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History of Dobruja

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History of Dobruja

"Dobrudzha" redirects here. For the football team, see PFC Dobrudzha Dobrich.
"Dobrogea" redirects here. For the village in Chişinău municipality, Moldova, see Sîngera.

Dobruja (Bulgarian: Добруджа, Dobrudzha; Romanian: Dobrogea pronounced [ˈdobrod͡ʒe̯a] or [doˈbrod͡ʒe̯a]; Turkish: Dobruca) — also spelled Dobrudža, Dobrudza, and Dobrudja — is a historical region shared today by Bulgaria and Romania. It is situated between the lower Danube River and the Black Sea, and includes the Danube Delta, Romanian coast, and the northernmost part of the Bulgarian coast. The territory of Dobruja comprises Northern Dobruja, which is part of Romania, and Southern Dobruja, which belongs to Bulgaria.

The territory of the Romanian region Dobrogea is now organised as the counties of Constanţa and Tulcea, with a combined area of 15,500 km² (6,011 sq. miles) and a population of slightly less than a million. Its main cities are Constanţa, Tulcea, Medgidia and Mangalia. Dobrogea is represented by dolphins in the coat of arms of Romania. The Bulgarian region of Dobrudzha is divided between the administrative regions of Dobrich and Silistra. This part has a total area of 7,565 km², with a combined population of some 350,000 people, the main towns being Dobrich and Silistra (regional seats).


With the exception of the Danube Delta, a marshy region located in its northeastern corner, Dobruja is hilly, with an average altitude of about 200–300 metres. The highest point is in the Ţuţuiatu (Greci) Peak in the Măcin Mountains, having a height of 467 m. The Dobrogea Plateau covers most of the Romanian part of Dobruja, while in the Bulgarian part the Ludogorie Plateau is found. Lake Siutghiol is one of the most important lakes in Northern Dobruja.

Dobruja lies in the temperate continental climatic area; the local climate is determined by the influx of oceanic air from the northwest and northeast and continental air from the East European Plain. Dobruja's relatively level terrain and its bare location facilitate the influx of humid, warm air in the spring, summer and autumn from the northwest, as well as that of northern and northeastern polar air in the winter. The Black Sea also exerts an influence over the region's climate, particularly within 40–60 kilometres from the coast. The average annual temperatures range from 11 °C inland and along the Danube to 11.8 °C on the coast and less than 10 °C in the higher parts of the plateau. The coastal region of Southern Dobruja is the most arid part of Bulgaria, with an annual precipitation of 450 millimetres.

Dobruja is a windy region once known for its windmills. About 85–90% of all days experience some kind of wind, which usually comes from the north or northeast. The average wind speed is about twice higher than the average in Bulgaria. Due to the limited precipitation and the proximity to the sea, rivers in Dobruja are usually short and with low discharge. However, the region has a number of shallow seaside lakes with brackish water.[1]


The most widespread opinion among scholars is that the origin of the term Dobruja is to be found in the Turkish rendition of the name of a 14th‑century Bulgarian ruler, despot Dobrotitsa.[2][3][4] It was common for the Turks to name countries after one of their early rulers (for example, nearby Moldavia was known as Bogdan Iflak by the Turks, named after Bogdan I). Other etymologies have been considered, but never gained widespread acceptance. Abdolonyme Ubicini believed the name meant "good lands", derived from Slavic dobro ("good"), an opinion that was adopted by several 19th‑century scholars. This view, which contrasts with the usual 19th‑century description of Dobruja as a dry barren land, has been explained as the point of view of Ruthenes, who saw the Danube delta in the northern Dobruja as a significant improvement over the steppes to the North.[5] I. A. Nazarettean combines the Slavic word with the Tatar budjak ("corner"), thus proposing the etymology "good corner". A version matching contemporaneous descriptions was suggested by Kanitz, which connected the name with the Bulgarian dobrice ("rocky and unproductive terrain").[6] According to Gheorghe I. Brătianu, the name is a Slavic derivation from a Turkic word (Bordjan or Brudjars) which referred to the Turkic Proto-Bulgarians, term also used by Arabic writers.

One of the earliest uses of the name can be found in the Turkish Oghuz-name narrative, dated to the 15th century, where it appears as Dobruja-éli, the possessive suffix el-i indicating that the land was considered as belonging to Dobrotitsa ("دوبرجه" in the original Ottoman Turkish).[7] The loss of the final particle is not unusual in the Turkish world, a similar evolution being observed in the name of Aydın, originally Aydın-éli.[8] Another early use is in the 16th‑century Latin translation of Laonicus Chalcondyles' Histories, where the term Dobroditia is used for the original Greek "Dobrotitsa's country" (Δοβροτίκεω χώρα).[9] Beginning with the 17th century the name became more common, with renditions such as Dobrucia, Dobrutcha, Dobrus, Dobruccia, Dobroudja, Dobrudscha and others being used by foreign authors.[10]

Initially, the name meant just the steppe of the southern region, between the forests around Babadag in the north and the SilistraDobrichBalchik line in the south,[11] but eventually, the term was extended to include the northern part and the Danube Delta.[12] In the 19th century, some authors used the name to refer just to the territory between the southernmost branch of the Danube (St. George) in the north and the Carasu Valley (nowadays the Danube-Black Sea Canal) in the south.[13]

Name variants

Dobruja is also known as Dhovroutsá - Δοβρουτσά (Greek), Dobroedzja (Dutch), Dobrogea (Finnish, Romanian, Swedish), Dobroudja (French), Dobruca (Turkish), Dobrudja (variant in English), Dobrudscha (German), Dobrudža (Croatian, Czech, Estonian, Latvian, Slovene), Dobrudža - Добруџа (Serbian), Dobrudża (Polish), Dobrudža - Добруджа (Bulgarian), Dobrudzsa (Hungarian), Dobrugia (Italian), and Dobruja (Catalan, Portuguese).



The territory of Dobruja has been inhabited since Middle and Upper Palaeolithic,[14] as the remains at Babadag, Slava Rusă and Enisala demonstrate. In the Neolithic, it was part of the Hamangia culture (named after a village on the Dobrujan coast), Boian culture and Karanovo V culture. At the end of the fifth millennium BC, under the influence of some Aegeo-Mediterranean tribes and cultures, the Gumelniţa culture appeared in the region. In the Eneolithic, populations migrating from the north of the Black Sea, of the Kurgan culture, mixed with the previous population, creating the Cernavodă I culture. Under Kurgan II influence, the Cernavodă II culture emerged, and then, through the combination of the Cernavodă I and Ezero cultures, developed the Cernavodă III culture. The region had commercial contacts with the Mediterranean world since the 14th century BC, as a Mycenaean sword discovered at Medgidia proves.[15]

Ancient history

The early Iron Age (8th–6th centuries BC) saw an increased differentiation of the local Getic tribes from the Thracian mass. In the second part of the 8th century BC, the first signs of commercial relations between the indigenous population and the Greeks appeared on the shore of the Halmyris Gulf (now the Sinoe Lake). In 657/656 BC colonists from Miletus founded the first colony in the region—Histria.[16] In the 7th and 6th centuries BC, more Greek colonies were founded on the Dobrujan coast (Callatis, Tomis, Mesembria, Dionysopolis, Parthenopolis, Aphrodisias, Eumenia etc.). In the 5th century BC these colonies were under the influence of the Delian League, passing in this period from oligarchy to democracy.[17] Furthermore, in the 6th century BC, the first Scythian groups began to enter the region. Two Getae tribes, the Crobyzi and Terizi, and the town of Orgame (Argamum) were mentioned on the territory of present Dobruja by Hekataios of Miletus (540–470 BC).[18]

In 514/512 BC King Darius I of Persia subdued the Getae living in the region during his expedition against Scythians living north of the Danube.[19] At about 430 BC, the Odrysian kingdom under Sitalkes extended its rule to the mouths of the Danube.[20] In 429 BC, Getae from the region participated in an Odrysian campaign in Macedonia.[21] In the 4th century BC, the Scythians brought Dobruja under their sway. In 341–339 BC, one of their kings, Atheas fought against Histria, which was supported by a Histrianorum rex (probably a local Getic ruler). In 339 BC, King Atheas was defeated by the Macedonians under King Philip II, who afterwards extended his rule over Dobruja.[22]

In 313 BC and again in 310–309 BC the Greek colonies led by Callatis, supported by Antigonus I Monophthalmus, revolted against Macedonian rule. The revolts were suppressed by Lysimachus, the diadochus of Thracia, who also began a military expedition against Dromichaetes, the ruler of the Getae north of the Danube, in 300 BC. In the 3rd century BC, colonies on the Dobrujan coast paid tribute to the basilei Zalmodegikos and Moskon, who probably ruled also northern Dobruja. In the same century, Celts settled in the north of the region. In 260 BC, Byzantion lost the war with Callatis and Histria for the control of Tomis. At the end of the 3rd century BC and the beginning of the 2nd century BC, the Bastarnae settled in the area of the Danube Delta. Around 200 BC, the Thracian king Zoltes invaded the province several times, but was defeated by Rhemaxos, who became the protector of the Greek colonies.

Around 100 BC King Mithridates VI of Pontus extended his authority over the Greek cities in Dobruja. However, in 72–71 BC, during the Third Mithridatic War, these cities were occupied by the Roman proconsul of Macedonia, Marcus Terentius Varro Lucullus. A foedus was signed between the Greek colonies and the Roman Empire, but in 62–61 BC the colonies revolted. Gaius Antonius Hybrida intervened, but was defeated by Getae and Bastarnae near Histria. After 55 BC the Dacians under King Burebista conquered Dobruja and all the Greek colonies on the coast, but their rule ended in 44 BC.

Roman rule

In 28/29 BC Rholes, a Getic ruler from southern Dobruja, supported the proconsul of Macedonia, Marcus Licinius Crassus, in his action against the Bastarnae. Declared Socius et amicus Populi Romani by Octavian,[23] Rholes helped Crassus in conquering the states of Dapyx (in central Dobruja) and Zyraxes (in the north of the region).[24] Dobruja became part of the client kingdom of the Odrysians, while the Greek cities on the coast came under direct rule of the governor of Macedonia. In 12 AD and 15 AD, Getic armies succeeded in conquering the cities of Aegyssus and Troesmis for a short time, but Odrysian king Rhoemetalces defeated them with the help of the Roman army.

In 15 AD the Roman province of Moesia was created, but Dobruja, under the name Ripa Thraciae remained part of the Odrysian kingdom, while the Greek cities on the coast formed Praefectura orae maritimae. In 46 AD Thracia became a Roman province and the territories of present Dobruja were absorbed into the province of Moesia. The Geto–Dacians invaded the region several times in the 1st century AD, especially between 62 and 70. In the same period, the base of the Roman Danube fleet (classis Flavia Moesica) was moved to Noviodunum. The praefectura was annexed to Moesia in 86 AD. In the same year Domitian divided Moesia, Dobruja being included in the eastern part, Moesia Inferior.

In the winter of 101–102 the Dacian king Decebalus led a coalition of Dacians, Carpians, Sarmatians and Burs in an attack against Moesia Inferior. The invading army was defeated by the Roman legions under Emperor Trajan on the Yantra river (later Nicopolis ad Istrum was founded there to commemorate the victory), and again near modern village of Adamclisi, in the southern part of Dobruja. The latter victory was commemorated by a monument, built in 109 on the spot and the founding of the city of Tropaeum. After 105, Legio XI Claudia and Legio V Macedonica were moved to Dobruja, at Durostorum and Troesmis respectively.

In 118 Hadrian intervened in the region to calm a Sarmatian rebellion. In 170 Costoboci invaded Dobruja, attacking Libida, Ulmetum and Tropaeum. The province was generally stable and prosperous until the crisis of the Third Century, which led to the weakening of defences and numerous barbarian invasions. In 248 a coalition of Goths, Carpians, Taifali, Bastarnae and Hasdingi, led by Argaithus and Guntheric devastated Dobruja.[25] During the reign of Trajan Decius the province suffered greatly from the attack of Goths under King Cniva.[26] Barbarian attacks followed in 258, 263 and 267. In 269 a fleet of allied Goths, Heruli, Bastarnae and Sarmatians attacked the cities on the coast, including Tomis.[27] In 272 Aurelian defeated the Carpians north of the Danube and settled a part of them near Carsium. The same emperor put an end to the crisis in the Roman Empire, thus helping the reconstruction of the province.

During the reign of Diocletian Dobruja became a separate province, Scythia, part of the Diocese of Thracia. Its capital city was Tomis. Diocletian also moved Legio II Herculia to Troesmis and Legio I Iovia to Noviodunum. In 331–332 Constantine the Great defeated the Goths who attacked the province. Dobruja was devastated again by Ostrogoths in 384–386. Under the emperors Licinius, Julian the Apostate and Valens the cities of the region were repaired or rebuilt.

Byzantine rule

After the division of the Roman Empire, Dobruja became part of the Eastern Roman Empire. Between 513 and 520, the region participated in a revolt against Anastasius I. Its leader, Vitalian, native of Zaldapa, in Southern Dobruja, defeated the Byzantine general Hypatius near Kaliakra. During Justin I's rule, Antes and Slavs invaded the region, but Germanus Justinus defeated them. In 529, the Gepid commander Mundus repelled a new invasion by Bulgars and Antes. Kutrigurs and Avars invaded the region several times, until 561–562, when the Avars under Bayan I were settled south of the Danube as foederati. During the rule of Mauricius Tiberius, the Slavs devastated Dobruja, destroying the cities of Dorostolon, Zaldapa and Tropaeum. In 591/593, Byzantine general Priscus tried to stop invasions, attacking and defeating the Slavs under Ardagast in the north of the province. In 602 during the mutiny of the Byzantine army in the Balkans under Phocas, a large mass of Slavs crossed the Danube, settling south of the Danube. Dobruja remained under loose Byzantine control, and was reorganised during the reign of Constantine IV as Thema Scythia.[28]

First Bulgarian Empire rule

The results of the archaeological researches indicate that Byzantine presence in Dobruja's mainland and on the banks of Danube lost weight in the end of the 6th century under the pressure of the Migration Period. In the coastal fortifications on the southern bank of Danube, latest Byzantine coin finds date from the time of the emperors Tiberius II Constantine (574–582) and Heraclius (610–641). After that period all inland Byzantine cities were demolished and abandoned.[29] On the other hand, some of the earliest Slavic settlements to the south of Danube were discovered in Dobruja, near the villages of Popina, Gărvan and Nova Cherna, and were dated to the end of the 6th and the beginning of the 7th centuries.[30] These lands became the main zone of compact Bulgar settlement in the end of 7th century.[31]

According to the peace treaty of 681, signed after the Bulgarian victory over Byzantines in the Battle of Ongala, Dobruja became part of the First Bulgarian Empire.[32] Shortly after, Bulgars founded near the southern border of Dobruja the city of Pliska, which became the first Bulgarian capital,[33] and rebuilt Madara as major Bulgarian pagan religious centre.[34] According to the Bulgarian Apocryphal Chronicle, from the 11th century, Bulgarian Tsar Ispor "accepted the Bulgarian tsardom", created "great cities, Drastar on the Danube", a "great wall from Danube to the sea", "the city of Pliska" and "populated the lands of Karvuna".[35] According to Bulgarian historians, during the 7th–10th centuries, the region was embraced by a large net of earthen and wooden strongholds and ramparts.[36] Around the end of the 8th century, wide building of new stone fortresses and defensive walls began.[37] The Bulgarian origin of the walls is disputed by Romanian historians, who base their position on the construction system and archaeological evidence. Some of the ruined Byzantine fortresses were reconstructed as well (Kaliakra and Silistra in the 8th century, Madara and Varna in the 9th).[38] According to some authors, during the following three centuries of Bulgarian domination, Byzantines still controlled the Black Sea coast and the mouths of Danube, and for short periods, even some cities.[39] However, according to Bulgarian archaeologists, the last coins, considered a proof of Byzantine presence, date in Kaliakra from the time of Emperor Justin II (565–578),[40] in Varna from the time of Emperor Heraclius (610–641),[41] and in Tomis from Constantine IV's rule (668–685).[42]

At the beginning of the 8th century, Justinian II visited Dobruja to ask Bulgarian Khan Tervel for military help. Khan Omurtag (815–831) built a "glorious home on Danube" and erected a mound in the middle of the distance between Pliska and his new building, according to his inscription kept in SS. Forty Martyrs Church in Veliko Tarnovo. The location of this edifice is unclear; the main theories place it at Silistra or at Păcuiul lui Soare.[43] Many early medieval Bulgar stone inscriptions were found in Dobruja, including historical narratives, inventories of armament or buildings and commemorative texts.[44] During this period Silistra became an important Bulgarian ecclesiastical centre—an episcopate after 865 and seat of the Bulgarian Patriarch at the end of 10th century.[45] In 895, Magyar tribes from Budjak invaded Dobruja and northeastern Bulgaria. An old Slavic inscription, found at Mircea Vodă, mentions Zhupan Dimitri (Дѣимитрѣ жѹпанѣ), a local feudal landlord in the south of the region in 943.[46]

Return of the Byzantine rule and late migrations, Second Bulgarian Empire and Mongol domination

On Nikephoros II Phocas demand, Sviatoslav I of Kiev occupied Dobruja in 968. He also moved the capital of Kievan Rus' to Pereyaslavets, in the north of the region. However, Byzantines under John I Tzimisces reconquered it in 971 and included it in the Theme Mesopotamia of the West (Μεσοποταμια της Δυσεον).[47] According to some historians soon after 976[48] or in 986, the southern part of Dobruja was included in the Bulgarian state of Samuil, while the northern part remained under Byzantine rule, being reorganised in an autonomous klimata.[49][50] According to other theories, Northern Dobruja was reconquered by Bulgarians as well.[51] In 1000, a Byzantine army commanded by Theodorokanos reconquered the whole Dobruja,[52] organizing the region as Strategia of Dorostolon and, after 1020, as Paristrion (Paradounavon). To prevent mounted attacks from the north, the Byzantines constructed three ramparts from the Black Sea down to the Danube, in the 10th–11th centuries.[53][54] However, according to the Bulgarian archaeologists and historians, these fortifications are earlier, and were erected by the First Bulgarian Empire in connection with the threat of Khazars' raids.[55][56]

Beginning with the 10th century, Byzantines accepted the settling of small groups of Pechenegs in Dobruja.[57] In the spring of 1036, an invasion of the Pechenegs devastated large parts of the region,[58] destroying the forts at Capidava and Dervent and burning the settlement in Dinogeţia. In 1046 the Byzantines accepted the settling of Pechenegs under Kegen in Paristrion as foederati.[59] They established some form of domination until 1059, when Isaac I Komnenos reconquered Dobruja. In 1064, the great invasion of the Uzes affected the region. In 1072–1074, when Nestor, the new strategos of Paristrion, came to Dristra, he found a ruler in rebellion there, Tatrys. In 1091, three autonomous, probably Pecheneg,[60] rulers were mentioned in the Alexiad: Tatos (Τατοῦ) or Chalis (χαλῆ), in the area of Dristra (probably the same as Tatrys),[61] and Sesthlav (Σεσθλάβου) and Satza (Σατζά) in the area of Vicina.[62]

Cumans came in Dobruja in 1094 and maintained an important role until the advent of the Ottoman Empire.[63] In 1187 the Byzantines lost what is now Dobruja to the restored Bulgarian Empire. In 1241, the first Tatar groups, under Kadan, invaded Dobruja starting a century long history of turmoil in the region.[64] In 1263–1264, Byzantine Emperor Michael VIII Palaeologus gave permission to Sultan Kaykaus II to settle in the area with a group of Seljuk Turks from Anatolia.[65] A missionary Turkish mystic, Sarı Saltuk, was the spiritual leader of this group;[66] his tomb in Babadag (which was named after him)[67] is still a place of pilgrimage for the Muslims. That happened during the campaign of Michael Glava Tarhaniotes against Bulgaria.[68] A part of these Turks returned to Anatolia in 1307, while those who remained became Christianised and adopted the name Gagauz.[69][70] In the 1265 the Bulgarian Emperor Constantine Tikh Asen hired 20,000 Tatar to cross the Danube and attack Byzantine Thrace.[71][72] On their way back the Tatars forced most of the Seljuk Turks including their chief Sarı Saltuk to resettle in Kipchak (Cumania).[73][74] In the second part of the 13th century, the Turkic–Mongolian Golden Horde Empire continuously raided and plundered Dobruja.[75] The incapability of the Bulgarian authorities to cope with the numerous raids became the main reason for the uprising of Ivailo (1277–1280) which broke out in eastern Bulgaria.[76] Ivailo's army defeated the Tatars who were forced to leave the Bulgarian territory, then routed Constantine Tikh's army and Ivailo was crowned Emperor of Bulgaria. The war with the Tatars, however, raged—in 1278, after a new Tatar invasion in Dobruja, Ivailo was forced to retreat to the strong fortress of Silistra in which he withstood a three-month siege.[77] In 1280 the Bulgarian nobility, which feared the growing influence of the peasant emperor, organised a coup and Ivailo had to flee to his enemy the Tatar Nogai Khan, who later killed him.[78] In 1300 the new Khan of the Golden Horde Toqta ceded Bessarabia to Emperor Theodore Svetoslav.[79]

Autonomous Dobruja

Main article: Principality of Karvuna

In 1325, the Ecumenical Patriarch nominated a certain Methodius Metropolitan of Varna and Carvona.[80] After this date, a local ruler, Balik/Balica,[81] is mentioned in Southern Dobruja. In 1346, he supported John V Palaeologus in the dispute for the Byzantine throne with John VI Cantacuzenus by sending an army corps under his son Dobrotitsa/Dobrotici and his brother, Theodore, to help the mother of John Palaeologus, Anna of Savoy. For his bravery, Dobrotitsa/Dobrotici received the title of strategos and married the daughter of megadux Apokaukos.[82] After the reconciliation of the two pretenders, a territorial dispute broke out between the Dobrujan polity and the Byzantine Empire for the port of Midia.[83] In 1347, on John V Palaeologus' demand, Emir Bahud-din Umur, Bey of Aydin, led a naval expedition against Balik/Balica, destroying Dobruja's seaports. Balik/Balica and Theodore died during the confrontations, Dobrotitsa/Dobrotici becoming the new ruler.[84]

Between 1352 and 1359, with the fall of Golden Horde rule in Northern Dobruja, a new state appeared, under Tatar prince Demetrius, who claimed to be the protector of the mouths of the Danube.[85]

In 1357 Dobrotitsa/Dobrotici was mentioned as a despot ruling over a large territory, including the fortresses of Varna, Kozeakos (near Obzor) and Emona.[86] In 1366, John V Palaeologus visited Rome and Buda, trying to gather military support for his campaigns, but on the way home he was blocked at Vidin by Ivan Alexander, Tsar of Tarnovo, who considered that the new alliances were directed against his realm. An anti-Ottoman crusade under Amadeus VI of Savoy, supported by Venice and Genoa, was diverted to free the Byzantine emperor. Dobrotitsa/Dobrotici collaborated with the crusaders, and after the allies conquered several Bulgarian forts on the Black Sea, Ivan Alexander freed John and negotiated peace. The Dobrujan ruler's position in this conflict brought him numerous political advantages: his daughter married one of John V's sons, Michael, and his principality extended its control over some of the forts lost by the Bulgarians (Anchialos and Mesembria).

In 1368, after the death of Demetrius, he was recognised as ruler by Pangalia and other cities on the right bank of the Danube. In 1369, together with Vladislav I of Wallachia, Dobrotitsa/Dobrotici helped Prince Stratsimir to win back the throne of Vidin.

Between 1370 and 1375, allied with Venice, he challenged Genoese power in the Black Sea. In 1376, he tried to impose his son-in law, Michael, as Emperor of Trebizond, but achieved no success. Dobrotitsa/Dobrotici supported John V Palaeologus against his son Andronicus IV Palaeologus. In 1379, the Dobrujan fleet participated in the blockade of Constantinople, fighting with the Genoese fleet.

In 1386, Dobrotitsa/Dobrotici died and was succeeded by Ivanko/Ioankos, who in the same year accepted a peace with Murad I and in 1387 signed a commercial treaty with Genoa. Ivanko/Ioankos was killed in 1388 during the expedition of Ottoman Grand Vizier Çandarli Ali Pasha against Tarnovo and Dristra. The expedition brought most of the Dobrujan forts under Turkish rule.

Wallachian Rule

In 1388/1389 Dobruja (Terrae Dobrodicii—as mentioned in a document from 1390) and Dristra (Dârstor) came under the control of Mircea the Elder, ruler of Wallachia, who defeated the Ottoman Grand Vizier.

Ottoman Sultan Bayezid I conquered the southern part of the territory in 1393, attacking Mircea one year later, but without success. Moreover, in the spring of 1395 Mircea regained the lost Dobrujan territories, with the help of his Hungarian allies. Ottoman recaptured Dobruja in 1397 and ruled it to 1404, although in 1401 Mircea heavily defeated an Ottoman army.

The defeat of Sultan Beyazid I by Tamerlane at Ankara in 1402 opened a period of anarchy in the Ottoman Empire. Mircea took advantage of it to organise a new anti-Ottoman campaign: in 1403, he occupied the Genoese fort of Kilia at the mouths of the Danube, thus being able, in 1404, to impose his authority on Dobruja. In 1416, Mircea supported the revolt against Sultan Mehmed I, led by Sheikh Bedreddin in the area of Deliorman, in Southern Dobruja.[87]

After his death in 1418, his son Mihail I fought against the amplified Ottoman attacks, eventually losing his life in a battle in 1420. That year, the Sultan Mehmed I personally conducted the definitive conquest of Dobruja by the Turks. Wallachia kept only the mouths of the Danube, and not for long time.

In the late 14th century, German traveller Johann Schiltberger described these lands as follows:[88]

I was in three regions, and all three were called Bulgaria. ... The third Bulgaria is there, where the Danube flows into the sea. Its capital is called Kaliakra.

Ottoman rule

Occupied by the Turks in 1420, the region remained under Ottoman control until the late 19th century. Initially, it was organised as an udj (border province), included in the sanjak of Silistra, part of the Vilayet of Rumelia. Later, during Murad II or Suleiman I, the sanjak of Silistra and surrounding territories became a separate Vilayet.[89] In 1555, a revolt led by the "false" (düzme) Mustafa, a pretender to the Turkish throne, broke out against Ottoman administration in Rumelia and rapidly spread to Dobruja, but was repressed by the beylerbey of Nigbolu.[90][91] In 1603 and 1612, the region suffered from the forays of Cossacks, who burnt down Isaķči and plundered Küstendje. The Russian empire occupied Dobruja several times during the Russo-Turkish Wars — in 1771–1774, 1790–1791, 1809–1810, 1829 and 1853. The most violent invasion was that of 1829, which depopulated numerous villages and towns. The Treaty of Adrianople of 1829 ceded the Danube Delta to the Russian Empire. However, Russians were forced to return it to the Ottomans in 1856, after The Crimean War. In 1864 Dobruja was included in the vilayet of Tuna.

During Ottoman rule, groups of Turks, Arabs and Tatars settled in the region, the latter especially between 1512 and 1514. During the reign of Peter I of Russia and Catherine the Great, Lipovans immigrated in the region of the Danube Delta. After the destruction of Zaporozhian Sich in 1775, Cossacks were settled in the area north of Lake Razim by the Turkish authorities (were they founded the Danubian Sich), but they were forced to leave Dobruja in 1828. In the second part of the nineteenth‑century, Ruthenians from the Austrian Empire also settled in the Danube Delta. After the Crimean War, a large number of Tatars were forcibly driven away from Crimea, immigrating to then-Ottoman Dobruja and settling mainly in the Karasu Valley in the centre of the region and around Bābā Dāgh. In 1864, Cherkess fleeing from the Russian invasion of the Caucasus were settled in the wooded region near Bābā Dāgh. Germans from Bessarabia also founded colonies in Dobruja between 1840 and 1892.

According to Bulgarian historian Liubomir Miletich, most Bulgarians living in Dobruja in 1900 were nineteenth century settlers or their descendants.[92][93] In 1850, the scholar Ion Ionescu de la Brad, wrote in a study on Dobruja, ordered by the Ottoman government, that Bulgarians came to the region "in the last twenty years or so".[94] According to his study, there were 2,285 Bulgarian families (out of 8,194 Christian families) in the region,[95] 1,194 of them in Northern Dobruja.[96] Liubomir Miletich puts the number of Bulgarian families in Northern Dobruja in the same year at 2,097.[97] According to the statistics of the Bulgarian Exarchate, before 1877 there were 9,324 Bulgarian families out of totally 12,364 Christian families in the Northern Dobruja.[98][verification needed] According to Russian knyaz Vladimir Cherkassky, chief of the Provisional Russian government in Bulgaria in 1877-1878, the Bulgarian population in Dobruja was larger than the Romanian one.[98] However, count Shuvalov, the Russian representative to the Congress of Berlin, stated that Romania deserved Dobruja "more than anybody else, because of its population".[99] In 1878, the statistics of the Russian governor of Dobruja, Bieloserkovitsch, showed a number of 4,750 Bulgarian "family chiefs" (out of 14,612 Christian family chiefs) in the northern half of the region.[96]

The Christian religious organisation of the region was put under the authority of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church by a firman of the Sultan, promulgated on February 28, 1870.[100] However, the Greeks and most Romanians in Northern Dobruja remained under the authority of the Greek Archdiocese of Tulča (founded in 1829).[101][102]

After 1878

After the 1878 war, the Treaty of San Stefano awarded Dobruja to Russia and the newly established Bulgaria. The northern portion, held by Russia, was ceded to Romania in exchange for Russia obtaining territories in Southern Bessarabia, thereby securing a direct access to the mouths of the Danube. In Northern Dobruja, Romanians were the plurality, but the population included a Bulgarian ethnic enclave in the northwest (around Babadag), as well as an important Muslim community (mostly Turks and Tatars) scattered around the region.

The southern portion, held by Bulgaria, was reduced the same year by the Treaty of Berlin. At the advice of the French envoy, a strip of land extended inland from the port of Mangalia (shown orange on the map) was ceded to Romania, since its southwestern corner contained a compact area of ethnic Romanians. The town of Silistra, located at the areas' most southwestern point, remained Bulgarian due to its large Bulgarian population. Romania subsequently tried to occupy the town as well, but in 1879 a new international commission allowed Romania only to occupy the fort Arab Tabia, which overlooked Silistra, but not the town itself.

At the beginning of the Russo-Turkish War of 1877–1878, most of Dobruja's population was composed of Turks and Tatars, but, during the war, a large part of the Muslim population was evacuated to Bulgaria and Turkey.[103] After 1878, the Romanian government encouraged Romanians from other regions to settle in Northern Dobruja and even accepted the return of some Muslim population displaced by the war.[104] According to Bulgarian historians, after 1878 the Romanian church authorities took control over all local churches, with the exception of two in the towns of Tulcea and Constanţa, which managed to keep their Bulgarian Slavonic liturgy.[105] However, between 1879 and 1900, 15 new Bulgarian churches were built in Northern Dobruja.[106] After 1880, Italians from Friuli and Veneto settled in Greci, Cataloi and Măcin in Northern Dobruja. Most of them worked in the granite quarries in the Măcin Mountains, while some became farmers.[107] The Bulgarian authorities also encouraged the settling of ethnic Bulgarians on the territory of Southern Dobruja.[108]

In May 1913, the Great Powers awarded Silistra and the area in a 3 km radius around it to Romania, at the Saint Petersburg Conference. In August 1913, after the Second Balkan War, Bulgaria lost Southern Dobruja (Cadrilater) to Romania (See Treaty of Bucharest, 1913). With Romania's entry in World War I on the side of France and Russia, the Central Powers occupied all of Dobruja and gave the Cadrilater, as well as the southern portion of Northern Dobruja, to Bulgaria in the Treaty of Bucharest of 1918. This situation lasted only for a short period, as the Allied Powers emerged victorious at the end of the war and Romania regained the lost territories in the Treaty of Neuilly of 1919. Between 1926 and 1938, about 30,000 Aromanians from Bulgaria, Macedonia and Greece were settled in Southern Dobruja.

In 1923 the Internal Dobrujan Revolutionary Organisation (IDRO), a Bulgarian nationalist organisation, was established. Active in Southern Dobruja under different forms until 1940, the IDRO detachments fought against the widespread brigandage in the region, as well as the Romanian administration. Thus, while being considered "a terrorist organisation" by the Romanian authorities, it was regarded in Bulgaria as a liberation movement. In 1925, part of the Bulgarian revolutionary committees formed the Dobrujan Revolutionary Organisation (DRO), which later became subordinated to the Communist Party of Romania. In contrast with the IDRO, which fought for the inclusion of the region in the Bulgarian state, the DRO requested the independence of Dobruja and its inclusion in a projected Federative Republic of the Balkans.[109] The means used by DRO to attain its goals were also more peaceful.

During World War II, Bulgaria regained Southern Dobruja in the September 1940 Axis-sponsored Treaty of Craiova despite Romanian negotiators' insistence that Balchik and other towns should remain in Romania. As part of the treaty, the Romanian inhabitants (Aromanian refugee-settlers, settlers from other regions of Romania and the Romanians indigenous to the region) were forced to leave the regained territory, while the Bulgarian minority in the north was in turn made to leave for Bulgaria in a population exchange. The post-war Paris Peace Treaties of 1947 reaffirmed the 1940 border.

In 1948 and again in 1961–1962, Bulgaria proposed a border rectification in the area of Silistra, consisting mainly in the transfer of a Romanian territory containing the water source of that city. Romania made an alternative proposal that did not involve a territorial change and, ultimately, no rectification took place.[110]

Demographic history

Northern Dobruja

Ethnicity 1878[111] 1880[112] 1899[112] 1913[113] 19301[114] 1956[115] 1966[115] 1977[115] 1992[115] 2002[115]
All 225,692 139,671 258,242 380,430 437,131 593,659 702,461 863,348 1,019,766 971,643
Romanian 46,504 (21%) 43,671 (31%) 118,919 (46%) 216,425 (56.8%) 282,844 (64.7%) 514,331 (86.6%) 622,996 (88.7%) 784,934 (90.9%) 926,608 (90.8%) 883,620 (90.9%)
Bulgarian 30,177 (13,3%) 24,915 (17%) 38,439 (14%) 51,149 (13.4%) 42,070 (9.6%) 749 (0.13%) 524 (0.07%) 415 (0.05%) 311 (0.03%) 135 (0.01%)
Turkish 48,783 (21,6%) 18,624 (13%) 12,146 (4%) 20,092 (5.3%) 21,748 (5%) 11,994 (2%) 16,209 (2.3%) 21,666 (2.5%) 27,685 (2.7%) 27,580 (2.8%)
Tatar 71,146 (31,5%) 29,476 (21%) 28,670 (11%) 21,350 (5.6%) 15,546 (3.6%) 20,239 (3.4%) 21,939 (3.1%) 22,875 (2.65%) 24,185 (2.4%) 23,409 (2.4%)
Russian-Lipovan 12,748 (5,6%) 8,250 (6%) 12,801 (5%) 35,859 (9.4%) 26,210 (6%)² 29,944 (5%) 30,509 (4.35%) 24,098 (2.8%) 26,154 (2.6%) 21,623 (2.2%)
(Ukrainian from 1956)
455 (0.3%) 13,680 (5%) 33 (0.01%) 7,025 (1.18%) 5,154 (0.73%) 2,639 (0.3%) 4,101 (0.4%) 1,465 (0.1%)
Dobrujan Germans 1,134 (0,5%) 2,461 (1.7%) 8,566 (3%) 7,697 (2%) 12,023 (2.75%) 735 (0.12%) 599 (0.09%) 648 (0.08%) 677 (0.07%) 398 (0.04%)
Greek 3,480 (1,6%) 4,015 (2.8%) 8,445 (3%) 9,999 (2.6%) 7,743 (1.8%) 1,399 (0.24%) 908 (0.13%) 635 (0.07%) 1,230 (0.12%) 2,270 (0.23%)
Roma 702 (0.5%) 2,252 (0.87%) 3,263 (0.9%) 3,831 (0.88%) 1,176 (0.2%) 378 (0.05%) 2,565 (0.3%) 5,983 (0.59%) 8,295 (0.85%)
1According to the 1926–1938 Romanian administrative division (counties of Constanţa and Tulcea), which excluded a part of today's Romania (chiefly the communes of Ostrov and Lipniţa, now part of Constanţa County) and included a part of today's Bulgaria (parts of General Toshevo and Krushari municipalities)
2Only Russians. (Russians and Lipovans counted separately)

Southern Dobruja

Ethnicity 1910 19301[114] 2001[116]
All 282,007 378,344 357,217
Bulgarian 134,355 (47.6%) 143,209 (37.9%) 248,382 (69.5%)
Turkish 106,568 (37.8%) 129,025 (34.1%) 76,992 (21.6%)
Roma 12,192 (4.3%) 7,615 (2%) 25,127 (7%)
Tatar 11,718 (4.2%) 6,546 (1.7%) 4,515 (1.3%)
Romanian 6,348 (2.3%)2 77,728 (20.5%) 591 (0.2%)2
1According to the 1926–1938 Romanian administrative division (counties of Durostor and Caliacra), which included a part of today's Romania (chiefly the communes of Ostrov and Lipniţa, now part of Constanţa County) and excluded a part of today's Bulgaria (parts of General Toshevo and Krushari municipalities)
2Including persons counted as Vlachs in Bulgarian Census

Area, population and cities

The entire region of Dobruja has an area of 23,100 km² and a population of rather more than 1.3 million, of which just over two-thirds of the former and nearly three-quarters of the latter lie in the Romanian part.

Ethnicity Dobruja Romanian Dobruja[117] Bulgarian Dobruja[116]
Number Percentage Number Percentage Number Percentage
All 1,328,860 100.00% 971,643 100.00% 357,217 100.00%
Romanian 884,745 66.58% 883,620 90.94% 5911 0.17%1
Bulgarian 248,517 18.70% 135 0.01% 248,382 69.53%
Turkish 104,572 7.87% 27,580 2.84% 76,992 21.55%
Tatar 23,409 1.76% 23,409 2.41% 4,515 1.26%
Roma 33,422 2.52% 8,295 0.85% 25,127 7.03%
Russian 22,495 1.69% 21,623 2.23% 872 0.24%
Ukrainian 1,571 0.12% 1,465 0.15% 106 0.03%
Greek 2,326 0.18% 2,270 0.23% 56 0.02%
1 Including persons counted as Vlachs in Bulgarian 2001 Census

Major cities are Constanţa, Tulcea, Medgidia and Mangalia in Romania, and Dobrich and Silistra in Bulgaria.

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