The Politics of Grief

Fascist Italy’s military cemeteries of the First World War

Ossuary Monte Grappa, Italy

Mussolini’s Fascist regime sought to exploit grief for political gain by taking control of the commemoration of fallen soldiers of the First World War. Whereas, initially, Italians who died fighting in the war were buried in makeshift cemeteries close to the battlefields, in the late 1920s, Mussolini decided to exhume their remains and rebury them in large ossuaries.

Located along the former front in north-eastern Italy, the vast scale and monumentality of the Fascist ossuaries means that they are unlike other European memorials. By imposing a narrative that spoke of victory, they helped to silence discordant memories of the war as pointless slaughter. By twisting sorrow into pride, they were meant to promote imperialism and militarism, and to bolster public support for future wars. In essence, the monuments represent an attempt to harness feelings of grief and loss to the Fascist cause. As such, they offer an example of the use of emotions as political tools and the nexus between the emotions and politics.

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