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The Illyrian Provinces ( , , , ) was an autonomous province of the Napoleonic French Empire on the north and east coasts of the Adriatic Seamarker between 1809 and 1816. The name "Illyrian" was used to refer to South Slavs within the Napoleonic Empire and is a relabeling of the region which was formerly Illyria in antiquity.


The Illyrian Provinces were created by the Treaty of Schönbrunn in 1809 when the Austrian Empiremarker ceded the territories of western or Upper Carinthia with Lienzmarker in the East Tyrolmarker, Carniola, southwest of the river Sava, Gorizia and Gradisca, and Triestemarker to the French Empire after the Austrian defeat at the Battle of Wagrammarker. These territories lying north and east of the Adriatic Seamarker were amalgamated with Dalmatia into the Illyrian Provinces, technically part of France, the capital of which was established at "Laybach", i.e.Ljubljanamarker in modern Sloveniamarker. The territory of the Republic of Ragusa, which was annexed to France in 1808, was also integrated into the Illyrian Provinces.

The French administration, headed by a Governor-General, introduced civil law (Code civil) across the provinces. This was a major change to some Croatian territories, which hitherto had been under Austrian Military Administration. August de Marmont was the first to be appointed as the Governor-General of the provinces on 8 October 1809, and held his post until January 1811. On 9 April the same year, Henri-Gratien Bertrand was appointed, who held this post until February 1812, when, on 21 February, he was succeeded by Jean-Andoche Junot. The last Governor-General was Joseph Fouché, who was appointed in July 1813 and held his post for only one month.

The British Navy imposed a blockade of the Adriatic Sea, effective since the Treaty of Tilsit (July 1807), which brought merchant shipping to a standstill, a measure most seriously affecting the economy of the Dalmatian port cities. An attempt by joint French and Italian forces to seize the British-held Dalmatian island of Vismarker failed on 22 October 1810.

In August 1813, Austria declared war on France. Austrian troops led by General Franz Tomassich invaded the Illyrian Provinces. Croat troops enrolled in the French army switched sides. Zadar surrendered to Austrian forces after a 34-day siege on 6 December 1813. At Dubrovnik an insurrection expelled the French and a provisional Ragusan administration was established, hoping for the restoration of the Republic. It was occupied by Austrian troops on 20 September 1813. The Gulf of Kotormarker and its environs were occupied in 1813 by Montenegrin forces, which held it until 1814, when the appearance of an Austrian force caused the Prince of Montenegro to turn over the territory to Austrian administration on 11 June. The British withdrew from the occupied Dalmatian islands in July 1815, following the Battle of Waterloomarker.

Administrative divisions

French Empire with the Illyrian Provinces in 1811
The provinces initially consisted of seven provinces: Upper Carinthia (capital Lienzmarker), Istriamarker (Trieste), Carniola (Ljubljana), Civil Croatiamarker (Karlovacmarker), Military Croatia (Senjmarker), Dalmatia (Zadarmarker), and the Ragusamarker and Kotormarker province (Dubrovnikmarker). In 1811 the Illyrian provinces saw an administrative reorganization. The seat of the Governor General was Ljubljana; the country was initially divided in 4 intendancies (Ljubljana, Karlovac, Trieste, Zadar) and 10 sub-intendancies. Later that year, the number of intendancies was extended to eight, with Villach, Goriziamarker, Rijekamarker and Dubrovnik being elevated to intendancy rank. Two Chambers of Commerce were established, at Trieste and at Dubrovnik. The ecclesiastical administration was reorganized in accordance with the new political borders; two archdioceses were established with seats at Ljubljana and Zadar, with suffragan dioceses at Gorizia, Kopermarker, Šibenikmarker, Splitmarker and Dubrovnik (1811).


The population (1811) was given at 460,116 for the intendancy of Ljubljana, 381,000 for the intendancy of Karlovac, 357,857 for the intendancy of Trieste and 305,285 for the intendancy of Zadar, in total 1,504,258 for all of Illyria. A French decree emancipated the Jews; in effect the decree abolished a Habsburg regulation which had forbidden Jews to settle within Carniola.

Culture and education

At Karlovac, the headquarters of the Croatian military, a special French-language military school was established in 1811. There were 25 gymnasia in the Illyrian provinces. Proclamations were published in the provinces' official journal, , simultaneously in French, Italian, German and "Slavonian"; this elevation of a Slavic language to an official language had a great impact on the development of the modern Slovene language. Between 1811 and 1813, the French author Charles Nodier worked in Ljubljana as the editor of the journal.


The Congress of Vienna confirmed Austria in the possession of the former Illyrian Provinces. In 1816 they were reconstituted without Dalmatia, yet now with all of Carinthia, as a Kingdom of Illyria, which was formally abolished only in 1849, even though the civil administration of the Croatian districts had already been placed under Hungarian administration in 1822.

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