The Balkans

The Danube Black Sea Canal: between Geography and Politics (the 1850’s)

Ileana Cazan


The idea of a canal across Dobruja is certainly not original. Some work may have been carried out in classical times. The idea of a canal came up in 1837 and it was fathered by the Scottish diplomat David Urquhart who starting from 1831, spent many years in the Ottoman Empire. Urquhart suggested the construction of a canal “connecting the Danube to the Black Sea at the point where the Danube came closest to the Sea, which would save the delay and perils associated with sailing to the Danube Mouths”. The end of the Crimean War in 1856, led to a Russian withdrawal from the Danube and the powers now decided to concentrate on the improvement of the river. From 1856, the maritime Danube was administered by a European Commission of the Danube (ECD) in order to keep the river open for the ships of all nations. The canal scheme lapsed but a railway across Dobruja was considered feasible and was approved by the Porte in 1860. Although the canal was not built, the idea was not abandoned altogether but resumed in 1883, after the union of Dobruja, on several occasions, before World War I and, again, in the Interwar period. During World War I the Austro- Hungarians envisaged a project of a canal following the line of Cernavodã – Murfatlar – Constanþa of which 27 miles had to be in the open and 10 miles (from Murfatlar to Constanþa) – in a tunnel. No practical consequence followed in this case either.


canal, project, Dobruja, David Urquhart, Crimean War, Austrian projects.


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