The Imperial Free City of Trieste and its Suburbs was a Habsburg possession from the 14th century to 1918, called in German as Reichsunmittelbare Stadt Triest und ihr Gebiet and in Italian as Città Imperiale di Trieste e Dintorni. In 1719 it was declared a free port by Charles VI, Holy Roman Emperor; the construction of the Austrian Southern Railway (1841–57) turned it into a bustling seaport, through which much of the exports and imports of the Austrian Lands were channelled. Trieste was part of the Holy Roman Empire and, later, of the German Confederation and the Austrian Littoral. The city administration and economy were dominated by the city's Italian population element; Italian was the language of administration and jurisdiction. In the later 19th and early 20th century, the city attracted the immigration of workers from the city's hinterlands, many of whom were speakers of Slovene.
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