The Fiume Crisis:
Life in the Wake of the Habsburg Empire
2020 Belknap Press- Harvard University Press
The Fiume Crisis recasts what we know about the birth of fascism, postwar nationalist activism, and the fall of empire after 1918 by telling the story of the three-year period when the Adriatic port-city Fiume (today known by its Croatian name Rijeka) became an international fiasco that stalled negotiations at the 1919 Paris Peace Conference and became the setting for the fifteen-month occupation of the city by the poet-soldier Gabriele D’Annunzio, an occupation many believe Mussolini copied explicitly in his rise to power. The history of Fiume in this period is usually cited as the natural outgrowth of extreme nationalism at the end of World War One, which led to it becoming the birthplace of charismatic fascism. The Fiume Crisis upends this story by showing that what happened in Fiume had little to do with D’Annunzio, charisma, or proto-fascism. Rather, the Fiume Crisis was a result of the dissolution of the Habsburg Monarchy and all the promises and challenges that living in a “ghost state” presented.
The Fiume Crisis is accessibly written to attract readers outside specialist circles and to enliven a world that has been ignored in favor of the sensationalist press attention to stories of communal hate and the media-darling D’Annunzio. Much more was going on than what yellow journalism told us, and this book shows how and why Fiume was one of the first places to give women the vote in Catholic Europe, how life could work when over 60% of its currency was forged, why an entire police force refused to give over nationality figures to the state, and how an ethnically diverse population (about 40% Italian, 40% Croatian, 10% Hungarian) could be convinced that annexation to a nation-state notorious for its intolerance was the best way to approach its future.
The over three years of onsite research for this book in Croatia, Italy, Germany, the UK, and the US have been supported by the NEH, ACLS, the American Academy in Rome, and the University of Miami.