Last Updated: Wednesday, 13 December 2017, 11:55 GMT

Assessment for Sardinians in Italy

Publisher Minorities at Risk Project
Publication Date 31 December 2003
Cite as Minorities at Risk Project, Assessment for Sardinians in Italy, 31 December 2003, available at: [accessed 13 December 2017]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.
Italy Facts
Area:    116,303 sq. km.
Capital:    Rome
Total Population:    56,783,000 (source: U.S. Census Bureau, 1998, est.)

Risk Assessment | Analytic Summary | References

Risk Assessment

There is very little chance that the Sardinians will resort to sustained militant political strategies in the near future. The only recent act of violence was a 2002 mail bombing, for which Sardinian separatists claimed responsibility. There also have been few protests or rallies. The occasional references to kidnappings on Sardinia seem to be economically motivated and do not reflect political or ideological demands.

The Sardinians also lack the risk factors usually associated with the potential for protest. They do not face political or cultural restrictions, or government repression. They also do not have any external support. Nonetheless there is still the potential for future protest, due to their distinct history and their concerns for the protection of the Sard language. While the separatist movement appears moribund, it is possible that local manifestations of separatist activism have been overlooked by the English language press.

Analytic Summary

Sardinia is a Mediterranean island east of the Italian peninsula. Its inhabitants, who have been on the island centuries longer than Italy has been a country (TRADITN = 1), speak Sard, a unique language which is similar to Latin (LANG = 2). The Sards were independent from the 9th to the 14th century. In 1720, after several centuries of Catalan rule, the island became a possession of the Dukes of Savoy, who in 1861 became kings of Italy. As a result of their island status they also have developed a different culture than that of the rest of Italy (CUSTOM = 1). While culturally distinct and concentrated on the island (GROUPCON = 3), Sardinians are divided internally by numerous dialects and various sub-cultures (COHESX9 = 3). Despite these differences they are represented mainly by the Sardinian Action Party, which has as one of its platforms the separation of Sardinia from the rest of Italy (SEPX = 3).

Sardinia is experiencing a decline in farming and as a result its people are experiencing high rural-to-urban migration and substantial unemployment. The Italian government has also implemented remedial economic policies to counteract the effects of historical neglect (ECODIS03 = 1). Between the 1950s and 1970s, 500-700,000 Sardinians seeking economic opportunities left the island for Italy and other destinations. Since 1962, the Italian government has invested heavily in the island's industrial development, but the factories that dot the new industrial estates, mainly in coastal areas, are largely controlled by outsiders and have not created as many jobs as planned. The Sardinians are not subject to political discrimination (POLDIS03 = 0) nor are there reports of overt government repression against the group. A main concern of many Sardinians is protection of the Sardinian language, both as a language taught in schools, and as a language that can be used in dealing with the government. Beyond outright separatism, the Sardinian Action Party also calls for more political autonomy for the island vis-a-vis the central government.

While there was limited organized protest and militant activity starting in the 1960s (PROT60X = 1, REBEL65X = 1), this never escalated beyond larger protests in the early 1990s (PROT90X = 3). There have been no recent political protests (PROT03 = 0). In 2002, Sardinian separatists claimed responsibility for 3 mail bombs that exploded in Milan, but no other violence has been reported in recent years. (REB00-01 = 0, REB02 = 1, REB03 = 0).


Phase I Summary

Lexix/Nexis: All news files, 1990-2003.

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