Internationalization of the Danube River
The Danube River
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....

 has been a trade waterway for centuries, but with the rise of international borders and the jealousies of national states, commerce and shipping has often been hampered for narrow reasons. In addition, natural features of the river, most notably the sanding of the 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...

, has often hampered international trade
International trade
International trade is the exchange of capital, goods, and services across international borders or territories. In most countries, such trade represents a significant share of gross domestic product...

. For these reasons, diplomats over the decades have worked to internationalize the Danube River in an attempt to allow commerce to flow as smoothly as possible.

Rivalry among the great powers — particularly Great Britain and Russia — hindered such cooperation, but in 1856, at the end of the Crimean War, and it was finally decided to establish an international organization where they all could work together on behalf of the Danube.

British and Russian rivalry

In 1616 an Austro-Turkish treaty was signed in Belgrade wherein the Austrians were granted the right to navigate the middle and lower Danube, at that time under the control of the Ottoman Empire. Under the 1774 Treaty of Küçük Kaynarca
Treaty of Kucuk Kaynarca
The Treaty of Küçük Kaynarca was signed on 21 July 1774, in Küçük Kaynarca , Dobruja between the Russian Empire and the Ottoman Empire after the Ottoman Empire was defeated in the...

, ending a war between Russia and Turkey, Russia was allowed to use the lower Danube.
The Treaty of Adrianople
Treaty of Adrianople
The Peace Treaty of Adrianople concluded the Russo-Turkish War, 1828-1829 between Russia and the Ottoman Empire. It was signed on September 14, 1829 in Adrianople by Russia's Count Alexey Fyodorovich Orlov and by Turkey's Abdul Kadyr-bey...

, ending the Russo-Turkish War, 1828-1829
Russo-Turkish War, 1828-1829
The Russo–Turkish War of 1828–1829 was sparked by the Greek War of Independence. The war broke out after the Sultan, incensed by the Russian participation in the Battle of Navarino, closed the Dardanelles for Russian ships and revoked the Akkerman Convention....

, and signed on September 14, 1829, between Russia and 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...

, provided a legal basis for excluding all foreign ships from the river delta. It gave Russia the right to establish quarantine stations on the Sulina Channel (the only one really navigable), and seven years later she made use of it. British trade began in 1834, on February 7, 1836, Russia published a decree that all Danube-bound vessels would be stopped and taken to the Russian port of Odessa for quarantine inspection.

By 1836, things had got to the point where the House of Commons debated the subject. P. Stewart told his fellows on April 20:
British enterprise has found its way to these [Danubian] provinces; and already the jealous power of Russia has assailed to obstruct its success. . . . In 1836 there will be 5,000 tons [in trade] and upwards, if Russia is pleased to permit our subjects to exercise their just and lawful right. But . . . she has already interfered, and the matter must now and immediately be brought to an issue. . . . Russia has dared to offer insult to England by laying hands upon British shipping, and demanding tribute at the mouth of the Danube. . . . there cannot be a doubt but that Russia's determination is to close up the Danube entirely, and thus to stop out growing trade with the principalities.

In 1840, Russia agreed in a treaty signed with Austria at St. Petersburg
Saint Petersburg
Saint Petersburg is a city and a federal subject of Russia located on the Neva River at the head of the Gulf of Finland on the Baltic Sea...

 to keep the Sulina Channel open; for this purpose it would be allowed to tax vessels entering the river. The Russians brought in two dredging machines. One English account said they were "worked by manual labour
Manual labour
Manual labour , manual or manual work is physical work done by people, most especially in contrast to that done by machines, and also to that done by working animals...

 for one day and then laid aside forever." Another account, written about the same time, had another version:
The author claimed that the Turks (friendly to England at this time) had kept the channel clear
by the simple expedient of requiring every vessel leaving to draw after her an iron rake; this was sufficient to stir the mud, and the current of the great river took it away. Muscovite artifice rejected this method as only worthy of Turkish barbarism, and went through the form of occasionally using a steam dredging machine.

By 1851, Russians had changed their tactics. They set up quarantine stations in the delta itself and promulgated a new set of stringent regulations, which had as a purpose the frightening of shipping from the Danube to Odessa. For example, they declared that vessels visiting lower Danubian ports had to be held in a fourteen-day quarantine, while at 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...

 ports of Russia itself the quarantine was only four days.

In the same year, an English writer called the Russian inspectors "crude, barbarous and political." Another Englishman wrote in 1854 that the fertility of Moldavia and Wallachia was "not a mere geographical fact, but a subject fraught with the utmost importance; for the size of our [British] labourer's loaves varies with the depth of the water on the bar of the Danube."
There is, perhaps, no instance in which the seemingly tortuous, yet ever steadily aggressive and grasping character of Russian policy can be better marked than in her conduct at the Sulina mouth of the Danube.

In 1856, the mouths of the Danube River were wild passages, littered with wrecks of sailing ship
Sailing ship
The term sailing ship is now used to refer to any large wind-powered vessel. In technical terms, a ship was a sailing vessel with a specific rig of at least three masts, square rigged on all of them, making the sailing adjective redundant. In popular usage "ship" became associated with all large...

s and hazarded with hidden sandbars. The banks of the river were sometimes indicated only by clusters of wretched hovels built on piles, and by narrow patches of sand, skirted by tall weeds.

Edward D. Krehbiel, writing in 1918, observed that Russia had probably been "aggravating the already bad conditions for the purpose of hindering commerce on the Danube and increasing that of Odessa." Meanwhile, Russia continued to levy its taxes (it was estimated that the total tax burden
Tax incidence
In economics, tax incidence is the analysis of the effect of a particular tax on the distribution of economic welfare. Tax incidence is said to "fall" upon the group that, at the end of the day, bears the burden of the tax...

 amounted to 50 percent of the produce), and the channel remained clogged. Even the Austrians were upset with this, and the Treaty of St. Petersburg was renewed only once before they allowed it to lapse.

Demands for control

It was Napoleonic France at the Congress of Rastatt
Second Congress of Rastatt
The Second Congress of Rastatt, which was opened in December 1797, was intended to rearrange the map of Germany by providing compensation for those princes whose lands on the left bank of the Rhine had been seized by France....

 in 1798 that made the first public governmental proposal for internationalizing the great river, but "it was doomed to failure for political reasons," meeting with resistance from the Habsburg monarchs (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...


After Napoleon's fall the British joined the call for internationalization. In September 1850, Charles Cunningham, British vice-consul at Galatz
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....

, Romania, wrote that "the different nations interested in the navigation of the Danube should name commissioners (as seems to be done on the Rhine), and the Commission [should] . . . attend to the duties of clearing the Sulina."

In 1851 one English journalist wrote that "a commission might be named by the governments connected with the trade, in order that the respective commissioners might watch over the interests of the shipping of their country, as exists on the Rhine. Another wrote in 1854:
The capacities of this great river as a commercial highway are certainly unequalled by those of any other European stream; and their full employment would be of incalculable advantage not merely to the countries on its banks but to all commercial nations. . . . The natural difficulties of the navigation are indeed great, but capable of being easily removed.

On December 28, 1854, during the Crimean War (France, Britain, Sardinia, and Turkey versus 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 allies sent to Russia a note urging the internationalization of the river as one of the bases for a peace treaty:
. . . it would be desirable that the course of the Lower Danube . . . be withdrawn from the territorial jurisdiction. . . . In every case the free navigation of the Danube could not be secured if it be not placed under the control of a syndical authority, invested with the powers necessary to destroy the obstructions existing at the mouths of the river, or which may hereafter be formed there.


On March 15, 1855, representatives of five monarchies gathered around a table in Vienna, the capital of the Austro-Hungarian empire, in an attempt to end the bloody war in the Crimea
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...

. Appearing for Great Britain were Lord John Russell
John Russell, 1st Earl Russell
John Russell, 1st Earl Russell, KG, GCMG, PC , known as Lord John Russell before 1861, was an English Whig and Liberal politician who served twice as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom in the mid-19th century....

 and the Earl of Westmoreland. France sent its chief diplomatist, François Adolphe Bourqueney. Austria was represented by Count Karl Ferdinand von Buol-Schauenstein and Baron Anton von Prokesch-Osten
Anton von Prokesch-Osten
Anton von Prokesch-Osten, was an Austrian diplomat, statesman and general.- Life :Anton von Prokesch was a man of great versatility, whose multi-faceted career as a soldier, then as a diplomat and statesman, was one of the most remarkable of Austria in the nineteenth century.He participated in...

, while Turkey sent Aarif Effendi and Russia relied on Prince Alexander Mihailovich Gortschskoff. Later, the negotiators were reinforced by the arrival of Foreign Ministers
Foreign minister
A Minister of Foreign Affairs, or foreign minister, is a cabinet minister who helps form the foreign policy of a sovereign state. The foreign minister is often regarded as the most senior ministerial position below that of the head of government . It is often granted to the deputy prime minister in...

 Drouyn de Lhuys of France and Mehemed Emin Aali Pasha of Turkey.The second point on the agenda was what to do about the Danube River.

Prince Gortchakoff stipulated that navigation should be free and that Russia favored an international control agency, but he objected to the use of the phrase syndical authority (syndicat in French) "because it was vague and new." He said if syndicat implied any exercise of sovereignty, he must oppose it because the Danube "must be kept free of all political considerations." Baron Bourqueney replied that "the syndicat ought to represent the interests of all. Later the conference agreed to substitute the phrase European Commission.

Foreshadowing a dispute that was to last until 1948 — whether the nations bordering the river should control it or share authority with the major shipping powers — a dispute immediately arose over the composition and powers of the new commission. The delegates finally decided to establish two bodies — a Delta group composed of the European powers, and a separate, river commission.
An European commission, formed of delegates from each of the Contracting Powers, shall determine the . . . means to be employed to keep the navigation free, and shall draw up the instructions for a River-bordering commission, composed of delegates of Austria, Russia, and Turkey.

Nevertheless, the Vienna conference failed over the future of the Black Sea, and the Crimean War went on, only to be ended the next year by the Treaty of Paris (1856)
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...

. The victors, led by Britain and Austria, excluded Russia from the "River-bordering commission" by the simple expedient of rolling back its borders from the Danube banks in favor of Turkey.

Britain was winning in its attempt to hobble Russia, and the creation of the European Danube Commission was successful in "postponing a showdown for another ninety years." Though Russia did have a seat on the latter commission, its primary influence on the Delta was halted. Professor John C. Campbell wrote in 1949 that the commission became "a symbol and sentinel of the political interest of the West in preserving Southeastern Europe
The Balkans is a geopolitical and cultural region of southeastern Europe...

 and Turkey from Russian domination."

See also

A series of articles on this subject in chronological order
  • Commissions of the Danube River
    Commissions of the Danube River
    See Internationalization of the Danube River for events before 1856.The Commissions of the Danube River were authorized by the Treaty of Paris after the close of the Crimean War...

    , for the international body governing the waterway from 1856 to 1940
  • Nazi rule over the Danube River
    Nazi rule over the Danube River
    Nazi rule over the Danube River was brought about by force of arms, through annexation of Austria, invasion of Yugoslavia and of the Soviet Union and treaties with the Kingdom of Romania and Hungary, but a legal cover was provided through moves that resulted in a new international order on the...

    , for events during World War II
  • Danube River Conference of 1948
    Danube River Conference of 1948
    The Danube River Conference of 1948 was held in Belgrade, Yugoslavia, to develop a new international regime for the development and control of the Danube in the wake of World War II...

  • Danube Commission
    Danube Commission
    The Danube Commission is concerned with the maintenance and improvement of navigation conditions of the Danube River, from its source in Germany to its outlets in Romania and Ukraine, leading to the Black Sea. It was established in 1948 by seven countries bordering the river, replacing previous...

    , for events since 1948
  • International Commission for the Protection of the Danube River
    International Commission for the Protection of the Danube River
    The International Commission for the Protection of the Danube River is an international organisation with its permanent secretariat in Vienna. It was established by the Danube River Protection Convention, signed by the Danube countries in Sofia, Bulgaria, in 1994.The commission became active in 1998...

    , for the organization established in 1998 and charged with environmental and ecological activities

External links

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