- The policy of a state to “liberate” or “redeem” an ethnic minority belonging to its own nation and the territory in which it lives from the domination of another state. In its moderate form irredentism aggressively defends that minority’s rights and interests.The term is derived from the Italian terra irredenta, unredeemed land, and was first used to refer to the Italian-speaking areas under Austrian rule after 1866. Italy, after achieving unification, fought Austria repeatedly in order to annex Trentino, Trieste, Istria, Fiume, and parts of Dalmatia. Agitation took place both inside Austria-Hungary and in Italy itself. The liberation of Italia irredenta was perhaps the strongest motive for the entry of Italy into World War I. By this time, however, the term had lost much of its initial meaning because many Italian acquisitions were not “unredeemed lands” but rather strategic acquisitions, like the Orthodox Christian- and Musliminhabited Dodecanese Islands. Nevertheless, in 1919 the Treaty of Versailles satisfied most of the Italian irredentist claims.The term irredentism has, by extension, been applied to nationalist agitation in other countries, based on historical, ethnic, and geographical reasons, for the incorporation of territories under foreign rule. The best examples of these nationalist irredentist movements before World War I were in the Balkans. Greece sought to resurrect the “Greece of the Five Seas” - a new Byzantine Empire on the ruins of the Ottoman. Bulgaria and Serbia also sought “greater” empires at the expense of the Ottoman Empire and its neighbors.See also <
>.FURTHER READING:Di Scala, Spencer M. Italy: From Revolution to Republic, 1700 to the Present. Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1998.ANDREKOS VARNAVA
Encyclopedia of the Age of Imperialism, 1800–1914. 2014.