Sardinia, “the first people” of the Mediterranean

Sardinia is the largest stateless nation within the Italian state. What may be regarded as 300 years of “cultural colonization” in Italy has had little effect on the characteristics of that country, where “Sardidadi”, which can be translated as a sense of Sardinia, has not been shaken.

The Sardinian flag, also called “Four Moors” appeared in the 14th century. It represented the kingdom of Sardinia in the Aragon crown. There exist different forms, heads looking right or left. The law of 15 April 1999 on the flag finally fixed the rules relating to its form.

The Sardinians are often considered as one of the oldest indigenous people of Europe. Inhabiting this Mediterranean island for many centuries, they have been little influenced by Barbarian invasions or other people.

This relative isolation has made Sardinia a singular nation where linguistic and cultural traditions remain present. From the 11th to the 14th century, it was controlled by the Genoese, then the kingdom of Aragon (the town of Alghero, former capital, still speaks Catalan). Italian became the official language after Catalan in 1764.

It was not until the 19th century that Sardinian literature reached its peak, triggering an intense debate on language standardisation because of significant language differences. Sardinia has had autonomous status since 1948, which makes mention of linguistic rights, confirmed later by many texts. But in practice these have had little effect. Sardinian is considered a language in danger, despite the number of native speakers, since it is spoken in private and has little public visibility. The media use it but not much.

The autonomist movements have a long tradition in Sardinia. The autonomists of the Sardinian Action Party, founded in 1920, have always campaigned for the status of the Sardinian language, using sessions of the council (meeting) for this. Since then, other more radical parties have emerged. These are pro-independence parties with relative electoral success.

Identity card

Name Sardigna (Sardinnya) | Sardinian
Sardenya | Catalan
Sardigna | Italian
Population 1,651,793 inhab. (2017)
Area 24,090 km²
Languages Sardu | Sardinian
Català | Catalan (status of protection)
Italiano | Italian (official)
Number of native speakers 1,350,000 | Sardinian (2016)
State of guardianship Italy
Official status Autonomous region of Italy
Capital Casteddu | Sardinian
Cagliari | Italian
Historic religion Roman Catholic
Flag Cuàturu Morus | Sardinian
(Four Moors)
Anthem Su Patriotu Sardu a sos Feudatàrius | Sardinian
(The Sardinian Patriots tell feudalism)
Motto None


  • 17th century bc • The Nuragic civilisation commences, the Sardinians build more than 12,000 Megalithic towers.
  • 227 bc • Sardinia becomes a Roman province.
  • 1000 • Sardinia was ruled by kings and judges, Caralis, Arborea, Torres, Gallura. Period of independent splendour.
  • 1409 • Sardinia belongs to the kingdom of Aragon until the Treaty of Utrecht is signed in 1713.
  • 1720 • Philip V gives Sardinia to Austria, who then gives it to Victor Emmanuel II of Savoy.
  • 1794–6 • Revolt against the king of Piedmont. The Piedmontese are driven out of Cagliari.
  • 1948 • Implementation of the status of autonomous region.
  • 1970–80 • Birth of movements for bilingualism and independence. The “Sardinian wind” begins to change attitudes.

Brief history

The destiny of Sardinia changed on 8 August 1720 when it surrendered to the Savoy family in Cagliari, who would later rule in Italy. Treated as a colony, Sardinia was familiar with revolts at the end of the 18th century. In 1793, the Sardinian parliament sent a delegation to Turin to ask for more power after defeating the French troops who had tried to invade the island. This promise, unfulfilled by Victor Emmanuel III, sparked revolts by the Piedmontese based in Cagliari, which were quashed swiftly.


Sardinia is the second largest Mediterranean island, 80% being made up of mountains and woods. The population is essentially concentrated in the region of Cagliari, the main town that is also the capital. Historically, it was made up of four autonomous regions, judiciaries, governed by the king elected by the Sardinian parliament. The judiciaries are divided into smaller regions, the curadoria. Since 2005, Sardinia has been divided into eight provinces (see following page), despite the commitment of the population to the many micro-regions that make up the country. Much of them are represented on the map. The Sardinian economy, based on tourism, profits from local knowledge, whether on wine or products derived from agriculture. The isolation of the island, while a benefit in preserving a heritage more than a thousand years old, can be a major handicap when travel or export is necessary. During the 1950s, the Italian state tried in vain to industrialise the region despite transport costs.



Sardinian is a Roman language of the family of Indo-European languages. It is not however like the other languages of the group, such as Italian, French or Catalan, and differs so much so that it is often linguistically isolated. Two variations dominate: Campidanese (and its own dialects) and Loguodorese (variation spoken in the north) (Gallurese is very close to Corsican). Inter-comprehension between the variations of the language is relatively easy. The first documents published in Sardu date from the 11th century. It is estimated that of the 1.6 million Sardinians, 1.3 million know the language, which is exceptional for a minority language. Despite the autonomous status agreed in 1948, protection of the Sardinian language is low. However, regional law on the promotion and enhancement of culture and the Sardinian language (1997) provides broad protection in theory but in practice, whether judicial, administrative or media, Sardu is virtually absent from all areas of public life. Worse still, its teaching is almost non-existent, the ubiquity of Italian endangering the language. Despite the large number of speakers, the future of Sardu is more worrying due more to the rural character of society than to widespread awareness. The voluntary sector is working on its promotion following the example of Wales or Catalonia.

Politics now

The Sardinian political situation has changed greatly in recent years, since the region gained its autonomy. The separatist feeling is more and more prevalent among younger generations and it is now accepted that the Sardinians are a different “nation” in the Italian state. The current debate is about revising the special status of Sardinia, which dates back 60 years. It would give more power to the Sardinians. This project is supported by the Sardinian Council (legislative body).

The most representative Sardinian parties