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TIGR, an abbreviation for Trst (Fascist Italianization of the Slovene and Croat people on part of the former Austro-Hungarian territories that became part of Italy after the First World War. It is considered one of the first anti-fascist resistance movements in Europe.[1][2] It was active between 1927 and 1941.

Memorial plaque to TIGR activists in Ocizla on the Karst Plateau who were active in the 1930s


  • Background 1
  • Composition and activity 2
  • Early activity 3
  • Re-organization in the 1930s 4
  • After 1941 5
  • Aftermath and legacy 6
  • Prominent TIGR members 7
    • People linked to the organization 7.1
  • See also 8
  • References 9


The Treaty of Rapallo and the Italianization of ethnic Slovene areas that included a quarter of Slovene ethnic territory and approximately 327,000 out of a total population of 1.3[3] million Slovenes,[4] on the map of present-day Slovenia with its traditional regions' boundaries.
A leaflet from the period of Fascist Italianization in the Julian March, prohibiting all public use of "Slav" language in Vodnjan in south-western Istria.

While the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy was a multi-national empire, which allowed a relatively large degree of cultural autonomy to the different peoples and ethnic groups, Italy was a nation state, and its governments had little intention to allow the existence of separate national movements and identities on its territories. Issues regarding the use of Slovene and Croatian languages in public administration and in the educational system, became the main point of contention between the Italian authorities and the Slovene and Croat minorities.

After the Fascist movement came to power in 1922, anti-Slavic policies were enforced as part of Italianization. In 1923, the use of Slovene and Croat languages in all public offices, including post offices and means of public transport, was prohibited. In the same year, the Gentile reform declared Italian as the only language of public education; by 1928, all Slovene and Croat schools, including private ones, were closed down. In 1925, the use of Slovene and Croat was prohibited in the courts of law. All Slovene and Croat names of towns and settlements were Italianized. By 1927, all public use of Slovene and Croat languages was prohibited. Children were prohibited being given Slavic names, and all Slavic-sounding surnames were administratively given an Italian-sounding form. The Fascist Italianization prohibited Slavic inscriptions on gravestones .

By 1927, all Slovene and Croat associations - not only political, but also cultural, educational and sport associations - were dissolved, as were all financial and economic institutions in the hands of the Slovene and Croat minority. Since 1928, the State law started limiting the use of Slovene and Croat also in the churches, and in 1934, all use of Slovene and Croat in Roman Catholic liturgy (including singing and sermons) was prohibited.

Under the effect of this policy tens of thousands emigrated abroad, mostly to Yugoslavia and South America.

Composition and activity

Its membership consisted of radical (mostly national liberal) Slovene youth from former Fascist Italianization and to achieve the annexation of Istria, the Slovenian Littoral and Rijeka to Yugoslavia.

The TIGR carried out several bomb attacks on Italian and German soil,[6] as well as assassinations of Italian military personnel, police forces, civil servants and prominent members of the National Fascist Party.[7] It also planned a popular uprising against the Fascist regime, which was however never carried out.[8] Because of these actions, it was treated as a terrorist organization by the Italian state.

The organization was dismantled by the Liberation Front of the Slovenian People during World War II. After the war, many former TIGR activists were persecuted by Yugoslav Communist authorities.[5][9][10][11]

Early activity

The first organized anti-Fascist resistance activities in the Julian March began in the mid 1920s in the easternmost districts of the region (around Orjuna, launching first attacks at Italian military and police personnel. These were however still mostly individual actions, without an organizational background. The connections between the Slovene anti-Fascist activists and the Orjuna were soon broken due to a different ideological agenda.

In September 1927, a group of Slovene Trieste, Istria, Gorizia, Rijeka. Few months later, another meeting took place in Trieste, where a group connected to the former established the organization Borba (Fight), which also included some Croat activists from Istria. From the very beginning, the two groups worked in close alliance.

The two organization were formed mostly by liberal nationalist youngsters from Trieste, carabinieri, border guards, military personnel.

In the Christian Socialist activists, centered around the lawyer Janko Kralj and priest Virgil Šček.

In Istria, the TIGR cell was led by Vladimir Gortan, an activist from Beram. Differently from most Slovene cells, Gortan opted for open demonstrative actions, such as attacks on police convoys. In March 1929, during the Fascist plebiscite, when he raided a polling station near the town of Pazin, killing one peasant. Soon afterwards, he was caught by the Italian police and executed.

On 10 February 1930, in the headquarters of the newspaper Il Popolo di Trieste, the TIGR places a bomb killing the editor Guido Neri. Three other journalists and typographers remained injured.[12]

In 1930 the First Trieste trial; four of them (Ferdo Bidovec, Fran Marušič, Zvonimir Miloš and Alojzij, Valenčič), charged with murder, were sentenced to death and executed at Basovizza (Slovene: Bazovica) near Trieste.

Re-organization in the 1930s

After the trial of 1930, the organization quickly re-organized itself under the leadership of Albert Rejec and Danilo Zelen. It expanded its membership and shifted its tactics. Instead of demonstrative attacks on symbolic figures and institutions of Fascist repression, they opted for targeted attacks on infrastructure and high-ranking military, militia and police personnel. They also built a wide intelligence network, and established contacts with British and Yugoslav intelligence services. Ideological propaganda was intensified.

While in the late 1920s, the organization had close connection with radical Yugoslav nationalist movements, such as Slovenian Littoral.

Among the actions planned by the organization, the most daring and far-reaching was probably the attempt on Benito Mussolini's life in 1938. The plan was supposed to be carried out in 1938, when the dictator visited Kobarid (then officially known as Caporetto). The plan was put off at the last minute, most probably because of the pressure by the British intelligence, which opposed such an action in times when Mussolini was conducting an active role in the negotiations that led to the Munich agreement.

After the Anschluss of Austria in 1938, the TIGR expanded its activity to neighboring Nazi Germany, focusing primarily on bomb actions against crucial infrastructure: railways, and high-voltage power lines. The actions led to a thorough investigation by the Fascist regime, which disclosed most of the TIGR cells in 1940/1941.

After 1941

Memorial plaque in the Bežigrad district of Ljubljana to Danilo Zelen, a leading member of the TIGR, fallen in the fight against Italian Army in the Province of Ljubljana in May 1941.

In 1941 several members of TIGR were condemned for espionage and terrorism at the Nazi German secret police and most of its prominent members either sent to concentration camps, killed or exiled.

During Liberation Front of the Slovenian People.

Aftermath and legacy

Members of the Patriotic Association TIGR at the commemoration of the 80th anniversary of the Victims of Basovizza in Basovizza near Trieste, Italy

After the establishment of the Communist regime in Yugoslavia in 1945, most former TIGR members were removed from public life. The Yugoslav secret police continued to closely monitor some of TIGR's members up to the 1970s. Their activity was removed from the official historical accounts.

In the late 1970s, the first historical accounts on the activity of the TIGR started to appear. Only in the 1980s, however, did their resistance activity started to be appreciated again, with several historical books written on the matter. The historian Milica Kacin Wohinz was one of the first to produce a thorough study of the movement in a monograph entitled "The First Anti-Fascism in Europe", and published in 1990.

Throughout the 1990s, the history of TIGR received increased publicity and started to be mentioned in public speeches. In 1994, the Association for the Nourishment of Patriotic Traditions of the Slovenian Littoral Organization TIGR (colloquially known as the "Association TIGR" or "Patriotic Association TIGR") was formed in Postojna, and eventually became the main promoter of the positive evaluation of the TIGR legacy.

In 1997 on the 50th anniversary of annexation of the state decoration in Slovenia.

Since the 1990s, many monuments and memorial plaques have been erected to commemorate TIGR activists and their activities.

Prominent TIGR members

People linked to the organization

See also


  1. ^ Milica Kacin Wohinz, Prvi antifašizem v Evropi. Primorska 1925-1935 (Koper: Lipa, 1990)
  2. ^ Website of the TIGR Society
  3. ^ Lipušček, U. (2012) Sacro egoismo: Slovenci v krempljih tajnega londonskega pakta 1915, Cankarjeva založba, Ljubljana. ISBN 978-961-231-871-0
  4. ^ Cresciani, Gianfranco (2004) Clash of civilisations, Italian Historical Society Journal, Vol.12, No.2, p.4
  5. ^ a b Mira Cencič, TIGR (Ljubljana: Mladinska knjiga, 1997)
  6. ^ a b Tatjana Rejec, Pričevanja o TIGR-u (Ljubljana: Slovenska matica, 1995)
  7. ^ Milica Kacin Wohinz, Marta Verginella, Primorski upor fašizmu (Ljubljana, 2008).
  8. ^ Borut Rutar, Iz primorske epopeje: Mirko Brovč in narodna vstaja organizacije TIGR, 1938-1941 (Klagenfurt: Mohorjeva družba, 2004)
  9. ^ Tatjana Rejec, Partija in tigrovci (Ljubljana: Slovenska matica, 2008)
  10. ^ Tatjana Rejec, Pričevanja o TIGR-u (Ljubljana, 1995)
  11. ^ Branko Marušič, ed., Domovina, kje si? Zbornik ob 100. obletnici rojstva Alberta Rejca (Celje: Mohorjeva družba, 1999)
  12. ^ (Italian) Tribunale speciale per la difesa dello Stato, Bevk-January 1930.pdf Reg. no.81/1930 Judgment No. 29, on
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