09 November 2017

Sulina, Dobrudscha

The lighthouse in Sulina. 
Photo by Anatole Magrin circa 1905,
from his Album de la Dobrudgea.
Some accounts have Germans beginning settlement in the village of Sulina in Dobrudscha in 1849.  But according to Paul Traeger's Die Deutschen in der Dobrudscha, it wasn't until the 1870s that a small German community of six families moved into Sulina.  It increased in numbers as the city prospered as a trading post.  

Situated on the Sulina branch of the Danube River whose waters emptied into the Black Sea, the port was a desirable location.  A lighthouse was built in the the 18th century by the Ottomans to communicate with Istanbul, and it still stands today.  But the history of the inlet goes back to the 14th century when it was a place inhabited by sailors, pirates and fishermen. 

The Crimean War ended with the signing of the Treaty of Paris (1856). Part of the treaty declared that there would be Black Sea neutrality and freedom of navigation on the Danube.  It established the Danube European Committee (C.E.D.), which was tasked to make infrastructure improvements to the mouth of the Danube river to make it navigable by larger ships to benefit all.  Below is a map in French dated October 1857 with the work already completed and that which was being proposed.


Map of mouth of the Sulina (Soulina) River, October 1857.  Source: Ziarul Lumina

The Ottoman Empire declared Sulina a free port in in 1870.  The Russo-Ottoman war of 1877-1878 followed, and the city was put under Russian control but then was annexed back to Romania along with the rest of Dobrudscha.

Sulina became an ethnically and religiously diverse international port city, and this is reflected eternally in the most obvious of places: its cemetery.

This is a partial translation of the article entitled "The Maritime Cemetery in Sulina," which was published in the Ziarul Lumina on 31 August 2014:

One of the monuments in the cemetery in Sulina. 
Source:  Ziarul Lumina 
One of the most impressive cemeteries in Romania is in Sulina. Some call it "international," others "maritime," "multi-ethnic," "multi-cultural" or "Cemetery of the European Commission of the Danube."  
It is unique in that within its boundaries are buried citizens of 21 nationalities belonging to Christian, Muslim and Jewish religions.  Some funerary monuments are true works of art, and the stories of some of the buried are disturbing.  Above all, the Sulina cemetery speaks of the fact that we are all equal in the face of death.  
Professor Valentin Lavric from the Liceul Teoretic Jean Bart [Jean Bart Theoretical High School] in Sulina was the cemetery tour guide.  "The first people who were buried here were [European] commission members," he said.  "Initially, there was a separate Russian cemetery on the left bank of the Danube and another one on the right bank, abandoned due to the embankment work on the river. The new cemetery was established around the Eurpean Commission of the Danube." 
The article goes on to say that the cemetery is really multiple cemeteries in sections: a cemetery for Protestants with both English and German sections; a Catholic cemetery with Italian, Maltese, Serbo-Croatian, Montenegrin burials; a Russian Orthodox section in which Romanians, Russians and Greeks are buried; a Muslim cemetery; and a Jewish cemetery. 

"There are no boundaries between them," Lavric said.  "The Commission treated each community's burials equally, thus a universal concord was born between the ethnic and religious groups here."

The Maritime Cemetery (Cimitirul maritim) in Sulina, 2014.  Source:  Ziarul Lumina 

Location of Sulina, Romania today. The view from Google Earth, image dated 9 August 2014. 

Learn More:
Black Sea German Research
Die Deutschen in der Dobrudscha, Paul Traeger.  See Black Sea German Research for translation.
Die Dobrudscha
Germans from Russia Settlement LocationsDobrudscha Colonies Map
"The Maritime Cemetery in Sulina,"  Ziarul Lumina31 August 2014.
Wikipedia – Sulina (English), Dobrudscha (German)


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