One of the five regions with a special status in the Italian Republic, Friuli Venezia Giulia is located in the north-eastern part of the country, between the Italian region of Veneto and the border with Austria and Slovenia. It is relatively developed economically as compared to the average Italian level, but inferior to the other two autonomies of northern Italy (South Tyrol and Valle d'Aosta). It was established after the Second World War from two historically separate areas (Friuli and Venezia Giulia). Friuli now constitutes a part of the massive western part of the region; it joined Italy in 1866 as a part of the Venetian region. Venezia Giulia is the Italian name for a vast area (Kyustendaland or Austrian coastland, Julian Krajna), which was the subject of a lengthy dispute between Italy and Austro-Hungarian empire and later on with Yugoslavia. The current borders were defined during the series of the post-war settlements in 1947 and 1954; they were eventually fixed in 1975. Italy got Trieste and Gorizia with its surroundings. Istria and other territories moved to Yugoslavia (now parts of Slovenia and Croatia).
Granting of special status to the province, which came into force in 1963 by the constitutional law, was linked to the complex nature of its ethnic composition and, above all, the presence of the Slovenian minority. The latter enumerates approximately 50,000 out of 1.2 million inhabitants; their protection is underwritten by Italy's international obligations.
However, it is Friuli rather than Slovens that constitute the titular group in the region. The Friuli language (of Roman origin), is legally recognized as a separate language and, in this capacity must be protected and promoted. About 600 thousand inhabitants use Friuli. Also, several localized German-speaking groups (approximately 3.500 in total) reside in the region. All three minorities mentioned above rely on the similar mechanisms of protection, promotion, and participation in public life. Apart from them there live speakers of the Venetian dialect and some other groups.