Dobruja, or Dobrudja (Bulgarian: Добруджа, Dobrudzha; Romanian: Dobrogea; Turkish: Dobruca; Greek: Δοβρουτσά, Dovroutsá), is an informal region shared by Bulgaria and Romania, located between the lower Danube river and the Black Sea, including the Danube Delta, Romanian coast and the northernmost part of the Bulgarian coast.
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 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, and a combined population of some 350,000 people, and the main towns are Dobrich and Silistra (regional seats).
An alternative etymology was given by Gheorghe I. Brătianu, according to whom, its 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.
Initially, the name meant just the steppe of the southern region, between the forests around Babadag in the north and the Silistra-Dobrich-Balchik line in the south, but eventually, the term was extended to include the northern part and the Danube Delta. 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.
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. At about 430 BC, the Odrysian kingdom under Sitalkes extended its rule to the mouths of the Danube. In 429 BC, Getae from the region participated in an Odrysian campaign in Macedonia. 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.
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 rulers 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.
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 Domitianus 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. During the reign of Traianus Decius the province suffered greatly from the attack of Goths under King Cniva. 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. In 272 Aurelianus 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 Diocletianus Dobruja became a separate province, Scythia, part of the Diocese of Thracia. Its capital city was Tomis. Diocletianus 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.
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. Shortly after, Bulgars founded near the southern border of Dobruja the city of Pliska, which became the first Bulgarian capital and rebuilt Madara as major Bulgarian pagan religious centre. According to the Bulgarian Apocryphal Chronicle, from the 11th century, Bulgarian Tsar Ispor "accepted the Bulgarian tsardom", created "great cities, Drastar on the Danube", "great wall from Danube to the sea", "the city of Pliska" and "populated the lands of Karvuna". According to Bulgarian historians, during the 7th-10th centuries, the region was embraced by a large net of earthen and wooden strongholds and ramparts. Around the end of the 8th century, wide building of new stone fortresses and defensive walls began. This account 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 8th century, Madara and Varna in 9th). 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. 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), in Varna from the time of Emperor Heraclius (610-641) and in Tomis from Constantine IV's rule (668–685).
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. Many early medieval Bulgar stone inscriptions were found in Dobruja, including historical narratives, inventories of armament or buildings and commemorative texts. 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. 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.
Beginning with the 10th century, Byzantines accepted the settling of small groups of Pechenegs in Dobruja. In the spring of 1036, an invasion of the Pechenegs devastated large parts of the region, 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. They established some form of domination until 1059, when Isaac I Comnenus reconquered Dobruja. In 1064, the great invasion of the Uzes affected the region. In 1072–1074, when Nestor, the new strategus of Paristrion, came to Dristra, he found a ruler in rebellion there, Tatrys. In 1091, three autonomous, probably Pecheneg, rulers were mentioned in the Alexiad: Tatos (Τατοῦ) or Chalis (χαλῆ), in the area of Dristra (probably the same as Tatrys), and Sesthlav (Σεσθλάβου) and Satza (Σατζά) in the area of Vicina.
Cumans came in Dobruja in 1094 and maintained an important role until the advent of the Ottoman Empire. In 1187 the Byzantines lost what is now Dobruja to the resorted Bulgarian Empire. In 1241, the first Tatar groups, under Kadan, invaded Dobruja starting a century long history of turmoil in the region. 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. A missionary Turkish mystic, Sarı Saltuk, was the spiritual leader of this group; his tomb in Babadag (which was named after him) is still a place of pilgrimage for the Muslims. That happened during the campaign of Michael Glava Tarhaniotes against Bulgaria. A part of these Turks returned to Anatolia in 1307, while those who remained became Christianised and adopted the name Gagauz. In the 1265 the Bulgarian Emperor Constantine Tikh Asen hired 20,000 Tatar to cross the Danube and attack Byzantine Thrace. On their way back the Tatars forced most of the Seldjuk Turks including their chief Sarı Saltuk to resettle in Kipchak (Cumania). In the second part of the thirteenth century, the Turkic-Mongolian Golden Horde Empire continuously raided and plundered Dobruja. 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. Ivailo's army defeated the Tatars who were forced to leave the Bulgarian territory, then routed Constantin Tukh's army and Ivailo was crowned Emperor of Bulgaria. The war with the Tatar, 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. 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. In 1300 the new Khan of the Golden Horde Toqta ceded Bessarabia to Emperor Theodore Svetoslav.
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.
In 1357 Dobrotitsa/Dobrotici was mentioned as a despot ruling over a large territory, including the fortresses of Varna, Kozeakos (near Obzor) and Emona. In the same year, with the help of John V Palaeologus, he took Anhialos and Mesembria from Ivan Alexander, Tsar of Tarnovo. In 1366, John V Palaeologus visited Rome and Buda, trying to gather support for a campaign in Dobruja, but on the way home was captured by Dobrotitsa/Dobrotici and was imprisoned at Varna. A crusade under Amadeus VI of Savoy, supported by Venice and Genoa, was initiated to free the Byzantine emperor.
After the crusaders conquered some Dobrujan forts, Dobrotitsa/Dobrotici freed John and negotiated peace, his daughter marrying the son of John Palaeologus, Michael. 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.
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 its 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 Timur Lenk (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.
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.
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.
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. 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 year or so". According to his study, there were 2,285 Bulgarian families (out of 8,194 Christian families) in the region, 1,194 of them in Northern Dobruja. Liubomir Miletich puts the number of Bulgarian families in Northern Dobruja in the same year at 2,097. 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. 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. However, count Shuvalov, the Russian representative to the Congress of Berlin, stated that Romania deserved Dobruja "more than anybody else, because of its population". 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.
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. However, the Greeks and most Romanians in Northern Dobruja remained under the authority of the Greek Archdiocese of Tulča (founded in 1829)..
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. 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. 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. However, between 1879 and 1900, 15 new Bulgarian churches were built in Northern Dobruja. 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. The Bulgarian authorities also encouraged the settling of ethnic Bulgarians on the territory of Southern Dobruja.
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. DRO also used more peaceful means to attain its goals.
With the advent of 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.
|Romanian||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%)|
|Bulgarian||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%)|
|Turkish||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%)|
|Tatar||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%)|
|Lipovan Russian||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%)|
| Ruthenian |
(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%)|
|Dobrujan Germans||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%)|
|Greek||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%)|
|Gypsies||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%)|
|Bulgarian||134,355 (47.6%)||143,209 (37.9%)|
|Romanian||6,348 (2.3%)||77,728 (20.5%)|
|Turkish||106,568 (37.8%)||129,025 (34.1%)|
|Tatar||11,718 (4.2%)||6,546 (1.7%)|
|Gypsies||12,192 (4.3%)||7,615 (2%)|
The entire 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||Bulgarian Dobruja|