Italy: Old and New Territorial Claims


  • Daniele Petrosino


Italy, sub-state nationalism, regionalism


The question of sub-state nationalism in Italy assumes some peculiar characteristics because territorial fractures have existed since the birth of the Italian nation-state, and in recent decades new sub-state nationalist movements were born on the edge of these cleavages.

Although some sub-state nationalist groups are seeking apparently new declinations of the nationalist claim, the majority moves according with the traditional sub-nationalist ideology.

The devolvement of powers is one of the successful strategies to disempower the centrifugal pressures coming from ethno/regionalist/sub-state parties and movements and to accommodate ethno-regional claims. At the same time, it responds to a functional reorganization of the state. But, of course, autonomy is not independence and it does not imply any form of recognition of national identity.

On the one hand, there is a functional problem of governance and of optimal scale for policy decisions. On the other hand, there are the claims of identity/cultural type. When these two levels overlap it is highly likely that independence movements will emerge.

In border regions and islands, this overlap could have relied on fractures present for a long time and on the presence of sufficiently recognized and shared cultural markers; but at the same time, the specific institutional arrangements and accommodations have reduced the strength of the protests.

Conversely, in the case of the Northern League, the attempt to invent an ethno-cultural identity failed, leaving space first for pure territorial claims, which have had great success, and then for a transformation still underway from a territorial party into an anti-immigrant and antiEurope Italian party.

At the same time, all these strains point out the weakness of the Italian nation-state, both under the identity profile and the institutional one, and the need to define it in new terms.



How to Cite

Petrosino, D. . (2020). Italy: Old and New Territorial Claims. Studies on National Movements (SNM), 6, 31. Retrieved from




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