The Guidelines for the Study of Emigration of the Slovenes living in Italy and Emigration of the Slovenes from the Regions in the Works of Italian Authors
The author presents methods and guidelines for treating the migration issues in the ethnically mixed area of the Slovene and Italian population in northwest Italy. He points out the exclusive concentration of Slovene authors on currently “acute” emigration issues and an approach to the emigration of the Slovenes from these regions mainly from the perspective of negative demographic consequences and other such influences on minority groups. Furthermore, the author points to a recent change in the approach and to an increasing interest in the life of emigrants in the destination countries. In this regard the author draws attention to the influence of emigrants’ experiences originating in their status of national minority on their life in a new environment. In the second part of the study the author discusses the works and approaches of Italian authors, concluding that their attention was mainly limited to the migration processes in Beneška Slovenija.
The study analyses the approaches and guidelines for the treatment of migration in the ethnically mixed regions where Italian and Slovene nationalities are located along the north east border of Italy with special emphasis on the migration processes of the Slovenes. In the light of efforts invested in the studies by the Slovene minority in this area, the author would like to draw attention to the limited capacities available to carrying out such studies, and the tendency to give priority to issues which were acute in the contemporary situation and served the purpose of preserving the national and cultural identity, as well as contribute to the comprehensive development of the community in the given social and economic circumstances within the State. Consequently, the topic of migration attracted closer attention from the researchers mainly in the areas where this subject became acute in the first decades following the Second World War. The area in question was Beneška Slovenska (Venetian Slovenia), occupying the eastern parts of the sub-Alpine area around Udine, which lost more than half of its predominantly Slovene population in that period after the Second World War. These emigrants set out for foreign countries or other regional or industrial centres in Italy mainly owing to a gloomy economic situation, which jeopardised the very survival of this minority group on their indigenous territory.
From the beginning of the seventies, the situation stimulated the intellectuals and Slovene organisations from Beneška Slovenija along with the newly formed research institutes, to launch the research of migration processes in this region. This produced a series of studies of demographic, spatial, social and economic aspects, as well as, the political dimension of the exodus which in fact belongs to a wider topic concerned with the position of the Italian state towards the issue of the Slovene national minority in Italy. The interest later expanded to also cover the history of the emigration from this area, which existed in the form of seasonal migrations at least since the beginning of the previous century. Another question that was therefore encompassed was that of identity, inclusion, and the life in general of the population from Beneška Slovenija affected by diaspora. This population in diaspora still maintains close contact with the home district and contributes, partly through their return, to its revitalisation.
In the course of history there were quite significant instances of mass migration of Slovene national communities in the areas of Gorizia and Trieste as well. In contrast to emigration from Beneška Slovenija, these instances of emigration were not studied systematically and the approach to the issue was thematically limited. The most important were the migrations between the First and Second World War when some tens of thousands of Slovenes and Croats emigrated from these regions to Yugoslavia and South America, while many of them were relocated by the Fascist government and sent to inner Italian regions. The reasons for emigrating were partly economic and social, but above all it was the Fascist suppression of the minorities that drove people to flee the area. The historiography of ethnic minorities, as well as general historiography in Slovenia, mainly treated this instance of emigration from the political point of view and in relation to the question of the state border between Italy and Yugoslavia. Or it was dealt with within the context of the Italian suppression of the Slovene minority in the province of Giulia during the Fascist rule and with regard to the organisational patterns of political emigrants and their anti-Fascist activities. The issues that remained neglected were social, economic and other aspects that affected emigrants, both in their indigenous environment and in the areas of their destination.
Even less attention was devoted to another instance of emigration, namely emigration to Australia from the area of Trieste after the abolition of the Free Trieste Territory and the division of territory between Italy and Yugoslavia. In addition to the grave economic crisis and the alarm caused by gloomy perspective, this instance of emigration was also initiated by the uneasiness created when the region ceded to Italy. However, the migration was treated only marginally as a part of a wider demographic study of national minorities and the general economic situation in that period. Only recently have the studies of ethnic minorities got rid of ethnocentricity and the approach to particular instances of emigration from the point of view of a demographic deficiency and other negative consequences to which a national minority in question is exposed to due to the emigration process. As a consequence, more comprehensive studies of the emigration of Slovenes from the Trieste area to Australia were formulated and they revealed significant correlations between the emigrants' perception of their former status of minority and their experiences in the regions to which they moved. In the light of these conclusions, the author would like to emphasise the need for the definition of the emigration of national minorities to be a separate part of emigration studies which necessitates special approaches and models of interpretation.
As regards to the handling of the emigration of the Slovenes by the Italian authors, the author points out that Italian authors also focused almost exclusively on the area of Beneška Slovenija. In contrast to the regions of Gorizia and Trieste, Beneška Slovenija belonged to Italy from 1866, until the end of the 18th century it was a part of the Venetian Republic and only in the following intermediate period did it belong to Austria. In the decades leading up to the Second World War the Italian authors stressed the low share of emigrants from this area in seasonal migrations in comparison to the number of migrants from the region of Friulli. They ascribed this to the character of the Slovenes who are too attached to their poor piece of land and have not enough courage to separate from their family and venture out into the world. After the Second World War Italian researches approached this topic from the social and geographical points of view, and contributed important historical and ethnologic studies about the occupational peculiarities of seasonal migrations from Beneška Slovenija.
The emigration of the Slovenes from the province of Giulia in the time of Fascist rule did not receive the attention of Italian experts on emigration. The issue, however, was the subject of political historians but only in terms of the quantification of the process within the context of national issues and the question of state borders in this area. The low interest of Italian researchers is also evident as regards to emigration to Australia from the Trieste region after the Second World War which included the indigenous Italian, as well as Slovene, population and also extended to refugees who arrived there from Istria. Up to now, no study has confronted this problem from the complex ethnic perspective. The studies in the history of Trieste by Italian authors comprise significant contributions about the immigrant labour force (also to a large extent Slovene) since the middle of the 19th century up to the First World War. These immigrants not only influenced social and economic circumstances but also significantly predisposed the political and national history of this border area.