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This article is about a geographical region bordering the Adriatic Sea. For information on the asteroid, see 183 Istria. For the commune in Romania, see Istria, Constanţa.

Istria (Croatian and Slovenian: Istra, Venetian and Italian: Istria), formerly Histria (Latin), is the largest peninsula in the Adriatic Sea. The peninsula is located at the head of the Adriatic between the Gulf of Trieste and the Bay of Kvarner.

The geographical features of Istria include Učka mountain which is the highest point in the Ćićarija mountain range, the rivers Dragonja, Mirna, Pazinčica and Raša, and the Lim bay. Istria lies in three countries: Croatia, Slovenia and Italy. The largest portion, Croatian Istria, is further divided into two counties. The largest portion is Istria county in western Croatia. Important towns in Istria county include Pula, Poreč, Rovinj, Pazin, Labin, Umag, Motovun, Buzet and Buje, as well as smaller towns of Višnjan (Visignano), Roč (Rozzo), and Hum. A small slice in the north, including the coastal towns of Izola, Piran, Portorož and Koper, lies in Slovenia and is commonly known as Slovenian Istria (Slovenska Istra), while a tiny region consisting of the comunes of Muggia and Dolina belongs to Italy.



[edit] History

[edit] Early history

See also: March of Istria
Map of the Venetian Republic, circa 1000. The republic is in dark red, borders in light red.
Map of the Venetian Republic, circa 1000. The republic is in dark red, borders in light red.

One theory is that the name is derived from the Illyrian tribe of the Histri, which Strabo refers to as living in the region. They Histri might as well be a Venetian tribe from the northern adriatic area. The Romans described the Histri as a fierce tribe of pirates, protected by the difficult navigation of their rocky coasts. It took two military campaigns for the Romans to finally subdue them in 177 BCE. The region was then called toegether with the Venetian part the X. Roman Region of "Venetia et Histria". Per ancient definition the north-eastern border of Italy. Dante Alighieri refers to it as well.

Some scholars speculate that the names Histri and Istria are related to the Latin name Hister, or Danube. Ancient folktales reported—inaccurately—that the Danube split in two or "bifurcated" and came to the sea near Trieste as well as at the Black Sea. The story of the "Bifurcation of the Danube" is part of the Argonaut legend.

After the fall of the Western Roman Empire, the region was pillaged by the Goths, the Lombards, annexed to the Frankish kingdom by Pippin III in 789, and then successively controlled by the dukes of Carinthia, Merano, Bavaria and by the patriarch of Aquileia, before it became the territory of the Republic of Venice in 1267.

[edit] Istria in the Republic of Venice and the Holy Roman Empire (Austria)

The coastal areas and cities of Istria came under Venetian Influence in the IX century, It became definitely the territory of the Republic of Venice in 1267. The Inner Istrian part around Mitterburg-Pisino (today Pazin), was held for centuries by the Holy Roman Empire, more specifically, the Habsburgs.

[edit] Istria in the Austrian Empire (1797-1918)

Venetian rule left a strong mark on the region, one that can still be seen today. The Inner Istrian part around Mitterburg-Pisino, today Pazin, was held for centuries by the Holy Roman Empire. The venetian part of the peninsula passed to it in 1797 with the Treaty of Campo Formio. The Holy Roman Empire ended with the period of Napoleonic rule from 1805 to 1813 when Istria became part of the Italian Kingdom and of the Illyrian provinces of the Napoleonic Empire. After this short period the newly established Austrian Empire ruled Istria as the so called "Küstenland" which included the city of Trieste and Gorizia in Friuli until 1918. At that time the borders of Istria included a part of what is now Italian Venezia-Giulia and parts of modern-day Slovenia and Croatia, but not the city of Trieste. Today, Istria's borders are defined differently.

[edit] Interwar period and World War II: Istria in the Kingdom of Italy

Istria under Italian rule.
Istria under Italian rule.

After World War I and the dissolution of Austria-Hungary, Istria was given to the Kingdom of Italy. After the advent of Fascism, the indigenous Croatian and Slovenian population were exposed to a policy of forced Italianization and cultural suppression. They lost their right to education and religious practice in their maternal language. The organization TIGR, regarded as the first armed antifascist resistance group in Europe, was founded in 1927 in the Slovene Littoral and soon penetrated into Slovenian and Croatian-speaking parts of Istria. During World War II many Slovenes and Croats ended up in prisons and concentration camps, such as the Rab concentration camp. In general the fascist authorities (first Kingdom of Italy then Italian Social Republic) engaged in war crimes against the civilian Croatian and Slovenian population suspected of supporting the Yugoslav Partisan movement, as well as Jews (later on) and other holocaust victims.

[edit] Istria in the SFR Yugoslavia

See also: Istrian exodus

After the end of World War II, Istria was assigned to the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, except for a small part in the northwest corner that formed Zone B of the formally independent Free Territory of Trieste (Trst); however Zone B was under Yugoslav administration and after the de facto dissolution of the Free Territory in 1954 it was also incorporated into Yugoslavia. Only the small town of Muggia (Milje), near Trieste, being part of Zone A remained with Italy. During and shortly after World War II, Italians were killed in the so-called foibe massacres, both in Istria and in the Kras/Carso area surrounding Trieste. In the postwar years fear of communism and strong post-war ethnic tension resulted in almost all Italians leaving Istria. By 1956 the last migrations were coming to an end, Istria had lost a significant segment of its population and part of its social and cultural identity. The events of that period are most visible in Pula (Pola), a city located on the southernmost tip of the Istrian peninsula. Between December 1946 and September 1947, the city was abandoned by nearly all its Italian inhabitants. Most of them left in the immediate aftermath of the signing of the Paris Peace Treaty on February 10, 1947, which ceded Pula to Yugoslavia. In a display of desperation, some exiles took with them not only their belongings but also their dead. The exodus from Pula received wide international press coverage. Some well-known postwar exiles from Istria include race driver Mario Andretti, actress Alida Valli, singer Sergio Endrigo and boxer Nino Benvenuti. Following the exodus, the areas were settled with additional Croats, Slovenians and a minute number of other Yugoslav nationalities like Serbs and Montenegrins.

[edit] Istria after the breakup of Yugoslavia

Istria county in Croatia
Istria county in Croatia

In the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, Istria was divided between the republics of Croatia and Slovenia, following ethnic division lines. After the breakup of Yugoslavia in 1991 this administrative subdivision became a border between independent states. Since Croatia's first multi-party elections in 1990, the regional party Istrian Democratic Assembly (IDS-DDI, Istarski demokratski sabor or Dieta democratica istriana) has consistently received a majority of the vote and maintained through 1990s a position often contrary to the government in Zagreb, led by then nationalistic party Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ, Hrvatska demokratska zajednica) with regards to decentralization in Croatia and certain regional autonomy. However, that changed in 2000, when IDS formed with five other parties left-centre coalition government, led by Social Democratic Party of Croatia (SDP, Socijaldemokratska Partija Hrvatske). After reformed HDZ won Croatian parliamentary elections in late 2003 and formed minority government, IDS has been cooperating with state government on many projects, both local (in Istria County) and national.

[edit] Demographic history

Ethnic map of Croatia's Istria County in 2001
Ethnic map of Croatia's Istria County in 2001
Ethnic distribution in Istria in 1910:      Italians      Croats      Slovenes      Istro-Romanians
Ethnic distribution in Istria in 1910:      Italians      Croats      Slovenes      Istro-Romanians
Italians in Istria in 1910.
Italians in Istria in 1910.

The region has traditionally been ethnically mixed. Under Austrian rule in the 19th century, it included a large population of Italians, Croats, Slovenes and some Vlachs/Istro-Romanians and Serbs. In 1910, the ethnic and linguistic composition was completely mixed. According to the Austrian census results, out of 404,309 inhabitants in Istria, 168,116 (41.6%) spoke Croatian, 147,416 (36.5%) spoke Italian, 55,365 (13.7%) spoke Slovenian, 13,279 (3.3%) spoke German, 882 (0.2%) spoke Romanian, 2,116 (0.5%) spoke other languages and 17,135 (4.2%) were non-citizens, which had not been asked for their language of communication. During the last decades of Habsburg dynasty the coast of Istria profited from the tourism within the Empire. Generally speaking, Italians lived on coast, while Croats and Slovenians lived inland.

In the second half of the 19th century a clash of new ideological movements, Italian irredentism (which claimed Trieste and Istria) and Slovenian and Croatian nationalism (developing individual identities in some quarters whilst seeking to unite in a South Slav bid in others), resulted in growing ethnic conflict between Italians one side and Slovenes and Croats in opposition. This was intertwined with the class conflict, as inhabitants of Istrian towns were mostly Italian, whilst Croats or Slovenes largely lived out in the country.

There is a long tradition of tolerance between the people who live there, regardless of their nationality, and although many Istrians today are ethnic Croats, a strong regional identity has existed over the years. The Croatian word for the Istrians is Istrani, or Istrijani, the latter being in the local Chakavian dialect. The term Istrani is also used in Slovenia. Today the Italian minority is small, but the Istrian county in Croatia is bilingual, as are large parts of Slovenian Istria. Every citizen has the right to speak either Italian or Croatian (Slovenian in Slovenian Istria) in public administration or in court. Furthemore, Istria is a supranational European Region that includes Italian, Slovenian and Croatian Istria.

[edit] Ethnicity

As with many other regions in the former Yugoslavia, common concepts about ethnicity and nationality fail when applied to Istria. Discussions about Istrian ethnicity often use the words "Italian," "Croatian" and "Slovenian" to describe the character of Istrian people. However, these terms are best understood as "national affiliations" that may exist in combination with or independently of linguistic, cultural and historical attributes.

In Istrian contexts, for example, the word "Italian" can just as easily refer to autochthonous speakers of the Venetian language whose antecedents in the region extend before the inception of the Venetian Republic or Istriot language the oldest spoken language in Istria, dated back to the Romans, today spoken in the south west of Istria, but also to a descendant of immigrated during the Mussolini period.[citations needed] It can also refer to Istrian Slavs who adopted the veneer of Italian culture as they moved from rural to urban areas, or from the farms into the bourgeoisie. In fact most of the families in Inner Istria are mixed descendants.

Similarly, national powers claim Istrian Slavs according to local language, so that speakers of Čakavian and Štokavian dialects of Croatian language are considered to be Croatians, while speakers of other dialects may be considered to be Slovenians. Those Croatian dialect speakers are descendants of the first Slavic immigrants which settled in the region in the 7th and the 8th centuries as well as the refugees of the Turkish invasion and the Ottoman Empire from Bosnia and Dalmatia from the 16 century. Often they were slavizised Vlachs, the so called Morlacchi - Morlachs (vlachi mori). The Venetian Republic settled them down in Inner Istria, devastated by wars and plague. Many villages have the Morlachian name like Cattuni-Katun. Like with all other regions, the local dialects of the Slavic communities are very slightly varied across close distances. The Istrian Slavic and Italian vernaculars had both developed for many generations before being divided as they are today. This meant that Croats/Slovenes on one side and Venetians/other Italians on the other will have yielded towards each other culturally whilst distancing themselves from members of their ethnic groups living farther away. There is still the Romanian community to mention, the Istro-Romanians in the east and north of Istria (Cicceria) and parts of neighbouring Liburnia (the east coast of the peninsula which is not part of Istria).

Some Istrians consider themselves simply to be Istrians, with no additional national affiliation (in the 2001 Croatian census 8,865 (4.3%) people in Istria county declared themselves "Istrian"[1]). Nevertheless, most residents of Croatian Istria declare themselves as Croatian, while most residents of Slovenian Istria declare themselves as Slovenian.

The small town of Peroj has had a unique history which exemplifies the multi-ethnic complexity of the history of the region, as do some towns on both sides of the Cicerija mountains that are still identified with the Istro-Romanian people which the UNESCO Redbook of Endangered Languages calls "the smallest ethnic group in Europe".

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