One of the particularly fascinating aspects of World War I is the immediate post-war situation in Europe (and other parts of the world) as well as the work of the Allies in negotiating a new settlement to some of the pressing questions of territory, nationality, and ethnic connections in post-war Europe, particularly in Eastern Europe. The basic challenge was in 1919 Eastern Europe was composed of a potpourri of different ethnic groups that either at best tolerated each other to outright hating each other actively, combined with a heady brew of hope and nascent nationalistic fervor. With the collapse of the Austro-Hungarian Empire a vast number of these groups were suddenly struggling to both define new nations for themselves and grab the best bits of territory. Into this mix strode romantic nationalists from other nations – which lead in one particularly fun case to the formation of a new quasi-nation-state, the Italian Regency of Carnaro. This odd city-state came into temporary existence de facto on 12 September 1919 when a romantic intellectual, Gabriele d’Annunzio lead a body of 2,600 Italian soldiers, nationalists, and revolutionaries into the city of Fiume in the territory of (at the time soon to be) Yugoslavia, now Croatia, and drove the occupying Allied troops from the city. In doing so d’Annunzio was able to enforce his declaration issued four days earlier proclaiming Fiume a new state under a constitution he had written.
On 12 September 1919 d’Annunzio (pictured above) also declared his new city-state to be part of the Kingdom of Italy, a gift Italy didn’t want at the moment, considering accepting it would have pissed off the United States, Britain, and France who were attempting to come to grips with a solution to the problem of Fiume. The challenge was that the city was in territory that was supposed to go to the new Yugoslavian Kingdom but the population of much of the city itself was Italian, a population that wanted to remain part of Italy. Add to that in World War I Italy had been promised, if it came into the war, territory along the Adriatic coast that was now supposed to go to Yugoslavia, and you have a problem. D’Annunzio was able to exist as the ruler of his regency for a period of about a year, roughly, till the Treaty of Rapallo was signed in 1920 creating the Free City of Fiume, a new state that was a joint-rule entity that would stay in position till further diplomatic intrigues shifted its position again in 1924. (It went to Italy sort-of, it was split up between Yugoslavia and Italy and ended up with an impressive new fortification system just in time for World War II.) D”Annunzio didn’t accept the new state for his regency and refused to obey the treaty, it took Italian troops invading Fiume and forcing him out in December 1920 to finally bring the short-lived regency to an end.
During his time in power d’Annunzio had created a new constitution for his regency that was the first model Corporatist state, aspects of his model constitution were incorporated into the later Fascist state created by Mussolini for Italy. The interesting core of d’Annunzio’s state was the idea that all aspects of the economy would be organized into nine mandatory membership corporations with a special tenth corporation set up to represent the needs of “superior individuals” – heroes, poets, and supermen. The guiding principle of his new state was to be “music.”
Post World War I – a time when even dreamers and intellectuals could carve a new state out of nothing and actually rule people for a spell.