RIJEKA DOMICILE

or How to Become a Citizen of Rijeka

Introduction

This exhibition presents ten certificates awarding citizenship rights in Rijeka through a wider historical context. Six were drawn from the collections of the Maritime and History Museum of the Croatian Littoral in Rijeka and four from the collections of the State Archives in Rijeka. Several things are worth noting in these official documents published by the management of the city of Rijeka – their aesthetics, the change in language when Italian replaced Latin, but exceptionally interesting are the individual fates of the immigrants or those who were born here, but did not possess full citizenship. For a long time, the inhabitants of Rijeka were divided into those who lived here and those who had the rights of full citizenship and participated in shaping the city’s destiny. There was a limited number of full citizens, and being granted such a status required candidates to submit a request, prove their financial status and wealth, as well as an untarnished reputation. Many immigrants who did not meet these requirements could have been exiled from the city in case of a crisis, left to their own devices to survive. The right to live in the city was the essence of domicile, and domicile then formed the basis for acquiring full citizenship. This was a specificity of the Austrian legal system within which Rijeka had its own additional features, especially after the city was granted the status of a separate entity within the Kingdom of Hungary at the end of the 18th century.
15th century

Rijeka is a vibrant city, well described by historian Ferdo Hauptman: „… whatever an individual started in Rijeka, it was almost assuredly a success, considering the opportunities that presented themselves. A worker finds ample work at the loading docks, a little further down in the shipyards, and even in the mills and sawmills along the Rječina river. If the worker saved up some money, which was not especially hard with maximum prices set for essential food products, they could take a few others to rent half a ship or even a whole ship and try their luck in trade or piracy. Even if they did not feel like testing the seas, they could feed pigs, raise cattle and then sell meat and hides in the city itself, at home. A nimble merchant could even become an intermediary in the trade taking place across the shores of the Adriatic.“ (1951, pp. 38).

The people moving to Rijeka primarily came from the immediate vicinity – the Kastav area, Grobnik, Veprinac, Lovran, Pazin, Pula, Trieste, as well as Bakar, Vinodol, Senj, Gorski Kotar, Zagreb, Križevci, Požega, Ljubljana, Kranj, Celje, Dalmatia, and from Italian cities including Fermo, Pesaro, Ancona, Rimini, Florence, Milan and of course Venice.

After a developmental boom in the late Middle Ages, Rijeka faced troubled times in the early modern era. The city was slowly growing and developing as a maritime and commercial centre. Its advancement, however, was disrupted by the Ottomans and their sudden military attacks that made land travel towards the city dangerous.

16th century

At the same time, sailing was limited as Venice, which controlled the nearby islands, dominated the seas. Commerce always finds a way though, so trade happened more locally – with the people of Carniola region in the hinterland, with neighbouring islands, the Uskoks of Senj and with Dalmatia. The city was at the time owned by the Habsburgs and thus enjoyed certain privileges. Relations between citizens and those engaging in business with the locals were legally regulated by the Statute of 1530.

Older documents typically state a person’s father’s name next to a person’s and/or where they came from. From the 16th century onwards, it is possible to use last names to determine where new inhabitants came from, although many last names were transformed into their Croatian forms by the following generation. In later times there are also many who wrote their last names exclusively in its Italian form. Alongside Croatian, the Italian language entered widespread public use because of commerce and sailing already in the late Middle Ages.

An increase in the number of inhabitants in a narrow space within walls brought about new issues – a lack of accommodation, maintaining order and cleanliness, avoiding diseases, as well as securing food and drinking water. For those reasons not everyone was allowed to settle in the city. Following the founding of the Council of Patricians in the 16th century, allowing someone to become a citizen of Rijeka had become a matter of politics as well. A Captain ruled the city and oversaw the sessions of the City Council on behalf of the ruler.

1509.
1509.

The armies of Venice invade, pillage and plunder Rijeka, murder its citizens, and shortly occupy the city.

1511.
1511.

Venice once again attacks Rijeka, aiming to destroy it.

Venetian territories in the Northern Adriatic (PPMHP 122117)

1515.
1515.

Due to its successful resistance to Venice, the Habsburg ruler refers to Rijeka as Fidelissimum oppidum Terrae Fluminis.

1526.
1526.

Hungarian-Croatian King Louis II is killed at the Battle of Mohács against the army of Ottoman Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent. The Ottoman army pushes deep towards central Europe.

1530.
1530.

Šimun Kožičić Benja founds a Glagolic Script printing office in Rijeka.

1599.
1599.

Venice bombs Rijeka once again.

17th century

The City Council made important decisions concerning everyday life in the city. It comprised representatives of prominent families – full citizens. Foreigners could not become Council members regardless of recommendation unless they had first acquired domicile. Council members pledged to the Captain and the city and they were the City’s representatives. Immigrants who wanted to acquire domicile had to submit an application to the City Council. The decision was made based on the candidate’s economic status, their flawless reputation and honour, as well as how hard-working they are or their entrepreneurial initiative. The candidate’s economic status guaranteed that their family would not depend on the support of the city or religious institutions.  If such an application came with a reference of social, political or economic influence, then acquiring domicile was a mere formality. Wine trade was the only thing off limits, except in amounts to serve private needs, as the city retained exclusive rights on wine trade.

In order to be bestowed the honour of becoming a full citizen, a candidate also had to pay a certain fee. In 1696, for example, Giacomo Polensich was given this honour after paying 30 ducats that went into the construction of the cathedral.

1615. – 1617.
1615. – 1617.

Habsburg Empire at war with Venice – the Uskok War for the territory of Gradisca. Rijeka once again targeted by the Venetian army.

1637.
1637.

Construction begins on what is today the Cathedral of St. Vitus.

1683.
1683.

Ottoman army defeated at the Battle of Vienna.

1699.
1699.

Peace Treaty of Karlowitz signed in Sremski Karlovci, mandating the Ottomans to pull out of most of central Croatia.

18th century

Many people lived in Rijeka for years without fulfilling the requirements for domicile. They were inhabitants (incolae), but not citizens (cives). Those who did not possess domicile could have simply been exiled. This problem became prominent after Rijeka was declared a Free Port. Retail trade was permitted only to full citizens and could have been denied to other merchants regardless of how long they stayed in Rijeka.

Holy Roman Emperor Charles VI changed Rijeka’s perspectives through his successful military campaigns. After declaring sailing across the Adriatic unrestricted and abolishing the Venetian exclusive right to charge sailing fees, the Emperor declared Rijeka a Free Port and started building roads towards Podunavlje. He also concluded a trade alliance with the Ottomans. In 1776 his daughter, Holy Roman Empress Maria Theresa, stated that Rijeka should develop as a separate entity (corpus separatum) joined to the Hungarian crown. This hastened the founding of the Rijeka Governorate ruled by the Hungarian governor – a noble elected by the Hungarian parliament.

The Governor also acted as City Captain, but the Captain’s duties were formally executed by a vice-captain elected by the Patricians, i.e. members of the City Council. The City Council decided on all matters concerning life in the city, while the Governor primarily tackled foreign policy and managed the Rijeka Trade Governorate. The city prospered beyond its medieval walls, and the capital flowing from all sides was used to develop manufacturing and maritime trade.

1717.
1717.

Holy Roman Emperor Charles VI declares free sailing across the Adriatic.

1718.
1718.

Peace Treaty of Passarowitz signed in Požarevac after another Ottoman defeat. The Habsburg Empire and Ottomans sign a trade agreement, thus facilitating Rijeka’s faster development.

1719.
1719.

Rijeka and Trieste declared Free Ports.

1728.
1728.

The Karolina Road is opened, connecting Rijeka to Karlovac. Holy Roman Emperor Charles VI visits Rijeka.

(PPMHP 121893)

1750. – 1751.
1750. – 1751.

Many buildings in Rijeka destroyed in a series of powerful earthquakes.

1773.
1773.

Arnold&Co. founds the sugar refinery in Rijeka.

1776.
1776.

Empress Maria Theresa proposes Rijeka be declared corpus separatum, a separate entity within the Hungarian kingdom in order to better facilitate the city’s economic development and establishing Governorates. The first governor, Joseph Mailáth de Szèkely, arrives in Rijeka.

1779.
1779.

On 23 April 1779, Empress Maria Theresa grants Rijeka the status of corpus separatum, directly connected to the Hungarian kingdom.

(HR_DARI_273_1_21)

1797.
1797.

Napoleon abolishes the Republic of Venice.

19th century

Following twenty years of Croatian rule (1848-1868), city administration was modernized in 1870 when the Hungarian Governorate was reinstated. City administration was separated from Governorate affairs and the city was now ruled by a Mayor who presided over the City Council and who was elected by both the Patricians and the wealthier citizens. This was a turning point towards attaining a higher status where it was possible to elect and be elected. Situation remained the same until the fall of the Austro-Hungarian Empire in 1918.

Domicile is the basis of acquiring citizenship. After the fall of the Austro-Hungarian Empire in 1918, inhabitants of this multi-ethnic nation lost their citizenship. Peace agreements post World War I defined that citizenship was acquired based on domicile. This was further impacted by nationality, which became the key determiner for defining belonging to a community from the end of the 19th century. Nationality could not be used as a reliable determiner in a multi-national city such as Rijeka so the old Austrian principle of belonging to a city remained in practice.

1813.
1813.

Laval Nugent, an Irish nobleman in the service of the Habsburg emperor, liberates Rijeka from the French occupation.

1817.
1817.

On 4 October 1817, the District office in Rijeka notifies the city that King Francis I granted Rijeka the title of Fidelissima.

(HR-DARI-2731-24)

1848.
1848.

The nobility is stripped of its privileges in managing the city. The right to become city councillors becomes available to all men of age with domicile of Rijeka and who meet the property qualifications.

In 2021, the State Archives in Rijeka, with the support of the Ministry of Culture and Media of the Republic of Croatia, purchased the certificate of citizenship granted to Joseph Mailáth de Szèkely Jr. from 1823. The certificate was significantly damaged in the past due to inadequate storage and frequent use. The restored certificate is presented at the exhibition, while the complex conservation and restoration efforts were recorded and published on the State Archives in Rijeka YouTube channel.

Impressum

Maritime and History Museum of the Croatian Littoral Rijeka, 9 June – 24 July 2021

Exhibition organizers:
MARITIME AND HISTORY MUSEUM OF THE CROATIAN LITTORAL RIJEKA and STATE ARCHIVES IN RIJEKA

Authors:
TEA PERINČIĆ, senior curator, PPMHP and
MARKUS LEIDECK, senior archivist, DARI

Virtual exhibition preparation:
ŽELJKO MALETIĆ

Technical setup of the exhibition:
DINO MARKOVIĆ

Proofreading:
IVANA MARINČIĆ

English translation:
BABEL, obrt za prevoditeljske i intelektualne usluge

For organizers:
NIKOLINA RADIĆ ŠTIVIĆ, director of the PPMHP and
MARKUS LEIDECK, director of the DARI

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