South Tyrol

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

Jump to: navigation, search
Autonome Provinz Bozen-Südtirol
Provincia Autonoma di Bolzano - Alto Adige
Provinzia Autonóma Bulsan - Sudtirol
Capital Bozen
President Luis Durnwalder
Provinces Trentino-Südtirol
Municipalities 8
Area 7,400 km²
 - Ranked ( %)
Population (2003 est.)
 - Total

 - Ranked
 - Density

( %)
Map highlighting the location of Südtirol in Italy

South Tyrol (German: Südtirol, Italian: Alto Adige; official in German: Autonome Provinz Bozen-Südtirol, official in Italian: Provincia Autonoma di Bolzano-Alto Adige) is an autonomous province of Italy that belongs to the region of Trentino-South Tyrol, of which it is a subdivision. South Tyrol's extensive autonomy makes it de facto comparable to an autonomous region of Italy. The province itself is divided into 116 municipalities called communes. [1] The capital of the province is Bozen-Bolzano. It has an area of 7,400 sq km, and a total population of 476,023 (2004). South Tyrol is known for their mountains, which compose a portion of the Italian Alps and the main alps chain located in Europe.

The province was part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire until the end of World War I when it was ceded to Italy together with the southern Italian-speaking province of Trent (Trento). After World War II, the German-speaking majority population of the region requested a possible reunification with Austria, but the idea was rejected by the Allied Powers in 1945 and in 1946. Due to the rejection, Austria and Italy agreed on autonomy for South Tyrol and now the province enjoys a degree of self rule from the Italian Government and lively relations with Austria.



See main article: History of South Tyrol.

World War I

Since 1882, Italy was part of the Triple Alliance (German: Dreibund), a defensive pact signed with Germany and Austria-Hungary. When Austria-Hungary, in 1914, declared war against Serbia, thus starting World War I, Italy remained neutral. Austria-Hungary, fearing Italian intervention in war against it, offered some territorial compensations in exchange for Italian neutrality for the whole war. On the other side, Triple Entente signed with Italy the London Pact, which promised territorial gains at expenses of Austria-Hungary, including South Tyrol, in exchange for Italian intervention in war.

The frontline followed mostly the Austria-Italian border, which ran right through the highest mountains of the Alps. The ensuing front became know as the "War in ice and snow", as troops occupied the highest mountains and glaciers all year long. 12 metres (40 feet) of snow were a usual occurrence during the winter of 1915/16 and tens of thousands of soldiers disappeared in avalanches. The remains of these soldiers are still being uncovered today. The Italian Alpinis, as well as their Austrian counterparts (Kaiserjäger, Standschützen and Landeschützen) occupied every hill and mountain top and began to carve whole cities out of the rocks and even drilled tunnels and living quarters deep into the ice of glaciers like the Marmolada. Guns were dragged by hundreds of troops on Mountains up to 3,890 m (12,760 feet) high. Streets, cable cars, mountain railroads and walkways through the steepest of walls were built.

But whoever had occupied the higher ground first was almost impossible to dislodge, so both sides turned to drilling tunnels under mountain peaks, filling them up with explosives and then detonating the whole mountain to pieces, including its defenders: Col di Lana, Monte Pasubio, Lagazuoi, etc. Climbing and skiing became essential skills for the troops of both sides and soon Ski Battalions and Special Climbing units were formed.

In 1918, after Austrian defeat at the Battle of Vittorio Veneto, Italian troops ended the war with Austria-Hungary by penetrating deep in South Tyrol. With the dissolution of Austria-Hungary, the Italian-speaking province of Trentino was attached to Italy. However, Italy also annexed the Southern part of the province of Tyrol, which was inhabited by ethnic Germans and Ladins (today Ladin is the third official language of South Tyrol, alongside German and Italian). The territorial arrangements were confirmed by the Treaty of Saint-Germain (1919).

Fascist rule and World War II

After the rise of Fascism in 1922 a policy of Italianisation was implemented. All places, down to the tiniest hamlet, were given Italian names, and even family names were translated. The process intensified in the 1930s, when the government of Benito Mussolini encouraged thousands of southern Italians to relocate to the region. The proportion of the Italian-speaking population thus grew significantly from 3% before World War I (census of 1910) to over 34% in 1961. Hitler did not claim the German speaking South Tyrol for his "Reich", because Mussolini was too important as an ally. In 1939, both dictators agreed to give the German-speaking population a choice: they could emigrate to Germany (or its new territories) or stay in Italy and accept their complete Italianisation. It was a difficult choice for the people of South Tyrol: between their language or the landscape where their ancestors had lived. Both solutions meant the crackdown of their culture. As a consequence, South Tyrolen society was deeply riven. Those who wanted to stay ("Dableiber"), were condemned as traitors, those who left ("Optanten") were defamed as Nazis. Because of the outbreak of World War II, this agreement between Mussolini and Hitler was never fully accomplished.

In 1943, Mussolini was deposed and Italy surrendered to the Allies, who had invaded southern Italy via Sicily. German troops promptly invaded northern Italy and South Tyrol became part of the "Operationszone Alpenvorland", annexed to the Greater German Reich. Many German-speaking South Tyroleans wanted revenge upon Italians living in the area but were mostly prevented by the occupying Nazis, who still considered Mussolini head of the "Repubblica di Salò" and wanted to preserve good relations with the Fascists.

The region largely escaped fighting during the war, and its mountainous remoteness proved useful to the Nazis as a refuge for items looted from across Europe. When the U.S. 88th Infantry Division occupied South Tyrol in May 1945, it found vast amounts of precious items and looted treasures. Among the items reportedly found were railway wagons filled with gold bars, hundreds of thousands of metres of silk, the Italian crown jewels, King Victor Emmanuel's personal collection of rare coins, and scores of works of art looted from art galleries such as the Uffizi in Florence. It was feared that the Germans might use the region as a last-ditch stronghold to fight to the bitter end, but this possibility was rendered moot by the suicide of Hitler and the rapid Nazi surrender thereafter. (The Times, London, 25 May 1945)

In 1945 the South Tyrolean Peoples Party (Südtiroler Volkspartei) was founded, above all by Dableiber – people who had chosen to stay in Italy after the agreement between Hitler and Mussolini. A party founded by the Optanten would not have been acceptable for the occupying Americans, due to their apparently close relationship to the Nazis. The support of the Dableiber also proved useful as a means of deflecting renewed Austrian claims for the return of south Tyrol.

After World War II

With the Treaty of Gruber-De Gasperi (1946) the German-speaking people were granted special rights. But the statutory order was implemented by De Gasperi for the whole region (South Tyrol and Trentino), where Italians were in the majority, making real self-government for the German-speaking South Tyroleans impossible. Even the implementation of this "First statutory order" was delayed repeatedly, while more and more Italians were encouraged to relocate to South Tyrol, with the aim of creating an Italian majority.

As a consequence of delaying implementation of the statutory order, the late 1950s and especially 1960s saw the rise of anti-Italian terrorism in South Tyrol. At the beginning the terrorist strategy was targeted only against structures.

The 1960s brought some progress towards the establishment of self-government for the South Tyroleans. In consequence, only the most fanatical of the terrorists wanted to continue their fight for an Austrian South Tyrol by violent means. Terrorists carried out 361 attacks with explosives, guns and land mines between 1956 and 1988. Acts were mainly against structures; however, there were 21 casualties, four of which were 4 terrorists, slain by their own explosive devices. The wounded amounted to 57.

Eventually, the pressure of terrorism caused the Italian central government to consider a "Second statutory order", primarily for the mostly German-speaking province of Bozen/Bolzano (South Tyrol).


Today, South Tyrol enjoys a high degree of autonomy, and relations with North and East Tyrol—the two portions of the old state retained by Austria—are lively, especially since Austria joined the European Union. The South Tyrolean People's Party, or Südtiroler Volkspartei, has been consistently in power since its founding in 1945.

However, South Tyrolean society is still to some extent segmented across ethnic lines: each resident must declare his or her ethnic group at the census (choosing amongst Italian, German or Ladin). According to the 2001 census more than two-thirds of the population is German speaking (68%); the second most used language is Italian (28%), followed by Ladin (4%). Places today have two (German/Italian) or even three (German/Italian/Ladin) names.

Public jobs are assigned by ethnic quotas, and require proficiency in both Italian and German, with the effect of protecting the local labor market from immigration. Notwithstanding this imperfect cohabitation, starting in the 1980's there has been an increased call, especially amonst the youth, for superseding ethnic divisons. One famous advocate of this novel movement was Alexander Langer (1946–1995), MEP for the Greens group.

Furthermore, the increased permeability of European borders (e.g., with Austria) following the Schengen Treaty has further undermined the rationale of ethnic separation and of the special autonomy of the region. As a result, the future of the ethnic policies that served the region during the past 40 years is not clear.


Villnöss (Funes) and St. Magdalena
Villnöss (Funes) and St. Magdalena

During the closing months of World War II, South Tyrol was involved in negotiations with the Austrian provisional government to come up with a plan to hand the land back over to Austria. However, the Allied Powers did not allow this plan to continue in a decision made in the fall of 1945. While a referendum and protests were held inside of South Tyrol and in Austria to support the merger with Austria, the plan was finally defeated the following year. This opened the door for the Italian and Austrian governments to allow autonomy for the province. Due to the Paris Agreement between Italy and Austria, South Tyrol was promised legislative and executive power by the Italian government. The details of these powers were laid out in the Autonomous Statute, an agreement that was passed by the Italian Constituent Assembly on 31 January 1948.

The province is divided into eight districts, with one of them being the capital city of Bozen-Bolzano. The other seven districts encompass a portion of the various communes and the people who are located in those communes. Each district is headed by a president and two bodies called the district committee and the district council. The districts are responsible for inter-communal disputes, roads, schools and social services such as retirement homes. [2]


Out of the 454,000 residents of the province, 219,000 of them are employed (1999). Most of these employees are working in the fields of agriculture, handicrafts, industry, commerce, tourism, self employed professionals and the service industry. The unemployment level in 1999 was roughly around 3 percent, which is lower than the national (Italian) average of 9 percent, or the German average of 10%. In the handicraft industry, a majority of the products that come from here are cabinet making, construction, painting, plumbing, meat preparation, and baking. South Tyrol also acts as a bridge between the European and Italian markets and hotel stays in the province count for 8 percent of the money Italy earns from hotels and other lodging. [3]


South Tyrol is located at the uppermost point in Italy. The province is bordered by Austria to the east and north and by Switzerland to the west. Italian provinces that border South Tyrol are Belluno to the south east, Trentino to the south and by Sondrio to the south west. The landscape itself is mostly cultivated with different types of shrubs and forests. [4]


Schlern mountain
Schlern mountain

Mountains dot many parts of the of South Tyrol landscape. Many of these mountains belong to the Alps, which extend through many Central European nations. In this mountain chain, there is a smaller group called the Ortler Alps. In this group, which is considered the centre of the Italian Alps, there is a mountain called the Ortler, which rises 3,905 metres, and is the highest peak in the Ortler Alps. Another group of mountains located in South Tyrol are the Dolomites. The Dolomites are a section of the main alpine chain, of which equal parts are located in the South Tyrol and in neighbouring Italian provinces. One mountain, the Schlern (2563 metres), is part of the Dolomite chain. Other mountains located in South Tyrol are:

Notable natives

Freedom fighters:

Inventors and scientists:



  1. ^  Italian institute of statistics Istat
  2. ^  South Tyrol Municipal and District Government
  3. ^  Landscapes of South Tyrol
  4. ^  Euro Info Center - South Tyrol (1999)

See also

External links

Wikimedia Commons has media related to:

Europe | Italy | Trentino-South Tyrol
South Tyrol | Trento
Personal tools