Fabio Capano

Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Type



Eberly College of Arts and Sciences



Committee Chair

Joshua Arthurs

Committee Co-Chair

Robert Blobaum

Committee Member

Katherine Aaslestad

Committee Member

James Siekmeier

Committee Member

Antonio Varsori


This dissertation examines the politicized use of the city of Trieste and its surrounding territory, a cosmopolitan municipality that became the theatre of one of the most heated disputes of the early Cold War years. Scholars have extensively studied the diplomatic dimension of the confrontation between Italy and former Yugoslavia, yet many have largely neglected the significance of the broader political process that led to the Osimo Treaty of 1975, the final settlement of Italy's eastern border. This dissertation reaffirms the importance of the Triestine territory as a contested socio-political space that experienced the logic of both Cold War containment and detente. It studies this issue through a pericentric interpretative framework and demonstrates that the intertwining effect of local, national, and international politics significantly impacted the strategy of the Italian government which both extended and moderated the confrontational rhetoric of the Cold War against Tito's regime.;I argue that political leaders, parties, and associations used a wide range of political, economic, and social activities, which I later refer to as the politics of identity, to claim Italian sovereignty over the contested Adriatic border and reassert the Italian identity or "Italianita" of the Triestine territory. Above all, these activities were instrumentally used by the central government to reinforce popular support and project the image of the Triestine territory as a stronghold of Western democracy and barrier to Slav-Communism. Thus, ideas that had previously underscored the Italian identity of the disputed border now took a more dynamic as well as political and economic meaning that increasingly detached from former notions of an "imagined community" which shared a common language, culture, and past. As a result, Cold War Trieste gradually transformed into a factory of ideas of nationhood in post-war Italy.;While this dissertation initially traces the fluctuating meaning of "Italianita" from nineteenth-century irredentism to twentieth-century Fascism, it later explores government support of nationalist ambitions that survived the Second World War and only gradually adjusted to the dynamic logic of the Cold War. After Trieste's return to Italy in 1954, however, the new Center-left Christian Democratic coalition government reframed its politics of identity toward the city and its territory by upholding a policy of Adriatic friendship that promoted political and economic cooperation across the border. While these policies mirrored the new logic of Adriatic detente, they also met political and popular opposition inside Trieste, ultimately weakening local loyalty toward the nation-state and facilitating the re-emergence of both political localism and autonomist aspirations. The political process that accompanied the definition of Italy's northeastern frontier also reshaped the image of the Triestine border that, located at the Southern point of the Iron Curtain, transformed from a wall into a bridge toward the Communist world. Thus, this work sheds light on the politics of identity in Cold War regions, the dynamic relationship between capital and frontier cities and the fluidity of nationhood in post-war Italy.