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A view of Bolzano Trentino Alto Adige Italy
A room with frescos in a castle in Bolzano Trentino Alto Adige Italy

Trentino Alto Adige History

Most of this region can be tracked back as far as from the 11th century to 1802-1803 in the Episcopal principalities of Trent and Bressanone. In the beginning of the 19th century, Napoleon conquered this part of the Holy Roman Empire, only to relinquish it to the Austro-Hungarians. It was incorporated into the Tyrol province in 1815, under the Austrian administration. In 1866 when Trento was passed to Italy, the Austrians in Bolzano pushed for more "Germanization". This provoked irredentism among the Italian minority. Based on historical, ethnic, and geographical reason, for the incorporation of territories under foreign rule, irredentism has been applied to nationalist agitation in other countries. Following World War I, the Treaty of Saint-Germain (1919) gave Bolzano to Italy, resulting in agitation by its German-speaking population. 


The Italian government's program of intensive Italianization and the enforcement of Italian as the sole official language provoked violent opposition. Hitler and Mussolini made an agreement in 1938 forced migration of the German-speaking population to Germany or other parts of Italy. Due to its unpopularity, it collapsed soon thereafter. In 1946, after an agreement between the Italian and Austrian governments, the republican constitution of Italy (1947) granted the region considerable autonomy, making both German and Italian official languages. Dissatisfied with this move, the German-speaking population in the province called South Tyrol, demanded even greater autonomy. Austria interceded, supporting the German-speaking.


In recent history the area has been known by several names; German name of "Sud Tyrol", Benetia-Tridentia, and Trentino-Alto Adige. It is a thinly populated, yet has been an autonomous region since 1948. The small population of the region is derived from three different ethnic groups, thus three languages are spoken here. The Province of Trento is almost entirely Italian-speaking, some of Venetian origin and some Lombard. Bolzano has both German and Italian languages. Then there is a small population speaking Rhaeto-Ladin, which originates from Latin, characteristic of the ethnic group living in Val Gardena, Val Badia, and part of Val Pusteria.

With great tension between the two countries, in 1960 the Bolzano problem was debated at the United Nations, where they entered into direct negations. Finally, in 1971 a treaty was signed and ratified, stipulating that disputes in Bolzano would be settled in the International Court of Justice in The Hague, that the province would receive increased legislative and administrative autonomy from Italy, and that Austria would not interfere in Bolzano's internal affairs.


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