Saturday, 17 March 2018

Mikhail Bakunin: Russian anarchist and antagonist of Karl Marx

Mikhail Alexandrovich Bakunin (1814 – 1876) was a Russian revolutionary anarchist and the founder of Collectivist Anarchism. He is considered among the most influential figures of anarchism, and one of the principal founders of Social Anarchist tradition. Bakunin's enormous prestige as activist made of him one of the most famous ideologues at the beginning of the 20th century when he gained a substantial influence among radicals throughout Russia and Europe. Bakunin was an antagonist of Karl Marx, yet he happened to be the first translator of Mark's book "Das Kapital" from German into Russian.

In 1874, Bakunin moved with his young wife Antonia Kwiatkowska and their three children in Minusio, situated near Locarno in Switzerland. The family lived in a villa called "La Baronata". It is interesting to know that the villa in Minusio was offered to Bakunin by the leader of the Italian anarchists, Carlo Cafiero, who had bought it for Bakunin by selling his own estates in his native town Barletta (Apulia). The villa was built in the 17th  century as summer residence for Baron Marcacci who gave to it a surname "Baronata" in Italian. During 1873–1875, Bakunin decided to introduce some modifications into the building that would make "La Baronata superiore", creating a real family mansion for the Bakunins. The diverse changes were realised by Francesco Galli (1822-1889) who was a local architect from Gerra Gambarogno. His name is well-known in Ticino because Galli inspired and led the construction of the Grand Hotel in Locarno that is, unfortunately, in a bad condition at present. Plans related to the reconstructions for the Bakunins' mansion were proposed by a polish architect Walerian Mroczowski.

Google Maps
Nowadays "la Villa Baronata" is a private property located at Via San Gottardo 251 - Minusio, and it is impossible to visit this place for tourists. Surely, it is a pity for those enthusiasts who would like to see where Russian anarchist Mikhail Bakunin translated from German into Russian "Das Kapital" of Karl Marx, and where he happily lived for some time. As the matter of fact, the large house is protected by a large stone eagle at the entrance gate and a great wall. The area is overlooking the corner of Lago Maggiore, in a protected microclimate that makes the flora particularly varied and lush.

Bakunin died in Bern on July 1, 1876, and was buried in Bern-Bremgarten Cemetery.

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Saturday, 10 March 2018

Benito Mussolini in Locarno

Mussolini arriving in Locarno 15.10.25
@Città di Locarno
The Locarno Treaties were seven agreements negotiated in Locarno from October 5 till October 16 1925 and were formally signed in London on 1 December 1925.

The treaties defined how the Western European Allied powers and the new states of the Central and Eastern Europe sought to secure the territorial settlement after the end of the First World War, normalising relations with defeated Germany under the Weimar Republic.

The treaties stated that Germany would never go to war with other countries dividing the borders of Europe into two categories: the Western borders were guaranteed by Locarno treaties, and the Eastern borders (of Germany with Poland) were open for optional revisions.

Mussolini outside Villa Farinelli
@Città di Locarno
Benito Mussolini (Predappio 1883 - Giulino di Mezzegro 1945) arrived in Ticino on 15 October 1925 from Stresa. He joined the Locarno negotiations during the final day.

Mussolini was hosted in the Villa Farinelli (Muralto), which was not far from the Train Station of Locarno. The arrival of Mussolini in Locarno was enthusiastically welcomed by the Swiss population. It was also the last time when Mussolini ever visited Switzerland.

But, previously, he had already had a personal connection to this country; for example, in 1902, Mussolini emigrated to Switzerland to avoid partly his military service in Italy. He worked briefly as a stonemason in Geneva, Fribourg and Bern but was unable to find a permanent job. It is interesting to know that in 1936, Mussolini got an Honorary Degree (honoris causa) from the University of Lausanne, this Doctor title was then granted to him by the University delegation in Rome. Even at present, Mussolini still owns the Honorary Degree from Lausanne.
The villa Farinelli, situated, at present, in Via Sempione 3 - Muralto, was built by architect Paolo Zanini (1871-1914) for Giuseppe Farinelli (1867-1938), a wealthy trader from Intra, also Italian vice-consul in Locarno. 

  • Rodolfo Huber, “Locarno Ville de la Paix: Villa Farinelli” (Link)
  • Peter Martig, “Mussolini und die Schweiz”, Berner Zeitschrift für Geschichte und Heimatkunde Nr. 45 - 1983, (Link)
  • Hanspeter Born, “Genosse Mussolini in der Schweiz”, Weltwoche, Ausgabe 9 2013 (Link)
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Saturday, 3 March 2018

Museum Volandia Malpensa: airplane touched by a saint

@Insubria Historica
In our quest for the past industrial heritage of the Insubrica region, we could not miss to pay a visit to Volandia Museum in Milano Malpensa, hosted in the former facilities of Caproni Vizzola Aeronautical manufacturer. 

Caproni was an Italian aircraft manufacturer. Founded in 1908 by Giovanni Battista "Gianni" Caproni, the factory was initially named Società de Agostini e Caproni, then Società Caproni e Comitti from 1911. Caproni created the first Italian made aircraft in 1911. 

The two manufacturing facilities were based in Taliedo, a peripheral district of Milan, close to Linate Airport, and for the Caproni Vizzola division, in Vizzola Ticino, close to Milan–Malpensa Airport.

During the First World War, Caproni developed a series of successful heavy bombers, used by the Italian, French, British and US air forces. Between the world wars in XX century, Caproni evolved into a large conglomerate named Società Italiana Caproni, Milano, which bought some smaller manufacturers. The main subdivisions were Caproni Bergamasca, Caproni Vizzola, Reggiane and engine manufacturer Isotta Fraschini.

Between the world wars, Caproni produced mostly bombers and light transport planes. The Società Italiana Caproni ceased to exist in 1950, although one of its divisions, Caproni Vizzola endured until 1983, with the mythical light jet-powered C-22J (which the Hollywood actor John Travolta managed to fly); the company was finally bought by Agusta.
The museum is very close to the Terminal 1 of the Malpensa International Airport. It is easily accessible with a large parking. The Museum is divided into seven areas with several airplanes - one was even touched by a saint ;-) - and mockups. It is a nice destination which has also some rare milestones of the Insubric aviation history, such as a model of Jorge Chavéz Blériot XI. Jorge Chavez was the first pilot who, on the 23th September 1910,  successfully crossed the Alps starting from Brig/Wallis-Switzerland and landing in Domodossola/Italy. Unfortunately, Chavez crashed landing in Domodossola, perishing few hours after this first historical milestone.


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