The Republic of Fiume, AKA Free State of Fiume, AKA Last of the Pirate Utopias.

Sept 1919 - December 1920

(Currently the city of Rijeka, Croatia).

Led by eccentric one-eyed midget Gabriele D'Annunzio, and with the help of local Italians, three thousand Italian stormtroopers (arditi) captured the Croatian city of Fiume in Sept 1919 from American, British and French forces, who withdrew from the city.

Fiume had been promised to Italy for its entry into World War I, but after the Paris Conference it became clear that this was not going to happen. (It was the only port city of the new state - Yugoslavia). By 1919 the population of the city was almost 2:1 Italian. Major Reina - who had commanded Fiume's Italian garrison at the end of WWI - vowed to return, and asked D'Annunzio for help.

Gabriele D'Annunzio was a colorful character. Bought home twice by police for torturing animals in his youth, in adult life he became Italy's most celebrated poet, writer and high-profile playboy. Already 50 at the onset of WWI, he volunteered for the trenches, then commanded an air squadron - leading to the loss of an eye. His exploits as an aviator, such as bombing the well-defended city of Trieste with poems and propaganda pamphlets, earned him further fame throughout Europe.

After capturing Fiume, D'Annunzio declared himself dictator, or "the Commandante" as he called himself. (His followers called him "Duce"). He attempted to give the city to Italy, but was refused outright, and Italy soon began a blockade. D'Annunzio's response was to declare independence, financing his state with piracy. He attempted to legitimize his rule by rigging elections -- but lost, and so denounced the voting as "rigged".

Under D'Annunzio, Fiume became a home to wandering soldiers, anarchists, futurists (Marinetti was expelled from Fiume), musicians and bohemians. There was plenty of partying, and the city was thoroughly looted. Each night ended with a concert and fireworks display. D'Annunzio set about garnishing his personal state with the symbolism and ritual that would be appropriated by later 20th Century fascists, drawing from the rich tradition of the Roman Empire.

With anarcho-syndicalist Alceste de Ambris, D'Annunzio drafted the "Charter of Carnaro", which established a corporatist state with ten guilds. Nine guilds represented different economic groupings (merchants, professionals, unskilled labor, etc) while the tenth guild was reserved for geniuses, creative types and Nietzschean supermen. The document also declared that music was the fundamental principle of the state.

As Italian ships finally began to lob shells into the municipal palace, D'Annunzio quietly slipped out the back door, filthy rich. In 1921 Italy declared Fiume a "free state" and formed an interim government, which was overthrown by Benito Mussolini's fascists in March 1922. (Mussolini and D'Annunzio were pals -- though Mussolini effectively shut him out of Italian politics after this).

Hakim Bey (AKA Peter Lamborn Wilson) has refered to Fiume during 1919-1920 as "the last of the pirate utopias" and "nearly the first modern T.A.Z." (Temporary Autonomous Zone, for the uninitiated). It was remarked at the time that D'Annunzio had treated Fiume like his lovers, "whom he abandoned after exploiting and exhausting completely".

For more on Fiume and Gabriele D'Annunzio's adventures there, read Richard Doody's essay "Stati Libero di Fiume / Free State of Fiume", with an extensive timeline:

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