Danube-Black Sea Canal, Dobruja, Romania
> Started by the Soviets, finished by Ceausescu.
> The work was harder than for building the Panama.
> It helps connecting Constanta to Rotterdam.
It is part of an entire complex than links the North Sea to the Black Sea. The Canal was notorious as the site of Communist labor camps for tens of thousands political prisoners in the 50's, even before Ceausescu became a president; it was finalized at the end of the 80's. The project for building this canal is older, the first one came up in the 1830's but it was postponed for different reasons.
The main reasons for the building of the canal were to circumvent the Danube Delta, which is difficult to navigate and to shorten the distance to the Black Sea. The 64 km canal reduces the distance by boat from Cernavoda to the port of Constanta by 400 km.
It has a width of 70-90 meters and a depth of 7 metres and at one point it divides into two branches. 300 million m³ of soil were excavated, more it was when they built Panama or Suez. 3.6 million m³ of concrete were used for the locks and support walls.
Also known as "the graveyard of Romanian bourgeoise", they were aroung 60,000 political prisoners working there in the 1950s. The construction effort surpassed the resources available to the Romanian economy in the 1950s. The canal was assigned inferior machinery and building had to rely on primitive techniques (shovels, pickaxes) which was especially hard in the rocky terrain of Dobruja. Detainees were allocated to brigades, usually run by common criminals — encouraged to use violence against their subordinates. Sums allocated for prisoner health, hygiene and nutrition declined dramatically over the years. Food rations were kept to a minimum, and prisoners would often resort to hunting mice and other small animals, or even consuming grass in an attempt to supplement their diet. The prisoners comprised dispossessed farmers who had attempted to resist collectivization, former activists of the traditional political parties and priests.
Building the canal
A second source of workers were the young people drafted in the Romanian Army, as well as those indicated as having "unhealthy origins" (a middle-class family background). The number of people who died there remains unknown but the lowest estimate is a few tens of thousands, up to a few hundreds of thousand. In parallel, authorities left aside sectors of employment for skilled workers — kept in strict isolation from all others, they were attracted to the site with exceptional salaries.
Ceausescu's "Blue Highway"
In 1953, the project came to a discreet halt, all work being suspended for another 23 years, and their prisoners relocated. The project was restarted in 1976 by Ceausescu who had previously ordered the rehabilitation of the people sentenced in the 1952 trial and who aimed to withdraw the Lower Danube from Soviet control. In official propaganda, the 1950s precedent was no longer mentioned, the canal was referred to as the "Blue Highway" (Magistrala Albastră). New and large machinery, produced in Romania, was introduced to the site. The southern arm was completed in 1984, the northern arm, three years later. The cost of building the canal is estimated to be around 2 billion dollars.