Interpretations and Perspectives of the Great Conflict
Edited By Jarosław Suchoples and Stephanie James
Alessandro Salvador - Italian-Speaking Austrian POWs in Russia and the Italian Involvement in the Siberian Intervention 1918–1920
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Dipartimento di Lettere e Filosofia Università degli Studi di Trento, Italy
Italian-Speaking Austrian POWs in Russia and the Italian Involvement in the Siberian Intervention 1918–1920*
Abstract: In 1914, the Italian unification process was still not complete. Two northern regions, around cities of Trento and Trieste, mostly inhabited by Italians, still belonged to Austria-Hungary. The outbreak of World War I was perceived by many Italian nationalists as a chance to conquer these territories and accomplish the process begun in the 19th century with the Risorgimento. When the war broke out, Italy remained neutral in order to decide later whether to join her Austrian and German allies, or the Entente. Meanwhile, thousands of Italian-speaking Austrian citizens were sent to the eastern front, serving in the army of the Habsburgs. Italian nationalists maintained that these soldiers were brothers, forced to serve to their oppressors. Italy eventually joined the war in May 1915 and, then, taking care of the Italians from Trento and Trieste serving in the Austro-Hungarian army became less important, although potentially useful for propaganda purposes. Thus, the Italian government sent a military mission to Russia to save Italian-speaking soldiers who were taken POWs on the eastern front. The Russia’s 1917 collapse left thousands of Italian-speaking Austrian POWs and members of Italian rescue missions stuck thousands of miles away from home. Gathered in Siberia, these people became involved in activities of the Entente’s international expeditionary forces against the Bolsheviks. Forced...
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