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  • Nationalists Who Feared the Nation: Adriatic Multi-Nationalism in Habsburg Dalmatia, Trieste, and Venice by Dominique Kirchner Reill
  • Nicole M. Phelps
Nationalists Who Feared the Nation: Adriatic Multi-Nationalism in Habsburg Dalmatia, Trieste, and Venice. By Dominique Kirchner Reill. Stanford, Calif.: Stanford University Press, 2012. 336 pp. $65.00 (cloth and e-book).

The lands surrounding the Adriatic Sea have often changed hands, and they have been famous—indeed, often infamous—for the diversity of their population. The dominant groups have been Italian and, to adopt the less-than-nuanced rhetoric of the nineteenth century, Slavic, but the commercial importance of Adriatic ports meant that languages from all over the world could be heard on a daily basis, [End Page 712] too. As Romantic nationalism began to inspire European intellectuals in the wake of the Napoleonic wars, residents of the Adriatic region pondered what those nationalist ideas might mean for their diverse homeland. In addition to this developing nationalism, political control over the Adriatic from Venice to Dubrovnik had shifted to the Habsburgs in 1814, giving the sense that a new era was at hand. Nationalist historians have typically characterized the Adriatic thinkers who emerged in this first generation of Habsburg rule as proponents of nation-states, placing individuals either in the story of the creation of a unified Italy or the development of Yugoslavia or Croatia. In her study of a network of six of these thinkers, however, Reill reminds us that, at least before 1848, they had other ideas about nationalism, too.

Occupying the most important node in the network was Niccolò Tommaseo (1802–1874), a Dalmatian-born writer who spent much of his life in Venice. Like many upwardly mobile residents of the Adriatic region, his primary language of communication was Italian and he initially rejected the language and culture of his Slavic mother. However, after spending some time in exile on the island of Corfu and reading popular Romantic studies of Dalmatian folk songs, he made an effort to renew his connections to the Slavic world. As a result, he developed an understanding of nationalism that Reill has dubbed “Adriatic multinationalism.” Tommaseo argued that separate nations should exist, but they should exist in neither vacuum, nor hierarchy; to develop, nations needed to interact with one another, sharing their best traits and learning from others. It was a nationalism of cooperation and equality, while also recognizing a fundamental difference between nations, and it did not require that each nation have its own separate state. It was also a nationalism that eschewed revolution; having witnessed the trauma of the Napoleonic era, Tommaseo was an advocate of reform and gradual change, rather than abrupt, violent transitions.

Tommaseo’s prolific writings on all manner of subjects earned him a wide following of readers and correspondents, not only in Adriatic communities, but throughout Europe. Reill convincingly argues that the development of steamship service in the Adriatic produced an intellectual network that fostered the development of Tommaseo’s conception of multinationalism. Before the introduction of the steamships, mail service and travel were unpredictable, given their reliance on Adriatic weather, but with the steamship service, not only could there be more frequent post, but individuals could carry correspondences privately—a consideration that helped intellectuals avoid limitations imposed by Habsburg censors. The steamships, first operated by [End Page 713] Lloyd, also led to the development of regional newspapers and periodicals that were sponsored directly by the company. In Trieste, the three major publications were all run by Lloyd, and they were all edited by the partnership of Francesco Dall’Ongaro (1808–1873) and Pacifico Valussi (1813–1893). Both editors became regular correspondents of Tommaseo, and their publications supported Adriatic multinationalism. Their publications also provided a forum for the Dalmatian writers Medo Pucić (1821–1883), Ivan August Kaznačić (1817–1882), and Stipan Ivičević (1801–1871). Pucić and Kaznačić tended toward a more pro-Slavic position, and Ivičević‘s project was the creation of a universal system of writing that would allow communication despite differences in language. The six authors were in frequent communication and often worked together on joint projects in the ten years before 1848, fostering the elucidation...


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