Opera Nazionale Balilla

Opera Nazionale Balilla (ONB) was an Italian Fascist youth organization functioning between 1926 and 1937, when it was absorbed into the Gioventù Italiana del Littorio (GIL), a youth section of the National Fascist Party.

It takes its name from Balilla, the nickname of Giovan Battista Perasso, a Genoese boy who, according to local legend, started the revolt of 1746 against the Habsburg forces that occupied the city in the War of the Austrian Succession. Perasso was chosen as the inspiration for his supposed age and revolutionary activity, while his presence in the fight against Austria reflected the irredentist stance taken by early Fascism, and Italy's victories in World War I.

Opera Nazionale Balilla
Emblem of ONB
MottoLibro e moschetto, fascista perfetto
(Book and rifle, perfect Fascist)
TypeYouth organization
Legal statusDefunct, illegal
Region served
Kingdom of Italy
Parent organization
National Fascist Party


A 1932 Balilla report card.

Nationalists in the years after the war thought of themselves as combating the both liberal and domineering institutions created by cabinets such as those of Giovanni Giolitti, including traditional schooling. Futurism, a revolutionary cultural movement which served as a catalyst for Fascism, argued for "a school for physical courage and patriotism", as expressed by Filippo Tommaso Marinetti in 1919. Marinetti expressed his disdain for "the by now prehistoric and troglodyte Ancient Greek and Latin courses", arguing for their replacement with exercise modelled on those of the Arditi soldiers ("[learning] to advance on hands and knees in front of razing machine gun fire; to wait open-eyed for a crossbeam to move sideways over their heads etc."). It was in those years that the first Fascist youth wings were formed (Avanguardia Giovanile Fascista in 1919, and Gioventù Universitaria Fascista, GUF, in 1922).


  • Balilla (boys) and Piccole Italiane (girls) - ages 8 to 14
  • Avanguardisti and Giovani Italiane - 14 to 18

In time, a section named Figli della Lupa ("Children of the She-Wolf", alluding to the myth of Romulus and Remus; ages 6 to 8) was added. (note: Balilla and Avanguardisti were both substructures of the Opera Nazionale Balilla; the latter was not a separate organization.[1]

Between the ages of 18 and 22, young men and women would join additional groups of the ONB - Fasci Giovanili di Combattimento (see Fasci di Combattimento) and Giovani Fasciste, respectively. Male students in all forms of higher education were enrolled in the GUF.

While the National Balilla Institution was founded as an Ente Morale, in 1929 it was placed under the power of the Ministry of National Education, with the Head of the Government's related power devolving to the Minister of National Education.[2]


Giovane Balilla.jpeg
A young balilla in Piazza Venezia.

The organization surpassed its purpose as a cultural institution that was intended to serve as the ideological counterpart of school, and served as a paramilitary group (training for future assignments in the Italian Army), as well as education in the career of choice, technology (including postschool courses for legal adults), or education related to home and family (solely for the girls). It carried out indoctrination with a message of Italian-ness and Fascism, training youths as "the fascists of tomorrow". During the years following its creation, ONB was left without real competition, as the regime banned all other youth movements - including scouting and the Roman Catholic Church group Gioventù Italiana Cattolica (which was forced to limit its activities).

Moreover, the ONB took charge of all activities initiated by schools, and pressured teachers to enlist all students. Aside from the usual "Fascist Saturdays", children would spend their summers in camps (which included the national-level Campi Dux, reunions of Balilla and Avanguardisti).

Male children enrolled wore a uniform adapted from that of the Blackshirts: the eponymous black shirt, the fez of Arditi tradition, grey-green trousers, black fasces emblems, and azure handkerchiefs (i.e.: in the national colour of Italy). During military exercises, they were armed with scaled-down version of Royal Italian Army service rifle, Moschetto Balilla[3] (the rifles were replaced with replica versions for the Figli della Lupa).

Balilla units were also established in Malta, then a British colony, by Maltese nationalists. These were disbanded with the advent of the Second World War.

Casa del Balilla

The local headquarters of the Balilla groups were called Casa del Balilla. Many of them were purpose-built in the Italian rationalist style.

See also


  1. ^ The "Balilla" organization for the physical and moral training of the young, article 5, law of 3 April 1926, No. 2247)
  2. ^ Abstracts from the Royal-Decree-Law of November 14, 1929, No. 1992
  3. ^ http://www.il91.it/balilla.html

External sources

Accademia della Farnesina

The Academia della Farnesina, also known as the Accademia fascista maschile di educazione fisica or Accademia fascista della Farnesina, was a center for sport and political education in fascist Italy.

Achille Starace

Achille Starace (Italian pronunciation: [aˈkille staˈratʃe]; 18 August 1889 – 29 April 1945) was a prominent leader of Fascist Italy before and during World War II.

Albanian Lictor Youth

Albanian Lictor Youth (Albanian: Djelmnia e Liktorit Shqiptar, Italian: Gioventù del Littorio Albanese, abbreviated G.L.A.) was a youth organization, the youth wing of the Albanian Fascist Party. The Albanian Youth of the Lictor was one of the associated organizations of the Albanian Fascist Party, as stipulated in its statute, which was formulated in a decree of the Italian vicegerent issued on June 2, 1939.Giovanni Giro, an Italian fascist official, had been sent to Albania to organize a fascist youth movement there prior to the Italian annexation of the country. However, these efforts had been largely unsuccessful. On the contrary, his activities created various diplomatic incidents.Following the Italian invasion of Albania in April 1939, Achille Starace, a leading fascist organizer, was sent to Albania to set up the Albanian Fascist Party and the Albanian Fascist Youth. ENGA, an Albanian youth organization modelled after the Italian Opera Nazionale Balilla organization merged into GLA. After the founding of the GLA, Giro remained the main organizer of the movement. The GLA was modelled after the Italian Youth of the Lictor, and was politically under the command of its Italian counterpart. The uniforms of GLA were similar to those used in Italy. Girls were organized in Female Youth of the Lictor (Gioventù Femminile del Littorio) and boys under fourteen years of age were organized in Balilla groups. Parallel to the Youth of the Lictor there were also groups of university fascists, but these groups were rather marginal as Albania had few universities.The Italian authorities built a marble palace for the GLA in Tirana, in the same complex as the Casa del Fascio, one of a series of lavish façades that popped up in the city during Italian rule.The organization's press organ was Liktori (Lictor) newspaper, with Ligor Buzi as editor.Ramiz Alia, who served as head of state of Albania in 1985-1992, had been a member of the fascist youth movement, but later left it and in 1943 he joined the Communist resistance movement.

Arab Lictor Youth

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Balilla was the nickname of Giovanni Battista Perasso, a Genoese boy who started the revolt of 1746 against the Habsburg forces that occupied the city in the War of the Austrian Succession by throwing a stone at an Austrian official. However, the nickname was possibly assigned to him only retrospectively: research carried out during the Fascist years by the Ligurian Society found a contemporary manuscript in which the boy was identified as Mangiamerda (lit. Shit-eater), usually indicating a kid from very low social background. The discovery of this unwholesome name was suppressed by the authorities

Foro Italico

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Futurist Political Party

The Futurist Political Party (Italian: Partito Politico Futurista) was an Italian political party founded in 1918 by Filippo Tommaso Marinetti as an extension of the futurist artistic and social movement. The party had a radical program which included promoting gender parity and abolishing marriage, inheritance, military service and secret police. The party was absorbed into the Fasci Italiani di Combattimento in 1919.

Gioventù Italiana del Littorio

The Gioventù Italiana del Littorio (GIL) (English: Italian Youth of the Lictor) was the consolidated youth movement of the National Fascist Party of Italy that was established in 1937, to replace the Opera Nazionale Balilla (ONB). It was created to supervise and influence the minds of all youths, that was effectively directed against the influence of the Catholic Church on youths.

Giulio Cesare Uccelini

Giulio Cesare Uccelini (Milan, March 11, 1904 - Milan, 23 March 1957) was a leading figure in Catholic Scouting in Lombardy and in the Italian resistance movement through the end of World War II.Uccellini joined Scouting around 1917, when, despite the opposition of his father, he entered the Milan group II ASCI (Associazione Scouts Cattolici Italiani). Driven by a strong civic and religious sense, he renounced his professional career in the Bank of Italy and the creation of a family to dedicate his life to Scouting, even after 1928, when the fascist laws outlawed the Scout movement.

Glossary of Fascist Italy

This is a list of words, terms, concepts, and slogans in the Italian language and Latin language which were specifically used in Fascist Italian monarchy and Italian Social Republic.

Some words were coined by Benito Mussolini and other Italian Fascists. Other words and concepts were borrowed and appropriated, and other terms were already in use in Italy. Finally, some are taken from Italy's cultural tradition.

Italian Islands of the Aegean

The Italian Islands of the Aegean (Italian: Isole italiane dell'Egeo; Greek: Ἰταλικαὶ Νῆσοι Αἰγαίου Πελάγους) were a group of twelve major islands (the Dodecanese) in the southeastern Aegean Sea, that — together with the surrounding islets — were ruled by the Kingdom of Italy from 1912 to 1943 and the Italian Social Republic from 1943 to 1945. When the Kingdom of Italy was restored, they remained under Italian possession until 1947.

Levente (organization)

Levente Associations (Hungarian: Leventeszervezetek) or simply "levente" were paramilitary youth organizations in Hungary in the interwar period and during the Second World War. It was established in 1921 with the declared purpose of physical and health training. Since mid-1930s they have de facto become an attempt to circumvent the ban for conscription imposed by the Treaty of Trianon and over the time it had openly become a pre-military organization under the leadership of veterans. Since 1939, by the Act of Defense, all boys of ages 12–21 were required to take part in levente.It is usually compared to Hitler Jugend of Nazi Germany and Opera Nazionale Balilla of Italy. While having a common trait of military training with the latter two, levente was neither openly fascist nor particularly politicized, although it was not isolated of political influences of the time.Levente had also a smaller female branch, Leventelányok ("Levente Girls") initiated as a voluntary association in June 1942. Under the rule of Ferenc Szálasi installed by Nazis in Hungary in October 1944 obligatory levente duties were imposed unto girls of ages 12–19 despite the strong opposition of the Catholic Church. However the latter was not actually implemented because of the advance of the Red Army.By the end of World War II Levente members had to actually serve in auxiliary forces.

During the Soviet occupation many levente activists were tried by Soviet tribunals, convicted of "anti-Soviet activities" and deported to the Soviet Union for penal labor.

Mocidade Portuguesa

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National Youth Organisation (Greece)

The National Youth Organisation (Greek: Εθνική Οργάνωσις Νεολαίας, Ethnikí Orgánosis Neoléas, EON) was a youth organization in Greece during the years of the Metaxas Regime (1936–1941), established by the regime with the stated goals of helping the youth in the productive spending of their free time and cultivating their national values and cooperative spirit.

Membership was not mandatory, and—unlike most contemporary political youth organizations in Europe—EON was not affiliated with a political party, but there was widespread successful campaigning by the regime to include the largest part of the youth to EON, and later took over the scouts and other such organizations, although typically membership still remained strictly voluntary. However, only Christians could enroll and Muslims and Jews could not become EON members. There were some exceptions on Jews though.Some of the activities that EON members were involved in included athletics events, parades and marches, military training, reforestations, recycling.

The official -monthly- magazine of EON was The Youth (Greek: Η Νεολαία).

The emblem of EON was a labrys surrounded by laurel wreaths and topped with a royal crown, while the flag of EON was similar to the flag of Greece—featuring a white cross on a blue fiend—with the emblem of EON charged in the center in gold and the royal crown moved to the upper hoist side quadrant. The motto of EON was "One Nation, One King, One Leader, One Youth".The EON disbanded in late April 1941 with the start of the German occupation of Greece when some of its former members created the secret occupation resistance/liberation organizations "National Youth Commity" and—the strictly female—"SPITHA" under the leadership of Metaxas' daughter Loukia Metaxa.


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Renato Ricci

Renato Ricci (1 June 1896 – 22 January 1956) was an Italian fascist politician active during the government of Benito Mussolini.

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Sir Francis Patrick Fletcher-Vane, 5th Baronet (16 October 1861, Dublin – 10 June 1934, London) was a British military officer and aristocrat. Francis became the 5th Baronet of Hutton on the death of his first cousin, Sir Henry Ralph Fletcher-Vane, 4th Baronet.Sir Francis was an early aide of Robert Baden-Powell (they both attended Charterhouse School) and was the Scout Commissioner of London before Baden-Powell ousted him from his Baden-Powell Boy Scouts organisation. He later founded the Order of World Scouts, the earliest multinational scouting organisation, and is counted one of the founders of scouting in Italy.

As a military officer, he helped expose the murder of several innocent civilians by an officer under his command during the 1916 Easter Rising. In 2016, on the anniversary of the Easter Rising, Sir Francis was commemorated on a postage stamp in Ireland for the strength of character he showed during those troubles.

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