We do not have a great deal of information on minority groups in Italy. The eastern border of Italy has varied over time. This has primarily involved Slovenians and to a lesser extent Croats. There was a substantial Jewish minority as well as a small Gypsey population. There was also a small Austrian (German-speaking) population in the north a result of the Italian acquisition of the South Tirol as a result of the World War I Peace seattlement. We are less sure about French in the west. Since World War II there have been an influx of Muslims, primarily from North Africa and Africans.
There was a small German community in northern Italy. The Allies had rewarded the Italians for coming over to the Allies rather than honoring their treaty with the
Central Powers in World War I (1915). The Italians received a beautiful area in the North. That was the Austrian province of South Tirol. The only trouble was that the people spoke German and actually looked down on Italians. They were a stubborn people, staunchly Catholic and proud of their own ways. Things became bad under Mussolini. He settled hundreds of Italians from Calabria and Sicily in the cities of Bolzano and Merano to increase the Italian element. German schools were closed and street signs had to be written in Italian only. This was the one German community in Europe that Hitler did not use to stir up trouble. Hitler knew about the oppression of his people there, but never said anything, because he needed the Duce as his Axis ally in his future endeavours. Hitler tried to get the Tiroleans to move to Germany, but very few went. They just waited for better times to arrive. Italy was of course a German ally until late 1943. The Germans after late 1943 seized control of mich of Italy and a number of attrocities were reported, although not on the scale perpetrated in Eastern Europe. As far as I know, the Italians took no action against the Germans in South Tirol. After considerable effort the South Tiroleans got autonomy about 10 years after World War II. All signs are bilingual, people are allowed to have their own organisations, German-language papers, and libraries. The area is very mountanous and tourism is a large source of income. Especially Germans come on vacation. The best Italian skiers, and bobsledders are Tiroleans and when Gerhard Plankensteiner or Oswald Hasenrieder are winning a gold medal at the Winter Olympics, the Italian announcers are not able to pronounce the names of their heroes.
Nowadays all larger Italian cities (especially Milan and Rome) have substantial Eritrean-Ethiopian communities as well as other African minorities. Eritra was once an Italian colony until its loss to the British in World War II. Ethiopia was seized by Italy in the early aggressions leading up to World War II (1935) and also lost during the War.
There is an other important minority in Italy. They are the French-speaking people of the autonomous region Aosta in Northwestern Italy. About 100,000 of them live in this very mountanous area. Places as Courmayeur and Sestriere are famous for wintersports. In this region where the local people speak French, two villages are German-speaking, Gressoney and La Trinitee. The inhabitants long ago crossed the Matterhorn and Monte Rosa in Switzerland and settled south of there in this part of Italy, surrounded by French-speaking people.
There was a small Gypsey population.
Judiasm has a long history in Italy, a history which predates Christinity. Italy was the first European country where Jews appeared. Jews were first noted in Italy in the times of the Roman Republic. Judah Maccabeus negotiated an alliance with the Roman Republic (2nd century BC). At that time some Jews went to Rome and others appeared in opther areas controlled by the Republic and subsequently the Roman Empire. The Jewish revolt resulted in Roman invasion and wide spread actions aginst the Jews. The Romans destroyed the second temple in Jerusalem (70 AD). Not only did the Romans kill large numbers of Jews, but many others were enslaved. Many Jews were driven from Palestine. This action by the Romans is known as the Disapora. A contingent of about 10,000 were brought to Rome and set to work on the Coliseum. The Roman victory was memorialized in the Arch of Titus. Despite the Roman supression of the Jews in Palestine, and the enslavement of many Jews, substantial Jewsish communities developed in Rome and many other cities of the Empire. Little is known about these communities, except for the Jewish community in Rome itself. Archeologists have found 13 synagogues and a number of cemeteries. In italy there were Jewish communities in southern Italy in addition to a few in the north (Taranto, Ferrarra, and Milan). The Empire recognized Judiasm as an official religion, a status not conferred on Christianity which was viewed as a dangerous superstitious cult. This only changed wuith Constantine and the conversion of the Empire to Christianity.
An Italian reader tells us about the Ladini people who live in the mountains of north-western Italy. They speak their own destinct language. This is not a geroup that we know much about. They appear to be ethnically and religiously related to Romansch in southern Switzerland. The Romansh speak the Romansh language. They settled in parts of the Grisons. Ethnically they have descended from Raetic stock. Little is known of the origin or history of the Raetians. They first apea in Roman records. The Romans believed that they descended from the Etruscans. The Romans described them as an especially war-like Alpine tribe. Some settled in the plains of the Po, but were driven into the more defemdsible mountains by the invading Celts (Gauls). There they adoptedthe name Raetians from an important war leader--Raetus. Another theory is the name comes from the Celtic rait ("mountain land"). What ever their origins, by the toime the Romans came in contact with bthem they appear to have been a asically Celtic people. They were conquered by the Romans (15BC)and Raetia brecame a Roman province. Their language does appeaer to have Etriuscan influences and later Celtic. After the Roman conquest, Latin became widely adopted. After the fall of Rome the language of the Ladini became Romansh It is now one of the four national languages of Switzerland. It is classified as one of the Rhaeto-Romance languages. It is widely accepoted thsat it descenced from the Vulgar Latin that became afopted after he Roman conquest. It is thus related to French, Occitan and North Italian dialectds. The Swiss population is centered in the the canton of Graubünden (Grisons). The Italian population is much smaller.
I n north-eastern Italy (provinces of Trieste, Gorizia and Udine) there is an Italian Slovenian-speaking minority. Slovenia and much of northern Italy was ruled by Austria during the 19th century. Italy threw off Austrian rule and was united (1860), but Slovenia remained part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire until Austria-Hungary's defeat in World war I (1918). After the German-Italian World war II invasion of Yugoslavia (April 1940), Italy and Germany partitioned Slovenia. Slvenia after the Allied victory was returned to Yugoslavia (1945). We note an Italo-Slovenia boy, Natale Kesic tied up with World War II. He was found at a Germany POW camp by American soldiers. The boundary between Yugoslavia (Slovenia) and Italy was a contentious issue after the War. Slovenia was the first part of Yugoslavia to seceed from Yugoslavia and is now an independent country. There still is tiny Slovenian group in the northeastern corner of Italy, around the city of Trieste. Trieste itself is populated by Italians for the most part. The city used to belong to Austria and always has been cosmopolitan: Italians, Slovenes, Germans, Jews lived there for centuries. Although I am not certain about it, it is possible that the Slovenes in Italy have their own organizations and as a consequence also a youth group that cultivates their customes (Slavic people are known for their folk dances and colorful outfits) . I know the German-speaking Tiroleans have all kind of clubs and societies, but they are a much larger group in a larger area. I am not even sure whether the Slovenes are enjoying any form of autonomy in Italy. Their numbers are perhaps too small.
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