Italian Citizenship and the Game of…RHODES!

Jun 18, 2021


All fans of the TV series “Game of Thrones” will surely know about the Titan of Braavos, an imposing statue of a huge warrior guarding the entrance to the port, unsettling all those who are forced to pass beneath it to gain entry to the city.

Yet, probably they didn’t know that the Titan of Braavos is based on a real statue that stood in Rhodes thousands of years ago: the Colossus of Rhodes was built at the entrance to the city as a deterrent to anyone thinking of invading the island.

The Colossus of Rodhes

Imagine arriving in the port of a small island with your boat and find yourself in front of a huge statue of a warrior about 110 feet tall atop a 50-foot platform to welcome you.

It would definitely be exiting!

This was what the ancients found arriving to the Island of Rhodes.

Known as One of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, the Colossus of Rhodes was a massive statue of a male figure built around 280 B.C. and erected on the Greek island of Rhodes.

Much about the monument remains shrouded in mystery, as it was destroyed in an earthquake in 226 B.C. However, ancient accounts hold that the Colossus of Rhodes was created in honour of the sun god Helios and to commemorate the Rhodians’ successful defence of their island against a siege led by Macedonian leader Demetrius Poliorcetes in 305 B.C.

Rhodes, a Greek island with a multinational past: the Italian occupation and the “small citizenship”

Rhodes, like the entire Dodecanese, belonged to the Ottoman Empire, and was occupied and annexed by Italy during the Italian-Turkish War in 1912.

The Italian illegal occupation of Dodecanese lasted until 1920.

Even before the Italian occupation, in the Aegean Islands, emigration was a widespread phenomenon and had accelerated during the Great War, when one third of the people stated in the Islands emigrated in search of better living conditions. It is important to emphasise that this exodus was also possible because, although their citizenship was still Ottoman, the granting of Italian passports, travel sheets and protection certificates, which began in 1912, allowed the Aegean people not to be considered as enemy subjects in the Allied countries and in their colonies: these countries become the main emigration destinations.

This kind of Italian policy led to the creation, for the first time, of the so called “small citizenship” of Dodecanese (r.d.l. 10 September 1922, no. 1387).

The recognition of Italian citizenship

The Italian sovereignty on the Aegean Islands was confirmed by the Treaty of Sèvres (10 August 1920) and internationally recognized by the subsequent Peace of Lausanne of 24 July 1923.

The Treaty of Lausanne of 1923 also regulated the recognition of Italian citizenship to the dodecanesian people: article 30 of the mentioned treaty stated that Turkish subjects settled in the islands at the time of the entry into force of the treaty (6 August 1924) would become Italian, while in article 31 guaranteed that all persons over the age of 18 could return to Turkish citizenship within a period of three years.

Article 34, instead, regulated the right of option for dodecanesians living abroad. As per this provision, Ottoman subjects over 18 years of age who originated from the Aegean Islands and who on the date of 6 August 1924 were settled abroad (and therefore did not fall within the case provided for in Article 30) could opt for Italian citizenship with the allowance of the Italian government. The deadline for exercising this right of option was two years.

The Italian presence in Rhodes lasted until September 8, 1943, then it was under German occupation until April 1945 and then British occupation until 1947, when it was handed over to Greece.

Even if Rhodes belonged to Italy for a short period of time, the recognition of Italian citizenship to its inhabitants and to those who, living abroad, had decided to opt for it within two years from the entry into force of the treaty of Lausanne, allowed many descendants of the Rhodians to apply for recognition of Italian citizenship by descent.

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