th Army together with the Slovenian 9th Corpus captured Trieste on May 1 1945. New Zealand and British Allied forces arrived on the next day. Under international pressure, Yugoslav troops left Trieste on June 12.

On February 10, 1947, a peace treaty was signed with Italy, establishing the Free Territory of Trieste. The territory was, however, divided into two zones: Zone A, which was 222.5 km² and had 262,406 residents including Trieste, which was administered by British and American forces, and Zone B, which was 515.5 km² with 71,000 residents including northwestern Istria, and which was administered by the Yugoslav National Army. The Territory thus never functioned as a real independent state. Even so, its formal status was respected and it issued its own currency and stamps.

According to the estimates published by the Allied Military Government, as of 1949 in the A zone there were about 310,000 inhabitants, including 239,200 Italians and 63,000 Slovenes. Contemporary Italian sources give much lower numbers for Slovenes (32,000-40,000).

According to the Yugoslav census of 1945 (considered unreliable by the Western Allies), in the part of Istria which was to become Zone B there were 67,461 inhabitants, including 30,789 Slavs, 29,672 Italians and 7,000 people of unidentified nationality. According to contemporary Italian sources, in zone B there were 36,000-55,000 Italians and 12,000-17,000 Slavs.

In 1954 a "Memorandum of Understanding" was signed in London. It gave a provisional civil administration of Zone A (with Trieste) to Italy and Zone B to Yugoslavia. In 1975 the Treaty of Osimo was signed in Osimo, definitively dividing the former Free Territory of Trieste between Italy and Yugoslavia.


During the late 1940s and in the years following the division of the territory, up to 40,000 Italians chose to leave the Yugoslav B zone and move to the A zone or Italy for various reasons - some were intimidated into leaving and some simply preferred not to live in Yugoslavia. In Yugoslavia, the people who left were called optanti, while they call themselves esuli or exiles. About 14,000 Italians chose to remain in the Yugoslav zone, now part of Slovenia and Croatia.

External links

pl:Wolne Terytorium Triestu sl:Svobodno tržaško ozemlje


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