and: Why do people speak German in this part of Italy?

1919, just after the First World War, a new borderline was drawn between Austria and Italy. While large parts of the Dolomites where until WWI part of the Austrian province of Tyrol, it did become a part of Italy afterwards. This new borderline thus divided Tyrol into two parts, the southern part of which was called “South Tyrol” from then onwards, a name that is still in use nowadays.

Hard times followed during which the Italian government tried to italianise this new province of Italy. And while Italy proceeded with finding Italian names for villages, cities, rivers, mountains, etc., the German speaking population struggled to hold on to their mother tongue, their traditions and ideologies. Towards the end of the 1950s, South Tyroleans got very frustrated with Italian politicians, and so they began to vent their anger in various activities (such as bombing of powerlines), but there aim always was to avoid loss of human life.

Eventually, in 1960, Austria managed to internationalise the struggle of the South Tyroleans at the United Nations. A period of political negotiations began. At the same time and until 1969, an organised group of South Tyroleans continued to take further action which – unfortunately – also claimed human life.


German, Italian and Ladin South Tyrol

In 1972, the political basis for the autonomy of South Tyrol as we – more or less - know it today was finalised. A central pylon of this independence was to grant the two non-Italian population-groups (the German- and the Ladin-speaking populations) the right to use their languages – thus today there are German- as well as Ladin-language schools. And while students of these two population groups have to learn the Italian language at school, the Italians have to learn German in their schools.

The three official languages within the province of Bolzano became Italian, German and Ladin. So these languages may be used in public offices, courts, etc. Today the German language prevails in the villages of our province while the Ladin is concentrated in the Vallies of the Dolomites. The Italian-speaking population lives mainly in the capital Bolzano, however there are also larger Italian communities on other larger cities of South Tyrol.

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