Institute of History, Slovak Academy of Sciences in Bratislava is hosting an international conference titled “Italy and the Post-Habsburg Central Europe: Occupation, Administration, Intervention, Diplomacy”. This conference is a continuation of the discussion about the Italian front from the four previous conferences organised during 2014-2018. Our researcher, dr. Urška Strle will participate at the conference with her paper – “Borders across people – people across borders: a gender-sensitive gaze on the NW frontier of the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes (1918-1928)”.

In the autumn of 1918, after four years of the greatest conflict in the history of mankind up until that point, the armies of Entente and its allies fought to a definitive victory against the Central Powers. However, the period of stability did not come immediately to Central and Eastern Europe, where the aftermath of World War One lasted much longer than in the Western countries. The end of the war and the following reconstruction of the Central European region was one of the most important political, diplomatic and military milestones of the 20th century. The creation of successor states opened the question of drawing new borders and thus led to new disputes among countries.

Italy had ambitions to become a great power, mainly in the Balkan region which was considered the sphere of influence in Rome but also in Central Europe. Italy also had an active policy towards successor states including its own military mission in Czechoslovakia, its membership in the Allied Commission in Hungary and its annexation of several former Habsburg territories. Although the Italian ambitions interfered primarily with the Yugoslav ones, they also clashed with those of the USA and France. However, this new period of instability came to an end in the early 1920s. The Italian ambitions weren’t fulfilled and the expression “mutilated victory” was born.

However, the relations between Italy and the Post-Habsburg Central Europe go far beyond political, diplomatic or military history. At the time a great number of former POWs had to return home from Italy to new born states and vice versa, while refugees from occupied territories had to return as well. The demilitarization of society was a primary task in the aftermath of the war. The situation at the local level often contradicted the big narrative and the bottom-up perspective of this transition period enables us to see new and interesting points of view. The attitude of local people and authorities in the regions that had switched from one state to another may have been understandably cautious as it was uncertain how long the administration of that time would last. These relationships between locals and new occupants and the expectations of the people with respect to their new governments further represent important subjects for analysis.

The conference is supported by: Institute of History, Slovak Academy of Sciences; LabEx, ENHE, Axe 5; Slovak Historical Society; and Istituto Italiano di Cultura, Bratislava.


Borders across people – people across borders: a gender-sensitive gaze on the NW frontier of the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes (1918-1928)

The Great War excessively affected migratory patterns of military and civil population and set more rigid standards to control all kinds of mobility. Before the war-stimulated forms of displacements managed to settle down, they interlaced with massive movements caused by new political frames and changed governmental policies. Prior to the internationally recognition of the borderlines, disputed border areas underwent military occupations with commonly violent outcomes. Post-war was defined with reconstruction and hope, but also with deep uncertainties and extended political violence.

The Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes was established on the area of the two collapsed empires, whose successor states were often in conflict to each other. Prolonged war-based agony, shifts in political loyalties, aroused by competitive nationalistic discourses, economic depression, devastated homes made many people search for new opportunities. The focal attention will be payed to the NW border territory of the Kingdom, observing various forms of movements such as refugeeism, international transitions, and massive short-distance mobility over the border, showing a continuity of certain realities of once politically united territory. The paper will pay a special attention to the intersection of gender and mobility, in particular to the legal frameworks and general perception regarding the migrating women.

The main empirical source used is the documentation of the Districts of Radovljica and Logatec, bordering to Italy and Austria. The documentation meets different institutional layers: national, regional, municipal, and personal – often with valuable biographical outlines. Since the two districts demonstrated a poor share of urban areas, they offer a historically unheeded perspective of post-war changes in the countryside.

Urška Strle, PhD., Faculty of Arts, University of Ljubljana, Slovenia, e-mail: