The Free Territory of Trieste or Free State of Trieste (Italian Territorio libero di Trieste, Slovenian Svobodno tržaško ozemlje, Croatian Slobodni teritorij Trsta) was a City state situated in Central Europe between northern Italy and Yugoslavia, created by the United Nations Security Council and administered by an appointed military governor commanding the peacekeeping forces stationed there.
The Free State was established on 15 September 1947 by a protocol of the Italian Peace Treaty in order to accommodate an ethnically and culturally mixed population in a neutral country. The intention was also to cool down territorial claims between Italy and Yugosalvia, due to its strategic importance for trade with Central Europe. It was divided into two zones, one being the port city of Trieste with a narrow coastal strip to the north west (zone A), and the other a small portion of the Istrian peninsula (zone B).
The Free State was eventually taken over by its two neighbors in 1954 and officially dissolved in 1977.
The Free Territory of Trieste comprised an area of 738 km² around the bay of Trieste from Duino/Devin in the north to Novigrad/Cittanova in the south and had approximately 330,000 inhabitants. It bordered Italy to the north and Yugoslavia to the south and east. The rivers of the territory included the Risano/Rižana, the Dragogna/Dragonja, the Timavo/Reka, the Rosandra/Glinščica and the Quieto/Mirna. The Territory's highest point was at Monte Castellaro/Veliko Gradišče (724m). Its most extreme points were near Medeazza/Medjevas at 45° 48’ in the north, at Porto Quieto/Tarski at 45° 18’ in the south, Punta Salvore/Rt Savudrija at 13° 29’ in the west and Grozzana di Pese/Gročana at 13° 55’ in the east.
In 1921 (after World War I) Italy formally annexed Trieste, Istria and part of what today is western Slovenia. In 1924 Italy further annexed the Free State of Fiume, now the city of Rijeka in Croatia.
During the 1920s and 1930s the Slavic population was subjected to Italianization and discrimination under the Italian Fascist regime. They were also exposed to violence, including the burning of the Slovene National Club (Narodni dom) in Trieste on July 13, 1920. Many Slovenes and Croats emigrated to Yugoslavia, while some joined the TIGR resistance organization, whose methods included more than 100, by some considered terrorist, actions in Trieste and surroundings during the 1920s and 1930s.
Between October 1947 and March 1948 the Soviet Union rejected the candidacy of 12 nominations for governor, at which point the Tripartite Powers (United States, United Kingdom, and France) issued a note to Moscow and Belgrade on 20 March 1948 recommending that the territory be returned to Italian sovereignty. No governor was ever appointed under the terms of the UN Resolution. The Territory thus never functioned as a real independent state. Even so, its formal status was respected and it issued its own currency and stamps. The break between the Tito government and the USSR in mid-1948 resulted in the proposal to return the territory to Italy being suspended until 1953.
The Allied Military Government administered Zone A, which was divided into peacekeeping and law enforcement sectors protected by a command of 5,000 Americans ("TRUST", the TRieste United States Troops) and 5,000 British in "BETFOR" (British Element Trieste Forces|British Element Trieste FORce), each comprising a brigade-sized infantry force and complete support units (Signals, Engineers, Military Police, etc--TRUST included the 98th Army Band).
According to the estimates published by the Allied Military Government, as of 1949 in the A zone there were about 310,000 inhabitants, including 239,200 Italians and 63,000 Slovenes .
According to the Yugoslav census of 1945, in the part of Istria which was to become Zone B there were 67,461 inhabitants, including 30,789 Slavs, 29,672 Italians and 7,000 people of unidentified nationality. According to contemporary Italian sources, in zone B there were 36,000-55,000 Italians and 12,000-17,000 Slavs.
*Military occupation prior to establishment of the FTT
During the late 1940s and in the years following the division of the territory, up to 40,000 people (mostly Italians) chose to leave the Yugoslav B zone and move to the A zone or Italy for various reasons - some were intimidated into leaving and some simply preferred not to live in Yugoslavia. In Yugoslavia, the people who left were called optanti which translates as choosing, while they call themselves esuli or exiles. About 14,000 Italians chose to remain in the Yugoslav zone, now part of Slovenia and Croatia.