Introduction: Laura Benedetti (Georgetown University) and Elettra La Duca (Italian Cultural Institute, Washington D.C.). “Where is Fiume?” Lucia Wolf (Library of Congress) will feature selected items from the Library of Congress’ collection, highlighting the relevance of Fiume in the American context. “Saving the Nation” Natalia Indrimi (Centro Primo Levi) will discuss some aspects of the Fiume research project and reflect on its public impact. Conversation with Aviel Roshwald (Georgetown University).
Presented by Georgetown University with the Italian Cultural Institute in Washington D.C.
This conversation originates from a research project of the Centro Primo Levi that, between 2012 and 2015, sparked scholarly interest and fueled public debate. The topic was the city of Fiume (today Rijeka, Croatia) between the fall of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and the end of the Second World War. The questions on nationalism, international politics, religious and ethnic minorities that were raised pertained to the past but clearly captured sentiments that were fully operating in the present. Fiume, hailed as an unsurpassed emblem of Italian identity, was neither primarily Italian nor culturally inclined to the ideals of nationalism. Yet, it was at the center of strenuous negotiations at the Paris Peace Conference in 1920 and later became the stage of a full-fledged coup d’état and subsequent annexation by the Fascist Regime, as well one of its first laboratories of ethnic cleansing. The local Jewish community suffered one of the highest rates of deportation in Italian-controlled territories. An exemplary case of contrasting narratives and self-perpetuating myths, the history of Fiume continued to loom large on decades of Italian politics, playing different roles at different times. Between 1995 and 2004, its historical image regained center-stage as political conflicts in Italy sought to reshape national memory beyond the post-war antifascist paradigm. During that decade, research and the public perception of Fiume took profoundly divergent paths reflecting on one side a renewed interest in the study of Fascism from a European perspective, and on the other, the persistence and renewal of old nationalistic narratives. This panel will revisit the Fiume research project and discuss some of its implications today.
Image by Edoardo Tausz, 1930 ca. courtesy Nora Tausz Ronai