Trieste is a city and seaport in north eastern Italy. It is situated towards the end of a narrow strip of land lying between the Adriatic Sea and Italy's border with Slovenia, which lies almost immediately south, east and north of the city. Trieste is located at the head of the Gulf of Trieste and throughout history it has been influenced by its location at the crossroads of Germanic, Latin and Slavic cultures. In 2007 it had a population of 208,614 and it is the capital of the autonomous region Friuli-Venezia Giulia and Trieste province.
Trieste was part of the Habsburg Monarchy from 1382 until 1918. In the 19th century it was the most important port of one of the Great Powers of Europe. As a prosperous seaport in the Mediterranean region Trieste became the fourth largest city of the Austro-Hungarian Empire . In the fin-de-siecle period, it emerged as an important hub for literature and music. However, the collapse of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and Trieste's annexation to Italy after World War I led to a decline of its economic and cultural importance.
Today, Trieste is a border town. The population is an ethnic mix of the neighbouring regions. The dominant local Venetian dialect of Trieste is called Triestine . This dialect and the official Italian language are spoken in the city centre, while Slovene is spoken in several of the immediate suburbs. The Venetian and the Slovene languages are considered autochthonous of the area. There are also small numbers of Serbian, Croatian, German, Hungarian speakers.
The economy depends on the port and on trade with its neighbouring regions. Throughout the Cold War Trieste was a peripheral city, but it is rebuilding some of its former influence.
After two centuries of war against the nearby major power, the Republic of Venice (which occupied it briefly from 1369 to 1372), the burghers of Trieste petitioned Leopold III of Habsburg, Duke of Austria to become part of his domains. The agreement of cessation was signed in October 1382, in St. Bartholomew's church in the village of Šiška , today one of the city quarters of Ljubljana. The citizens, however, maintained a certain degree of autonomy up until the 17th century.
Trieste became an important port and trade hub. In 1719, it was made a free port within the Habsburg Empire by Emperor Charles VI, and remained a free port until 1 July 1891. The reign of his successor, Maria Theresa of Austria, marked the beginning of a flourishing era for the city.
Trieste was occupied by French troops three times during the Napoleonic Wars, in 1797, 1805 and in 1809. Between 1809 and 1813, it was annexed to the Illyrian Provinces, interrupting its status of free port and losing its autonomy. The municipal autonomy was not restored after the return of the city to the Austrian Empire in 1813. Following the Napoleonic Wars, Trieste continued to prosper as the Imperial Free City of Trieste , a status that granted economic freedom, but limited its political self-government. The city's role as main Austrian trading port and shipbuilding centre was later emphasized with the foundation of the merchant shipping line Austrian Lloyd in 1836, whose headquarters stood at the corner of the Piazza Grande and Sanità. By 1913 Austrian Lloyd had a fleet of 62 ships comprising a total of 236,000 tons. With the introduction of the constitutionalism in the Austrian Empire in 1860, the municipal autonomy of the city was restored, with Trieste became capital of the Austrian Littoral region.
The particular Friulian dialect, called Tergestino, spoken until the beginning of the 19th century, was gradually overcome by the Triestine and other languages, including standard Italian, Slovene, and German. While Triestine was spoken by the largest part of the population, German was the language of the Austrian bureaucracy and Slovene was predominant in the surrounding villages. From the last decades of the 19th century, Slovene language speakers grew steadily, reaching 25% of the overall population of Trieste in 1911 . A small number of the population spoke Croatian , and the city also counted several other smaller ethnic communities, namely Czechs, Serbs and Greeks, which mostly assimilated either to the Italian or Slovene-speaking community. The city also had a relatively large and prosperous Jewish community, numbering around 6,000 people at the eve of World War One.
The modern Austro-Hungarian Navy used Trieste's shipbuilding facilities for construction and as a base. The construction of the first major trunk railway in the Empire, the Vienna-Trieste Austrian Southern Railway, was completed in 1857, a valuable asset for trade and the supply of coal.
At the beginning of the 20th century, Trieste was a buzzing cosmopolitan city frequented by artists such as James Joyce, Italo Svevo, Sigmund Freud, Dragotin Kette, Ivan Cankar and Umberto Saba. The city was part of the so-called Austrian Riviera and a very real part of Mitteleuropa.
Together with Trento, Trieste was a main focus of the irredentist movement, which aimed for the annexation to Italy of all the lands they claimed were inhabited by an Italian speaking population. After the end of World War I, the Austro-Hungarian Empire dissolved, and many of its border areas, including the Austrian Littoral, were disputed among its successor states. On November 3, 1918, Trieste was occupied by the Italian Army, but was officially annexed to the Kingdom of Italy only with the Treaty of Rapallo in 1920. The region was reorganized under a new administrative unit, known as the Julian March .
The annexation, however, brought a loss of importance for the city, with the new state border depriving it of its former hinterland. The Slovene ethnic group suffered persecution by rising Italian Fascism. The period of violent persecution of Slovenes began on April 13, 1920, when a group of Italian Fascists burnt the Narodni dom , the community hall of Trieste's Slovenes. After the emergence of the Fascist regime in 1922, a policy of Italianization began: public use of Slovene language was prohibited, all Slovene associations were dissolved, names and surnames of Slavic and German origin were Italianized. Several thousand Slovenes from Trieste, especially intellectuals, emigrated to the Kingdom of Yugoslavia and to South America, where many became prominent in their field. Among the notable Slovene emigés from Trieste were the writers Vladimir Bartol and Josip Ribičič, the legal theorist Boris Furlan, and the architect Viktor Sulčič.
In the late 1920s, Yugoslav irredentism started to appear, and the Slovene militant anti-fascist organization TIGR carried out several bomb attacks in the city centre. In 1930 and 1941, two trials against hundreds of Slovene activists were held in Trieste by the Special Tribunal for the Security of the State.
Despite the decline of the city's economic importance, the demise of its traditional multicultural and pluri-linguistic character, and emigration of many Slovene and German speakers, the overall population continued to grow. The Fascist Regime built several new infrastructures and public buildings, including the almost 70 m high Victory Lighthouse , which became one of the city's landmarks. The University of Trieste was also established in this period.
A further blow for the city came with the promulgation of the Fascist racial laws in 1938, when the city's well-integrated Jewish population was banned from all public activity.