Dalmatia has a complex history, from a political, social and also ethnic perspective, as well as the centuries old process connected with the Dalmatian identity of Italian nature. This is not a very known road, especially for the clear political motivations occurred after World War II, when Italy had to give to Yugoslavia all the lands of the Eastern Adriatic shore.
Dalmatian identity of Italian nature has left nowadays permanent traces of its important presence at monumental, urbanistic, artistic, political, economical and linguistic level.
Dalmatia is a border area, subjected to many different dominations over the centuries.
Since the collapse of the Western Roman Empire, the new and often fierce migrations of barbarian people, together with other historical events, determined a particular ethnic and political breach between the inland and the coastline of Dalmatia.
It is enough to remember the contrasts between Venetian Republic and the Hungarian-Croatian kings in the Northern-Central Dalmatia, the conflicts between Serbian-Montenegrin principalities and the coastal centres of Southern Dalmatia or the long struggle between Venice and the Ottoman Empire, to become aware of an history so long and so troubled.
During 1800 Dalmatia was given to the Austro-Hungarian Empire and that century was characterised by the struggles for autonomy supported by the most important dalmatian cities, where “Italianism” was very deep since the first years of 1900.
Despite the very intricate political history, for many centuries Dalmatia has been able to play an important role of cultural intermediation between Western Europe and Slavic-Balcanic world.
Unfortunately,during the first half of 1900, despite being a lively and combative aspect, the Italian character in Dalmatia has experienced an irreversible ethical and political decay.
Dalmatians, as a whole,either of Italian or Slavic nature, although they were split until 1850 for ethnical, linguistic and social reasons, always agreed to grant to every group the right to live in their own land.
In the first half of the XX century, this trend has had to give way to the strategy of incorporating an ethnic group to the other.
The marked nationalistic considerations, as well as homologation in criteria considered national for whole communities, with complicated identities of multicultural and multiethnic sort, have progressively led to the disintegration of the ancient and traditional Dalmatian world.
The Italian character absorbed by many Slavic Dalmatians through a simple cultural radiance over the centuries did not happen at all as a consequence of authoritarian and assimilating politics.
On the other hand, in the XX century, the two totalitarianisms, Italian Fascism and Slavic-Communism, have almost imposed, in turn, political and cultural models verging to assimilation without focusing to acceptance and consequently to a peaceful coexistence between the two most important ethnical groups in Dalmatia: Croatian and Italian.
Italian Dalmatians, before Zara’s annexion by Italy, took part in different ways in Risorgimento wars; they identify themselves especially in the Venetian myth, considering even that they adopted the dialect time ago.
The defeat of the Italian navy in the Third Italian War of Independence off of Lissa frustrated the Italian Dalmatians’ expectations.
From that time for Italy began the long farewell to Dalmatia.
Afterwards Francesco Crispi changed the Italian international alliances to strike the Triple Alliance with the historic enemy: Austria.
Subsequently since 1882 Trentino, Julian and Dalmatians patriots were controlled and persecuted by Italy itself.
To Slavic assimilation, encouraged by Austrian Government since 1860, Italian Dalmatians reacted with irredentism and loyalty to Italy.
When the time came many Dalmatians fought and died for the Italian homeland because they were strongly attracted by modern national-patriotism, when it became an undeniable mass political force.
Fate was deeply adverse for Dalmatia’s Italian people after World War II.
Zara, last italian fortress in Dalmatia, after a thousand years of fierce resistance, was destroyed by 54 bombing, more than 2,000 victims.
The value and the importance of Dalmatian culture of Italian nature, which throughout time has been definitely able to communicate with the close Slavic cultural part during its evolutionary progress; this culture has reached such a universal level of civilization that it is in the position to play a role in the development of the new contemporary European culture, free from XX century ideological burdens, since are clearly verifiable in the Dalmatian universe reasons and traces which are forerunners of the new European Humanism, that is painfully reconstructing itself at Community level.
Nowadays Dalmatia has approximately 600.000 inhabitants and it belongs for the most to the Republic of Croatia, born formally after the dissolution of Yugoslavia in 1991.
Just few strips of Dalmatian land belong to different state entities: the coastal town Neum (south of Spalato/Split) belongs to Bosnia and Herzegovina, while the far southern strip including Bay of Kotor and the town of Budua/Budva belong to Montenegro (Union of Serbia and Montenegro).
In the Dalmatia region the representation of Italian ethnic group referring to 1991 census stands at 225 individuals, but it is estimated a presence of at least 1,000 people, which is left submerged for political and social reasons.
Croatian ethnic group is dominant, but Serbians, despite the exodus from the dalmatian inland occurred during the recent war in ex-Yugoslavia, are a large, even if outnumbered, presence.
Economically speaking Dalmatia is not very well-developed.
The main occupation is without any doubt tourism, encouraged by the beauty of coast and seabed.
Harbour activities and fishing follow up tourism.
Very important are spirits and concrete industry.
Road network has improved in recent times, especially after the building of the highway connecting Zadar to Split.
Main cities are : Split approximately 200.000 inhabitants, Zadar aprrox. 80.000 inhabitants, Dubrovnik (50.000 inhabitants), Sibenik (42.000), Trogir (20.000) and Cattaro (Kotor, in the Montenegrine Dalmatia) aprrox. 21.000 inhabitants.