Adda was a mustache: when Stalin was the only hope of the Neapolitans

by Francesco Li Volti

In lean times, during crises, when there is a problem, in Naples you never lose hope and look at the glass as half full. There is, however, a unique, singular way of saying among the Neapolitans, adda came mustache (which derives from the popular distortion, in which it seems that De Filippo also has something to do with "ha da 'venì baffone"), which refers to one of the most iconic men of the 20th century: the general secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union and head of the government of the Soviet Union Iosif Stalin.

To be clear, Naples and Stalin they never met: the dictator never set foot in the shadow of Vesuvius, even though he had most of his admirers right here. The saying "adda venì baffone" alludes, therefore, to a hope, that when there is a war, it is the last to die.

Adda was a mustache: when Stalin was the only hope of the Neapolitans
Iosif Stalin

"Adda came mustache" or "Stalin think about it!"

In order to better understand it, it is good to specify immediately who was Mr. "Mustache": this was the nickname with which the Neapolitans called Stalin, the Soviet dictator with an enormous mustache. The coming of "Baffone" he would, in the popular imagination, put an end to every iniquity and abuse, finally making order, social justice and legality triumph, not without a touch of revolution.

We are in the days of war (the second, to be exact) when misery and desperation reigned and, it must be remembered, the amount of news that circulated was very small. In the imagination of the average Neapolitan, at the time, the USSR it was the only real stone on which to have peaceful dreams, because, in one way or another, the only man who could save us would have been Josif Stalin.

The progress of the war was not known, not even the gulags developed by the Russian statesman were imagined. The USSR meant being against Hitler and therefore it was just fine for the Neapolitans.

The writing on the walls

Thus it was, from one day to another, that these strange, enigmatic writings on the walls began to appear, referring to a mustachioed man: "adda come mustache" could be read in every street of Naples. The German military did not understand, they did not understand (or simply did not want to understand) what it meant and why, when someone passed by, he hinted at a grimace, a smile. Hope was the only thing that kept the Neapolitan people alive, now exhausted by the bombing and oppression of the enemies.

There remained one thing to do, to prepare the inhabitants for the Revolution. Because, if Naples rebelled and found the courage to overthrow a war, it was also thanks to that small and simple phrase, which it instilled in the Neapolitans a bit of good humor more. Mustache would be arrived sooner or later. Only there was no time left and so they burst the four days of Naples and the phrases on the walls remained etched in the eyes of those who wielded the weapons, to give a better future to the city.

Later, even during the conquered democracy, that referred to the Baffone continued to be an invocation, which turned into a cry of battle and hope of the poor people, of the demonstrators, of the peasants massacred by the wolves of hired bandits.

And this motto was also kept in mind by their children, who in the sixties they made “adda venì baffone” their slogan to be heard during the demonstrations in the square, hoping for better politics and a government ready to listen to their needs. Today there are still those who use it, but the real thrill is when you come across these tags on the walls: the possibility of being able to relive that feeling of hope and pride, priceless.


Oreste Neri, Adda came Baffone and other literary ages, Guaraldi, 1994

Donald Sassoon, Togliatti and the mass party, Castelvecchi, 2014

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