Saturday, 14 June 2014

italy week: along the ligurian coast

Primarily, we came to the town of Rapallo in order to take the ferry to Porto Fino but it turned out to be an interesting destination in itself, including a lesson in relatively recent recent history formative to world geography and political developments.
 There were two treaties of Rapallo in quick succession: the first was a settlement in 1920 between the Kingdom of Italy and the lands that would become Yugoslavia in the aftermath of WWI to allow Yugoslavia access to the sea and repudiate the secret agreement made between Italy and the UK during the fighting that promised Italy retention of its historic holdings in Croatia; the second Treaty Rapallo in 1922 was between the Germans (the Weimar Republic) and the newly established Soviet Union.
The delegates of these two powers retreated to a sea-side hotel, actually in neighbouring Santa Margherita Ligure, and during what became known as the Pyjama Conference as the Communists, fresh from the October Revolution found themselves basking in the luxury resort, began their own negotiations, the main meeting in nearby Genoa having not proved favourable to either party. Because of the Bolshevik Revolution, the Soviet Union was not able to fulfill commitments it had made to the Entente powers, as the Russian Empire, and France demanded that the new government stick to the previous obligations and that Germany pay right away for war damages. Also due to the revolution, the retreating tsarist powers had no choice but to abandon their western provinces to the Central Powers, Germany Austro-Hungary, the Ottomans and Bulgarians, which temporarily gave them a great swath of Poland, the Baltics, and Ukraine until their the surrender to the Allies when these territories were created as independent states. Separately, the German and Soviet negotiators agree to pact where neither side would demand reparations from the other and that Germany would recognise the Bolsheviks as the legitimate government and normalise diplomatic relations, as both countries were isolated as an outcome of the war.
This agreement led to secret military cooperation and the partitioning of this buffer zone in later years. These heady circumstances were not weighing us down, however, as we explored the bay with evidence all around of more ancient history to consider, defense from marauding pirates and connections to Columbus' voyages. We did not come to this area during high-season but the crowds were already encroaching a little, but we came also to learn that Rapallo and the neologism Rapallizzazione, referring to indiscriminate building up and catering to the tourist industry (which came after the Gilded Age addressed above) made this place on the Ligurian coast a symbol for contention between locals and the throngs of holiday-makers.