Italy Since 1945

Italy was stripped of its colonial possessions and of most of Istria. Alcide de Gasperi, leader of the Christian Democratic party, became premier in 1945 and served until 1953. In 1946 Victor Emmanuel III abdicated in favor of his son, Humbert II. By a referendum soon after, Italy became a republic, and Humbert wentc into exile. Italy was a charter member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and the European Community (today's European Union). It became a member of the United Nations in 1955.

Meanwhile, in 1953, Italy had become involved in a dispute with Yugoslavia over the territory of Trieste, which had been under United Nations administration since the end of World War II. The dispute was resolved in 1954 through mediation by the United Nations.

Through land reform and industrial development, Italy gradually achieved prosperity, although the south remained depressed. Political stability, however, proved impossible to achieve because of the large number of political parties. Throughout the 1960's the Christian Democrats, the largest party, were able to form a series of coalitions. The Communists, although the second largest party, were consistently excluded from the coalitions. During the late 1960's demands for social reforms led to widespread strikes and student demonstrations.

The national government took steps to restore order, and in 1970 it established regional governments with jurisdiction over many matters formerly under central control. Delays in implementing social, economic, and educational reforms, however, caused unrest. The economy was seriously weakened by low industrial productivity, unemployment, inflation, and strikes. With the government unable to agree on austerity measures, the nation was left on the brink of economic disaster. In addition, many controversial issues continued to divide the country. For example, there was a bitter dispute over the enactment of a 1970 law legalizing divorce.

During the 1970's, the country was governed by a series of coalitions made virtually powerless by internal dissension and having little popular support. The Communist party made significant electoral gains during the decade. Italy, heavily dependent on imported oil, was especially hard hit by sharp increases in the world price of oil. A high rate of inflation also plagued the economy. In the late 1970's and early 1980's, leftist terrorists carried out a series of bombings, kidnappings, and shootings, including the 1978 abduction and murder of former premier Aldo Moro.

In 1981, for the first time in 36 years, a premier was chosen who was not a member of the Christian Democratic party. However, Christian Democrats continued to hold the largest number of cabinet posts. In 1985 Roman Catholicism was disestablished as the state religion. Bettino Craxi, who had been prime minister since 1983, resigned in 1987, ending Italy's longest-lasting postwar government.

During the early 1990's Italy was plagued by a far-reaching political-corruption scandal, which led to the resignation of many high-ranking government ministers. Elections in 1994 ended nearly 50 years of Italian governments in which the Christian Democrats ruled or were part of a coalition government. The government formed after the 1996 elections was the first to include members of a leftist party, the Democrats of the Left (the former Communist party). It fell in October, 1998. A new coalition was formed within weeks by Massimo D'Alema, who became the first former Communist to lead the country.

See cross references within the history section of this article. See also history sections of articles on cities and regions and, in addition,