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Post-Imperial Europe: When Comparison Threatened, Empowered, and Was Omnipresent

  • Dominique Kirchner Reill

Abstract

The article examines how the post-WWI, post-Habsburg city-state Fiume (today known as Rijeka in the Republic of Croatia) tried to shore up loyalty and diminish local discontent by providing welfare and economic initiatives, in direct conjunction with how much neighboring states offered. Of particular concern were comparisons with how the Fiume state dealt with the Krone currency crisis, especially as locals in Fiume were very aware of and traded in currencies of neighboring lands using the same base money. The article calls for more work to be done on the dynamic of “on-the-ground” post-imperial Europeans questioning their new governments based on how they compared their lot with their other post-Habsburg neighbors.

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1 Fiume functioned as a provisionally independent city-state from November 1918 to January 1921. Its provisional government was made up of the Italian National Council until August 1920, which pushed for annexation to the Kingdom of Italy instead of independence or annexation to the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes. In August 1920, Gabriele D’Annunzio pushed the National Council out of power and formed his own authoritarian Regency of Carnaro, which functioned much as the prior National Council state had, as there was never enough time to enact the new constitution. In November 1920, the Kingdom of Italy and the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes finally agreed on a post-WWI border between the two states and decided to make Fiume an independent city-state under League of Nations and Italian protection. D’Annunzio refused to recognize this treaty in hopes Italy could still annex Fiume. In December 1920, Italian forces bombed Fiume to expel D’Annunzio and to compel the town to submit to its independence. In 1924, Mussolini signed a new treaty with the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes, annexing Fiume to Italy. In 1947, after the devastations of WWII, Tito annexed Fiume along with Istria to Yugoslavia, changing its name officially to the Croatian-language version, Rijeka. Today Rijeka is the third largest city in the Republic of Croatia.

2 For a list of the newspapers they consulted, see: Comando dell’esercito italiano in Fiume d’Italia, January 8, 1920, cass. 248- Uff. stampa, 8 gen. 1920, prot. 518, Vittoriale-Archivio Fiumano. (This is from the D’Annunzio regime’s military archive and contains summaries of all the work produced by the Foreign Relations Office).

3 Comando dell’Esercito italiano in Fiume d’Italia. Ufficio Informazioni, August 4, 1920, cass. 249 Uff. info. Reg., 4 ago. 1920, Prot. 2347, Vittoriale-Archivio Fiumano.

4 Ufficio Informazioni, September 7, 1920, cass. 249, Uff. info. Reg. 7 sett. 1920, Prot. 2688, Vittoriale-Archivio Fiumano. (These files contain summaries of all intercepted postal, telegraphic, and telephonic communications D’Annunzio’s followers collected from the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes, mostly pertaining to Sušak)

5 Direzione di Finanza, January 2, 1919, cass. 29, Prot. 6, Vittoriale-Archivio Fiumano. (These files contain reports from Fiume’s provisional government’s Finance Office)

6 Direzione delle Poste, telegrafi, e telefoni, February 22, 1919, cass. 30, Prot. 1400, Vittoriale-Archivio Fiumano. (Files from the Fiume provisional government’s Communication Services)

7 Operaie della fabbrica di tobacchi, December 11, 1918, cass. 28, Prot. 242, Vittoriale-Archivio Fiumano. (Files from Fiume’s provisional government relating to workers’ demands)

8 For one of numerous examples see: Bombig, Enrico, May 20, 1919, 541 Općina Rijeka 1918–1945, D68/1901, Opći spisi 12445, Državni Arhiv u Rijeci. (These files contain communications between Fiume’s provisional government and state employees)

9 Comando dell’Esercito italiano in Fiume d’Italia. Ufficio Informazioni, April 6, 1920, cass. 249, Uff. info. Com. Esercito It. 6 apr. 1920, Prot. 1091, Vittoriale-Archivio Fiumano.

10 Associated Press, “Fiume Blockade Ordered by Italy,” New York Times, March 1, 1920.

11 Comando di Fiume d’Italia. Ufficio nformazioni, June 12, 1920, cass. 249 Uff. info. Com. Esercito It., 12 giu. 1920 Prot. 1633, Vittoriale-Archivio Fiumano.

12 October 29, 1920, cass. 249 Uff. info. Reg., 29 ott. 1920, Prot. 3178, Vittoriale-Archivio Fiumano.

13 Karl Schlesinger, “The Disintegration of the Austro-Hungarian Currency,” The Economic Journal 30, no. 117 (March 1920): 26–38. See in particular pages 27–29.

14 Ibid., 30–31.

15 Matejčić, Radmila, “Krune Citta di Fiume i problemi valute u Rijeci od godine 1918–1924,” Numizmatičke vijesti 20 (1963): 5471. In April 1919, on the first round of stamping, the Fiume provisional government had stamped 47,743,190 Fiume Krone. In October 1919, 120,094,240 Fiume Krone were submitted for re-stamping. During the re-stamping drive, forged stamps were accepted at face value by the government and individuals received newly stamped krone to replace their forged Krone, at no loss.

16 Giuseppe Post, December 13, 1919, cass. 36, Prot. 7464, Vittoriale-Archivio Fiumano.

17 Direzione di Finanza, November 28, 1919, cass. 36, Prot. 7184, Vittoriale-Archivio Fiumano.

18 Namier, L. B., “Currencies and Exchanges in an East Galician Village,” in Skyscrapers, and Other Essays (London, 1931), 163–80.

19 A new wave of post-Habsburg scholarship is underway throughout the lands of the successor states focusing specifically on imperial continuities, which will undoubtedly lead to a host of fascinating new interpretations of the interwar period. One of the first of its kind is the exceptional Miller, Paul and Morelon, Claire, eds., Embers of Empire: Continuity and Rupture in the Habsburg Successor States after 1918 (New York, 2018). See especially the contribution by Gábor Egry.

20 Quoted from Čapková, Kateřina, Czechs, Germans, Jews?: National Identity and the Jews of Bohemia (New York, 2012), 111.

Post-Imperial Europe: When Comparison Threatened, Empowered, and Was Omnipresent

  • Dominique Kirchner Reill

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