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Italian territory of Zara (Zadar) 1920–1947

The Province of Zara (in Italian: Provincia di Zara) was a province of the Kingdom of Italy, officially from 1918 to 1947. It was enlarged and made part of the Italian Governorate of Dalmatia, during WWII.

Historical background

In 1915 Italy entered World War I under the provisions set in the Treaty of London. In exchange for its participation with the Triple Entente and in the event of victory, Italy was to obtain territory in northern Dalmatia, including Zara, Sebenico and most of the Dalmatian islands. At the end of the war, Italian military forces invaded Dalmatia and seized control of Zara, with Admiral Enrico Millo being proclaimed the "Governor of Dalmatia".[1] Famous Italian nationalist Gabriele d'Annunzio supported the seizure of Dalmatia, and proceeded to Zara in an Italian warship in December 1918.[1]

During 1918, political life in Zara intensified. The collapse of the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy led to the renewal of national conflicts in the city. With the arrival of an Italian army in the city on 4 November 1918, the Italian faction (that was the huge majority in the city) gradually assumed control, a process which was completed on 5 December when it took over the governorship.[2] With the Treaty of Versailles (10 January 1920) Italian claims on Dalmatia contained in the Treaty of London were nullified, but later on the agreements between the Kingdom of Italy and the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes set in the Treaty of Rapallo (12 November 1920) gave Zara with other small local territories to Italy. The Zara enclave, a total of 104 square kilometres (40 square miles), included the city of Zara, the municipalities of Boccagnazzo/Bokanjac, Borgo Erizzo/Arbanasi, Cerno, part of Dicolo/Diklo (a total of 51 km2. of territory and 17,065 inhabitants) and the islands of Lagosta and Pelagosa (53 square kilometres (20 square miles), 1,710 inhabitants). The territory was organized into a small Italian province.

World War II

Italy, and other Axis Powers, invaded the Kingdom of Yugoslavia on April 6, 1941. Zara held a force of 9,000 Italian soldiers and was one of the starting point of the invasion. The force under the command of general Ambrosio defeated easily a Yugoslav army in crisis and reached in a few days Sebenico and Spalato on April 15 (2 days before Yugoslavian surrender). Civilians were previously evacuated to Ancona and Pola. Occupying Mostar and Dubrovnik (Ragusa in Italian), on April 17 they met Italian troops that had started out from Italian Albania.

Map of the enlarged "Province of Zara" and the Governorate of Dalmatia.

Within a few weeks, Benito Mussolini required the newly formed puppet-state, the so-called Independent State of Croatia (NDH) to hand over almost all of Dalmatia (including Spalato/Split) to fascist Italy under the Rome Treaties.

The city became the center of a new Italian territorial entity, called Governorship of Dalmatia, that included the enlarged Province of Zara, the new Province of Spalato, and the little Province of Cattaro.

Under fascist reign, at the end of 1941 the Slavic population was subjected to a policy of forced assimilation. Many public works were done, like new hospitals and sewages. The Province of Zara in 1942 had a population of 211,900 inhabitants and an area of 3,179 km2.

After Mussolini was removed from power on 25 July 1943 and arrested, the government of Pietro Badoglio signed an armistice with the Allies on 3 September 1943, which was made public only on 8 September 1943, and the Italian army collapsed. However, just four days later on 12 September 1943, "Il Duce", was rescued by a German military raid from his secret prison on the Gran Sasso mountain, and formed the Nazi-puppet Italian Social Republic in the north of the Country. The NDH proclaimed the Treaty of Rome to be void and occupied Dalmatia with German support. The Germans entered Zara first, and on September 10 the German 114th Jäger Division took over.

The city was prevented from joining the NDH on the grounds that Zara itself was not subject to the conditions of the Treaty of Rome. Despite this, the NDH's leader Ante Pavelić designated Zadar as the capital of the Sidraga-Ravni Kotari County, although its administrator was prevented from entering the city by the Italian authorities of the city. Zara remained under the local administration of the Italian Social Republic. Zara was bombed by the Allies, with serious civilian casualties. Many died in the carpet bombings, and many landmarks and centuries old works of art were destroyed. A significant number of civilians fled the city.

In late October 1944 the German army and most of the Italian civilian administration abandoned the city.[3] On October 31, 1944, the Partisans seized the city, until then an official part of Mussolini's Italian Social Republic. At the start of World War II, Zadar had a population of 24,000 (nearly all Italians) but, by the end of 1944, this had decreased to 6,000.[3] Formally, the city remained under Italian sovereignty until September 15, 1947[4] (Paris Peace Treaties).

After WWII's end was created by the exiled Italians of Zara the "Libero comune di Zara in esilio" (Free city of Zara in exile), as a follow-up of the Province of Zara.

The Italian exodus from the city continued and in a few years was almost total. The last stroke to the Italian presence was made by the local administration in October 1953, when the last Italian schools were closed and the students forced to move, in one day, into Yugoslavian schools, putting an end to the Romance identity of the city. Today the Italian community counts only a few hundreds people, gathered into a local community (Comunità degli Italiani di Zara).[5]


Before WWII there only a few localities in the province of Zara, like Boccagnazzo / Bokanjac and Borgo Erizzo / Arbanasi. But with the enlargement in 1941 the number grew to 20:[6]

  • Bencovazzo / Benkovac: 2.000 inhabitants.
  • Bosavia or Bosava / Božava: 1.520 inhab. (with Berbigno, Sauro, Sestrugno and Zaglava)
  • Chistagne / Kistanje: 2.000 inhab.
  • Eso Grande / Iž Veliki (Iž Veli) : 1.300 inhab.
  • Nona / Nin : 4.650 inhab. (with Brevilacqua, Peterzane, Pogliazza, Puntadura, Rasanze, Verchè and Zatton)
  • Novegradi / Novigrad: 5.217 inhab. (with Castel Venier and Possedaria)
  • Obbrovazzo / Obrovac: 1.400 inhab. (with Ortopula)
  • Oltre / Preko: 7.560 inhab. (with Cuclizza, Neviane, Pasman, S. Eufemia, Tuconio and Ugliano)
  • Sale / Sali: 2.090 inhab. (with S. Stefano e Sman)
  • Scardona / Skradin: 2.000 inhab.
  • Sebenico / Šibenik: 37.854 inhab. (with Castell'Andreise and Zablacchie)
  • Selve / Silba: 4.229 inhab. (with Isto, Melada, Premuda and Ulbo)
  • Stancovazzo / Stankovići: 1.000 inhab.
  • Stretto / Tijesno: 7.190 inhab. (with Bettina, Gessera, Morter and Slosella)
  • Timeto di Zara / Smilčić: 1.000 inhab.
  • Vodizze / Vodice: 7.500 inhab. (with Crappano, Provicchio and Zatton)
  • Zara / Zara: 25.000 inhab.
  • Zaravecchia / Biograd: 2.520 inhab.
  • Zemonico / Zemunik: 1.000 inhab.
  • Zlarino / Zlarin: 3.550 inhab. (with Capri and Zuri)

The municipality-island of Lagosta / Lastovo, was moved to the Province of Spalato.

List of Governors of the Province of Zara (1918–44)

Military Governor

Civil Commissioners for Dalmatia

  • Corrado Bonfanti Linares (23 January 1921 – 14 July 1921)
  • Amadeo Moroni (16 July 1921 – 1 November 1922)

Prefects of the Province of Zara

  • Luigi Maggioni (1 November 1922 – 16 May 1923)
  • Corrado Tamajo (16 May 1923 – 1 August 1924)
  • Giulio Basile (1 August 1924 – 11 December 1925)
  • Pietro Carpani (11 December 1925 – 1 February 1929)
  • Marcello Vaccari (1 February 1929 – 1 December 1932)
  • Carlo Solmi (1 December 1932 – 30 June 1933)
  • Efisio Baccaredda (1 July 1933 – 20 January 1934)
  • Eduardo Spasiano (20 January 1934 – 21 August 1939)
  • Giovanni Zattera (21 August 1939 – 7 June 1941)
  • Manlio Binna (7 June 1941 – 26 October 1941)
  • Vezio Orazi (26 October 1941 – 26 May 1942)
  • Camillo Bruno (26 May 1942 – 1942) (acting)
  • Gaspero Barbera (1 September 1942 – 1 August 1943)
  • Alberto, conte Degli Alberti (1943) (acting)
  • Vincenzo Serrentino (2 November 1943 – 30 October 1944)
  • Giacomo Vuxani (30 October 1944 – 31 October 1944) (acting)

German Military Commanders

  • Karl Eglseer (10 September 1943 – 1 December 1943)
  • Albin Nake (1 December 1943 – 18 April 1944)
  • Otto-Joachim Lüdecke (18 April 1944 – 15 May 1944)
  • Martin Gareis (15 May 1944 – 25 September 1944)
  • Paul Hermann (25 September 1944 – 9 October 1944)
  • Alois Windisch (9 October 1944 – 31 October 1944)


  1. 1.0 1.1 A. Rossi. The Rise of Italian Fascism: 1918–1922. New York, New York, USA: Routledge, 2010. P. 47.
  2. Ante Bralić, Zadar u vrtlogu propasti Habsburške Monarhije (1917–1918), Časopis za suvremenu povijest 1/2006, Hrvatski institut za povijest, Zagreb, 2006, pp. 243–266
  3. 3.0 3.1 Begonja 2005, p. 72.
  4. Grant, John P.; J. Craig Barker, ed (2006). International Criminal Law Deskbook. Routledge: Cavendish Publishing. p. 130. 
  5. "Comunita' degli Italiani di Zara (in Italian)". 
  6. Davide Rodogno Il nuovo ordine mediterraneo, Bollati Boringhieri, Torino 2003, p. 499

See also

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