Danube-Black Sea Canal
Overview
 
The Danube – Black Sea Canal is a canal
Canal
Canals are man-made channels for water. There are two types of canal:#Waterways: navigable transportation canals used for carrying ships and boats shipping goods and conveying people, further subdivided into two kinds:...

 in Romania
Romania
Romania is a country located at the crossroads of Central and Southeastern Europe, on the Lower Danube, within and outside the Carpathian arch, bordering on the Black Sea...

 which runs from Cernavodă
Cernavoda
Cernavodă is a town in Constanţa County, Dobrogea, Romania with a population of 20,514.The town's name is derived from the Slavic černa voda , meaning "black water". This name is regarded by some scholars as a calque of the earlier Thracian name Axíopa, from IE *n.ksei "dark" and upā "water"...

 on the Danube
Danube
The Danube is a river in the Central Europe and the Europe's second longest river after the Volga. It is classified as an international waterway....

 to Agigea
Agigea
Agigea is a commune in Constanţa County, Romania. The commune includes two villages: Agigea and Lazu ....

 (southern arm) and Năvodari
Navodari
Năvodari is a town in Constanţa County, region of Dobrogea, Romania, with a population of 32,400.-History:The settlement was mentioned for the first time in 1421 under the name Kara Koyun , to be renamed later on Karaköy or Carachioi...

 (northern arm) on the Black Sea
Black Sea
The Black Sea is bounded by Europe, Anatolia and the Caucasus and is ultimately connected to the Atlantic Ocean via the Mediterranean and the Aegean seas and various straits. The Bosphorus strait connects it to the Sea of Marmara, and the strait of the Dardanelles connects that sea to the Aegean...

. Administrated from Agigea, it is an important part of the European canal system that links the North Sea
North Sea
In the southwest, beyond the Straits of Dover, the North Sea becomes the English Channel connecting to the Atlantic Ocean. In the east, it connects to the Baltic Sea via the Skagerrak and Kattegat, narrow straits that separate Denmark from Norway and Sweden respectively...

 to the Black Sea.

The Canal was notorious as the site of labor camp
Labor camp
A labor camp is a simplified detention facility where inmates are forced to engage in penal labor. Labor camps have many common aspects with slavery and with prisons...

s in 1950s Communist Romania
Communist Romania
Communist Romania was the period in Romanian history when that country was a Soviet-aligned communist state in the Eastern Bloc, with the dominant role of Romanian Communist Party enshrined in its successive constitutions...

, when, at any given time, several tens of thousands political prisoner
Political prisoner
According to the Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English, a political prisoner is ‘someone who is in prison because they have opposed or criticized the government of their own country’....

s worked on its excavation.
Encyclopedia
The Danube – Black Sea Canal is a canal
Canal
Canals are man-made channels for water. There are two types of canal:#Waterways: navigable transportation canals used for carrying ships and boats shipping goods and conveying people, further subdivided into two kinds:...

 in Romania
Romania
Romania is a country located at the crossroads of Central and Southeastern Europe, on the Lower Danube, within and outside the Carpathian arch, bordering on the Black Sea...

 which runs from Cernavodă
Cernavoda
Cernavodă is a town in Constanţa County, Dobrogea, Romania with a population of 20,514.The town's name is derived from the Slavic černa voda , meaning "black water". This name is regarded by some scholars as a calque of the earlier Thracian name Axíopa, from IE *n.ksei "dark" and upā "water"...

 on the Danube
Danube
The Danube is a river in the Central Europe and the Europe's second longest river after the Volga. It is classified as an international waterway....

 to Agigea
Agigea
Agigea is a commune in Constanţa County, Romania. The commune includes two villages: Agigea and Lazu ....

 (southern arm) and Năvodari
Navodari
Năvodari is a town in Constanţa County, region of Dobrogea, Romania, with a population of 32,400.-History:The settlement was mentioned for the first time in 1421 under the name Kara Koyun , to be renamed later on Karaköy or Carachioi...

 (northern arm) on the Black Sea
Black Sea
The Black Sea is bounded by Europe, Anatolia and the Caucasus and is ultimately connected to the Atlantic Ocean via the Mediterranean and the Aegean seas and various straits. The Bosphorus strait connects it to the Sea of Marmara, and the strait of the Dardanelles connects that sea to the Aegean...

. Administrated from Agigea, it is an important part of the European canal system that links the North Sea
North Sea
In the southwest, beyond the Straits of Dover, the North Sea becomes the English Channel connecting to the Atlantic Ocean. In the east, it connects to the Baltic Sea via the Skagerrak and Kattegat, narrow straits that separate Denmark from Norway and Sweden respectively...

 to the Black Sea.

The Canal was notorious as the site of labor camp
Labor camp
A labor camp is a simplified detention facility where inmates are forced to engage in penal labor. Labor camps have many common aspects with slavery and with prisons...

s in 1950s Communist Romania
Communist Romania
Communist Romania was the period in Romanian history when that country was a Soviet-aligned communist state in the Eastern Bloc, with the dominant role of Romanian Communist Party enshrined in its successive constitutions...

, when, at any given time, several tens of thousands political prisoner
Political prisoner
According to the Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English, a political prisoner is ‘someone who is in prison because they have opposed or criticized the government of their own country’....

s worked on its excavation. The total number of people used as a workforce for the entire period is unknown, as is the number of people who died in the construction. Work was completed in 1984-1987, more than three decades after camps were disestablished.

Geography

The course of the canal follows mostly the course of the former Carasu River, originally a tributary of the Danube. Therefore, hydrographically it also has the function of conveying the runoff from a 1031 km2 drainage basin to the Black Sea.

The main branch extends from Cernavodă on the Danube to Poarta Albă
Poarta Alba
Poarta Albă is a commune in Constanţa County, Romania. It has a population of 4,790, according to the 2002 census, of which 97% Romanians and most of the rest Turks and Tatars...

. On this reach
Reach (geography)
A reach in geography can mean several things. Most generally, a reach is any length of a stream between any two points. The points may be selected for any reason, such as gauging stations, river miles, natural features, and topography. They may be arbitrary or vague.A reach may also be an expanse,...

 it goes near or through the settlements of Cernavodă, Saligny
Saligny, Constanta
Saligny is a commune in Constanţa County, Romania.The commune includes three villages:* Saligny - named after the Romanian engineer Anghel Saligny* Făclia...

, Mircea Vodă
Mircea Voda, Constanta
Mircea Vodă is a commune in Constanţa County, Dobrogea, Romania.-History:Settlement in the area dates back at least to the time of the Roman Empire. In a place that the local Turks called "Acşandemir Tabiasi", a 10th century castrum was found, which has a stone vallum...

, Medgidia
Medgidia
-History:Archaeological findings show that Dobruja was inhabited since the Neolithic period. Starting with 46 BC the region was administered by the Roman Empire. A castrum was built in the Carasu Valley, becoming the cradle of the settlement....

, Castelu
Castelu
Castelu is a commune in Constanţa County, Romania.The commune includes two villages:* Castelu * Nisipari...

, and Poarta Albă. On this reach the canal is joined on the left bank by tributaries: Valea Plantaţiei
Valea Plantatiei River
The Valea Plantaţiei River is a tributary of the main branch of the Danube-Black Sea Canal in Romania.-References:* Administraţia Naţională Apelor Române - Cadastrul Apelor - Bucureşti...

, Valea Cişmelei
Valea Cismelei River
The Valea Cişmelei River is a tributary of the main branch of the Danube-Black Sea Canal in Romania.-References:* Administraţia Naţională Apelor Române - Cadastrul Apelor - Bucureşti...

, Agi Cabul
Agi Cabul River
The Agi Cabul River is a tributary of the main branch of the Danube-Black Sea Canal in Romania.-References:* Administraţia Naţională Apelor Române - Cadastrul Apelor - Bucureşti* Institutul de Meteorologie şi Hidrologie - Rîurile României - Bucureşti 1972...

, Castelu
Castelu River
The Castelu River is a tributary of the main branch of the Danube-Black Sea Canal in Romania.-References:* Administraţia Naţională Apelor Române - Cadastrul Apelor - Bucureşti* Institutul de Meteorologie şi Hidrologie - Rîurile României - Bucureşti 1972...

 and Nisipari
Nisipari River
The Nisipari River is a tributary of the main branch of the Danube-Black Sea Canal in Romania.-References:* Administraţia Naţională Apelor Române - Cadastrul Apelor - Bucureşti* Institutul de Meteorologie şi Hidrologie - Rîurile României - Bucureşti 1972...

. On the left side it is joined by tributaries: Popa Nica
Popa Nica River
The Popa Nica River is a tributary of the main branch of the Danube-Black Sea Canal in Romania.-References:* Administraţia Naţională Apelor Române - Cadastrul Apelor - Bucureşti* Institutul de Meteorologie şi Hidrologie - Rîurile României - Bucureşti 1972...

, Medgidia
Medgidia River
The Medgidia River is a tributary of the main branch of the Danube-Black Sea Canal in Romania.-References:* Administraţia Naţională Apelor Române - Cadastrul Apelor - Bucureşti* Institutul de Meteorologie şi Hidrologie - Rîurile României - Bucureşti 1972...

, Siminoc
Siminoc River (Black Sea)
The Siminoc River is a tributary of the main branch of the Danube-Black Sea Canal in Romania.-References:* Administraţia Naţională Apelor Române - Cadastrul Apelor - Bucureşti* Institutul de Meteorologie şi Hidrologie - Rîurile României - Bucureşti 1972...

 and Şerplea
Serplea River
The Şerplea River is a tributary of the main branch of the Danube-Black Sea Canal in Romania.-References:* Administraţia Naţională Apelor Române - Cadastrul Apelor - Bucureşti* Institutul de Meteorologie şi Hidrologie - Rîurile României - Bucureşti 1972...



At Poarta Albă the canal bifurcates into two branches. The main canal goes to the South, towards the Port of Constanţa Sud - Agigea
Port of Constanta
The Port of Constanța is located in Constanța, Romania, on the western coast of the Black Sea, from the Bosphorus Strait and from the Sulina Branch, through which the Danube river flows into the sea. It covers , of which is land and the rest, , is water. The two breakwaters located northwards...

. It passes near the settlements of Murfatlar, Cumpăna
Cumpana
Cumpăna is a commune in Constanţa County, Romania.-History:The village was mentioned under the name Haşiduluc for the first time in 1870 by Ion Ionescu de la Brad in his work "Excursion agricole dans la plaine de la Dobroudja"...

 and Agigea
Agigea
Agigea is a commune in Constanţa County, Romania. The commune includes two villages: Agigea and Lazu ....

. On its reach it is joined on the left bank by tributaries Cocoş
Cocos River (Agigea)
The Cocoş River is a tributary of the Agigea branch of the Danube-Black Sea Canal in Romania.-References:* Administraţia Naţională Apelor Române - Cadastrul Apelor - Bucureşti* Institutul de Meteorologie şi Hidrologie - Rîurile României - Bucureşti 1972...

, Valea Seacă
Valea Seaca River (Carasu)
The Valea Seacă River is a tributary of the Agigea branch of the Danube-Black Sea Canal in Romania.-References:* Administraţia Naţională Apelor Române - Cadastrul Apelor - Bucureşti...

, Potârnichea
Potârnichea River
The Potârnichea River is a tributary of the main branch of the Danube-Black Sea Canal in Romania.-References:* Administraţia Naţională Apelor Române - Cadastrul Apelor - Bucureşti...

, Lazu
Lazu River (Carasu)
The Lazu River is a tributary of the Agigea branch of the Danube-Black Sea Canal in Romania.-References:* Administraţia Naţională Apelor Române - Cadastrul Apelor - Bucureşti* Institutul de Meteorologie şi Hidrologie - Rîurile României - Bucureşti 1972...

 and on the right bank by the Agigea
Agigea River
The Agigea River is a tributary of the main branch of the Danube-Black Sea Canal in Romania.-References:* Administraţia Naţională Apelor Române - Cadastrul Apelor - Bucureşti* Institutul de Meteorologie şi Hidrologie - Rîurile României - Bucureşti 1972...



The northern Branch, known as the Poarta Albă-Midia Năvodari Canal, goes towards the Port of Midia
Port of Midia
The Port of Midia is located on the Black Sea coastline, approx 13.5 NM north of Constanţa.It is one of the satellite ports of Constanţa and was designed and built to serve the adjacent industrial and petrochemical facilities....

. It passes near Nazarcea
Poarta Alba
Poarta Albă is a commune in Constanţa County, Romania. It has a population of 4,790, according to the 2002 census, of which 97% Romanians and most of the rest Turks and Tatars...

, Lumina
Lumina, Constanta
Lumina is a commune in Constanţa County, Romania.The commune includes three villages:* Lumina * Oituz - named after Oituz...

, Ovidiu
Ovidiu
Ovidiu is a town situated a few kilometres north of Constanţa in the Constanţa County, south-eastern Romania. Ovidiu is quite small and many wealthy inhabitants of Constanţa retire there....

 and Năvodari
Navodari
Năvodari is a town in Constanţa County, region of Dobrogea, Romania, with a population of 32,400.-History:The settlement was mentioned for the first time in 1421 under the name Kara Koyun , to be renamed later on Karaköy or Carachioi...

. On its reach
Reach (geography)
A reach in geography can mean several things. Most generally, a reach is any length of a stream between any two points. The points may be selected for any reason, such as gauging stations, river miles, natural features, and topography. They may be arbitrary or vague.A reach may also be an expanse,...

 it is joined by tributaries Nazarcea
Nazarcea River
The Nazarcea River is a tributary of the main branch of the Danube-Black Sea Canal in Romania.-References:* Administraţia Naţională Apelor Române - Cadastrul Apelor - Bucureşti* Institutul de Meteorologie şi Hidrologie - Rîurile României - Bucureşti 1972...

 and Valea Adâncă
Valea Adânca River (Carasu)
The Valea Adâncă River is a tributary of the Carasu Branch of the Danube-Black Sea Canal in Romania.-References:* Administraţia Naţională Apelor Române - Cadastrul Apelor - Bucureşti...

, both from the left bank.

Motivation

The main reasons for the building of the canal were to circumvent the Danube Delta
Danube Delta
The Danube Delta is the second largest river delta in Europe, after the Volga Delta, and is the best preserved on the continent. The greater part of the Danube Delta lies in Romania , while its northern part, on the left bank of the Chilia arm, is situated in Ukraine . The approximate surface is...

, which is difficult to navigate, to shorten the distance to the Black Sea, and several issues related to the loading and unloading of ships.

In its delta, the Danube is divided into three main branches, none of which is suited to optimal navigation: Chilia branch
Chilia branch
The Chilia or Kilia branch is a distributary of the river Danube, that contributes in forming the Danube Delta. It is named after the two towns having this name, located on its two shores: Kilia, on the northern, Ukrainian bank and Chilia Veche on the southern, Romanian bank.The other two main...

 is the deepest, but its mouths were not stable, which made navigation dangerous; Sulina branch
Sulina branch
The Sulina branch is a distributary of the river Danube, that contributes in forming the Danube Delta.The other two main branches of the Danube are the Chilia branch and the Saint George....

 is not deep enough for maritime ships to navigate on it and it also used to be isolated from the railroad system
Caile Ferate Române
Căile Ferate Române is the official designation of the state railway carrier of Romania. Romania has a railway network of of which are electrified and the total track length is . The network is significantly interconnected with other European railway networks, providing pan-European passenger...

; Sfântu Gheorghe branch
Sfântu Gheorghe branch
The Sfântu Gheorghe branch is a distributary of the river Danube, that contributes in forming the Danube Delta.The other two main branches of the Danube are the Chilia branch and the Sulina branch....

 is shallow and sinuous.

At the time when decision to build the canal was taken, it was officially announced that works would also serve a secondary purpose, that of land reclamation
Land reclamation
Land reclamation, usually known as reclamation, is the process to create new land from sea or riverbeds. The land reclaimed is known as reclamation ground or landfill.- Habitation :...

 — with the drainage of marshes in the area. Also during the period, the Danube – Black Sea Canal was advertised as a fast and direct connection between the Soviet
Soviet Union
The Soviet Union , officially the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics , was a constitutionally socialist state that existed in Eurasia between 1922 and 1991....

 Volga-Don Canal
Volga-Don Canal
Lenin Volga–Don Shipping Canal is a canal which connects the Volga River and the Don River at their closest points. The length of the waterway is 101 km ....

 and Central Europe.

Structure

The 64 km canal reduces the distance by boat from Constanţa
Constanta
Constanța is the oldest extant city in Romania, founded around 600 BC. The city is located in the Dobruja region of Romania, on the Black Sea coast. It is the capital of Constanța County and the largest city in the region....

 to Cernavodă by ca. 400 km. It has a width of 70–90 meters and a depth of 7 metres; the northern arm has a length of 26.6 km, width of 50 m and a depth of 5.5 metres. The radius
Radius
In classical geometry, a radius of a circle or sphere is any line segment from its center to its perimeter. By extension, the radius of a circle or sphere is the length of any such segment, which is half the diameter. If the object does not have an obvious center, the term may refer to its...

 of its sharpest bends is 3 km.

The waterway passes through the towns of Medgidia
Medgidia
-History:Archaeological findings show that Dobruja was inhabited since the Neolithic period. Starting with 46 BC the region was administered by the Roman Empire. A castrum was built in the Carasu Valley, becoming the cradle of the settlement....

 and Murfatlar, both of which have been turned into inland port
Inland port
The term inland port is used in two different but related ways to mean either a port on an inland waterway or an inland site carrying out some functions of a seaport.- As a port on an inland waterway :...

s. It was designed to facilitate the transit of convoys comprising as much as six towed
Towboat
Not to be confused with the historic boat type with the same name, also called horse-drawn boat.A towboat is a boat designed for pushing barges or car floats. Towboats are characterized by a square bow with steel knees for pushing and powerful engines...

 barge
Barge
A barge is a flat-bottomed boat, built mainly for river and canal transport of heavy goods. Some barges are not self-propelled and need to be towed by tugboats or pushed by towboats...

s (ships of up to 5,000 in tonnage
Tonnage
Tonnage is a measure of the size or cargo carrying capacity of a ship. The term derives from the taxation paid on tuns or casks of wine, and was later used in reference to the weight of a ship's cargo; however, in modern maritime usage, "tonnage" specifically refers to a calculation of the volume...

, as long as 138 meters and with as much as 16.8 meters in beam
Beam (nautical)
The beam of a ship is its width at the widest point. Generally speaking, the wider the beam of a ship , the more initial stability it has, at expense of reserve stability in the event of a capsize, where more energy is required to right the vessel from its inverted position...

 and 5.5 meters in draft
Draft (hull)
The draft of a ship's hull is the vertical distance between the waterline and the bottom of the hull , with the thickness of the hull included; in the case of not being included the draft outline would be obtained...

 can also pass through the canal). The structure is bound by locks
Lock (water transport)
A lock is a device for raising and lowering boats between stretches of water of different levels on river and canal waterways. The distinguishing feature of a lock is a fixed chamber in which the water level can be varied; whereas in a caisson lock, a boat lift, or on a canal inclined plane, it is...

 (in Cernavodă and Agigea
Agigea
Agigea is a commune in Constanţa County, Romania. The commune includes two villages: Agigea and Lazu ....

 respectively).

In its final phase, the canal took over nine years to construct; 300 million m³ of soil were excavated (greater than the amount involved in building the Panama
Panama Canal
The Panama Canal is a ship canal in Panama that joins the Atlantic Ocean and the Pacific Ocean and is a key conduit for international maritime trade. Built from 1904 to 1914, the canal has seen annual traffic rise from about 1,000 ships early on to 14,702 vessels measuring a total of 309.6...

 and Suez
Suez Canal
The Suez Canal , also known by the nickname "The Highway to India", is an artificial sea-level waterway in Egypt, connecting the Mediterranean Sea and the Red Sea. Opened in November 1869 after 10 years of construction work, it allows water transportation between Europe and Asia without navigation...

 canals), and 3.6 million m³ of concrete were used for the locks and support walls.

Precedents

The earliest plans for building this canal were in late 1830s. The Treaty of Adrianopol (September 14, 1829) canceled the trade monopoly of the Ottoman Empire
Ottoman Empire
The Ottoman EmpireIt was usually referred to as the "Ottoman Empire", the "Turkish Empire", the "Ottoman Caliphate" or more commonly "Turkey" by its contemporaries...

 in the Danubian Principalities
Danubian Principalities
Danubian Principalities was a conventional name given to the Principalities of Moldavia and Wallachia, which emerged in the early 14th century. The term was coined in the Habsburg Monarchy after the Treaty of Küçük Kaynarca in order to designate an area on the lower Danube with a common...

 of Wallachia
Wallachia
Wallachia or Walachia is a historical and geographical region of Romania. It is situated north of the Danube and south of the Southern Carpathians...

 and Moldavia
Moldavia
Moldavia is a geographic and historical region and former principality in Eastern Europe, corresponding to the territory between the Eastern Carpathians and the Dniester river...

, allowing these countries to build their own fleets by 1834. Both Romanian and non-Romanian ships used mostly the Danube port cities of Brăila
Braila
Brăila is a city in Muntenia, eastern Romania, a port on the Danube and the capital of Brăila County, in the close vicinity of Galaţi.According to the 2002 Romanian census there were 216,292 people living within the city of Brăila, making it the 10th most populous city in Romania.-History:A...

 and Galaţi
Galati
Galați is a city and municipality in Romania, the capital of Galați County. Located in the historical region of Moldavia, in the close vicinity of Brăila, Galați is the largest port and sea port on the Danube River and the second largest Romanian port....

, which saw an economic boom. But there were a number of barriers to this trade: the Ottomans controlled the navigation regime on the Danube, while the Russian Empire
Russian Empire
The Russian Empire was a state that existed from 1721 until the Russian Revolution of 1917. It was the successor to the Tsardom of Russia and the predecessor of the Soviet Union...

 - the access to the Black Sea
Black Sea
The Black Sea is bounded by Europe, Anatolia and the Caucasus and is ultimately connected to the Atlantic Ocean via the Mediterranean and the Aegean seas and various straits. The Bosphorus strait connects it to the Sea of Marmara, and the strait of the Dardanelles connects that sea to the Aegean...

 in the Danube Delta
Danube Delta
The Danube Delta is the second largest river delta in Europe, after the Volga Delta, and is the best preserved on the continent. The greater part of the Danube Delta lies in Romania , while its northern part, on the left bank of the Chilia arm, is situated in Ukraine . The approximate surface is...

, and there was little the Danubian Principalities could do to rectify this situation. Both countries welcomed the Austrian Empire
Austrian Empire
The Austrian Empire was a modern era successor empire, which was centered on what is today's Austria and which officially lasted from 1804 to 1867. It was followed by the Empire of Austria-Hungary, whose proclamation was a diplomatic move that elevated Hungary's status within the Austrian Empire...

's 1834 decision, endorsed by Count István Széchenyi
István Széchenyi
Széchenyi committed suicide by a shot to his head on April 8, 1860. All Hungary mourned his death. The Academy was in official mourning, along with the most prominent persons of the leading political and cultural associations...

, to extend the route of the first pyroscaphe
Pyroscaphe
Pyroscaphe was an early experimental steamship built by Marquis de Jouffroy d'Abbans in 1783. The first demonstration took place on 15 July 1783 on the river Saône in France...

 navigation company to the maritime Danube. The Austrian initiative was received unpleasantly by the Russians, who considered their trade through Odessa
Odessa
Odessa or Odesa is the administrative center of the Odessa Oblast located in southern Ukraine. The city is a major seaport located on the northwest shore of the Black Sea and the fourth largest city in Ukraine with a population of 1,029,000 .The predecessor of Odessa, a small Tatar settlement,...

 and ports in the Crimea
Crimea
Crimea , or the Autonomous Republic of Crimea , is a sub-national unit, an autonomous republic, of Ukraine. It is located on the northern coast of the Black Sea, occupying a peninsula of the same name...

 threatened by the development of Brăila and Galaţi. Without resolving to direct measures, Russians, who controlled the Sulina branch
Sulina branch
The Sulina branch is a distributary of the river Danube, that contributes in forming the Danube Delta.The other two main branches of the Danube are the Chilia branch and the Saint George....

, started to show rigidity, instituting on February 7, 1836 a compulsory quarantine
Quarantine
Quarantine is compulsory isolation, typically to contain the spread of something considered dangerous, often but not always disease. The word comes from the Italian quarantena, meaning forty-day period....

 on the island of Letea, collecting taxes to cover Russian financial deficit, and by not performing maintenance for the navigation on the Sulina branch to remove the continuous deposits of sand.

This gave Austrians the idea to dig a canal to connect the Danube with the Black Sea at the shortest point before the Delta, between Rasova
Rasova
Rasova is a commune in Constanţa County, Romania. It includes two villages:* Rasova* Cochirleni...

 or Cernavodă (Bogaz Köi) and Constanţa (Küstendjie), and a parallel railway. The Austrian project, however, was rejected by the Ottoman Porte. Western diplomats and newspapers accused the Russian government that through bribing and intimidation, it determined the Ottoman officials to reject the proposal of Szechenyi's company. In 1839, Széchenyi got the approval of his and Ottoman governments to ensure the transport of goods and people without getting to Sulina by a transshipment
Transshipment
Transshipment or Transhipment is the shipment of goods or containers to an intermediate destination, and then from there to yet another destination....

 on dry land. Carts and coaches made a 7-8 hour trip from Cladova
Cladova
Cladova may refer to several villages in Romania:* Cladova, a village in Păuliş Commune, Arad County* Cladova, a village in Bethausen Commune, Timiş County...

 to Constanţa, where people and goods were boarding other ships for Istanbul
Istanbul
Istanbul , historically known as Byzantium and Constantinople , is the largest city of Turkey. Istanbul metropolitan province had 13.26 million people living in it as of December, 2010, which is 18% of Turkey's population and the 3rd largest metropolitan area in Europe after London and...

. The enterprise was scrapped after 4 years due to non-profitability because of a low number of passengers, high cost of transport, and poor conditions of accosting in the unfit roadstead
Roadstead
A roadstead is a place outside a harbor where a ship can lie at anchor. It is an enclosed area with an opening to the sea, narrower than a bay or gulf. It has a surface that cannot be confused with an estuary. It can be created artificially by jetties or dikes...

 of the port of Constanţa.

In its place, a new Brăila-Istanbul route was established. However, by 1844, the depth of the Sulina branch has decreased to 7–9 feet from 13–14 feet in 1836, due to lack of dragging by the Russian authorities which controlled the passage. The Austrian government made a new attempt to cut a canal, sending the military engineer Colonel Baron Karl von Bigaro to prospect the land. But the idea had to be abandoned again due to technical problem, first of all due to the unfitness of the port of Constanţa for large international trade.

In 1850, the Moldavian scholar Ion Ionescu de la Brad
Ion Ionescu de la Brad
Ion Ionescu de la Brad , born Ion Isăcescu, was a Moldavian-born Romanian revolutionary, agronomist, statistician, scholar and writer....

 proposed yet another project, supported by Ion Ghica
Ion Ghica
Ion Ghica was a Romanian revolutionary, mathematician, diplomat and twice Prime Minister of Romania . He was a full member of the Romanian Academy and its president for four times...

 and by the Scottish
Scotland
Scotland is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. Occupying the northern third of the island of Great Britain, it shares a border with England to the south and is bounded by the North Sea to the east, the Atlantic Ocean to the north and west, and the North Channel and Irish Sea to the...

 diplomat David Urquhart
David Urquhart
David Urquhart was a Scottish diplomat and writer.. He was a Member of Parliament 1847-52.-Early life and family:...

, the secretary of the United Kingdom
United Kingdom
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern IrelandIn the United Kingdom and Dependencies, other languages have been officially recognised as legitimate autochthonous languages under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages...

's Embassy in the Ottoman Empire. Ghica lobbied Brad's project to Ahmed Vefik, who gave a negative response for fear of provoking Russia.

The Crimean War
Crimean War
The Crimean War was a conflict fought between the Russian Empire and an alliance of the French Empire, the British Empire, the Ottoman Empire, and the Kingdom of Sardinia. The war was part of a long-running contest between the major European powers for influence over territories of the declining...

 of 1854-1856, added a military and strategical dimension for these plan. The British-French
Second French Empire
The Second French Empire or French Empire was the Imperial Bonapartist regime of Napoleon III from 1852 to 1870, between the Second Republic and the Third Republic, in France.-Rule of Napoleon III:...

 Allies landed at Varna
Varna
Varna is the largest city and seaside resort on the Bulgarian Black Sea Coast and third-largest in Bulgaria after Sofia and Plovdiv, with a population of 334,870 inhabitants according to Census 2011...

 in the summer of 1854, followed by the withdrawal of Russian troops from Wallachia and Moldavia and the advancement of Ottoman and Austrian ones. In 1855, the French government put forward an initiative, and the Ottomans approved it, for the cheapest solution: build a strategical road between Cernavodă and Constanţa. Engineer Charles Lalanne was put in charge of these works, that started in the summer of 1855 and were finished by the year's end. According to the newspaper Zimbrul of Iași
Iasi
Iași is the second most populous city and a municipality in Romania. Located in the historical Moldavia region, Iași has traditionally been one of the leading centres of Romanian social, cultural, academic and artistic life...

, the work was performed by 300 physically strong men of moderate character selected in Moldavia and Wallachia.

The building of the road did not eliminate, however, the need for a canal, and the Austrian government renewed its persuasive efforts. According to Gazeta de Transilvania
Gazeta de Transilvania
Gazeta de Transilvania was the first Romanian-language newspaper to be published in Transylvania. It was founded by George Bariţ in 1838 in Braşov...

in July 1855, Baron Karl Ludwig von Bruck
Karl Ludwig von Bruck
Karl Ludwig von Bruck was an Austrian statesman.-Biography:In 1821 he went to Trieste in order to take part in the War for Greek Independence, and, remaining there several years, founded the Trieste Lloyd , a combination of insurance societies.In 1848, he was a member of the Frankfurt Parliament...

, the Austrian Finance Minister, founded a stock company
Stock company
Stock company can refer to:*Joint stock company *Stock company - referring to a group of actors...

 to build the desired canal. According to an article in Zimbrul on July 23, 1855, the project was of interest to Britain, the French Empire and the Austrian Empire, who were persuading the Ottoman government to allot the concession of the canal and the fitting of the port of Constanţa to a consortium
Consortium
A consortium is an association of two or more individuals, companies, organizations or governments with the objective of participating in a common activity or pooling their resources for achieving a common goal....

 under the direction of the three countries. The Ottomans were to lease a league
League (unit)
A league is a unit of length . It was long common in Europe and Latin America, but it is no longer an official unit in any nation. The league originally referred to the distance a person or a horse could walk in an hour...

 of land on each side of the canal for 99 years, where colonist could be settled. Goods were to travel freely, with ships having to pay only a per tone tax, significantly lower than the one on the Sulina branch. According to the newspaper Steaua Dunării
Steaua Dunării
Steaua Dunării was a political newspaper and a unionist mouthpiece founded in Octomber 1855 by Mihail Kogălniceanu. Editors like Vasile-Urechea Avexandrescu, Vasile Mălinescu, Iancu M. Codrescu and colaborators like Vasile Alecsandri, Costache Negruzzi, Alecu Donici, Grigore Alexandrescu, Alecu...

from January 24, 1856, the Sultan
Sultan
Sultan is a title with several historical meanings. Originally, it was an Arabic language abstract noun meaning "strength", "authority", "rulership", and "dictatorship", derived from the masdar سلطة , meaning "authority" or "power". Later, it came to be used as the title of certain rulers who...

 issued a firman
Firman
A firman is a royal mandate or decree issued by a sovereign in certain historical Islamic states, including the Ottoman Empire, Mughal Empire, State of Hyderabad, and Iran under Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlavi. The word firman comes from the meaning "decree" or "order"...

to the Anglo-French-Austrian consortium Wilson-Morny-Breda, represented by Forbes Campbell, authorizing it to build the canal which was to be called Abdul Medjid. The 12 articles of the Concession Act were published in Bukurester Deutsche Zeitung.

The construction plans for the canal took a different turn with the signing of the Treaty of Paris
Treaty of Paris (1856)
The Treaty of Paris of 1856 settled the Crimean War between Russia and an alliance of the Ottoman Empire, the British Empire, Second French Empire, and the Kingdom of Sardinia. The treaty, signed on March 30, 1856 at the Congress of Paris, made the Black Sea neutral territory, closing it to all...

 on March 30, 1856, ending the War. Russia ceded the Danube mouth with Cahul
Cahul County
Cahul County was a county of Bessarabia. In the Middle Ages, its territory belonged to the Fălciu County, but after the annexation of Bessarabia by the Russian Empire in 1812 it became a county by itself.- History :...

, Bolgrad and Ismail counties back to Moldavia. The freedom of international navigation on the Danube was restored; passage taxes were canceled, police and quarantine rules were simplified; and the European Commission of the Danube was established, with representatives of 7 powers: Britain, France, Austria, Russia, the Ottoman Empire, the Kingdom of Prussia
Kingdom of Prussia
The Kingdom of Prussia was a German kingdom from 1701 to 1918. Until the defeat of Germany in World War I, it comprised almost two-thirds of the area of the German Empire...

, and the Kingdom of Sardinia
Kingdom of Sardinia
The Kingdom of Sardinia consisted of the island of Sardinia first as a part of the Crown of Aragon and subsequently the Spanish Empire , and second as a part of the composite state of the House of Savoy . Its capital was originally Cagliari, in the south of the island, and later Turin, on the...

. The Commission was responsible for the clearing of the Danube mouths from deposits by the river, and when necessary with clearing natural barriers, with the goal of ensuring of good conditions for navigation. The effect was that Austria, Britain, and France changed their attitude to the project for a Danube-Black Sea canal. The newspaper Zimbrul announced on May 25, 1856 that the plan for building the canal was abandoned; instead a railroad line Cernavodă - Constanţa was to be built. After two and a half years of construction, the latter was inaugurated on October 4, 1860. Following the building of a railway connection in 1860, goods were easily and inexpensively transported from Constanţa by rail, so plans for a canal were abandoned.

As the United Principalities
United Principalities
The United Principalities of Moldavia and Wallachia, also known as the Romanian Principalities, was the official name of Romania following the 1859 election of Alexandru Ioan Cuza as prince or domnitor of both territories...

 of Moldavia and Wallachia (1859) remained formally Ottoman vassals, and moreover Dobruja was directly administered by the Ottomans, the idea to build the canal was not of interest to Romanians. But following the Russo-Turkish War (1877–1878), Romania acquired formal independence, lost again southern Bessarabia to Russia, but gained Dobruja
Dobruja
Dobruja is a historical region shared by Bulgaria and Romania, located between the lower Danube river and the Black Sea, including the Danube Delta, Romanian coast and the northernmost part of the Bulgarian coast...

. The idea to build a canal became a national issue, which could promote Romania's international trade. However in the following years the development of trade was concentrated mainly on the Sulina Canal. Another project was consequently rejected by King
King of Romania
King of the Romanians , rather than King of Romania , was the official title of the ruler of the Kingdom of Romania from 1881 until 1947, when Romania was proclaimed a republic....

 Carol I
Carol I of Romania
Carol I , born Prince Karl of Hohenzollern-Sigmaringen was reigning prince and then King of Romania from 1866 to 1914. He was elected prince of Romania on 20 April 1866 following the overthrow of Alexandru Ioan Cuza by a palace coup...

 after consultations with Grigore Antipa
Grigore Antipa
Grigore Antipa was a Romanian Darwinist biologist who studied the fauna of the Danube Delta and the Black Sea. Between 1892 and 1944 he was the director of the Bucharest Natural History Museum, which now bears his name....

. During World War I, Austro-Hungarian
Austria-Hungary
Austria-Hungary , more formally known as the Kingdoms and Lands Represented in the Imperial Council and the Lands of the Holy Hungarian Crown of Saint Stephen, was a constitutional monarchic union between the crowns of the Austrian Empire and the Kingdom of Hungary in...

 authorities taking part in the occupation of southern Romania
Romanian Campaign (World War I)
The Romanian Campaign was part of the Balkan theatre of World War I, with Romania and Russia allied against the armies of the Central Powers. Fighting took place from August 1916 to December 1917, across most of present-day Romania, including Transylvania, which was part of the Austro-Hungarian...

 proposed a canal from Cernavodă to Constanţa, passing through Murfatlar, of which 10 miles would be in a tunnel (Cernavodă-Murfatlar) and the rest of 27 miles would be in the open.

In 1927, the Romanian engineer Jean Stoenescu-Dunăre drafted a new set of plans; because of the Great Depression
Great Depression
The Great Depression was a severe worldwide economic depression in the decade preceding World War II. The timing of the Great Depression varied across nations, but in most countries it started in about 1929 and lasted until the late 1930s or early 1940s...

, World War II, and political turmoil in Romania (see Romania during World War II
Romania during World War II
Following the outbreak of World War II on 1 September 1939, the Kingdom of Romania officially adopted a position of neutrality. However, the rapidly changing situation in Europe during 1940, as well as domestic political upheaval, undermined this stance. Fascist political forces such as the Iron...

), construction did not begin until 1949, after the establishment of a Romanian Communist regime
Communist Romania
Communist Romania was the period in Romanian history when that country was a Soviet-aligned communist state in the Eastern Bloc, with the dominant role of Romanian Communist Party enshrined in its successive constitutions...

.

Creation of the camps

The decision to build the Danube – Black Sea Canal was taken on May 25, 1949 by the Politburo
Politburo
Politburo , literally "Political Bureau [of the Central Committee]," is the executive committee for a number of communist political parties.-Marxist-Leninist states:...

 of the Romanian Workers' Party
Romanian Communist Party
The Romanian Communist Party was a communist political party in Romania. Successor to the Bolshevik wing of the Socialist Party of Romania, it gave ideological endorsement to communist revolution and the disestablishment of Greater Romania. The PCR was a minor and illegal grouping for much of the...

 and the Petru Groza
Petru Groza
Petru Groza was a Romanian politician, best known as the Prime Minister of the first Communist Party-dominated governments under Soviet occupation during the early stages of the Communist regime in Romania....

 executive. The document specified:
"in accordance with art[icle] 72 of the Constitution of the People's Republic of Romania
1948 Constitution of Romania
The 1948 Constitution of Romania was the first adopted after the establishment of the Communist regime, which it enshrined into law. It was modelled on the 1936 Soviet Constitution and adopted by the Great National Assembly on April 13, 1948, being published in Monitorul Oficial the same day...

, the Council of Ministers decides: art[icle] 1 — preparatory work on the Danube – Black Sea Canal to begin."


A version of events, supported on one occasion by the Romanian leader Gheorghe Gheorghiu-Dej
Gheorghe Gheorghiu-Dej
Gheorghe Gheorghiu-Dej was the Communist leader of Romania from 1948 until his death in 1965.-Early life:Gheorghe was the son of a poor worker, Tănase Gheorghiu, and his wife Ana. Gheorghiu-Dej joined the Communist Party of Romania in 1930...

 and made popular through the literary works of Marin Preda
Marin Preda
Marin Preda was a Romanian novelist, one of the best-known post-WWII Romanian writers.Preda was born in Teleorman county, in a village called Siliştea-Gumeşti, into a family of peasants. He first studied at school in his home village, then schools in Abrud and Cristur-Odorhei...

, credited Soviet
Soviet Union
The Soviet Union , officially the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics , was a constitutionally socialist state that existed in Eurasia between 1922 and 1991....

 ruler Joseph Stalin
Joseph Stalin
Joseph Vissarionovich Stalin was the Premier of the Soviet Union from 6 May 1941 to 5 March 1953. He was among the Bolshevik revolutionaries who brought about the October Revolution and had held the position of first General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union's Central Committee...

 with the idea for the Canal — a project which was supposedly based on the Gulag
Gulag
The Gulag was the government agency that administered the main Soviet forced labor camp systems. While the camps housed a wide range of convicts, from petty criminals to political prisoners, large numbers were convicted by simplified procedures, such as NKVD troikas and other instruments of...


(Communist leader Ana Pauker
Ana Pauker
Ana Pauker was a Romanian communist leader and served as the country's foreign minister in the late 1940s and early 1950s...

, who, like her collaborator Vasile Luca
Vasile Luca
Vasile Luca was an Austro-Hungarian-born Romanian and Soviet communist politician, a leading member of the Romanian Communist Party from 1945 and until his imprisonment in the 1950s...

, opposed the project, told her family that Stalin personally "proposed" the Canal in late 1948). The legal framework for unfree labor was set up in 1950, when a decree passed by the Great National Assembly
Great National Assembly
The Great National Assembly was the legislature of the Romanian People's Republic and the Socialist Republic Romania. When Communism was overthrown in Romania in December 1989, the National Assembly was replaced by a bicameral parliament, made up of the Chamber of Deputies and the Senate.The Great...

 introduced it as a measure for the "reeducation
Indoctrination
Indoctrination is the process of inculcating ideas, attitudes, cognitive strategies or a professional methodology . It is often distinguished from education by the fact that the indoctrinated person is expected not to question or critically examine the doctrine they have learned...

 of hostile elements", and when the new Labor Code allowed the executive to requisition workforce for various political purposes. In its original form, the project was meant to result in the third-largest canal ever built (after the Panama
Panama Canal
The Panama Canal is a ship canal in Panama that joins the Atlantic Ocean and the Pacific Ocean and is a key conduit for international maritime trade. Built from 1904 to 1914, the canal has seen annual traffic rise from about 1,000 ships early on to 14,702 vessels measuring a total of 309.6...

 and the Suez Canal
Suez Canal
The Suez Canal , also known by the nickname "The Highway to India", is an artificial sea-level waterway in Egypt, connecting the Mediterranean Sea and the Red Sea. Opened in November 1869 after 10 years of construction work, it allows water transportation between Europe and Asia without navigation...

s).

In October 1949, the authorities established a General Directorate to oversee both the works and the penal facilities, answering directly to the national leadership. Its first head was the engineer Gheorghe Hossu, replaced in 1951 by Meyer Grünberg, in turn replaced by Vasile Posteucă (who held the position in 1952-1953). According to historian Adrian Cioroianu
Adrian Cioroianu
Adrian Mihai Cioroianu is a Romanian historian, politician, journalist, and essayist. A lecturer for the History Department at the University of Bucharest, he is the author of several books dealing with Romanian history...

, all three were insufficiently trained for the task they were required to accomplish. By 1952, the Directorate came under the direct supervision of the Internal Affairs Ministry
Ministry of Administration and Interior of Romania
The Ministry of Administration and Interior of Romania is one of the fifteen ministries of the Government of Romania.From 23 August 1944 to 18 March 1975 the minister held the title of Minister of Internal Affairs, between 2004 and 2007, held the title of Minister of Administration and Interior,...

, and the Securitate
Securitate
The Securitate was the secret police agency of Communist Romania. Previously, the Romanian secret police was called Siguranţa Statului. Founded on August 30, 1948, with help from the Soviet NKVD, the Securitate was abolished in December 1989, shortly after President Nicolae Ceaușescu was...

 was allowed direct intervention on the construction site.

Forced labor and repression

Prison camps sprang up all along the projected canal route in the summer of 1949 and were quickly filled with political prisoners brought from jails from throughout the country. These first arrivals were soon joined by newly arrested people who were sent to the canal in ever increasing numbers. By 1950 the forced labor camps set up along the length of the planned canal were filled to capacity; that year alone, 40,000 prisoners were held in those camps. By 1953, the number of prisoners had swelled to 60,000 (other sources indicate 100,000 or 40,000 for the entire period). British historian and New York University
New York University
New York University is a private, nonsectarian research university based in New York City. NYU's main campus is situated in the Greenwich Village section of Manhattan...

 professor Tony Judt
Tony Judt
Tony Robert Judt FBA was a British historian, essayist, and university professor who specialized in European history. Judt moved to New York and served as the Erich Maria Remarque Professor in European Studies at New York University, and Director of NYU's Erich Maria Remarque Institute...

 claims in his book, Postwar: A History of Europe Since 1945
Postwar (book)
Postwar: A History of Europe Since 1945 is a 2005 book by historian Tony Judt, the Director of New York University's Erich Maria Remarque Institute. The book examines the history of Europe from the end of World War II to 2005. It has won considerable praise for its breadth and comprehensiveness. ...

, as recorded in a 2005 review:
"At the time, an estimated 1 million Romanians were imprisoned in dire conditions or engaged in often deadly slave labor, digging out the Danube – Black Sea Canal."


The construction effort surpassed the resources available to the Romanian economy in the 1950s. The canal was assigned inferior machinery, part of which had already been used on the Soviet Volga-Don Canal
Volga-Don Canal
Lenin Volga–Don Shipping Canal is a canal which connects the Volga River and the Don River at their closest points. The length of the waterway is 101 km ....

, and building had to rely on primitive techniques (most work appears to have been carried out using shovel
Shovel
A shovel is a tool for digging, lifting, and moving bulk materials, such as soil, coal, gravel, snow, sand, or ore. Shovels are extremely common tools that are used extensively in agriculture, construction, and gardening....

s and pickaxe
Pickaxe
A pickaxe or pick is a hand tool with a hard head attached perpendicular to the handle.Some people make the distinction that a pickaxe has a head with a pointed end and a flat end, and a pick has both ends pointed, or only one end; but most people use the words to mean the same thing.The head is...

s, which was especially hard in the rocky terrain of Northern Dobruja
Northern Dobruja
Northern Dobruja is the part of Dobruja within the borders of Romania. It lies between the lower Danube river and the Black Sea, bordered in south by Bulgarian Southern Dobruja.-Geography:...

). Detainees were allocated to brigades, usually run by common criminals — encouraged to use violence against their subordinates. In parallel, the region's industrialization, destined to assist in the building effort, was never accomplished.

Sums allocated for prisoner health, hygiene and nutrition declined dramatically over the years. Food rations were kept to a minimum, and prisoners would often resort to hunting mice and other small animals, or even consuming grass in an attempt to supplement their diet.

The prisoners comprised dispossessed farmers who had attempted to resist collectivization, former activists of the National Peasants' Party
National Peasants' Party
The National Peasants' Party was a Romanian political party, formed in 1926 through the fusion of the Romanian National Party from Transylvania and the Peasants' Party . It was in power between 1928 and 1933, with brief interruptions...

, the National Liberal Party
National Liberal Party (Romania)
The National Liberal Party , abbreviated to PNL, is a centre-right liberal party in Romania. It is the third-largest party in the Romanian Parliament, with 53 seats in the Chamber of Deputies and 22 in the Senate: behind the centre-right Democratic Liberal Party and the centre-left Social...

, the Romanian Social Democratic Party
Romanian Social Democratic Party (defunct)
The Romanian Social Democratic Party was a social-democratic political party in Romania. It published the magazine România Muncitoare, and later Socialismul, Lumea Nouă, and Libertatea.-Early party:...

, and the fascist
Fascism
Fascism is a radical authoritarian nationalist political ideology. Fascists seek to rejuvenate their nation based on commitment to the national community as an organic entity, in which individuals are bound together in national identity by suprapersonal connections of ancestry, culture, and blood...

 Iron Guard
Iron Guard
The Iron Guard is the name most commonly given to a far-right movement and political party in Romania in the period from 1927 into the early part of World War II. The Iron Guard was ultra-nationalist, fascist, anti-communist, and promoted the Orthodox Christian faith...

, Zionist
Zionism
Zionism is a Jewish political movement that, in its broadest sense, has supported the self-determination of the Jewish people in a sovereign Jewish national homeland. Since the establishment of the State of Israel, the Zionist movement continues primarily to advocate on behalf of the Jewish state...

 Jews
History of the Jews in Romania
The history of Jews in Romania concerns the Jews of Romania and of Romanian origins, from their first mention on what is nowadays Romanian territory....

, as well as Orthodox
Romanian Orthodox Church
The Romanian Orthodox Church is an autocephalous Eastern Orthodox church. It is in full communion with other Eastern Orthodox churches, and is ranked seventh in order of precedence. The Primate of the church has the title of Patriarch...

 and Catholic priests. The canal was referred to as the "graveyard of the Romanian bourgeoisie
Bourgeoisie
In sociology and political science, bourgeoisie describes a range of groups across history. In the Western world, between the late 18th century and the present day, the bourgeoisie is a social class "characterized by their ownership of capital and their related culture." A member of the...

" by the Communist authorities, and the physical elimination of undesirable social class
Social class
Social classes are economic or cultural arrangements of groups in society. Class is an essential object of analysis for sociologists, political scientists, economists, anthropologists and social historians. In the social sciences, social class is often discussed in terms of 'social stratification'...

es was one of its most significant goals.

One estimate places at over 200,000 the number of people who died as a result of exposure, unsafe equipment, malnutrition
Malnutrition
Malnutrition is the condition that results from taking an unbalanced diet in which certain nutrients are lacking, in excess , or in the wrong proportions....

, accidents, tuberculosis
Tuberculosis
Tuberculosis, MTB, or TB is a common, and in many cases lethal, infectious disease caused by various strains of mycobacteria, usually Mycobacterium tuberculosis. Tuberculosis usually attacks the lungs but can also affect other parts of the body...

 and other diseases, over-work, etc., of those working on the project between 1949 to 1953. More conservative estimates place the number at "considerably in excess of 10,000". As such, the project became known as the "Death Canal" (Canalul Morţii). It has also been called "a cloaca of immense human suffering and mortality".

In parallel, authorities left aside sectors of employment for skilled workers — kept in strict isolation from all others, they were attracted to the site with exceptional salaries (over 5,000 lei
Romanian leu
The leu is the currency of Romania. It is subdivided into 100 bani . The name of the currency means "lion". On 1 July 2005, Romania underwent a currency reform, switching from the previous leu to a new leu . 1 RON is equal to 10,000 ROL...

 per month), as well as for young people drafted in the Romanian Army and whose files indicated "unhealthy origins" (a middle-class family background). Their numbers fluctuated greatly (regular employees went from 13,200 in 1950 to 15,000 in 1951, to as little as 7,000 in early 1952, and again to 12,500 later in that year). At the same time, facilities meant to accommodate the projected influx of labor (including homes available on credit) were never actually completed. This was overlooked by the propaganda
Propaganda
Propaganda is a form of communication that is aimed at influencing the attitude of a community toward some cause or position so as to benefit oneself or one's group....

 machine, which instead furnished Stakhanovite
Stakhanovite
In Soviet history and iconography, a Stakhanovite follows the example of Aleksei Grigorievich Stakhanov, employing hard work or Taylorist efficiencies to over-achieve on the job.- History :...

 stories, according to which work quotas were surpassed by as much as 170%. Authorities also made the claim that the construction site was offering training to previously unskilled workers (as many as 10,000 in one official communiqué).

Trial

Blame for the debilitating and unsuccessful works was eventually placed on a group of alleged conspirators
Conspiracy (political)
In a political sense, conspiracy refers to a group of persons united in the goal of usurping or overthrowing an established political power. Typically, the final goal is to gain power through a revolutionary coup d'état or through assassination....

, who were indicted in a show trial
Show trial
The term show trial is a pejorative description of a type of highly public trial in which there is a strong connotation that the judicial authorities have already determined the guilt of the defendant. The actual trial has as its only goal to present the accusation and the verdict to the public as...

 (late 1952) — they faced various trumped-up charges (espionage
Espionage
Espionage or spying involves an individual obtaining information that is considered secret or confidential without the permission of the holder of the information. Espionage is inherently clandestine, lest the legitimate holder of the information change plans or take other countermeasures once it...

, fraud
Fraud
In criminal law, a fraud is an intentional deception made for personal gain or to damage another individual; the related adjective is fraudulent. The specific legal definition varies by legal jurisdiction. Fraud is a crime, and also a civil law violation...

, sabotage
Sabotage
Sabotage is a deliberate action aimed at weakening another entity through subversion, obstruction, disruption, or destruction. In a workplace setting, sabotage is the conscious withdrawal of efficiency generally directed at causing some change in workplace conditions. One who engages in sabotage is...

, and the political crime
Political crime
In criminology, a political crime is an offence involving overt acts or omissions , which prejudice the interests of the state, its government or the political system...

 of Zionism), in connection with a review of policies following Gheorghiu-Dej's maneuver against Ana Pauker
Ana Pauker
Ana Pauker was a Romanian communist leader and served as the country's foreign minister in the late 1940s and early 1950s...

. The inquiry was orchestrated by Iosif Chişinevschi
Iosif Chisinevschi
Iosif Chişinevschi , born Iosif Roitman, was a Romanian communist politician. The leading ideologue of the Romanian Communist Party from 1944 to 1957, he served as head of its Agitprop Department from 1948 to 1952 and was in charge of propaganda and culture from 1952 to 1955...

.

Three people were executed (the engine driver Nichita Dumitrescu, and the engineers Aurel Rozei-Rozenberg and Nicolae Vasilescu-Colorado); others were imprisoned for various terms. Defendants in a second group, around the engineer Gheorghe Crăciun, were sentenced to various harsh penalties (including three life imprisonment
Life imprisonment
Life imprisonment is a sentence of imprisonment for a serious crime under which the convicted person is to remain in jail for the rest of his or her life...

s). Torture was applied by a Securitate
Securitate
The Securitate was the secret police agency of Communist Romania. Previously, the Romanian secret police was called Siguranţa Statului. Founded on August 30, 1948, with help from the Soviet NKVD, the Securitate was abolished in December 1989, shortly after President Nicolae Ceaușescu was...

 squad led by Alexandru Nicolschi
Alexandru Nicolschi
Alexandru Nicolschi was a Romanian communist activist, Soviet agent and officer, and Securitate chief under the Communist regime...

, as a means to obtain forced confession
Forced confession
A forced confession is a confession obtained by a suspect or a prisoner under means of torture, enhanced interrogation technique or duress.Depending on the level of coercion used, a forced confession may or may not be valid in revealing the truth...

s.

Completion

On July 18, 1953, the project came to a discreet halt, all work being suspended for another 23 years (according to some sources, the closure had been ordered by Stalin himself, as early as 1952). The canal camps remained in existence for another year, and their prisoners progressively relocated, to similar conditions at other work sites in Northern Dobruja
Northern Dobruja
Northern Dobruja is the part of Dobruja within the borders of Romania. It lies between the lower Danube river and the Black Sea, bordered in south by Bulgarian Southern Dobruja.-Geography:...

. Penal facilities on the canal site were shut down in mid-1954.

In 1976, the project was restarted by Nicolae Ceauşescu
Nicolae Ceausescu
Nicolae Ceaușescu was a Romanian Communist politician. He was General Secretary of the Romanian Communist Party from 1965 to 1989, and as such was the country's second and last Communist leader...

, who had previously ordered the rehabilitation
Rehabilitation (Soviet)
Rehabilitation in the context of the former Soviet Union, and the Post-Soviet states, was the restoration of a person who was criminally prosecuted without due basis, to the state of acquittal...

 of people sentenced in the 1952 trial, and who aimed to withdraw the Lower Danube from Soviet control (which had been consecrated by the 1948 Danube Conference). In official propaganda
Propaganda
Propaganda is a form of communication that is aimed at influencing the attitude of a community toward some cause or position so as to benefit oneself or one's group....

, where the 1950s precedent was no longer mentioned, the canal was referred to as the "Blue Highway" (Magistrala Albastră). New and large machinery, produced inside Romania, was introduced to the site. The southern arm was completed in 1984 (delayed by poor quality in construction), with the northern arm being inaugurated in 1987.

The cost of building the canal is estimated to be around 2 billion United States dollar
United States dollar
The United States dollar , also referred to as the American dollar, is the official currency of the United States of America. It is divided into 100 smaller units called cents or pennies....

s, and was supposed to be recovered in 50 years. However, as of 2005, it has a yearly profit of only a little over 3 million euro
Euro
The euro is the official currency of the eurozone: 17 of the 27 member states of the European Union. It is also the currency used by the Institutions of the European Union. The eurozone consists of Austria, Belgium, Cyprus, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg,...

s.

In art

For much of the 1950s, the Danube – Black Sea Canal was celebrated in agitprop
Agitprop
Agitprop is derived from agitation and propaganda, and describes stage plays, pamphlets, motion pictures and other art forms with an explicitly political message....

 literature (notably, in Geo Bogza
Geo Bogza
Geo Bogza was a Romanian avant-garde theorist, poet, and journalist, known for his left-wing and communist political convictions. As a young man in the interwar period, he was known as a rebel and was one of the most influential Romanian Surrealists...

's 1950 reportage Începutul epopeii, "The Beginning of the Epic", and in Petru Dumitriu's Drum fără pulbere, "Dustless Road"), music (Leon Klepper's symphonic poem
Symphonic poem
A symphonic poem or tone poem is a piece of orchestral music in a single continuous section in which the content of a poem, a story or novel, a painting, a landscape or another source is illustrated or evoked. The term was first applied by Hungarian composer Franz Liszt to his 13 works in this vein...

 Dunărea se varsă în mare, "The Danube Flows to the Sea"), and film (Ion Bostan
Ion Bostan
Ion Bostan may refer to:* Ion Bostan * Ion Bostan...

's 1951 Canalul Dunăre-Marea Neagră, o construcţie a păcii - "The Danube – Black Sea Canal, a Construction of Peace"). During the 1980s, the song "Magistrala Albastră", performed by Dan Spătaru
Dan Spataru
Dan George Spătaru was a Romanian singer.His songs include: "De vrei să ştii ce înseamnă", "Dragu mi-i de ţara mea, Drum bun", "Drumurile noastre toate", "În rândul patru'"', "Măicuţă, îţi mulţumesc", "Nimic nu e prea mult'"', "Nu vreau să plângi", "Prietene", "Să cântăm, chitara mea", "Spune-mi,...

 and Mirabela Dauer and using the Canal as its setting, was frequently broadcast in official and semi-official contexts.

During the period of liberalization
Liberalization
In general, liberalization refers to a relaxation of previous government restrictions, usually in areas of social or economic policy. In some contexts this process or concept is often, but not always, referred to as deregulation...

 preceding the July Theses
July Theses
The July Theses is a name commonly given to a speech delivered by Romanian dictator Nicolae Ceauşescu on July 6, 1971, before the Executive Committee of the Romanian Communist Party...

, literature was allowed to make several references to the Canal's penitentiary history. Examples include Marin Preda
Marin Preda
Marin Preda was a Romanian novelist, one of the best-known post-WWII Romanian writers.Preda was born in Teleorman county, in a village called Siliştea-Gumeşti, into a family of peasants. He first studied at school in his home village, then schools in Abrud and Cristur-Odorhei...

's Cel mai iubit dintre pământeni
Cel mai iubit dintre pamânteni
Cel mai iubit dintre pământeni is the last, and perhaps most elaborate, novel by the Romanian author Marin Preda. Written in 1980, it is an intricate fresco of Communist Romania and the horrors of the Stalinist era...

and, most likely, Eugen Barbu
Eugen Barbu
Eugen Barbu was a Romanian modern novelist, short story writer, journalist, and correspondent member of the Romanian Academy. The latter position was vehemently criticized by those who contended that he plagiarized in his novel Incognito and for the anti-Semitic campaigns he initiated in the...

's Principele (by means of an allegory
Allegory
Allegory is a demonstrative form of representation explaining meaning other than the words that are spoken. Allegory communicates its message by means of symbolic figures, actions or symbolic representation...

, set during the 18th century Phanariote
Phanariotes
Phanariots, Phanariotes, or Phanariote Greeks were members of those prominent Greek families residing in Phanar , the chief Greek quarter of Constantinople, where the Ecumenical Patriarchate is situated.For all their cosmopolitanism and often Western education, the Phanariots were...

 rules). In 1973-1974, Ion Cârja
Ion Cârja
Ion Cârja was a Romanian and American writer and anti-communist activist, who was a political prisoner in Communist Romania.-Biography:...

, a former prisoner, wrote a book titled Canalul morţii, detailing his sufferings during incarceration; it was first published in Romania in 1993, after the Revolution of 1989
Romanian Revolution of 1989
The Romanian Revolution of 1989 was a series of riots and clashes in December 1989. These were part of the Revolutions of 1989 that occurred in several Warsaw Pact countries...

.

Inmates of the labor camps

  • Arsenie Boca
    Arsenie Boca
    Arsenie Boca was a Romanian Orthodox monk, theologian and artist. He was persecuted by the Communists and named among the 100 greatest Romanians....

  • Matei Boilă
  • Barbu Brezianu
  • George Matei Cantacuzino
  • Ion Caraion
  • Ion Cârja
    Ion Cârja
    Ion Cârja was a Romanian and American writer and anti-communist activist, who was a political prisoner in Communist Romania.-Biography:...

  • Andrei Ciurunga
  • Corneliu Coposu
    Corneliu Coposu
    -Early life:Coposu was born in Bobota, Sălaj County to the Romanian Greek-Catholic archpriest Valentin Coposu and his wife Aurelia Coposu...

  • Gheorghe Cristescu
    Gheorghe Cristescu
    Gheorghe Cristescu was a Romanian socialist and, for a part of his life, communist militant. Nicknamed "Plăpumarul" , he is also occasionally referred to as "Omul cu lavaliera roşie" , after the most notable of his accessories.-Early activism:Born in Copaciu Gheorghe Cristescu (October 10, 1882...

  • Constantin Galeriu
  • Şerban Ghica
  • Pyotr Leshchenko
    Pyotr Leshchenko
    Pyotr Konstantinovich Leshchenko , a singer in the Russian Empire and later the Soviet Union, is universally considered "the King of Russian Tango" and specifically known for his rendition of "Serdtse"—a tango song not in the Spanish language...

  • Ovidiu Papadima
    Ovidiu Papadima
    Ovidiu Papadima was a Romanian literary critic, folklorist, and essayist....

  • Aurel Popa
  • Pavel Popa
  • Ştefan Radof
  • Toma Spătaru
  • Richard Wurmbrand
    Richard Wurmbrand
    Richard Wurmbrand was a Romanian Christian minister of Jewish descent. He was a youth during a time of anti-Semitic activity in Romania, but it was later, after becoming a believer in Jesus Christ as Messiah, and daring to publicly say that Communism and Christianity were not compatible, that he...

  • Sabina Wurmbrand
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