Italian Social Republic

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Italian Social Republic
War flag of the Italian Social Republic.svg
Fullname: Italian Social Republic
Alias: RSI
Republic of Salò
Origin: Abruzzo, Southern Italy
Foundation: September 12, 1943
Headquarters: Salò (de facto)
Rome (de jure)
Commanders: Benito Mussolini
Goals: Restore Italy as a fascist state (failed)
Revive its standing within the Axis Powers (failed)


The Italian Social Republic was the successor state to Fascist Italy after its leader, Benito Mussolini, was removed from power by his own advisers with the support of King Victor Emmanuel III to try and work out a ceasefire with the Allies during World War II.

When Adolf Hitler learned this, he dispatched his finest troops to Italy to conquer areas he deemed that were of strategic importance, with them eventually gaining full control of North and Central Italy. Once they located where Mussolini was imprisoned, German troops rescued him and took him back to Germany for an audience with Hitler himself. Hitler wanted Mussolini to established a new Italian fascist state, but Mussolini was in poor health and wished to retire; Hitler treatened to destory the cities of Milan, Genoa and Turin unless Mussolini agreed to his demands, which Mussolini reluctantly did.

The Italian Social Republic was proclaimed on 23 September, with Mussolini as both head of state and prime minister. The RSI claimed Rome as its capital, but the de facto capital became the small town of Salò on Lake Garda, midway between Milan and Venice, where Mussolini resided along with the foreign office of the RSI. While Rome itself was still under Axis control at the time, given the city's proximity to Allied lines and the threat of civil unrest, neither the Germans nor Mussolini himself wanted him to return to Rome.

From the start, the Italian Social Republic was little more than a puppet state dependent entirely upon Germany. Mussolini himself knew this; even as he stated in public that he was in full control of the RSI, he was well aware that he was little more than the Gauleiter of Lombardy. The SS kept Mussolini under what amounted to house arrest; it monitored his communications and controlled his travel. Only Nazi Party and Imperial Japan recognized its sovereignty.

Background

The Italian Social Republic was the second and last incarnation of the Italian Fascist state and was led by Mussolini and his reformed anti-monarchist Republican Fascist Party (the successor to the National Fascist Party) which tried to modernise and revise fascist doctrine into a more moderate and sophisticated direction.

The state declared Rome its capital, but was de facto centered on Salò (hence its colloquial name), a small town on Lake Garda, near Brescia, where Mussolini and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs were headquartered. The Italian Social Republic exercised nominal sovereignty in Northern and Central Italy, but was largely dependent on German troops to maintain control.

In July 1943, after the Allies had pushed Italy out of North Africa and subsequently invaded Sicily, the Grand Fascist Council—with the support of King Victor Emmanuel III—overthrew and arrested Mussolini. The new government began secret peace negotiations with the Allied powers. When the Armistice of Cassibile was announced 8 September, Germany was prepared and quickly intervened. Germany seized control of the northern half of Italy, freed Mussolini and brought him to the German-occupied area to establish a satellite regime. The Italian Social Republic was proclaimed on 23 September 1943.

Although the RSI claimed sovereignty over most of Italian territory, its de facto jurisdiction only extended to a vastly reduced portion of Italy. The RSI received diplomatic recognition from only Germany, Japan and their puppet states.

Around 25 April 1945–nineteen months after the RSI's founding–it all but collapsed. In Italy, this day is known as Liberation Day (festa della liberazione). On this day a general partisan uprising, alongside the efforts of Allied forces during their final offensive in Italy, managed to oust the Germans from Italy almost entirely. On 27 April, partisans caught Mussolini, his mistress (Clara Petacci), several RSI ministers and several other Italian Fascists while they were attempting to flee.

On 28 April, the partisans shot Mussolini and most of the other captives. The RSI Minister of Defense Rodolfo Graziani surrendered what was left of the Italian Social Republic on 1 May, one day after the German forces in Italy capitulated, putting a definitive end to the Italian Social Republic.