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Italy
Overview
Background
Italy became a nation-state in 1861 when the city-states of the peninsula, along with Sardinia and Sicily, were united under King Victor EMMANUEL. An era of parliamentary government came to a close in the early 1920s when Benito MUSSOLINI established a Fascist dictatorship. His disastrous alliance with Nazi Germany led to Italy's defeat in World War II. A democratic republic replaced the monarchy in 1946 and economic revival followed. Italy was a charter member of NATO and the European Economic Community (EEC). It has been at the forefront of European economic and political unification, joining the European Monetary Union in 1999. Persistent problems include illegal immigration, organized crime, corruption, high unemployment, and the low incomes and technical standards of southern Italy compared with the prosperous north.
Natural resources
mercury, potash, marble, sulfur, natural gas and crude oil reserves, fish, coal, arable land
Land use
arable land: 28.07%
permanent crops: 9.25%
other: 62.68% (1998 est.)
Population
57,998,353 (July 2003 est.)
Ethnic groups
Italian (includes small clusters of German-, French-, and Slovene-Italians in the north and Albanian-Italians and Greek-Italians in the south)
Religions
predominately Roman Catholic with mature Protestant and Jewish communities and a growing Muslim immigrant community
Languages
Italian (official), German (parts of Trentino-Alto Adige region are predominantly German speaking), French (small French-speaking minority in Valle d'Aosta region), Slovene (Slovene-speaking minority in the Trieste-Gorizia area)
Literacy
definition: age 15 and over can read and write
total population: 98.6%
male: 99%
female: 98.3% (2003 est.)
Capital
Rome
Government type
republic
Independence
17 March 1861 (Kingdom of Italy proclaimed; Italy was not finally unified until 1870)
National holiday
Republic Day, 2 June (1946)
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