Greater Italy

Greater Italy ("Italian: Grande Italia"), or Imperial Italy, was an ambitious project envisioned by fascist Italy in which the objective was to create an Italian empire which would expand, in addition to the irredentist claimed territories (Corsica, Nice, Dalmatia, Malta), to additional Mediterranean basin territories with Italian colonial or immigrant populations or within the Italian sphere of influence, such as Albania, Montenegro, northern Tunisia and northern Libya. The intent was to create an Italian state where non-Italian sections were to be assimilated and Italian colonization would be promotedFact|date=June 2008. The expansion to these territories would have allowed Italy a chance to regain dominance in the Mediterranean Sea, lost since the fall of the Roman Empire.


After his appointment as Governor of the Dodecanese in 1936, the fascist leader Cesare Maria De Vecchi started to promote within Mussolini's Fascist Party an idea [Baioni, Massimo. "Risorgimento in camicia nera". pag. 47] of a new "Imperial Italy" (in Italian: "Italia Imperiale"), one that, like the Roman Empire, went beyond Europe and included northern Africa (the Fourth Shore or "Quarta Sponda" in Italian).

De Vecchi's dream was an Imperial Italy that included not only all the European territories wanted by the Italian irredentists (Nice, Savoy, Ticino, Venezia Giulia, Dalmatia, Corfu, Malta and Corsica) and populated by Italian communities for many centuries, but even the north African territories (Libya and Tunisia), where Italian emigrants had created "colonies" in the late nineteenth century.

After 1936 and during WWII, the Greek Dodecanese islands were also included in the project (with the Ionian islands of Zante, Ithaca, etc.) and the fascist regime soon promoted a process of forced Italianization of these Greek islands [Del Boca, A. "Le guerre coloniali del fascismo". p. 71; Galeotti, Carlo. "Credere obbedire combattere - I catechismi fascisti". p. 72] .

The opinions of De Vecchi were partially accepted [Baioni, Massimo. "Risorgimento in camicia nera". p. 73] by Mussolini in the 1940s, when Italy entered WWII, but found opposition (and scepticism) in the King of Italy, Victor Emmanuel III.

In 1942, with the Italian occupation of Corsica and Tunisia, the territories of the "Greater Italy" dreamed of by the fascist De Vecchi were fully in Italian hands, with the exception of Malta, but the project was not politically implemented because the war was turning against the Axis powers [Blitzer, Wolf. "Century of War". p.125] .

First step: the Dodecanese

De Vecchi effected the first step towards an "Italia Imperiale" (or "Grande Italia") when in 1936 , as Italian Governor of the Dodecanese islands, he imposed official use of the Italian Language and created a colony of 7,000 Italians in Rhodes and surrounding islands. [ [,M1] . Italian rule in the Dodecanese: 1912-1943] In 1940 he was appointed to the Grand Council of Fascism where later, during the Italian occupation of Greece, he proposed that the Kingdom of Italy annex the Dodecanese and Ionian islands, with the island of Chios, which had once belonged to the Republic of Genoa.

econd Step: the Fourth Shore

Another fascist leader, Italo Balbo, promoted actively the development of Italian communities in coastal Libya, after the country was pacified from an arab guerrilla war. Balbo called Tripolitania and Cyrenaica the "Quarta Sponda" (Fourth Shore) of Italy in reference to the other three shores (the western, the Adriatic and the southern) of the Italian peninsula.

One of the initial Italian objectives in Libya, indeed, had been the relief of overpopulation and unemployment in Italy through emigration to the undeveloped colony. With security established, systematic "demographic colonization" was encouraged by King Victor Emmanuel III's government. A project initiated by Libya's governor, Italo Balbo, brought the first 20,000 settlers--the "Ventimila"--to Libya in a single convoy in October 1938. More settlers followed in 1939, and by 1940 there were approximately 110,000 Italians in Libya, constituting about 12 percent of the total population [Chapin Metz, Helen. "Libya: A Country Study". Chapter XIX] .

Plans envisioned an Italian colony of 500,000 settlers by the 1960s: so, the Italians would be 2/3 of the population in coastal Libya by then. Libya's best land was allocated to the settlers to be brought under productive cultivation, primarily in olive groves. Settlement was directed by a state corporation, the "Libyan Colonization Society", which undertook land reclamation and the building of model villages and offered a grubstake and credit facilities to the settlers it had sponsored.

In November 1942 Tunisia was also included in the "Quarta Sponda" (with nearly 100,000 Tunisian Italians), but a few months later it was occupied by the Allies.

Third step: the Western Balkans

In spring 1941 Mussolini - with the help of the German Army - finally defeated Greece and conquered coastal Yugoslavia.

General Vittorio Ambrosio, the commander of the Italian Army during the conquest of Yugoslav Dalmatia, created a military line of occupation from Lubiana to northern Montenegro that successively was to be considered as the future border of the "Greater Italy" in the North-Western Balkans. [Rosselli, Alberto. "Storie Segrete. Operazioni sconosciute o dimenticate della seconda guerra mondiale" p. 36] Within the borders to the south were included Fascist Montenegro, Greater Albania and the Principality of Pindus in Epirus.

De Vecchi promoted the inclusion of Corfu (with a significant community of the Corfiot Italians), the Ionian islands and the southern Aegean islands (once controlled by the Republic of Venice), in order to form an "arch" that stretched toward the Dodecanese and Chios (Once controlled by the Republic of Genoa).

In this De Vecchi project, the Western Balkans, from southern Slovenia to Chameria, would be Italian, similar to the much larger Nazi project for a Greater Germany in Eastern Europe with "living space" (Lebensraum) for German people.

A project that never materialized

In the 1940s, De Vecchi contemplated an "Imperial Italy" stretching: in Europe, from Nice to the Governatorato di Dalmazia in Dalmatia and possibly Greater Albania ( [ map] ), the Ionian islands, the Principality of Pindus in Epirus (northern Greece), the Dodecanese; and in northern coastal Africa, from Tunisia to Libya (the Fezzan of Libya was to be considered Colony of the Empire).

In a hopeful peace negotiation following an Axis victory, Mussolini had planned to acquire for his Greater Italia the island of Crete (that was mostly German occupied) and the surrounding southern Greek islands, connecting the Italian Dodecanese possessions to the already Italian Ionian islands.Fact|date=June 2008

South of the Fourth Shore), some fascist leaders dreamed of an Italian Empire that, starting in the Fezzan, would include Egypt, Sudan and reach Italian East Africa [Rosselli, Alberto. "Storie Segrete. Operazioni sconosciute o dimenticate della seconda guerra mondiale" pag. 49] .

The Allied victory in the Second World War ended these projects and terminated all fascist ambitions for the empire.

Italian peoples in the regions of "Greater Italy"

The presence of significant Italian communities in territories outside the Kingdom of Italy was used as a justification for the project "Greater Italy" [Lamb, Richard. "Mussolini as Diplomat". pag. 66] .

During the 1940s, there were the following Italian populations in the territories desired by De Vecchi and the fascistsFact|date=June 2008:

*Nizzardo Italians in the County of Nice: 4,000 - 9000 Fact|date=June 2008
*Savoy: less than one hundred
*Switzerland: 430,000
*Istria: 270,000
*Dalmatian Italians in Dalmatia: 50,000
*Corfiot Italians in Corfu and Ionian islands: 500Fact|date=June 2008
*Albania: 3,000 - 11,000 Fact|date=June 2008
*Principality of Pindus in northern Greece: --
*Dodecanese Italians in Greece: 7,015 (in 1936)
*Maltese Italians in Malta: 70,000Fact|date=June 2008
*Corsican Italians in Corsica: 40,000Fact|date=June 2008
*Libyan Italians in coastal Libya: 108,419 (in 1939)Fact|date=June 2008
*Tunisian Italians in Tunisia: 89,216 (in 1937)Fact|date=June 2008



* Baioni, Massimo. "Risorgimento in camicia nera". Carocci. Arezzo, 2006.
* Blitzer, Wolf. "Century of War". Friedman/Fairfax Publishers. New York, 2001 ISBN 1-58663-342-2
* Chapin Metz, Helen. "Libya: A Country Study". GPO for the "Library of Congress". Washington, 1987.
* De Felice, Renzo "Interpretations of Fascism" (translated by Brenda Huff Everett). Harvard University Press. Cambridge, 1977 ISBN 0-674-45962-8.
* De Felice, Renzo. "Mussolini l'Alleato: Italia in guerra 1940-1943". Rizzoli Ed. Torino, 1990.
* Del Boca, A. "Le guerre coloniali del fascismo" Laterza. Roma, 1991
* Galeotti, Carlo. "Credere obbedire combattere - I catechismi fascisti " Stampa Alternativa. Milano, 1996.
* Lamb, Richard. "Mussolini as Diplomat". Fromm International Ed. London, 1999 ISBN 088064244-0
* Payne, Stanley G. "A History of Fascism, 1914-45". University of Wisconsin Press. Madison, Wisc., 1995 ISBN 0-299-14874-2
* Rosselli, Alberto. "Storie Segrete. Operazioni sconosciute o dimenticate della seconda guerra mondiale" Iuculano Editore. Pavia, 2007

ee also

* Italia irredenta
* Cesare Maria De Vecchi
* Italian Mare Nostrum
* Fourth Shore
* World War 2
* The Libyan resistance movement
* Greater Albania
* Greater Croatia
* Greater Bulgaria
* The People's Liberation Army of Macedonia
* The Roman Empire

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