Friday, 31 March 2023 to Sunday, 2 April 2023

‘Free from ice, free from Europe’. Romania’s anxieties and a national port in Southern Bessarabia (1860s–1870s)

Fri31  Mar12:30pm(15 mins)
Melville Room


Constantin Ardeleanu1
1 New Europe College, Bucharest, Romania


In 1861, a dispute between the Romania (United Principalities) and its suzerain power, the Ottoman Empire, ended with the delimitation of the polities shared border in the Danube Delta region. The Romanians hoped to have access to a navigable branch of the delta, which was refused to them in the arbitration. By 1862, the idea emerged to have a Romanian seaport at Jibriani in Southern Bessarabia, where the physical features of the landscape would have allowed such a project. Two years later a detailed plan was drafted by a British engineer and prime minister Mihail Kogălniceanu pushed a law aiming to build the port, together with a canal that linked it to the Danube and a railway that connected it to the Moldavian mainland. The project was extremely ambitious, aiming to provide Romania with a rival for Odesa, free from the weather, but also political constraints associated with Danube navigation. The project got lost in bureaucratic procedures in 1865, but it was resumed by Prince Carol I after his accession to the Romanian throne in 1866. A new law was voted in 1875, falling once again victim to the larger international context that led to Romania’s losing Southern Bessarabia and gaining in 1878 the province of Dobrudja and a proper seaport in Constanța. The failed Jibriani is a perfect example to look at Romania’s anxieties during the 1860s and 1870s, and at the country’s hopes of capitalizing from its geographical position as a link between East and West.