Corfu & Fiume:

Mussolini's Foreign Policy

What were the aims of Mussolini's foreign policy?

  1. Obtain the lands promised in the 1915 Treaty of London.

  2. Expand Italian influence into the Adriatic Sea and the Mediterranean Sea.

  3. Spread Fascist ideology

  4. Revive the glory of the Roman Empire to demonstrate the national unity and strength of Italy.

  5. Achieve a superior leading position in European politics where Italy was seen as an equal to Britain and France.

  6. Increase and maintain his popularity in order to sustain his rule

Corfu Crisis of 1923

Following the First World War, Italy had been not given as much land as it was supposed to be given by the Allies. This caused social outrage which the Liberal Government was unable to solve, and Mussolini came to power, vowing to solve them.

August 1923: Italian investigators were sent by the League of Nations to investigate a border dispute between Greece and Albania.

August 27, 1923: Enrico Tellini, an Italian general and his team consisting of Major Luigi Corti, Lieutenant Mario Bonacini, Albanian interpreter Thanas Gheziri and the chauffeur Remigio Farnetti, were killed by unknown assailants on Greek territory.

August 29, 1923: Italy sent an ultimatum to Greece, with the main demands being an apology, 50 million lire and an investigation assisted by Ambassadors of the Italian Military.

August 30, 1923: The ultimatum was rejected by Greece.

August 31, 1923: The Italian leader, Benito Mussolini sent between 5,000 and 10,000 troops to invade and occupy Corfu.

Although the League condemned Italy as the aggressor, Mussolini refused to listen.

He asked the Conference of Ambassadors to resolve the Corfu Crisis and Britain and France gave into his demand to resolve the issue outside of the League.

Ultimately, the Greeks were forced to give in, and they apologised to Italy and paid direct compensation to them.

Fiume Incident of 1923–24

In April 1915, the Treaty of London was signed on the condition that Italy would receive territory. Fiume was not included, but Italy was confident that they would receive it due to the high proportion of Italians living there.

12 September, 1919: Poet Gabriele D’Annunzio gathered a group of 2,000 Nationalist men and forced the withdrawal of allied forces. They occupied Fiume and D’Annunzio proclaimed himself the “commandant” of the “Reggenza Italiana del Carnaro”, in (what he proclaimed to be) the Independent State of Fiume.

Italy believed that Fiume should belong to them, claiming that the better part of the population was Italian.

12 November, 1920: The Italian government concluded the Treaty of Rapallo with Yugoslavia and decided to remove D’Annunzio from the established ‘Free State of Fiume’.

The Free State of Fiume survived only one de facto year before a Fascist movement forced the President, Zanella, to resign.

17 September 1923: Italian general, Giardino, was sent by Italian Prime Minister Benito Mussolini to restore public order. Meanwhile, negotiations started between Italy and the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes to dissolve the Free State of Fiume.

27 January, 1924: The Treaty of Rome concluded that Fiume would be annexed to become an Italian Province.

Did Mussolini achieve his foreign policy aims?

  1. Obtain the lands promised in the 1915 Treaty of London.

  • Although Corfu was not included in the Treaty of London, Mussolini wanted colonies and to expand. However, he did not achieve his expansionist aims as he was not able to continue the occupation of Corfu.

  • With regards to the Treaty of London, although Italy had claimed Fiume, they were not promised it. In the end, they were able to annex Fiume under the Treaty of Rome, so yes, this factor did contribute to the success of his foreign policy.

  1. Expand Italian influence into the Adriatic Sea and the Mediterranean Sea.

  • Well… Mussolini tried to expand Italian influence into Corfu… but in the end, they withdrew following the resolution of the Conference of Ambassadors, and they were given reparations instead.

  • Regarding Fiume, again, it was a success because Italy officially took control of Fiume in 1924.

  1. Spread Fascist ideology

  • No, because he was only given compensation from the Greeks.

  • How about Fiume? In this case, yes, of course he did. He was able to challenge Britain and France for the sake of restoring Italian power and glory by annexing Fiume.

  1. Revive the glory of the Roman Empire to demonstrate the national unity and strength of Italy.

  • Well, he demonstrated national unity when he sent Italian forces following Tellini’s murder, and strength when they successfully occupied the Island. However, in the long term, this aim was not a success. Although he had managed to stand up to the League of Nations, he was forced to give up Corfu and accept Greek Reparations.

  • Regarding Fiume, Mussolioni initially refused to comply with the government-in-exile in the Free State, but once he insisted the annexation and signed the Pact of Rome, Mussolini was able to further expand Italian influence. He was one, small step further to reviving the Roman Empire.

  1. Achieve a superior leading position in European politics where Italy was seen as an equal to Britain and France.

  • Was he successful when looking at Corfu? I think… yes! Because he was able to bully a smaller nation, Greece in this case, to comply with his demands. This made Italy closer to being on the scale of the power that Britain and France had.

  • He was successful to a large extent in Fiume as he took a huge risk trying to take over Fiume and it proved to be successful.

  1. Increase and maintain his popularity in order to sustain his rule

  • With regards to Corfu, I would say yes— he was able to improve his reputation in Italy because he was able to successfully humiliate and condemn the Greeks and the League of Nations.

  • He was able to achieve the demands of the Italian people and obtain Fiume, thus improving his image.

LINK TO PODCAST: https://anchor.fm/from1student2another-hist/episodes/A-Level-Mussolinis-Foreign-Policy-e18uqdq