Rijeka is the main seaport in Croatia, as well as its third largest city. It is located on the Kvarner Bay (Adriatic Sea) and has around 120,000 residents. During the nineteenth century, Rijeka was a part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. As the "Corpus separatum" of the Kingdom of Hungary, Rijeka had a semi-autonomous status within the Habsburg Empire until its fall in 1918.
At the end of World War I, there was a conflict between the rival Croatian (and Yugoslav) and Italian administrations in the city. Both Italians and Croats claimed sovereignty in Rijeka based on the size of their ethnic populations, and the question could not be settled at the Paris Peace Conference. In September 1919 Rijeka was occupied by a group of Italian nationalists, led by the poet and adventurer Gabriele D'Annunzio, who took control of the city by force and established a state called the Italian Regency of Carnaro. In November 1920, Italy and Yugoslavia concluded the Treaty of Rapallo, under which Rijeka became an independent state called Free State of Fiume, under a regime acceptable to both parties. D'Annunzio declared war against Italy, but was forced to surrender the city. Italian troops then took over in January 1921. After a period of instability, with local fascists impeding the function of the Free State of Fiume, the Treaty of Rome was ratified in January 1924. It assigned the administration of Rijeka (in practice the old Corpus separatum) to Italy and granted Yugoslavia part of the harbor; the river delta; and the neighboring town of Sušak, which is situated on the river's right bank.
During World War II, after Italians had occupied Sušak as well, the whole area experienced strong Partisan activity. This included attacks on supply columns, sabotage, and even the killing of civilians believed to be connected to the Italian authority. The partisans, both Italians and Croats, greatly intensified their actions after the Italian capitulation, when Rijeka became part of the Adriatic Littoral Zone of the Third Reich. One of the fiercest and largest battles in this area of Europe occurred in April 1945. Yugoslav troops finally entered Rijeka on May 3rd 1945, claiming victory. Rijeka then became part of Yugoslavia – a status formalized by the Paris peace treaty. Since 1991, after the Croatian War of Independence, Rijeka has been a part of Croatia.
|Photos of the previous destination|
Day 7 on our trip – Rijeka day. Since we had already slept in Rijeka one night, but hadn’t been able to see the city, we were very curious what the city of our Croatian colleagues would look like. Unfortunately, the sky was grey and it seemed to be on the verge of rain. Therefore, it was rather a spontaneous day...
In the morning we started with a sightseeing and history tour at the fountain in front of our hostel, Carnevale. Peter, a Croatian student, had already prepared a nice walk through the inner city of Rijeka. He also gave us a short historical chronicle of the city.
Everywhere in the city centre, especially close to the main pedestrian area called the Korzo, you see traces of the different regimes Rijeka has been a part of, Buildings in Art Nouveau style make you feel as if you are in the middle of Vienna. Down another alleyway, one finds a real Roman archway. Unfortunately, most of the Roman traces had previously been destroyed. The guided tour by Peter also leads us to the site of the old Austrian-Hungarian government, the building of Radio Rijeka, the revolutionaries square and the city tower with the very famous clock.
After our short walk we listened to a number of presentations. As many of us had been ill the days before and therefore didn’t have a chance to hold our presentations, we listened to all the missing topics in one morning. So we learned about Kobler (after whom a square in Rijeka is named), the Italian exodus in Pula, traces of the division of Rijeka from 1924 and the awakening of the Ustaša movement in the 1940s.
Later on, our bus driver, Ivo, took us up to the hills of Sušak, then to the Trsat castle, and finally to the University of Rijeka. The university has been built recently on a former army site. However, nearly all old buildings were destroyed and rebuilt new. We, the students from Regensburg, who are used to the dull, grey and quadratic design of our university, are impressed by this new and really nice university... At least Rijekas buildings have colours!!!
Similarly impressive was the menu we were offered in the canteen of the university. Different salads, soups, drinks, four different meals, cakes, fruits, etc. We could choose whatever and how much we wanted. Not only is the selection superior to the canteen in Regensburg – it is also much cheaper! And the Croatians even reserved a whole line for us alone!
On our short walk from the canteen to the gathering hall of the university we also recognized the negative aspects of the university building. The students told us that they spent the first semester in the new buildings without heating. Also, a number of buildings haven't been built yet because they didn’t have enough money. Currently, dorms for the students are missing; this is quite a problem because the university is located, as some of us mentioned, at the “end of the world,”, far above the city. In the gathering hall, which the students from Rijeka call “the wooden steps”, we presented the study trip in front of some interested students as well as the dean of the philosophical department.
Now, realizing that the last day of our trip had come to an end, everyone became a bit sad. Martin's pictures of the last days passed us by and more and more stories came to my mind. We visited so many places, met so many people – experts, students - and had so many impressions. It felt as if our study trip was some months long. On the other hand, time was running fast during this week and it felt unbelievable that this was already our last evening. I guess, seeing all these pictures let the team spirit between us students just grow more. Surprisingly, the dean promised to arrange an Erasmus connection to Regensburg. I think this is a really good development and a great opportunity for both universities.
Later Maja showed some of us the university building in detail. In the meanwhile, the others relaxed in front of the university and helped the guys from Coca Cola to finally call it a day by drinking all their advertised coke.
As the rain stopped we had a last joint walk to the castle of Trsat from which we had an overwhelming view over Rijeka and the Kvarner Coast. Most of us sat down for a coffee or a beer and enjoyed this view; others went back to the city to buy some presents for family and friends. The German group finished the day with the last joint meal at the restaurant next to the sea.
Since our departure to Germany was planned at 4.30 in the morning, we decided to spend the last hours in Rijeka not sleeping in our beds, but exploring the night life of the city. Most of us went back to the pedestrian bridge over the Riječina to hang out. Croatian and German students sat together in the middle of the old border and celebrated the successful and interesting journey we had together. Unbelievable, that this has been a former place of division.
Furthermore, we found that nightlife in Rijeka is mostly cheap. We found a nice café over the roofs of Rijekas Korzo where a live band played blues – no entry fee. We checked out several clubs and party boats – no entry fee. This is not comparable to nightlife in Regensburg. Later on, we ended up dancing in an Open Air Disco close to the sea until we had to hurry to catch the bus that would bring us to Zagreb, where we had to catch the train towards Germany. In conclusion, the last day was the perfect ending of our interesting, intensive and enjoyable study trip.
I didn’t go out last night: I got way too attached to my pillow watching cartoons and it led me straight to my own bed. As I write this, I feel sad because our Germans must leave for Regensburg today… Tonight, that is. They arrived at dawn and they must go at dawn and even earlier. I will forever remember Katarina and Pajo for our walk in Trieste, Magomed and Ricarda for their wonderful lectures, Manuela for a being a busy bee, Fabian and Martin for running across Pula for a hat… And speaking of Fabian, he was left with us at college today because we had to create a power point presentation about our study trip. I was merely typing, I must admit, and Nela, Manuela and Fabian did most of the thinking! The professors seemed satisfied, but Alexander said the power point was cliché. I guess that’s his way of being sorry we must part now… We visited the fortress on Trsat together and, from what I hear, it was raining… I guess I haven’t noticed. Professor Sabine and Fabian will stay here for another day, Professor Sabine even longer… I wonder if I’ll see them during their stay. If I do then I guess I will miss two Germans less…
|Diary of the previous destination|
The Liberation monument in Rijeka is one of the biggest and most distinct monuments in this area of Primorsko-Goranska County, but also in the whole of Croatia. It is especially important for the residents of Rijeka because it was built in honor of the city's Liberation Day, May 3, 1945.
The monument was revealed ten years later (May 4, 1955) on Delta in Rijeka, a place that can be thought of as a site of remembrance even without the monument – due to its location along the border of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia and the Kingdom of Italy. That border also separated the town into two parts: the city of Rijeka and the city of Sušak. This monument thus honors the liberation of Rijeka, but also the unification of Rijeka.
The monument is around 30 meters high and was built by the academic sculptor Vinko Matković with help from a number of casters, the engineer Mate Senjanović, workers of the "Jadran" company and employees of the crude oil refinery. Slavica Mrkić Modrić writes in "Novi List" how Matković built the obelisk of the monument in the form of the letter "T" to honor Tito. On top of the obelisk there are figures of fighters that "personify the power and success of the battle." The female figure Victory sits alongside them, her strong arms representing "the greatness of the freedom". At the bottom of the obelisk there are engravings on both sides. Those on the left side are "dedicated to the fallen fighters, victims of fascism", while those on the right tell a story "about recovery, work, agriculture and education in the time of freedom"(Kuljić 2006:33).
The symbolism of this monument is extremely important for the city of Rijeka and its residents, but what else does it contribute to? In his text "Kultura sjećanja" ("Culture of remembrance"), Todor Kuljić writes about the ideology of memory. By taking his theory under consideration, we might say that the Liberation monument contributes to the ideology of one period in the past, specifically the time when Rijeka was liberated from the fascist authority and became a part of Yugoslavia. Therefore, the monument itself praises the time of Yugoslavia, the time under Tito's dictatorship – the sculptor himself admitted that he built the monument in the shape of the letter "T" to honor, among everything else, Tito's reign. In fact, all states seek monumentalization and glorification in order to achieve political compliance. The number of invented state commemorations has therefore grown, eventually coming to dominate even religious holidays in terms of their importance (Kuljić, 2006, 33).
While some nation states wanted to monumentalize the "glory of the past", socialism was more directed towards future (Kuljić, 2006, 47). This trust in a better future is evident on the Liberation monument, especially on the carving on the right side that shows happier, more fulfilled moments that await the city that has just been liberated.
Pierre Nora writes that the aura of monumental places of remembrance comes from their exact location. However, monuments get their meanings from something Nora calls intrinsic existence – which means that wherever the monument is placed, its meaning will not be disrupted (Nora, 2006, 41). The location of the Liberation monument suggests its importance. It is placed on a spot where Rijeka was once separated into two parts, and now that the border has been erased, Rijeka is united. Nonetheless, even if the monument wasn't placed there, its main purpose – the expression of freedom and of trust in a better future – would stay the same because of its "intrinsic existence".
Based on the symbolism some places of remembrance carry, Nora makes a distinction between "dominating" and "dominated" places. The Liberation monument could be placed in the first category that implies spectacularity and triumph – everything this monument carries with itself and on itself. The problem with these kinds of places of remembrance is that they are usually enforced by state authority. Because of that, they often seem cold and official. Such places are not visited by people; people only come when they are convened there (Nora, 2006, 41). That is obvious with the Liberation monument – despite its purpose to remind the citizens of Rijeka of the gratitude they should feel because they live in the time of freedom, its only visitors are mainly tourists. Citizens visit the park that surrounds the monument, but for entirely different purposes, irrelevant to what the monument represents. The monument fulfills its purpose exclusively on the Liberation day (May 3rd) when people convene there for a commemoration.
The fact that the presence of the monument is in a way enforced implies that the memory it carries is also enforced. For Jan Assmann, that kind of remembrance is collectively conditioned, despite the fact that individuals are subjective carriers of the remembrance. Individual memory of a person is built through the process of communication. The purpose of individual memory is, however, collective – connecting the individual to a particular social group (Assmann, 2006, 53). The Liberation monument is here for all of citizens of Rijeka, but during the time it was revealed, its purpose was to connect residents of Rijeka to a bigger social group – Yugoslavia.
In fact, the Liberation monument fulfills the criteria of a figure of remembrance, according to Assmann. First, it's connected to a specific place and to a specific time. It is important that the collective remembrance has a specific orientation – in this case, it is oriented towards the monument. The localization is also obvious here – placing the monument in a spot where there was once a border. For a group that wants to consolidate itself, the goal is to build and provide areas that are symbols of its identity and its remembrance (Assmann, 2006, 54).
Furthermore, the monument is also connected to a specific group. The memory is connected to a real, living group because it depends on that group to survive. Leaving the place of remembrance to another group means forgetting, so every figure of remembrance (like the Liberation monument) is made with the purpose of maintianing a sense of historical continuity. Each group wants to last, and for this reason groups tend to imagine their histories as unbroken (Assmann, 2006, 55). Monuments help sustain this fiction.
Finally, the Liberation monument carries with itself a possibility of reconstruction, the third criteria of a figure of remembrance. The possibility of reconstruction implies that memory can't reflect the past as it is. Instead, it reflects the past in the settings of the era the particular group reconstructs that memory. History is always reorganized through the changing settings of the present. The purpose of memory is not only to reconstruct the past, but also to organize the experience of the present and the future (Assmann, 2006, 57).
The Liberation monument stands to remind the residents of Rijeka of the fact that they are "finally free". In each era, this monument will reconstruct the notion of freedom depending on the current situation – in other words, from whom is Rijeka liberated? At the time the monument was revealed, Rijeka was liberated from the fascist authority and became a part of Yugoslavia. In the 1990's, it was liberated from Yugoslavia and became a part of Republic of Croatia. No matter Rijeka's current situation, the Liberation monument will always celebrate both the moment of liberation, as well as the happier future that awaits the citizens "now, when they are finally free".
‘Istria? Where exactly is that? In Italy, right? No, wait... in Croatia, isn’t it?’ This or a question quite similar to it is often the response when you tell people today that you will be visiting Istria. It is legitimate to ask this question, considering that the recent history of the region has witnessed many partitions and broader disputes. For most of the second half of the twentieth century, the Iron Curtain between Italy and Yugoslavia divided families and neighborhoods formerly united. Dramatic transformations have reshaped not only the political geographies of Istria but also the demographic situation known as the Istrian “Exodus”.
Facts and Figures
Speaking of figures, 80 to 90 % of the Istrian Italians left the area by the beginning of the 1960s; the numbers vary between 250,000 and 350,000 people (1), depending on the source (2). The so-called Istrian “exodus” has been a political question ever since, which over the course of time has been met with more or less attention.
Closer observation shows four separate waves of departure: the first one took place in 1943, when the Italian regime collapsed and vulnerable army service men left, as well as those individuals most compromised by association with the fascist state (3). Then, at war’s end, several persons left because the Yugoslavs used force to install de facto control over the region by now divided into Zone A (under Allied forces control) and Zone B (under Yugoslav control). Pula remained as an exclave under Allied Military Government (AMG). In 1947 the Peace Treaty set an end to any hope that the borderlines could change again. Istrians now had to opt for a citizenship, becoming the so-called “optanti”: if they chose Italian citizenship, they had to leave. The final wave took place in 1954 when the Great Powers handed the government over to Italy and Yugoslavia. Both nations' governments considered the current borders permanent. This prompted a last big Exodus from those living in zone B (4, 5).
What were the reasons for leaving?
To cut a long story short, the Istrian Exodus was primarily fuelled by fears associated with the initial waves of violence right after the Second World War. In this context, the Slavs were depicted as brutal, treacherous barbarians torturing the civilized Italians. Articles published in Giornale di Trieste offer numerous examples. One such article describes the cruel behavior of Yugoslav communists towards the local Italian population and refers to the perpetrators as “human beasts” (2 October 1953) (6). Secondly, the newly installed communistic regime created a repressive, inquisitional atmosphere, where persons associated with the old regime were seen as suspicious. Thirdly, traditional social and cultural hierarchies were subverted following the war. If Italians wanted to be free to take part in their traditional Latin culture and religion and to continue in their lifestyle, they had to go. As more members of the Italian community started to leave, the tight network of habits and customs, especially religious ones, crumbled. (7)
Secondary reasons included social and economic factors. Italians historically had been part of the “owning class” and would now lose their property and status in the communist revolution. To slip down from the leading class to a minority, losing property and political participation rights in the process, was a shock for the Istrian Italians. They underwent a serious identity crisis, as their lives changed dramatically during the transition from war to peace. As Gustavo Corni puts it, a sense of being out of place, of not fitting into the modernization process that the new communist regime was promoting, was the main reason for leaving. (8)
In the case of Pula, 28,000 out of 32,000 inhabitants as well as 5,000 refugees from zone B emigrated during 1947. The Italian community as an entity was strongly compromised due to the fact that negotiations about the borderlines took place there and they were under AMG (9) control. (10) They could not feel safe in Pula: as an internal note from AMG staff concluded: “We cannot risk the Italian population being left to the mercy of incoming Yugoslavs”. (11)
On a broader scale the question of the Istrian Exodus has experienced different stages: right after the war Istria was a symbolic region for the Italian nationalists during the immediate postwar territorial dispute. After ‘54 this topic was mostly silenced due to diplomatic reasons. (12) The “esuli” (13) felt embittered when the nation had no further need of their symbolic capital and dropped their cause. Exile concerns rarely, if ever, appeared in both Italian (national) and Anglo-American historiography after '54. (14)
After the treaty of Osimo in 1975 finalized the agreement of the Great Powers, huge demonstrations on both sides of the border took place. According to Pamela Ballinger, the protest constitutes an important “memory of resistance” within the exiles narratives. (15) They felt and feel sold out in the name of good relations with Yugoslavia.
The irredentist struggle has never since ceded (especially in Trieste), not least because the "esuli" found that they were much less welcome in Italy than they had thought. Therefore they tried to be "more Italian than the Italians" (16) of Italy proper and became ultra-nationalists to finally be accepted. But their legitimacy still was questioned, which led to a reinforcement of their claim of purity. The Istrian Italians were generally confronted with the prejudiced assumption that they all were fascists; some felt so unwelcome that they left Italy for other countries.
Culture of remembrance
The key themes in narratives are mostly marked by the victimization of the Italians. We’ve seen many lieux de mémoire in Istria either for one side or the other; places where Slavs and Italians are commemorated at the same time are relatively rare. As an example the Foiba di Basovizza (17) is declared an Italian national monument (18) and well known in the whole of Italy, while the “T.I.G.R. monument of the heroes of Basovizza” (19), in the same town, is hard to find and only identified as a “monument of European interest” (20). Each of the monuments is clearly directed towards either the Slovenian or Italian public. The language used for descriptions of both monuments makes this quite evident. Exile communities who nurture a divisive history and refuse to rethink their viewpoint sustain these antagonisms.
In the field of literature, the writer Fulvio Tomizza (21) describes his childhood and the Istrian villages as paradise. In his perception there had never been conflicts amongst the multiethnic village population: the milk woman (Slovene) appears as an aunt, the peasant (Croat) who sells the family wood is like an uncle. Members of the educated class remember Istria as a big family. Slavs are seen in this picture as the grateful recipient of Italian magnanimity. (22)
Italians in fact held a cultural and economic hegemony. Therefore the communist revolution must have been a rather large shock to the Italians since it completely reversed this “master-slave relation”. A former worker rebelling out loud - “You won’t command anymore!” - produced fear. Slavs/partisans were associated with the terms “animals, woods, barbaric” whereas Italians were “human, culture, civilità”. Rumors created a climate of fear and insecurity and the mere threat of the foibe encouraged the Italians to leave. (23)
In this sense the exiles use the term “exodus” in a Christian portrayal of martyrdom and redemption when referring to their experiences. The common use of this term refers to the Israelites departure out of ancient Egypt as depicted in the Hebrew bible. Though in addition to this association the exiles can draw on a well-established genre of specifically “Italian” writings about exile dating from medieval and Renaissance periods. (24) The commemoration of Christian martyrs in art, architecture, as well as the visual a spatial topography generated a cult of saints. (25) As Pamela Ballinger puts it, these “comments also hold for the various sacred topographies constructed (and contested) in the Julian March.” (26)
A committee of history composed by Slovenes and Italians was set up in 1990 to examine and analyze all relevant aspects of the political and cultural relations between Italians, Slovenes and Croats during the last century. The committee (27) came to the conclusion that the “events were triggered by the atmosphere of settling accounts with the fascist violence; but, as it seems, they mostly proceeded from a preliminary plan which included several tendencies: endeavors to remove persons who where in one way or another […] linked with Fascism, with the Nazi supremacy, with collaboration and with the Italian state and endeavors to carry out preventive cleansing of real, potential or only alleged opponents of the communist regime and of the annexation of Venezia Giulia to the new Yugoslavia.” (Thesis 11, part III) (28)
Anyone opposed to the new system could become a target, evidently, not only Italians. Finally, the commission concluded that the Italian population “recognized the impossibility of retaining its national identity – with the conglomerate of the living habits and feelings, exceeding the mere political and ideological dimension – in the situation offered by the Yugoslav state and experienced emigration as the choice of freedom.” (Thesis 7, last part) (29)
Even though Italy never officially approved the document, this Italo-Slovene committee is an example for an integrative historiography. The progress in Istria in coming to terms with the past is minute compared to other European border regions. All three parties stick to their incurred narratives without rethinking the “exodus” against a wider scheme that would take the whole history of World War II and the occupation of the region by the Axe Forces into account.
Nevertheless, there is political will to remember the past. In 2004 the Italian government created a memorial day for the “exodus” of the Italians from Istria. Curiously, there are two of these days. The Giorno della Memoria is celebrated on the 27th January in the Risiera de San Sabba in Trieste. This day remembers the victims of the Nazism, Fascism and the Holocaust, whereas the newly created Giorno del Ricordo is held on the 10th of February at the Foibe di Bassovizza Memorial and remembers the exodus and the foibe massacres. Guido Franzinetti describes the symmetry of the two days as “Holocaustisation” (30) of the foibe. As the Italian schools have to commemorate the first date, they also have to commemorate the second date.
If things don’t work out at the official level, they often do so on the micro scale. A good example is Kinoatelje (31), which is a multi-functional centre for cross-cultural and transnational projects in the field of cinema and audiovisual media. By now they have produced several bi-national films on Italo-Slovene topics from recent history.
This seems an example to follow, if the inhabitants of Istria want to ameliorate their relations and enhance the economic and cultural development of the entire Northern Adriatic area.
In my opinion, it can be possible to face a common future while remembering the past in a decent way. This kind of projects shows us how.
Today Rijeka is the third biggest city in Croatia, with some 130.000 inhabitants living in the city itself and approximately 70,000 more in the surrounding metropolitan area. Furthermore, it is the administrative center of a touristic region and the main port of the country. Approximately 2.700 declared Italians live in the city according to the 2001 census.
During the Austro-Hungarian Empire Italians were the majority of the town's inhabitants. Figures from 1910 say that 24.000 Italians lived next to 13.000 Croats in the city. Other nationalities also lived there, but not in such great numbers.
65 years ago the city was divided into an Italian and a Yugoslav part, respectively called Fiume and Sušak. The two parts were divided at the river Riječina (in Italian Eneo), which is now in the very middle of the town. At that time, 80 percent of the inhabitants of Fiume were still considered Italian.
After the unification of the city in 1948 and the decision to incorporate the whole region into Yugoslavia, many people - mainly Italians - left the region. The municipalities of Fiume and Sušak also experienced a great deal of migration movement. At the same time, many of the new inhabitants came from other parts of Yugoslavia into the new formed city of Rijeka.
In the following pages I will describe briefly the history of the city beginning at the time of Austro-Hungarian Empire and the significance the city had after First World War. I will address the relationship between the two cities and later retell the events that led to their unification.
In a second step, I will depict the period of division, asking: What did the two parts of the city look like? And how did people react to the division?
The third part will characterize the culture of remembrance in the city on this topic. Referring to our stay in Rijeka, I want to show the ways in which the division of Rijeka is still visible to us today.
The history of division
The river Riječina had served as a frontier several times already. In the period of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, the river set an administrative border between a sector directly under Hungarian administration, the so called “Corpus separatum”, and another sector of the Hungarian Kingdom which was under Croatian rule.
After World War I the collapse of the multiethnic Empire seemed to be an opportunity for all nationalists to finally gain their own state. Unfortunately, the dream of self-determination turned into a nightmare when it came to the question of state borders. The status of Fiume remained unclear for a long time and became an international problem. In part, this was due to secret and contradictory agreements between allied forces, which had been arranged before the end of the war.
Significant for Fiume was the so called “Treaty of London” of 1915. It promised Italy territories like Istria, Southern Tirol, Dalmatia in exchange for joining the war on the side of the Allies rather than the Central Powers-- to whom they had been bound by the Tripartite Pact. Fiume was not mentioned in this agreement but both Italy and the newly established State of Slovenes, Croats and Serbs made declarations Fiume belonging to their territory. In fact, Italy did not receive all the territories that the Treaty of London of 1915 had promised them. The Italians were upset about the broken promise, which helped the Italian fascists to gain attention and power. In this regard, interest in the city of Fiume (which was, according to the above mentioned figures, mainly inhabited by Italians) increased while the status of the city stayed unclear. On the left site of Riječina, the municipality of Sušak remained part of the SHS-state.
In the year after these events, still during the Conferences of Peace in Paris, the Italian nationalist and very famous poet Gabriele D'Annunzio occupied the neighboring harbour areas of Baroš and the Delta. He emphasized the Italian right to govern this mostly Italian city and began a policy of suppression against Croats or other Yugoslav inhabitants. D'Annunzio is considered to be a pioneer of Italian fascism as well and Fiume became his main area of operation.
The Border Treaty of Rapallo was signed in November of 1920. This agreement aimed to establish Fiume as an Independent Free State and a buffer between Italy and the new Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes. D'Annunzio refused this treaty, but had to leave Fiume on the so-called “Bloody Christmas” of 1920 because of a military intervention from Italy.
After this, the free state of Fiume was established and a government was elected. But by 1922, due to a coup from local fascists, this government was forced to leave the town. On 22 September 1923 the Italian army occupied Fiume and Mussolini arranged an agreement with the government of the SHS-Kingdom, making the occupation official. For him it was very important to keep the soul of Fiume Italian.
One year later the division of today’s town of Rijeka was made complete. On the 27th of January 1924, Italy and the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes agreed on the so called “Treaty of Rome” or “Adrian Pact”. The main point was the division of the area between the Italian part of Fiume (including the northern countryside) and the Yugoslav part (consisting of the municipality of Sušak in the east, which included the district of Trsat and villages like Podvežica, Draga, Kostrena sv. Barbare and Kostrena sv. Lucije, and the harbor districts Delta and Baroš). The city was divided on the 16th of March in 1924. In further conferences like the “Conventions of Nettuno” both states agreed on policies related to railway transportation, language use and instruction, and tourism in this region. Furthermore, there were always debates about the use of the harbor. In fact, both cities used it together, because without any harbor both parts of the city were quite useless.
In the time of division both parts developed differently. While Sušak became a blooming center of trade and culture, Fiume turned into a small town located at the periphery of Italy's already impressive network of port cities. This led to a competition between the two cities at the Riječina as well.
The reunion of the city began in World War II. On the 4th of November 1941, Italian soldiers occupied Sušak and the city became an official part of Italy. After Italy surrendered in September 1943 the two cities came under German occupation in the so-called “Adriatic Littoral Zone” – later they were liberated by Tito's partisans in April (Sušak) and May (Fiume) of 1945, at which point they became part of Yugoslavia.
In the Paris Peace Treaties the allied forces decided to reunite Fiume with Sušak step by step, which would eventually lead to the creation of the new Croatian city Rijeka. First, the civil organizations were combined. In a second step the local institutions were brought together. The final step involved holding joint elections on 2 February, 1948. This eliminated the independent municipality of Sušak, which is now just one district in the whole city.
During division: outlook and development of the two different cities.
As already mentioned, the main borderline between 1924 and 1940 was the river Riječina and the Dead Channel, which runs west of the delta towards the sea. The Delta between the Riječina and the Dead Channel belonged to the Yugoslav Sušak – but the harbor was used by both countries.
Along the channel a wall was built up. The border crossing was a pedestrian bridge at the river located close to the famous Hotel Continental (between Titov trg and Ulica Rade Šupića). The border crossing was first just a provisional wooden bridge until it was replaced in 1926. It was officially opened as the border crossing on 31 December 1926. Soldiers were positioned on both sides to avoid illegal border crossings. Although the bridge was not very distinctive in an aesthetic sense, it became a strong symbol for the division.
In fact, the Italian ministry of interior stated in 1929 that the bridge between the Italian and Yugoslav parts of Rijeka was used by 7.000 people each day – especially commuters and school children who had to cross the border each day to get to their workplaces and schools. The border area itself also became a place for demonstrations and protests initiated, for example, by nationalists.
The Italian part of Fiume was on the western side of the border. It contains the old town with roman remains and today's city center called “Corso”. During the division this part of town lost importance because it was located at the edge of Italy and the old train connection ended in Sušak.
Sušak developed the other way around. It became the main port of the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes and was therefore improving its infrastructure, economy and culture. The railway connection especially increased the town's welfare. A lot of new and modern buildings arose, for example a medical health center and the National House of Croats, which became the highest skyscraper in the city.
The people who lived in the divided city were mostly shocked by the situation. For example, one journalist wrote in 1932:
“And I could neither imagine, nor believe, that I would not arrive at Fiume, the train station of Fiume. Susak. Wire made out of steel. Fiume. Border…. ..Two Flags, guards at the bridge, representatives of two states. Two different uniforms. Two races, two souls. Two worlds. One city. One pain. Injustice. Lunacy.” (1)
The reactions of artists from Fiume or Sušak were also very impressive. One of the famous examples is the Hungarian writer Ödön von Horváth who always said that he had no home, although he grew up in Fiume. The reunion of the cities was equally shocking for some people. The Croatian water-polo player Ćiro Kovačić, born 1925 in Sušak, said:
“...Ako doete u neku ustanovu i oni vas pitaju gdje ste roeni, a vi kažete na Sušaku, oni ne mogu naci to mjesto - on je nestao... što je po mom sudu bila greška, jer povijest se ne može mijenjati. Uvijek ce se znati da su ovdje postojala dva grada - Sušak i Rijeka, da je tu bila granica izmeu Jugoslavije i Italije. (...) Ja osobno mislim da smo mi Sušacani izgubili jako puno nakon Drugog svjetskog rata jer je grad nestao kao pojam, a vi kada danas šecete gradom vidite da je to najzaostaliji dio Rijeke.“ (2)
Culture of remembrance – how is the division still visible?
Postcards from the time of division were very peculiar. Most of them show Fiume and Sušak – as well as a borderline. The border is depicted as an outstanding white line in between the names of both towns. It seems like the division played a major role for tourists.
The former border river Riječina is the most visible sign of the division because it will not disappear from the cityscape. A new pedestrian bridge has been constructed at the site of the old border crossing. It was built after World War II with the intent to "hide” the former border, as if they wanted to delete this part of history. Because of this, the architect Kruno Tonković designed the bridge unobtrusively and broadly. Of course, by redesigning a bridge at this particular place, the memory will remain apparent no matter the style of the new bridge.
Interestingly, this place became an important meeting point in the years after the war. At the old border people came together for celebrating, listening to speeches (for example in election campaigns), etc... As the Croatian students from our trip told me, it is still a meeting point, especially for the young people of Rijeka. It is a nice symbol that an old place of division now brings people together.
On the square is also a commemorative plaque celebrating the unification of both cities along the Riječina with an excerpt from a speech given by Tito in Rijeka in 1946. It says that the border was an artificial one and that it was extinguished for welfare, unity and love, with the aim to improve the life of the people in Rijeka. The sign thus emphasizes the reunification of the two towns rather than directly addressing the division – just the opposite of how Berlin commemorates the Berlin wall. Moreover, the inscription is only in Croatian, which symbolically suggests that Rijeka is essentially a Croatian town that happens to have a noticeable Italian minority.
Furthermore, you can also find in this square an eye-catching statue built in 1955 as a reminder of the 1945 liberation. Of course, the liberation is connected with the reunification; therefore, this statue is again a sign of reunion. It seems like Rijeka wants to forget about this time and emphasize the time after World War II when the two parts were joined and the city began to grow. All in all, the place around the Riječina is a place of memory for the division as well as for the reunification.
Three other buildings of the city recall the time of division, but in a more subtle way: On the street Trg Ivana Klobučarića, in the former Italian part of Rijeka, stands a building which is nowadays used as a primary school. It was built originally by the Italians in 1934 to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the annexation of Fiume to Italy. Interestingly, until some months ago the university of Rijeka used this building for their faculty of philosophy despite the fact that it signified Italian rule in the city of Rijeka.
As already mentioned, Fiume and Sušak competed against each other during the time of division. Clear signs of this are two skyscrapers in the inner city – one in former Fiume, and the other one in former Sušak. During the interwar period they were the highest buildings of these towns.
The one in Fiume is located on Jadranski trg and is 13 floors high. Today offices are inside. The skyscraper of Sušak is very close to the river and contains the Hotel Nebodar, as well as the Cultural Center of the Croatians, also called the National House. The National House of Sušak was one of the most important projects during the time of division for the town Sušak, as it was designated to become the heart of the Yugoslav city.
Each of the competing towns wanted to show superiority through its impressive style of architecture. The skyscraper in Sušak was designed by Josip Pičman to be exactly one floor higher than the one on Jadranski trg for this very reason. Originally, the National House was to be even more impressive – the designer originally planned for it to be the first skyscraper in Europe completely made out of glass.
Despite these plans, the National House did not become the heart of the town – since Sušak is no longer an independent municipality, the real center of Rijeka became the “Corso” in the formerly Italian section.
The division will always be visible in the cityscape because of certain buildings, the signs of commemoration and the river itself. The square at the old border crossing is a particularly obvious place for commemoration. But it is also important to know how the division might still affect those inhabiting the neighborhoods of Fiume or Sušak. The Croatian students told me that nowadays there is no difference between growing up on the left or right side of the river. Sušak has obviously turned into an ordinary district of the city.
HRVATSKI KULTURNI DOM NA SUŠAKU – JUCER, DANAS, SUTRA, iz:Izložba: "HKD na Sušaku: povijesni i suvremeni kontekst - uz 75. obljetnicu smrti Josipa Pičmana, Filozofskom fakultetu Sveucilišta u Rijeci
(1) Wörsdorfer, Ralf: Krisenherd Adria 1915-1955. S.87, Originalzitat: “Und ich konnte es mir weder vorstellen, noch mochte ich es glauben, nicht in Fiume, am Bahnhof von Fiume einzutreffen. Susak. Draht aus Eisen. Fiume. Grenze......Zwei Flaggen. Wachen an der Brücke. Vertreter zweier Staaten. Zwei verschiedene Uniformen. Zwei Rassen, zwei Seelen. Zwei Welten. Eine Stadt. Ein Schmerz. Ungerechtigkeit. Wahnsinn.”
(2) HRVATSKI KULTURNI DOM NA SUŠAKU – JUCER, DANAS, SUTRA, iz:Izložba: "HKD na Sušaku: povijesni i suvremeni kontekst - uz 75. obljetnicu smrti Josipa Pičmana, Filozofskom fakultetu Sveucilišta u Rijeci
Edited by Tea Marković
When you are walking through the Old Town it is hard to avoid the impression that life on its streets was once very different. Even if its past is hardly visible nowadays, among the modern department stores and shops, its presence still lingers. Isn't it strange that, when coming from above the Old Town centre - from the Ulica žrtava fašizma (The Victims of Fascism Street) to the cathedral of St. Vitus - the passerby sees one caffe-bar situated in a building of the socialist architecture and another in the baroque palace Benzoni, each serving a similar purpose nowadays, but with entirely different “touch”?
Furthermore, when entering deep in the Old Town in the Kobler's Square (1) beneath the City Tower, the passerby sees the modern buildings and department stores, constructed in the 70's, like Varteks and Corso and Igor Emili's fountain in front of them. This is reminiscent of the glorious period of industrial boom and also the symbol of Hartera, the famous paper mill. Behind the fountain stands the glazed structure of the shipping office Jadroagent next to the building of the former commune of Rijeka, called Palac komuna rečkog, and also the famous Old Gate. The shape of Kobler's Square, however, still recalls the medieval origin of the town center.
When discussing the old part of the city in his cultural history essay Volite li Rijeku? (Do You Love Rijeka?), the literary critic and journalist Velid Đekić notes that it actually does not exist, except in some slight visible traces: “Sometimes the preserved stone arch entrance to a formerly existing building is now incorporated into a new facility. Sometimes a street sequence that, with contact between contours, mimics the urban situation similar to one that was recently set up by some missing buildings. Sometimes a decrepit wall appears as the only reminder of a blown-up building, similar to the occasional empty window through which nobody tends to water the flowers” (Đekić, 2006: 19).
Just like the hidden Ulica šišmiša (The Bats Street), the entire Old Town radiates with a touch of mystery and, therefore, also imposes additional questions (2).
The Center of Old Town – Kobler's Square
Rijeka first developed in connection to the Roman settlement of Tarsatica, but with the medieval times, the small town named Sankt Veit am Pflaum came under Austrian rule in 1466. Since then it grew as a part of the Holy Roman Empire (Link) and was eventually turned into a free port (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Free_port) in 1719 by the emperor Carl VI. During the 18th and 19th centuries the town was passed among the Habsburg Austrian, Croatian, and Hungarian possessions until it was eventually attached to Hungary in 1870. The goal of Giovanni Kobler, after whom Kobler's Square is named, was to provide arguments for the city's autonomy against the Croatian provincial estates. Kobler was not satisfied with the quality and amount of archival evidence he found and did not finish his book. This work, the Memorie per la storia liburnica della citta di Fiume (The Historical Memoirs of the Liburnic City of Rijeka), was published posthumously by professor of history Aladar Fest “…and was based upon a selection of Kobler's manuscripts written from the 40's to the 70's of the 19th century.” (3) This book is still considered the main work of history on Rijeka.
In Kobler's Square, which is often referred to as the heart of the town, it is difficult to single out the most important monuments due to the neglect and severe damage that the old part of the town has experienced. They testify to the old days, but with more careful observation, the traces of some recent periods can also be determined, including the period after the World War II. The most valuable information on the heritage of the Old Town was collected by Radmila Matejčić.
According to Matejčić, the most knowledgeable archaeologist and art historian of Rijeka, there was once a more compact municipal centre called Placa (The Plaza) located in modern-day Kobler’s Square, which served the significantly smaller fortified medieval town. The round City Tower was once the main medieval town entrance and it is now the entrance to the centre of Rijeka’s Old Town.
Monuments and Research on the Old Town
According to many of Rijeka's citizens, the nicest building is the Cathedral of St. Vitus, which is also the most important church in town. It was built on the former position of the medieval ruined church of the city's patron, St. Vitus. The cathedral was originally built as a monastery church of the Jesuits in Rijeka. The author of the final project was the Venetian architect Francisco Olivieri, who probably followed the model of the famous Church of Santa Maria della Salute (Saint Mary of Good Health) in Venice. The construction lasted from 1638 until 1659 and the cathedral was eventually finished in 1737, when builders Pietro Bernardino and Martinuzzi Carlone built the dome and the oratory. The church keeps the precious baroque altars, which are mainly the work of Rijeka's sculptors (4).
In the winter of 1992, systematic rescue excavations were done in the Old Town under the Cathedral of St. Vitus. The entire area was explored by archeologists and conservators began to dismantle the architectural elements of a dilapidated residential building from the 19th century. The interior was buried with construction waste material, but also with valuable fragments of architectural elements of the previously demolished and devastated buildings. Found segments of material culture, from nickels to home dishes, undoubtedly testify to Rijeka's role as a serious emporium from medieval times onwards and to its ties with all the major centers of Mediterranean and European trade (Novak, 1992: 2).
From other church buildings located beneath the present cathedral, which thanks to its location on the top of the Old Town dominates the entire space, it is necessary to mention the former cathedral, the Church of the Assumption of Mary. It dates back to medieval times and was erected in the 15th century. Its present form is the consequence of the radical renewal that began in the late 17th century and was completed in the first half of the 18th century. The former cathedral often changed its appearance until it received its present facade in the reconstruction in 1824. Inside are particularly valuable baroque altars and plasterings.
In front of the church is situated the tower, which has sunk over time due to groundwater; for that reason it was named Kosi toranj (The Leaning Tower). At the foot of the tower lie late antique mosaics from the 5th and 6th century, which were incurred during the Tarsatica, the settlement that Romans built on this area. Also nearby are the remains of the city walls and near them the legendary Old Gate, also known as Roman Arch, whose origin is yet unconfirmed.
An important discovery of Roman baths occurred near the church in 1967 while digging the foundation for the building of a music shop called Croatia Records – formerly Jugoton. That sensational finding confirmed that the Roman settlement was oriented in the estuary of river Rječina, where the old port was situated (Dokić and Fučić, 1983: 1).
There is also a historical complex called the Municipium located in the Old Town. It was built as an Augustinian monastery, which has been preserved as the baroque Church of St. Jerome since 1768 despite historical changes. The monastery became the City Hall, called the Municipium, in 1873 and has been updated and redesigned. On the square in front of the building, which now bears the name of Rijeka Resolution Square, stands the stone city flagpole, famous Stendardac of Rijeka, which dates from the 1509.
An extensive program of conservation research began with the revitalization of the Augustinian monastery, which included a performative, archaeological, architectural and restoration work in certain parts of the monastery. This space, from which the monastery in the 13th century sprang, is a very significant and interesting part of the town from the time of ancient Tarsatica and the earliest years of the creation of urban centers in the area of Rijeka.
Archaeological protection of this location was realized in 1996 and 1997, when the remains of a perpendicular wall connected to the city wall were found. The wall structure was constructed on the principle of caisson walls which were used for buildings constructed on unstable soils and debris. Even though there was only a small segment of one vertical wall, it is still valuable because it demonstrates the method of construction of the city walls of Tarsatica (Blečić, 2003: 4).
The Overview of Most Important Events for Old Town in the 18th, 19th and 20th Centuries
The city's turning point occurred in 1753, three years after the earthquake damaged all the buildings in the former Rijeka. The empress Maria Theresa decided to build a new Civitas, a new city outside the previous medieval location. With proliferation of new urbanized areas in which local patricians and merchants moved, the ancient center of the city was doomed to a slow death.
The process was originally developed slowly, and long after it began it seemed that the old urban areas remained the center of Rijeka – in the form of dense clusters of small houses and intertwined network of winding alleys and squares. But in 1780 Emperor Joseph II decided to demolish the walls, at the request of the Rijeka newcomer entrepreneurs, who were not attuned to the traditional life within them. At the turn of the 18th century, the Old Town was left with only the towers at the corners, which would themselves meet the same fate a hundred years later.
Merchant elites at the turn of the 18th century made Rijeka a significant cultural, artistic, and industrial center of the whole Adriatic Region; it retained its status as such until the 20th century. But after World War II and especially nowadays, after years of decadence and targeted demolition, any passerby can attest that the presence of facade decoration, monumental portals and balconies in the old town are rare. On the other hand, Fishermans', Sailors', Blacksmiths', Weavers', Ropers' and Tailors' Streets testify to the abandonment of the old material habitants and the immigration of humbler parts of the population.
Traditional culture in Mediterranean urban communities often becomes isolated with the introduction of industry and technology, dooming earlier modes of life to extinction. However, what was controversial in the second half of the 20th century was the relationship of Rijeka's citizens to their heritage. Nowadays, the main promenade is taken over by the department stores. One of them overlooks the Old Town, which has in recent decades come to life again.
Elaborates and Reports of Conservation Department in Rijeka