On Thursday, January 14th at 10 am (CET), we hosted CAS SEE Weekly Seminar with Dominique Kirchner Reill, in dialogue with Natka Badurina (University of Udine), Ivan Jeličić (Institute of Political History Budapest), and Francesca Rolandi (Masaryk Institute and Archives of the Czech Academy of Sciences – Center for Advanced Studies Rijeka). The seminar was dedicated to the presentation of Reill’s new book – The Fiume Crisis.

The Fiume Crisis recasts what we know about the birth of fascism, the rise of nationalism, and the fall of empire after World War I by telling the story of the three-year period when the Adriatic city of Fiume (today Rijeka, in Croatia) generated an international crisis.

In 1919 the multicultural former Habsburg city was occupied by the paramilitary forces of the flamboyant poet-soldier Gabriele D’Annunzio, who aimed to annex the territory to Italy and became an inspiration to Mussolini. Many local Italians supported the effort, nurturing a standard tale of nationalist fanaticism. However, Dominique Kirchner Reill shows that practical realities, not nationalist ideals, were in the driver’s seat. Support for annexation was largely a result of the daily frustrations of life in a “ghost state” set adrift by the fall of the empire. D’Annunzio’s ideology and proto-fascist charisma notwithstanding, what the people of Fiume wanted was prosperity, which they associated with the autonomy they had enjoyed under Habsburg sovereignty. In these twilight years between the world that was and the world that would be, many across the former empire sought to restore the familiar forms of governance that once supported them. To the extent that they turned to nation-states, it was not out of zeal for nationalist self-determination but in the hope that these states would restore the benefits of cosmopolitan empire.

Against the too-smooth narrative of postwar nationalism, The Fiume Crisis demonstrates the endurance of the imperial imagination and carves out an essential place for history from below.

Dominique Kirchner Reill received her PhD with Distinction from Columbia University and is currently Associate Professor of Modern European History at the University of Miami. Her first book, Nationalists Who Feared the Nation: Adriatic Multinationalism in Habsburg Dalmatia, Trieste, and Venice, was published by Stanford University Press in 2012 and received the 2014 Book Prize from the Center for Austrian Studies, as well as Honorable Mention from the 2012 Smith Award. Her new book, The Fiume Crisis: Life in the Wake of the Habsburg Empire, comes out December 1, 2020 with Harvard University’s Belknap Press. She is an Associate Review Editor for the American Historical Review, editor for the Purdue University Press book series Central European Studies, and member of the editorial board for the Cambridge University Press journal Contemporary European History. Currently, she is a Visiting Scholar at the European University Institute, Fiesole, where she is working on her next book tentatively titled The Habsburg Mayor of New York: Fiorello LaGuardia.

Photo by Lia Avant Photodesign

Watch the CAS SEE Weekly Seminar with Dominique Kirchner Reill: