Historical International Meeting
Europe at a crossroads
The Genoa International Conference of 1922
From April 10th to May 19th, 1922, Genoa was the scene of an important, albeit little known, International economic and financial Conference, joined by 34 European countries, in order to make “a joint effort (…) to remedy the paralysis of European system”.
On the centenary of that event, the Ligurian Institute for the Resistance and the Contemporary Age (ILSREC), in collaboration with the Department of Political Sciences (DISPO) and the School of Social Sciences of the University of Genoa, organizes an international historical conference in Palazzo San Giorgio, where the Conference held the most important sessions and where, in memory of the event, a plaque was placed and restored in 1972 after its destruction during the war. The aim is not meant to be just celebratory.
The Genoa Conference, mutatis mutandis, in fact presents highly relevant aspects. For a Europe that after the First World War had lost the hegemonic role which it had exercised in the world until that moment, the early 1920s represented a period of transition, of change, of the search for new paths, but at the same time also a period of radicalization of divisions: a moment of choices that is very close to what we are experiencing now.
On the one hand, fears and claims, that pushed towards national closures: France’s fear of a new German aggression, and its punitive rigor; Germany’s fear of political marginalization and economic stagnation, and its rebellion against exclusive guilt; Russia’s fear of economic isolation; the claims by every nation for massive reparations for the damage suffered during the disastrous recent conflict.
On the other hand, the pacifist wave and the hope to build a new model of coexistence, based on the concerted settlement of any disputes; the success of a new international law, based on arbitration and collective security, symbolically represented by the birth of the League of Nations; the expectation of a pacification that would also pass through economic disarmament and the big business economic policy; the birth of several pacifist movements and the call for dialogue between nations and peoples.
The Genoa Conference stands in the middle of the ford between a system of equilibrium still guaranteed by bilateral and multilateral relations, of which the Rapallo Treaty signed between Germany and the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic on April 16th will be a significant result, and a new and daring system of an intergovernmental nature capable of putting an end to the hegemonic attempts of the modern age.
It is a symbol of a period in which the first steps for a new international diplomacy are taking place, but its first failures are also being experienced; the need for a supernational body is affirmed, but at the same time the national principle is seen as the exclusive principle of legitimation of the State; There is a call to unite, but the borders between the nations are multiplying; commercial exchanges are emphasized as a means of normalizing political relations, but the demand for payment of war damages and repayment of loans remains firm.
The Conference here proposed aims to deepen that climate in which important decisions for the Old Continent matured, reconstructing the European and International framework within which the Conference was located, the influence of the government and the Italian delegation, the weight of the economic environments and industrialists, the history of Genoa in the post-war period and the role that Genoa and its political, economic and cultural elites played in the Conference.