Italian National Memory,National Identity and Fascism

  • Glenda Sluga


Historians of Italy tend to agree that the collapse of the Italian Fascist government in September 1943 ushered in the country’s most difficult phase of the Second World War, and with it a divisive national legacy. Politicians, academics and journalists have maintained that the ‘civil war’ which resulted from the absence in Italy of a legitimate administration was the cause of a divided post-war nation, placing Italian national identity under threat.1 Wartime and post-war calls to re-create a unified Italian national identity on the foundation of a unified national memory have made reference to past and present external threats to the nation. From Benedetto Croce’s 1944 Eliseo speech2 to the 1997 Italian trial of those responsible for the Nazi Ardeatine massacres, an external enemy has been invoked in the interests of patriotism and national cohesion, often unfettered by feelings of responsibility for the Fascist past. The object of these invocations has usually been a German enemy, but the focus of this chapter is the lesser studied theme of Italian victimisation at the hands of a ‘Slav’ enemy on Italy’s north-eastern frontier, bordering Yugoslavia.3 I show how, before 1943, cultural representations of a ‘Slav’ communist national foe were intrinsic to the Fascist imagining of national and political homogeneity on that border and to Fascist policies for eradicating political and cultural differences within the Italian nation in the inter-war period. I then look at how, since 1945, the threat posed to the integrity of the Italian nation by ‘Slav’ communists during the ‘civil war’ period has been the concern of diverse regional interest groups and successive Italian governments seeking to create a shared Italian memory of the Second World War. In general, after the war, the ‘Slav’ threat was exploited as a means of reducing the importance of ideological divisions among Italians, and redefining Fascism. I also examine a peripheral counter-commemoration of the Second World War in this border region in order to question the relationships among the three themes of the ‘Slav’ enemy, Fascism and Italian national memory and identity.


National Identity Border Region Italian State Italian Nation Special Tribunal 
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© Palgrave Macmillan, a division of Macmillan Publishers Limited 1999

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  • Glenda Sluga

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