May 24, 1915, 105 years ago, Italy enters the war alongside France, Great Britain and the Russian Empire. From Forte Verena, on the Sette Comuni plateau (better known as the Asiago plateau), a first cannon fires towards the Austrian fortresses located on the Piana di Vézzena: Italy officially begins military operations in the WWI. To the first infantrymen of the Royal Army who crossed the border on the same date, the first verse of “The song of the Piave“That we combine in the performance of the tenor Gianluca Terranova accompanied by the Band of the Italian Army:
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The conflict began on July 28, 1914 with the declaration of war of the Austro-Hungarian Empire on the Kingdom of Serbia, following the assassination of Archduke Francis Ferdinand of Habsburg-Este, which took place on June 28, 1914 in Sarajevo. At first Italy remained neutral. As the war progressed, it expanded, reaching a world scale, with the participation of many other nations, such as Bulgaria, Romania, Portugal and Greece; finally decisive for the final outcome, in 1917, was the entry into the war of the United States of America alongside the Allies.
Before the conflict, this part of Europe had been subject to many dominations:
- from 1526 Bohemia came under the direct control of the Habsburgs;
- Moravia came out first among all during the historical period of Greater Moravia (which goes from the year 833 to 907): its territory extended far beyond, going to cover portions of territory currently belonging to Hungary, Romania, Poland to Serbia, Austria, Germany, Slovenia, Croatia and finally Ukraine; after various wars, annexations, conquests … Moravia came under the control of the Slovak principalities (the most famous of Nitra), of the Kingdom of Hungary, then from the Polish Kingdom and then from the Bohemian princes. In 1054 the reigning prince of Bohemia, Premislide Bretislao established that the Bohemian and Moravian lands would be inherited together by birthright: from that moment on the fate of Bohemia and Moravia was common;
- Slovakia as we summarized in the article “Slovakia, history in pills” from the year 1000 onwards until the end of the First World War shared its history with that of Hungary (Kingdom of Hungary before and Austro-Hungarian Empire after) .
At the outbreak of the conflict then the “Czechoslovaks” (to group them with a single word) were integrated into the Austro-Hungarian empire, which obviously was not at all genius: many movements that wished for the liberation from the “Germans” (always to group them with a single word). Many, especially Czechs, were working for independence and for the formation of an independent state, especially abroad. So it was that at the outbreak of the Great War that Czechs and Slovaks abroad tried to organize themselves to free their country.
The Czechoslovak Legion in Russia
During the Great War, the ethnic Czech and Slovak population living in the Russian Empire sent a petition to Tsar Nicholas II to allow them to form a national military force to fight Austria-Hungary: and so it was. A “Czech company” (Česka sotnja or Česká družina) was formed in 1914 and was annexed to the Russian army. Since May 1915, a large number of prisoners and deserters from the Austro-Hungarian army from Bohemia, Moravia and Slovakia joined the latter.
The Czechoslovak Legion in France
France too since 1914 enlisted many Czech and Slovak units in its Foreign Legion. On December 19, 1917 an autonomous Czechoslovak army was established by decree of the French government …
The Czechoslovak Legion in Italy
Czech legionaries with the Alpini uniform Photo taken from wikipedia
Unlike in Russia and France, the first nuclei of what would later become the Italian Czechoslovak Legion were founded by deserters from the Austro-Hungarian army and by prisoners of war who joined the Italian army, with the government’s approval, thanks to the organizing work of Milan Rastislav Stefanik (the best known and most loved Czechoslovak hero), who arrived in Italy in early 1916.
The war ended definitively on 11 November 1918 when Germany, the last of the Central Empires to lay down its arms, signed the armistice imposed by the Allies.
With the end of the First World War the great empires of Europe dissolved: the German-Prussian, Austro-Hungarian, Ottoman and Russian empires (this also following the Bolshevik revolution of 1917 …): thus a new Europe was born, geographically redesigned and politically, with new nations: among them the Czechoslovakia…
And another important page in our common history is turned …
Selena Colusso Vio