History and Historiography

The Free State of Fiume: The State That Could Have Been

by Jay Lino

What was the Regency of Carnaro? The Regency of Carnaro, as it was known by its citizens, also known as the Free State of Fiume by the international community, was a state on the coast of the Adriatic Sea, established in the aftermath of World War I. It existed from 1920 to 1924, with its capital located in the city of Fiume, now modern-day Rijeka, Croatia. The Regency was troubled by a tumultuous political climate, experiencing frequent changes of government and widespread social unrest, as well as frequent military intervention, and was marked by the struggle for the self-determination of its people.

In 1918, the Austro-Hungarian Empire dissolved, following the signing of the Treaty of Trianon, and it was subsequently absorbed into the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats & Slovenes (later known as Yugoslavia). Fiume or Carnaro, historically had a predominantly Italian-speaking population, so this absorption into the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats, & Slovenes, caused its citizens to seek to break away from the newly formed kingdom, and join Italy. In response to this demand, on September 12th, 1919, a group of 2,600 Italian nationalists and socialist militants led by Gabriele d’Annunzio, an Italian poet and war hero, occupied the city and declared it a free state. An unconfirmed allegation states that D’Annunzio sought out financial aid from the Bolsheviks in order to succeed in the coupe. Throughout its brief 4 year existence it was the site of numerous armed conflicts by Yugoslavia, and the Kingdom of Italy to annex it.

The aftermath of World War 1 also created a power vacuum in the region, which allowed for the emergence of various political and social movements. This included the growth of socialism, anarchism, and other leftist ideologies, which provided the backdrop for the establishment of the Regency of Carnaro.


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