Changing Regimes in the Konavle Region

Konavle region in Second world war

From the Early Medieval times Konavle were one geographical region within which people shared tradition and ethnicity. Settlements were formed around fertile valley situated at the hearth of Konavle region, most of which are present to this day. During the short period in the 14th century Konavle were divided between two Bosnian feudal lords but in the early 15th century the Dubrovnik Republic bought and, yet again, united Konavle. The division from the 15th century, with the minor modifications is still valid today.

The first schools were opened in the 19th century at the initiative of village pastors. However, first public schools were opened during the middle of the 19th century when 4 year schooling became mandatory. After the fall of the Austrian-Hungary Dual Monarchy Konavle became part of the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes (later Yugoslavia). During these times the approach to education changed. Four year schools were still mandatory but less and less people were literate because children went to school only when they were not needed at the house or in the fields.

At the beginning of the Second World War, Konavle were part of the Banovina of Croatia, a province with a high degree of autonomy within the Kingdom of Yugoslavia. Already in 1939, when the Banovina of Croatia was established, the textbooks were partially adjusted, and in 1941, when Konavle were divided between the Independent State of Croatia and the Kingdom of Italy, a complete change took place.

The Ustashas (UHRO), a revolutionary organization that advocates Croatia’s exit from the Kingdom of Yugoslavia, has been operating abroad since 1929. Initially, the organization relied on former Austro-Hungarian officers who were nationally Croats and operated precisely in Austria and Hungary. But they were soon banished from those countries and new training camps appeared in the Kingdom of Italy. This marked the beginning of the collaboration between the leader of the organization and Benito Mussolini, while the organization began to acquire more and more fascist features.

The outbreak of the April War between the Axis Powers and the Kingdom of Yugoslavia brought the UHRO into Croatian politics. Namely, the collapse of the Yugoslav forces made it possible to set up a new systems that would be subjected to Hitler and Mussolini. The leadership of Banovina of Croatia was largely against such cooperation, so Mussolini, with Hitler’s approval, appointed Ante Pavelić at the head of the new state of the Independent State of Croatia. This being said, Pavelić was basically their pawn at the time.

The real relationship between the two statesmen will be revealed in May 1941 when the Treaties of Rome were signed. With these Treaties, most of the coastal territory of the Independent State of Croatia was signed off to the Kingdom of Italy. Konavle were divided on the line through the villages Popovići – Pridvorje – Kuna, so the north-western part belonged to the Independent State of Croatia while the south-eastern part to the Kingdom of Italy.

The creation of the border in the centre of Konavle changed the daily life of the civilian population. In the area under the control of the Independent State of Croatia there was a change in the school system so that textbooks were prepared according to the new spelling. While in the area under the Italian control instead of the Croatian language, Italian was introduced in schools with greater emphasis on Italian history and culture. The connections between the eastern and western parts of Konavle were mostly visible through criminal acts of smuggling and partisan activity. Due to the bad economic situation in the Independent State of Croatia, part of the population tried to flee to the territory under the Italian control. Forced recruitments also contributed to this.

The situation began to change with the capitulation of Italy and the reunification of Konavle in 1943. However, the Axis Powers were increasingly losing territory, so Konavle were under the partisan control until the end of the War.

The aim of the research is to study the life of Konavle people in the period from 1941 to 1943, is to show the difference in the everyday life of people who were under the rule of the Independent State of Croatia and people who were under the rule of the Kingdom of Italy.