Permeable Borders, Ethnic Tensions, Identity Politics, and the National Project in Dobrogea, 191345

Friday, January 4, 2019: 11:10 AM
Astoria Room (Hilton Chicago)
Ruxandra Petrinca, McGill University
Aside from the “historical provinces,” Greater Romania included the Cadrilater, or Southern Dobrogea. This territory entered into Romanian possession at the end of the Second Balkan War in 1913 and it contained only a small number of ethnic Romanians that made up 2.33 of the region’s population. Northern Dobrogea had become part of Romania in 1878 as compensation for the loss of Southern Bessarabia to the Russian Empire. For Romanian politicians, at the time of the peace Treaty of San Stefano, Dobrogea was a foreign land, an “onerous bargain,” and even a “geopolitical embarrassment.” Three months later, when the Great Powers revisited the articles of the peace treaty at the Berlin Congress, Romania’s position changed. In time, Northern Dobrogea became an example of successful colonization, and Romanians even learned to appreciate the sea. Termed the “California of the Romanians,” Northern Dobrogea was still an ethnic mosaic in 1912 with Romanians making up 57% of the population when Romania acquired Southern Dobrogea. In 1940 when Romania returned the Cadrilater to Bulgaria, the Romanians made up 29% of the population, yet the colonization project was far from being labelled a success. In the aftermath of the Great War, Southern Dobrogea remained a marginal territory for Romanian authorities while the local population resisted colonization. The colonists were late to arrive, or simply chose other destinations, and perhaps rightly so. The Treaty of Craiova of 1940 required a population exchange as well, and 60,000 Bulgarians were exchanged for 100,000 Romanians some of whom would then settle on the lands vacated by the German, Jewish, and Turkish communities. This paper will look at how ordinary people constructed or redefined their identity within the project of a permeable national state, and the strategies they used for the survival and remodeling of their original communities.
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