Young Italy

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Young Italy


(Giovine Italia), an underground revolutionary organization founded by G. Mazzini in July 1831 in Marseille. The nucleus of the organization was made up of representatives of the Italian revolutionary emigration. Young Italy’s chief goal was the liberation of Italy from foreign oppression and the creation of an independent, unified republic.

Unlike the Carbonari and other secret societies, Young Italy, for the first time in the history of the Italian national liberation movement, counted on the people as the main force for revolution. Nonetheless, its program called for only minor reforms in the interests of the lower classes—for example, the reduction of indirect taxes and lowering of prices on essential commodities— reforms that were aimed primarily at making some improvement in the condition of the urban masses. Fearing that they would lose the support of the liberal strata of the nobility and the landed bourgeoisie, Mazzini and his organization avoided raising the question of abolishing or substantially limiting large landed properties of feudal origin and transferring land to the peasants. This prevented Young Italy from winning over the peasantry, the majority of the Italian people. Branches of the organization, whose members came chiefly from progressive circles of the bourgeoisie and liberal nobility, were very widespread in northern and central Italy. Giovine Italia, a journal published by the organization in Marseille and secretly brought into Italy, propagandized Mazzini’s slogans.

Young Italy was reduced to organizing conspiracies, which it condemned in principle but which, according to Mazzini, would serve as the impetus for a revolution that would encompass all of Italy. After the failure of conspiracies organized by Mazzini’s followers in Piedmont (1833) and Savoy (1834), Young Italy ceased to exist for a while. It was reestablished in the spring of 1840. Striving to broaden the mass base of the national movement, the organization began to recruit workers. In London it founded the Union of Italian Workingmen and the newspaper Apostolato popolare (published until September 1843), which became the organ of the Union.

Appealing to Italian workers to organize politically, the leaders of Young Italy tried to subordinate them to the leadership of bourgeois democracy and to eliminate the possibility of class revolutionary initiatives by the proletariat. Mazzini’s propaganda had little impact on the workers. Without the support of the popular masses, the uprisings and conspiracies in which the members of Young Italy participated invariably failed, despite the heroism of the participants. Consequently, in 1848, when a revolutionary crisis was imminent, the organization changed its tactics and entered into an alliance with the moderate monarchist wing of the Italian national liberation movement. In Paris in March 1848, Young Italy was reorganized as the Italian National Association, which temporarily renounced the demand for a republic and joined the liberals in a struggle for the national independence and unity of Italy.

Despite its contradictions and limitations, Young Italy represents an important stage in the history of the Italian national liberation movement (the Risorgimento), for it laid the foundation for many of the movement’s revolutionary democratic traditions. The organization’s selfless struggle for the independence and unity of the homeland set a heroic example for many Italians, thus playing an important role in the struggle for the unification of Italy.


Protocollo della Giovine Italia, vols. 1–6. Imola, 1916–22.


Mastellone, S. Mazzinie la “GiovineItalia” (1831-1834), vols. 1–2. Pisa, 1960.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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