The article presents Benito Mussolini’s view of the “Yugoslav Question”, i.e. the future delimitation of the eastern Adriatic coast between Italy and Yugoslavia during the First World War. The future fascist politician underwent a significant transformation during this period and so did his view of Italian-Yugoslav relations. Mussolini carefully manoeuvred between two “extreme” groups of Italian interventionists, one, the so-called rinunciatari, inclined to give significant concessions to Yugoslavia, and the other, demanding Italy’s complete control of the Adriatic. He strove to present himself as a mediator, who was not unsympathetic to the aims of the South Slavs, but who was equally devoted to protecting the Italianità of the Adriatic. Mussolini had nothing against the unification of the South Slavs, and their claims to a part of the Adriatic, but demanded the same for the Italian inhabitants of Istria and Dalmatia. However, as time progressed he became less and less willing to make concessions to Yugoslav aspirations. From proposing the Italian surrender of Dalmatia in exchange for Istria in the spring of 1915 he went to advocating the partition of Dalmatia between Rome and Belgrade along the Neretva River. This new stance became normative from late 1916 onwards. Faced with the growing political success of expansionist nationalism in post-war Italy, he traded in political and territorial extremism, stirring it up in an attempt to cast himself as a strenuous defender of national interests. Paradoxically, having formed his first cabinet, his solution to the Italian-Yugoslav conflict (Treaty of Rome) implemented the democratic interventionist programme, based on the idea of a compromise in the Adriatic.
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