Visual History of the World




From Prehistoric to Romanesque  Art
Gothic Art
Renaissance  Art
Baroque and Rococo Art
The Art of Asia
Neoclassicism, Romanticism  Art
Art Styles in 19th century
Art of the 20th century
Artists that Changed the World
Design and Posters
Classical Music
Literature and Philosophy

Visual History of the World
First Empires
The Ancient World
The Middle Ages
The Early Modern Period
The Modern Era
The World Wars and Interwar Period
The Contemporary World

Dictionary of Art and Artists


The Contemporary World

1945 to the present


After World War II, a new world order came into being in which two superpowers, the United States and the Soviet Union, played the leading roles. Their ideological differences led to the arms race of the Cold War and fears of a global nuclear conflict. The rest of the world was also drawn into the bipolar bloc system, and very few nations were able to remain truly non-aligned. The East-West conflict came to an end in 1990 with the collapse of the Soviet Union and the consequent downfall of the Eastern Bloc. Since that time, the world has been driven by the globalization of worldwide economic and political systems. The world has, however, remained divided: The rich nations of Europe, North America, and East Asia stand in contrast to the developing nations of the Third World.

The first moon landing made science-fiction dreams reality in the year 1969.
Space technology has made considerable progress as the search for new
possibilities of using space continues.




SINCE 1945


see also: United Nations member states -
see also: Andorra, Malta, Monaco, San Marino


Although Italy suffered considerable destruction during World War II, the former ally of the German Reich was rapidly reconstructed with the help of American financial aid. The Italian economic miracle of the 1950s, saw a boom in its film industry, tourism, and industrial production. The Italian political system is "stably unstable." A serious problem in the country was, and continues to be, organized crime and corruption, which in individual cases reaches all the way into state institutions and the economy. The economic policy system collapsed in the 1990s, though this did not result in structural changes.


Italy's Political System since 1945

Italy founded a constitutional republic after World War II. The Christian Democratic party was a member of the subsequent governments in shifting ruling coalitions.


2, 1 As the result of a plebiscite on June 2,1946, Italy became a republic with a parliamentary democratic constitution.

2 The damaged monastery of Montecassino, 1944

1 "Fiat 1400, the progressive
car," advertisement for Italy's
leading car manufacturer, 1951

5 King Umberto II, who had taken over from Victor Emmanuel on May 9th, 1945, in the hope of preserving the monarchy which had been gravely compromised by its tolerance of Mussolini's unconstitutional regime, left the country.

The Republican majority was two million from the 23,400,000 votes cast. The centrist Christian Democratic party became the leading force in politics. It governed from 1947 to 1953 with an absolute majority in a Chamber of 556 seats and thereafter in changing coalitions where it regularly had more than a third of the votes. The Socialist party lost its number two position in the parliamentary landscape in the 1950s to the Communists, while the Neo-Fascists established themselves on the extreme right. Between 1945 and 1989, there were 48 changes of government. The causes for this were peculiarities in the Italian constitution as well as the attempt to keep the Communists permanently out of government coalitions.

In the second half of the 1970s, Christian Democratic president 4 Aldo Moro was in favor of coming to grips with the economic crisis by means of a "historical compromise," that is, with the support of the Communists, but he was kidnapped and murdered in March 1978 by the leftist terrorist group the Red Brigade.

Government crises continued to shake Italy into the early 1990s. Diverse coalition governments were formed with three or four parties. There was practically no effective opposition left.

The parties permeated Italian 3 social and political life almost completely, creating a client or patronage system that was maintained through corruption.

5 King Umberto II at his wedding to Mara Jose, Rome

4 Aldo Moro, ca. 1971

3 Guests in Harry's Bar in Venice, ca. 1950



The Italian Constitution

Italy's constitution was a compromise, drafted in the postwar era by an amalgamation of anti-Fascist parties and came into force in 1948. Characteristic of it is the great opportunity given to the citizens for taking part in legislation as well as the composition of the two-chamber parliament.

A vote of no confidence in the government from one chamber alone can bring it down. The president has little formal influence and no authority to set guidelines. In a coalition, this arrangement considerably weakens the executive powers of the government.

House of Representatives, Italian parliament, Rome, 1999




Aldo Moro


premier of Italy

born Sept. 23, 1916, Maglie, Italy
died May 9, 1978, Rome

law professor, Italian statesman, and leader of the Christian Democratic Party, who served five times as premier of Italy (1963–64, 1964–66, 1966–68, 1974–76, and 1976). In 1978 he was kidnapped and subsequently murdered by left-wing terrorists.

A professor of law at the University of Bari, Moro published several books on legal subjects and served as president of the Federazione Universitaria Cattolica Italiana (Federation of Italian University Catholics; 1939–42) and the Movimento Laureati Cattolici (Movement of Catholic Graduates; 1945–46). After World War II he was elected a deputy to the Constituent Assembly, which created the country’s 1948 constitution, and to the legislature. He held a succession of cabinet posts, including undersecretary of foreign affairs (1948–50), minister of justice (1955–57), and minister of public instruction (1957–59).

Moro took office as secretary of the Christian Democrats (later renamed the Italian Popular Party) during a crisis that threatened to split the party (March 1959). Although he was the leader of the Dorothean, or centrist, group of the Christian Democrats, he favoured forming a coalition with the Italian Socialist Party and helped bring about the resignation of the conservative Christian Democrat prime minister Fernando Tambroni (July 1960).

When he was invited to form his own government in December 1963, Moro assembled a cabinet that included some Socialists, who were participating in the government for the first time in 16 years. He resigned after a defeat on a budget issue (June 26, 1964) but within a month formed a new cabinet much like the old one (July 22). After Amintore Fanfani’s resignation in 1965, Moro temporarily became his own foreign minister, renewing Italian pledges to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and the United Nations.

Italy’s inflation and failing industrial growth prevented Moro from initiating many of the reforms he had envisaged, and this angered the Socialists, who effected his defeat in January 1966. He succeeded, however, in forming a new government on February 23. After the general elections in 1968, Moro, as is customary, resigned (June 5, 1968). He was foreign minister during 1969–72. In November 1974 he became premier with a coalition government, the second party being the Italian Republican Party, but this government fell on Jan. 7, 1976. Moro was again premier from February 12 to April 30, 1976, remaining in office as head of a caretaker government until early summer. In October 1976 he became president of the Christian Democrats and remained a powerful influence in Italian politics even though he held no public office.

On March 16, 1978, while on his way to attend a special session of the legislature, Moro was kidnapped in Rome by members of the militant left-wing Red Brigades. After 54 days of captivity, during which government officials repeatedly refused to release 13 members of the Red Brigades on trial in Turin, Moro was murdered in or near Rome by the terrorist kidnappers. A series of trials and parliamentary investigations followed, and several members of the Red Brigades were convicted for their involvement; however, a number of mysteries still surround what became known as the “Moro Affair.”

Encyclopaedia Britannica


Murder of Aldo Moro

16 March, 1987: The Red Brigades in Italy kidnapped Aldo Moro, the leader of the Christian Democrat Party.
Aldo Moro
Moro, photographed during his kidnapping by the Red Brigades;
Moro's body was found in Rome on 9 May.

In 1978, the Second BR, headed by Mario Moretti, kidnapped and murdered Christian Democrat Aldo Moro, who was the key figure in negotiations aimed at extending the Government's parliamentary majority, by attaining a Historic Compromise ("compromesso storico") between the Italian Communist Party and the Democrazia Cristiana. A team of Red Brigades members, using stolen Alitalia airline company uniforms, ambushed Moro, killed five of Moro’s bodyguards and took him captive.

The captors, headed by Moretti, sought the release of certain prisoners in exchange for Moro's safe release. The Government refused to negotiate with the captors, while the various Italian political forces took either a hard line ("linea della fermezza") or a more pragmatic approach ("linea del negoziato"). From his captivity, Moro sent letters to his family, to his political friends, to the Pope, pleading for a negotiated outcome.

After holding Moro for 54 days, the Brigades realized that the Government would not negotiate and, fearful of being discovered, decided to kill their prisoner. They placed him in a car and told him to cover himself with a blanket. Mario Moretti then shot him ten times in the chest. Moro's body was left in the trunk of a car in Via Caetani, a site midway between the Christian Democratic Party and the Communist Party headquarters, as a last symbolic challenge to the police, who were keeping the entire nation, and Rome in particular, under strict surveillance. Moretti wrote in Brigate Rosse: una storia italiana that the murder of Moro was the ultimate expression of Marxist-Leninist revolutionary action. Original founder Alberto Franceschini wrote that those imprisoned members did not understand why Moro had been chosen as a target.

Aldo Moro's assassination caused a strong reaction against the Brigades by the Italian law enforcement and security forces. The murder of a popular political figure also drew condemnation from Italian left-wing radicals and even the imprisoned ex-leaders of the Brigades. The Brigades suffered a loss of support.

A crucial turning point was the murder, in 1979, of Guido Rossa, a member of the PCI and a trade union organizer. Rossa had observed the distribution of BR propaganda and had reported those involved to the police; he was shot and killed by the Brigades, but this attack against a popular trade union organizer totally alienated the factory worker base to which the BR propaganda was primarily directed.

Also, Italian police made a large number of arrests in 1980: 12,000 far-left activists were detained while 300 fled to France and 200 to South America; a total of 600 people left Italy. Most leaders arrested (including, e.g., Faranda, Franceschini, Moretti, Morucci) either retracted their doctrine ("dissociati"), or collaborated with investigators in the capture of other BR members ("collaboratori di giustizia"), obtaining important reductions in prison sentences.

The most well-known collaboratore di giustizia was Patrizio Peci, one of the leaders of the Turin "column". In revenge, the Brigades assassinated his brother Roberto in 1981. This murder, too, greatly contributed to discredit the movement.

On April 7, 1979, the Marxist philosopher Antonio Negri was arrested along with the other persons associated with the Autonomist movement, including Oreste Scalzone. Padova's Public Prosecutor, Pietro Calogero, accused those involved in the Autonomia movement of being the political wing of the Red Brigades. Negri was charged with a number of offences including leadership of the Red Brigades, masterminding the kidnapping and murder of Aldo Moro and plotting to overthrow the government. At the time, Negri was a political science professor at the University of Padua, visiting lecturer at Paris' École Normale Supérieure. Thus, French philosophers Félix Guattari and Gilles Deleuze signed in November 1977 L'Appel des intellectuels français contre la répression en Italie (The Call of French Intellectuals Against Repression in Italy) in protest against Negri's imprisonment and Italian anti-terrorism legislation.

A year later, Negri was exonerated from Aldo Moro's kidnapping. No link was ever established between Negri and the Red Brigades and almost all of the charges against him (including 17 murders) were dropped within months of his arrest due to lack of evidence. Negri was however convicted of crimes of association and insurrection against the state (a charge that was later dropped) and, in 1984, sentenced to 30 years in jail. Two years later he was sentenced to an additional four and a half years on the basis that he was morally responsible for acts of violence committed by militants during the 1960s and 1970s largely due to his writing and association with far-left causes and groups. French philosopher Michel Foucault later commented, "Isn't he in jail simply for being an intellectual?"

Aldo Moro's assassination continues to haunt Italy today, and remains a significant event of the Cold War. In the 1980s-1990s, a Commission headed by senator Giovanni Pellegrino investigated acts of terrorism in Italy during the "years of lead," while various judicial investigations also took place, headed by Guido Salvini and others magistrates.



Red Brigades

Italian militant organization
Italian Brigate Rosse

militant left-wing organization in Italy that gained notoriety in the 1970s for kidnappings, murders, and sabotage. Its self-proclaimed aim was to undermine the Italian state and pave the way for a Marxist upheaval led by a “revolutionary proletariat.”

The reputed founder of the Red Brigades was Renato Curcio, who in 1967 set up a leftist study group at the University of Trento dedicated to figures such as Karl Marx, Mao Zedong, and Che Guevara. In 1969 Curcio married a fellow radical, Margherita Cagol, and moved with her to Milan, where they attracted a coterie of followers. Proclaiming the existence of the Red Brigades in November 1970 through the firebombing of various factories and warehouses in Milan, the group began kidnapping the following year and in 1974 committed its first assassination; among its victims that year was the chief inspector of Turin’s antiterrorist squad.

Despite the arrest and imprisonment of hundreds of alleged terrorists throughout the country—including Curcio himself in 1976—the random assassinations continued. In 1978 the Red Brigades kidnapped and murdered former prime minister Aldo Moro. In December 1981 a U.S. Army officer with the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), Brigadier General James Dozier, was abducted and held captive by the Red Brigades for 42 days before Italian police rescued him unharmed from a hideout in Padua. Between 1974 and 1988, the Red Brigades carried out about 50 attacks, in which nearly 50 people were killed. A common nonlethal tactic employed by the group was “kneecapping,” in which a victim was shot in the knees so that he could not walk again.

At its height in the 1970s, the Red Brigades was believed to comprise 400 to 500 full-time members, 1,000 members who helped periodically, and a few thousand supporters who provided funds and shelter. Careful, systematic police work led to the arrest and imprisonment of many of the Red Brigades’ leaders and ordinary members from the mid-1970s onward, and by the late 1980s the organization was all but destroyed. However, a group claiming to be the Red Brigades took responsibility in the 1990s for various violent attacks, including those against a senior Italian government adviser, a U.S. base in Aviano, and the NATO Defense College.

John Philip Jenkins

Encyclopaedia Britannica



Economic Development and Integration into the European Union

The Marshall Plan and European integration assisted Italy's economic development and stabilized economic policy.


The 9 Partito Comunista Italiano (PCI) was one of the strongest Communist parties in postwar Western Europe.

9 The founder, general secretary
and leading theorist of the
Commmunist Party of Italy (CPI),
Antonio Gramsci, ca. 1920

The US-funded Marshall Plan was designed to restrict its influence and prevent it from gaining further support among the poverty-stricken post-war population.

In 1947, President 8 Alcide de Gasperi, a Christian Democrat, terminated the coalition with the Communists, who from then on remained excluded from government.

The reconstruction of the 10 economy and the implementation of social and agrarian reforms began with the help of the money that flowed into the country at the time.

Despite the remarkable economic recovery, however, the number of emigrants continued to remain high.

Italy was among the founding members of NATO in 1949, the European Coal and Steel Community in 1951, and the European Economic Community, which was established by the 7 Treaty of Rome in 1957.

8 Alscide de Gasperi, ca. 1950

10 Production line packaging cheese, Monza, 1950

7 Signing of the Treaty of Rome in 1957;
on the right, the Italian President Antonio Segni

The Common Market had a very positive effect on the Italian economy. Northern Italy's industries in particular were able to link up with the rest of Western Europe, which remains a vital market today. The process of European integration also proved to be beneficial in other areas. In order to join the European Monetary System, it was necessary to reduce debt and lower the inflation rate, thus stabilizing the economy. Both chambers of parliament gave their approval for the implementation of the necessary measures. In 1999, Italy, along with ten other nations, entered the last stage of European economic and currency union and introduced the euro as the new common currency.

The economically supportive and politically stabilizing effects of the European process of unification are directly noticeable in pro-Europe Italy, which has joined the 6 Group of Seven, the organization of the leading industrialized states, which is now the Group of Eight (G-8).

This integration gives Italy the opportunity to help shape supraregional economic issues and political processes, despite its comparative economic weakness.

6 G7 Conference concerning the
employment policy, 1996


see also:

Vatican City


The Vatican

Inauguration of Pope Benedict XVI
on St. Peter's Square in Rome,
April 24 2005

The Vatican City, which is located in the middle of the Italian capital Rome and is the seat of the Roman Catholic Church, is a UNESCO World Heritage site.

 Although Italy sees itself as a laicized state, the significance of the Curia in an almost exclusively Catholic country is not only of a religious nature.

The Vatican is also an economic factor and was able to exert political influence through the Christian Democratic party.

St. Peter's Square with St. Peter's Basilica, the center of the Vatican City, Rome

see also:

Vatican City


see also: United Nations member states -
see also: Andorra, Malta, Monaco, San Marino



Discuss Art

Please note: site admin does not answer any questions. This is our readers discussion only.

| privacy